According to Merriam-Webster the word gay is defined as “a person and especially a man who is homosexual.”
Before the 19th century, the word had an entirely different meaning. In present day gay has taken on two definitions. It is important to understand the effects of the misuse and misunderstanding of its meaning.
Throughout the 17th century when describing something that was carefree or happy it was common to use the word gay. Such as in the popular Christmas song, “Deck the Halls”, one of the lyrics from the song is, “don we now our gay apparel.” The composer was not implying that the clothing worn was homosexual; they were merely trying to convey that they were dressed in cheerful clothing. However, the word continued to evolve and became used to describe those of loose or immoral values such as promiscuity and prostitution during the early 19th century. During this time if a person was referred to as a gay man it was seen as negative however it solely meant they had sex with a variety of women. As time progressed, the meaning continued to change to represent homosexuality. Around the 1930’s, a man who was described as gay was no longer seen as someone who had an abundance of sex but a man who was attracted to other men. The word then became widely accepted by the homosexual community and has become the most common word to describe those who are attracted to the same gender.
In modern society the word has developed a derogatory connotation. Gay is not only used to describe homosexuality but is used as a slang term. Some people use the word to describe something that, in their opinion, is dumb or lame. By using gay to describe something that is unsatisfactory, it results in people of the gay community to feel inferior and attacked. If a person uses the word to describe something that is negative, it does not automatically classify them as a homophobic person; it’s the implication behind the word that promotes the unfavorable meaning. By saying “You don’t want to hang out with us tonight? You’re so gay.” This allows for someone’s sexual orientation to be seen as something bad. Using gay to describe anything other than a person’s sexuality is offensive. This fuels the interpretation of the word gay to mean bad. A better way to express what you want to say instead of using gay would be to say “You don’t want to hang out with us tonight? That’s dumb.” That way you are actually expressing what you truly mean rather than using someone’s identity as an insult. As a society it is important to spread awareness of the negative effects of the word.
Words are powerful. It is disrespectful to use gay to describe something other than its meaning that is stated in the dictionary. The gay community is seen as a minority group and using a minority group to define something other than what it is intended to mean is wrong. If a child is gay and is not accepted for who they are they will then feel that they are worthless and stupid and afraid. If a child is not taught the side effects of misusing a word with dual meanings, they will associate the word with only its negative implications. If a child is not taught to respect everyone, the offensive use of the word will continue.
Many people do not support those who are homosexual and frown upon those who live an open life of being gay. This belief however does not excuse the use of the word in a negative way. Even if a person chooses to not accept another persons lifestyle, it does not mean that it is acceptable to criticize others for their choices. As a society we should continually strive to raise awareness and emphasize understanding of other people's choices.
A person being gay should not be something that is looked down upon and should not be used as a reason for allowing derogatory words. As a society we should work together to promote acceptance and spread awareness of how words affect people. It can be uncomfortable to confront friends and family members who use the word gay to describe a negative opinion of something. However it is important to diminish the meaning of gay from meaning bad or stupid to only meaning a person who is attracted to the same gender. By doing this we will not only create a more open and accepting society, we will also begin to erase the negative association that there is with being gay.
Gay is defined as “a person and especially a man who is homosexual” not someone who is dumb or stupid. Misrepresentation is a common theme of mistreatment in today’s society. Raising awareness of the negative connotation the word gay has developed is important. It allows for people to understand its effect and to make a change within themselves and their peers to not mistreat other people’s way of life.