Oppressive Language and The Pointlessness of Arguing with Teens on Facebook.

My cousin must be 16, or there abouts. I assume she left her facebook account logged in, because her friend posted a hilarous message along the lines of: "Haha, I'm gay and FriendsName is ace!"

Or something along those lines. I wish I'd taken screenshots, but alas, the whole charming conversation was gone before I thought to.

Using 'I'm gay' as a casual insult doesn't really ring right with me. At the root of it, it's oppressive. It unjustly puts down a minority, and implies that it's a bad thing to be gay (or really any member of the lgbt community). And that seriously bothers me.

I'm sure you've seen the It Gets Better Project, it's a project that's been backed by some big names (Google, Facebook, Apple, Obama, Ellen, Neil Patrick Harris, Ke$ha, Kathy Griffin...) and it's purpose is to "inspire hope for young people facing harassment. In response to a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school, they wanted to create a personal way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better."

This project is awesome, it's direct message is telling lgbt youth to wait the horrid out, and indirectly telling everyone else that it's okay to be a lesbian, or gay, or bi, or whatever.

I support that. I don't support indirectly telling everyone that it's NOT okay to be a lesbian, or gay, or bi, or whatever.

So when I see someone using "gay" as an insult, I'm not down with it and I call them on it. So I added a comment, and asked if she really understood what she was saying, and if not here is how I saw it, and perhaps in future she might want to use a different insult. Like "dick", because everyone finds male genitalia a little bit funny, right?

Woah buddy. I opened a can of worms with this one.

She didn't quite understand. She said that I should chill out, and her intentions are good, and 'gay' is just an insult that everyone uses and she didn't mean anything by it.

So I probed a little more, and asked her whether she thought that it was okay that everyone used it, and why she thought people used it to begin with. I asked if just because she didn't mean it, does that mean I should take it the way she meant it, or the way I heard it, how should I take it? If I was gay, should I take it as an insult, or just be okay with you putting her down? If I replaced the word gay with being Maori (we're both Maori, and there are a whole bunch of fun stereotypes associated with this), would it be as funny? Would it mean the same?

I was hoping that perhaps she'd take a moment and think about what she's really saying, and what she's really condoning by saying what she did.

I was hoping that she'd see by using it as an insult, she's actually getting down on a minority that shouldn't really be got down on. That really, at heart, it's not that funny.

I was hoping that she'd question societal norms, see the light, and pick a different insult next time. Like dicks, for example. Dicks are funny.

What I got was something completely different.

I got told I was a 'harry hardcore' and should chill out. I got told I had a stick up my ass. I got told that I should learn about humour and learn how to take a joke.


I pretty much gave up after that. If they are resorting to name calling then it was pointless to continue. I'm sad, because it was shaping up to be a pretty interesting conversation on why it's important to question social norms to see if they are still an appropriate fit. But I left it when the insults started flying. My cousin called me some more choice names, and then deleted the post.

It made me sad, really, that we couldn't even have a conversation about it. That it went straight to name calling (ironically, none of them called me 'gay') and there was no real thinking done about it.

So, blogosphere, I can't be the only one who doesn't condone the use of 'gay' as an insult, right? What are your thoughts? Was there a better way to handle dealing with teens? Could I have got the message across a different way? Do you think I'm completely wrong and 'gay' is a perfectly acceptable insults? Are you gay, and okay with hearing that as an insult? Thoughts?