Opinion: No offense, but that’s offensive

Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, it is not unusual to come across comments that say things similar to “That’s so gay,” “He’s gay,” or “That show is so gay.” People posting these comments are using the word “gay” in a demeaning way. Using the word “gay” as a derogatory term can discourage and offend people who are either homosexual or unsure about their sexuality.

The word “gay” actually has two meanings: “homosexual” and “light-hearted and carefree.” On social media, the word is given a negative connotation. It is often used to describe someone or something in a negative way, or people they might dislike. This is completely inappropriate for several reasons.

Using the word “gay” as a derogatory term gives a negative interpretation to homosexuality and comes across as homophobic, which is being prejudiced against homosexual people. It can make homosexuals feel unaccepted and disliked. Using the word “gay” as an insult is a form of bullying.

In a 2007 study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, 86% of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) teens said that they had experienced harassment in the past year. There is no doubt that teens using the word “gay” as an insult have somehow contributed to these statistics. People using “gay” in a degrading way may not intend to insult members of the LGBT community; however, they must learn that it can be offensive and upsetting.

The use of the word “gay” can also discourage people who are wrestling with their sexuality. It is not fair for anyone to be ashamed of who they are. If someone constantly hears this word being used to describe something that is disliked, unworthy, or inferior, he or she may soon start to think that these harmful words describe himself or herself. However, people using the word “gay” as an insult are the ones who come across as ignorant.

If you hear anyone, even your best friend, using the word “gay” as an insult, I encourage you to call them out on it. Tell them that it is inappropriate and offensive. If people started to realize that using “gay” to describe things that they disliked actually offended people, many people would stop using it in a demeaning way.

I do not think people realize the power of language and how it can affect people. So the next time that you are interacting with friends on Instagram, on Facebook, or in person, and you hear someone use the term “gay” inappropriately, say something.