Magazine article Out

Gay Is Not Lame

Magazine article Out

Gay Is Not Lame

Article excerpt


In the mid 1980s, I saw a straight stand-up comic make a joke about how he wanted the word gay back. The word had been appropriated by homosexuals, he complained, stolen from straight people, who were no longer able to sing the theme song from The Flintstones without wincing at the end.

"You'll have a gay old time!" he sang, then winced, and got a laugh or two. He also earned a few nervous chuckles with a running gag about affirmative action, claiming that if we were suddenly going to be celebrating blacks just for being black, we should also be celebrating charcoal and hockey pucks. Poor guy, I thought. His material felt so dated, so out of touch.

Wherever this comic is today, he may be wincing at the fact that we have an AfricanAmerican president, but I doubt he still wants gay back. The word has long since evolved into a third incarnation. The declaration "That movie is so gay!" might mean the movie is chipper or about man-on-man action, but it's much more more likely to mean the movie is "lame" or "pointless" or "stupid."

Why has this happened? Because saying it feels funny, at first. And it seems harmless enough. My favorite moment from this embarrassingly wide window of time (no end in sight) was in New York City's Strand bookstore, standing next to a pair of employees who'd discovered a copy of Honcho in a box of donated books. They became giggly. One flipped through the pages; the other provided speak bubbles for the models, saying things like, "Dude, hurry up and take the picture. This guy's got his dick up my butt. It's totally gay." Evidence of social progress, you could argue. They weren't expressing real disgust or setting the magazine on fire (indeed, one of them might have smuggled it home). But let's call the phenomenon what it is: intolerance disguised as tolerance disguised as. ..intolerance.

Everyone's doing it! I do it, you do it, we laugh: "That's so gay."

Call me paranoid or cranky, but the fact that we now live in an age where "gay" means "lame" as often as it means "queer" is not progress. It's regression. As in, moving into the past, where the landscape was more dangerous.

The most unnerving hour and a half of my recent moviegoing life occurred in Denver, where I was attending a conference. …

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