What's In A Word?
December 31, 2010
@CitizenChandler in Editorial, Gay Life, Homophobia

As 2011 approaches many of us will take the time to reflect on our lives and make plans to better ourselves in some way, whether it be mentally, physically, socially etc.  Instead, I offer this as a suggestion.  This year make a resolution to make society better, a better place for all of us to live.  It sounds cheesy and it sounds impossible, but it can be done, and it can be done with as little as one word.

Since I announced to the world that I was gay in November of 2004 I have been on a mission to eliminate the word gay from the lexicon of my friends, family and even some strangers that I come into contact with.  It would seem a fairly simple task, but this word has become so engrained in every day speech that it has proved difficult.

Dictionary.com defines gay as: having or showing a merry, lively mood. Bright or showy. A homosexual person. 

Take a moment and think about the last time you heard the word gay used.  Now ask yourself was the word used in conjunction with the above definitions.  The answer is probably no.  In fact, the word gay has taken on a whole new meaning.  It is now generally used in a derogatory manner, replacing the words stupid or dumb in a sentence.

So what's the problem with this?  Over the course of time the definitions of words change, and perhaps that is just what is happening here.  However, because this word is associated with a group of people, every time someone uses it in a derogatory way they are putting down an entire section of society.  This can be particularly hurtful to people who have not yet come to terms with their sexuality.  Generally when we are talking to our friends we don't think about others around us, but other people can in fact hear conversations that are being had in a public place. 

Imagine that you are a teenager again, trying to make you way through an already extremely awkward time in your life.  If you hear yourself being put down every day, this is going to have an impact on your self worth (See related posting).  With the recent teen suicides I think it is time that we take a look at how we impact people around us, even when we don't know them.  I know many of my friends won't use the word gay around me now because I have taken a stand, but some of them probably still use it when I am not around.  My message to them and to all of you is that you never know who is listening.

This year I am doing something that I normally don't do.  I am making a new years resolution.  I am going to eliminate the word retarded from my vocabulary.  I realize it is hard to change habits. All I ask is that while you are reflecting on this past year, take a second to think about how easy in the grand scheme of things it is to stop using one word.  Who knows, it could make a difference in the life of someone you have never met, or maybe on of your closest friends.

From me to you,  I wish you a safe, happy and prosperous new year.

Article originally appeared on What Is Your Gay... (http://www.whatisyourgay.com/).
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