Gay is the New Dude

An unsci­en­tific poll of grade school boys in north­west Chicago shows a dis­turb­ing trend toward a new epi­thet that is entirely inap­pro­pri­ate: instead of ‘stu­pid’, they say ‘gay’.

For instance: when my father would play me, say, a Roger Miller song when I was ten, I’d say “Dad, that song is stu­pid.” Today, when I play, say, King Crim­son, Roon says “Dad, that song is gay.”

Where the hell do they get this lan­guage? Who says stuff like that? I mean using an entire subculture’s sex­ual pro­cliv­ity as an epi­thet is totally gay.


Ok, so they get it from, um, us.  Surely they didn’t make up the word and surely they didn’t decide to use it as an inter­locu­tory sub­sti­tute for “unac­cept­able” with­out a lit­tle mod­el­ing. (And by mod­el­ing I mean behav­ioral mod­el­ing, not run­ways.) I know you think I’m talk­ing about par­ents but I’m not. I’m talk­ing about comedians.

Every sin­gle come­dian doing a gay imper­son­ation drops the pranc­ing fey bomb and imper­son­ates the very same gay guy from 1987 who idol­ized Kate Bush and wore his but­ton down shirts like hal­ter tops. We all know that guy didn’t rep the gay com­mu­nity even then, but today it’s so far off the mark it’s like think­ing Amos & Andy are hip.

Today’s gay is indis­tin­guish­able from today’s not so gay. They have earned their place in the sta­tus quo by becom­ing so typ­i­cal and every-day that there’s not even any drama in com­ing out any­more. I expect par­ents will be throw­ing com­ing out par­ties with the same indif­fer­ence as sweet six­teens. And as much as I’d like to fol­low my comedic instincts and make a Cotil­lion joke, I just can’t. Not because it’s not polit­i­cally cor­rect, but because it’s just not funny. Why? Because gay is bor­ing. Big yawn.

But the poofy queen has become such a stock char­ac­ter in sit­coms and stand-up that come­di­ans just can’t give it up. They keep swish­ing across the stage in a par­ody of a per­son that hardly exists any­more and truth­fully, I won­der if the slang logic of ten year-olds is pick­ing up on this.

When they say ‘gay’ they actu­ally mean ‘bor­ing’ or ‘stu­pid’ and so in that respect, they’re dead on. Maybe this isn’t indica­tive of intol­er­ance but of sophis­ti­cated lin­guis­tic the­ory at work. Maybe they’re all micro Chom­skyites and we’re really behind the lan­guage curve here, like find­ing out phat means awe­some, a lin­guis­tic shift that has a per­fectly intact logic but didn’t trickle down to the elders until it was already passé.

I dis­trust polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, but I insist on lin­guis­tic integrity and I’m lean­ing toward an appre­ci­a­tion for the ‘gay’ epi­thet com­ing from these tiny Ste­vie Pinkers. The big swishy gay is as dead as E. Aaron Pres­ley and imper­son­at­ing either of them is as lame as the cur­rent GOP. It is, in a word, stu­pid. Kids know this instinc­tively and they’re lan­guage reflects it. To think oth­er­wise is to pro­mote a belief that chil­dren are not sophis­ti­cated users of lan­guage, and that’s, in a word, gay.

About Bull Garlington

Christopher Garlington is the humor columnist for Chicago Parent magazine, Seattle Parent Map, and New York Parenting magazine. His stories have appeared in Atlanta Parent, Baton Rouge Parent, Parenting ABC (U.K.); Florida, Orlando, Orlando Weekly, Catholic Digest, Retort, Another Realm, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, and other magazines. He is the author of the infamous anti-parenting blog, Death By Children; co-author of The Beat Cop’s Guide to Chicago Eats.

  • Cather­ine

    I wish what you said here was true.

    I live in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, a place you would think would be pretty pro­gres­sive (hey, I live about 20 miles out­side of West Hol­ly­wood, so you’d REALLY think we’d be tol­er­ant here), but it’s decid­edly not.

    There are still incred­i­bly large pock­ets of this coun­try that con­sider being gay sin­ful and immoral, and even larger num­bers of peo­ple say “Uhm… that’s okay if you want to do it behind closed doors, you know, but I don’t want to see it / hear about it / know about it / let you have the same rights I have / let you go to school with my kids / let you in my coun­try / golf / fight club.”

    These peo­ple aren’t just in the Mid­west, they’re every­where. And they’re teach­ing their kids that being gay is a choice, and that it’s the wrong choice. These peo­ple are the ones whose kids still say “gay” like an insult, and those kids spread the word to the rest of our kids.