KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 22-Nov-13 13:53:47

"You're so gay" - the words which cast a shadow over my childhood

As you probably know, we've teamed up with Stonewall on Gay. Lets Get Over It - a campaign to address the misuse of the word 'gay', and provide guidance on homophobic language to schools, parents and young people.

Here Rosie Ellingham - Stonewall's Young Campaigner of the Year 2013 - reminds us why the campaign is so important. Do read - and tell us what you think on the thread below.

Rosie Ellingham

Stonewall's Young Campaigner of the Year 2013

Posted on: Fri 22-Nov-13 13:53:47

(27 comments )

Lead photo

The campaign aims to challenge the pejorative use of the word 'gay'

"You’re so gay!". These days, if someone says this to me, I can respond with a jovial "yes, yes I am!". I can be proud about being ‘so gay’ - and if someone says that the rubbish weather we are having is ‘gay’, I have the confidence to question their meaning of the word, and I can turn around what is meant as an insult into a compliment.

But ten years ago, when I heard those words, that wasn’t my response. Being gay when I was at school was not something to be proud of: it was an insult, something to be ashamed of. Gay, in short, meant something was rubbish and wrong.

I was nine years old when someone first called me gay, and I remember not knowing what gay meant; but I also remember knowing that whatever it was, it wasn’t something I wanted to be. Gay was a dirty word; it was not at all something to be proud of.

I never really understood why I was bullied for being gay. I was a good person; I was friendly and helpful - so why did people insist on calling me such a bad word? Why was I equated with homework (that none of us liked!), which was also called ‘gay'? Why was I being called gay, along with our new school uniform, which we hated?


I spent more than five years of my life believing this. I fought against it, I argued back, I pretended to fancy boys, and I defended my best friend when he too, was accused of being gay, so strong was my belief that good people couldn’t be gay. Little did I know that my best friend was actually gay, and that so too, was I.

I never really understood why I was bullied for being gay. I was a good person; I was friendly and helpful - so why did people insist on calling me such a bad word? Why was I equated with homework (that none of us liked!), which was also called ‘gay’? Why was I being called gay, along with our new school uniform, which we hated? I’d like to say that I understand now, but in truth, I don’t; I will never understand why being gay is equated to being bad, rubbish or worse.

Some people know their sexuality, yet choose to hide it, scared that they will be perceived as being a bad person. For others, the belief that being gay is bad is so entrenched that it doesn’t even enter their consciousness that they might be gay. Neither of these situations is worse than the other; but the effect that using the word gay pejoratively has is very clear.

I would love to believe that in our ever more liberal society, the word is no longer used this way. But I have a younger sister in a secondary school, and I know the language that she hears every day, and I know that gay still means bad. And while we are still brought up believing this definition of gay, with no education to say otherwise, young gay people will continue to believe that it is bad to be gay, and they will continue to struggle unnecessarily.

By Rosie Ellingham

Twitter: @StonewallUK

PenguinsAreCute Mon 25-Nov-13 19:04:55

The word straight surely also has negative connotations. If you refer to someone as being sent straight then that would suggest they were boring or strict. I'm not excusing the use of the word gay to imply negativity, just suggesting that in language a single word can have many meanings

PenguinsAreCute Mon 25-Nov-13 19:05:56

meant so straight as in dont be so straight not sent. darn phone

TeamSouthfields Sun 15-Dec-13 22:17:28

my girlfriend and I say this to each other all the time... the response is always, yes I am, but so are u, wink grin smile

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