The phrase “that’s so gay” has traditionally been understood as homophobic. Stonewall’s School Report argued this position, and it will be discussed in their upcoming Education Conference.
Stonewall argues that the phrase has a harmful effect on young lesbian, gay and bisexual people’s education and well-being. Yet the initial findings from my interviews with 40 gay youth from four universities suggests a more complex picture, with no clear agreement on what the phrase means or its effects.
Consider Joe, a 19-year-old gay student at an elite university. He said: “I think it breaks down barriers between the straight and gay community… I use it a lot.” Similarly, Neil, gay and aged 18, said: “I don’t find it derogatory in any way, probably because I say it as well.”
How are we to understand a phrase that older people find homophobic, but many younger people do not find offensive and even use themselves? We can only get to an answer by listening to the voices of young people and trying to understand their perspectives.
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