How I taught my little league team to stop saying “that’s so gay.”
The players of the team assembled around the bench as practice was coming to an end. I was walking off the field with the catcher carrying some baseballs and my fungo bat. We were carrying on a conversation about the upcoming tournament when I saw the players goofing around, and heard someone say, “Dude, that’s so gay.”
Mid-step I raised my voice and said, “Who said that?” All the players looked confused as if I had caught them with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar. I asked again sternly, “Who just said that?” As the players tried to figure out what to do or say by not place blame on one of their teammates, I softened my voice and asked them one last time, “Who said that comment?”
Once they recovered from the discomfort of my question, a very interesting conversation and discussion took place. They were all eighth grade students and apparently not one of them considered anything wrong with saying “that’s so gay.” At the time, not one of the twelve young men sitting around in a circle even made the connection of that comment being derogatory or hurtful in nature.
One of the players even shared that his father often made that comment when he thought certain behavior wasn’t appropriate. He continued, “If my dad says it, then how can it be wrong?”
Initially, they were quick to defend their comment because there was nothing intentionally harmful or hurtful about it. They were “just kidding” and “fooling around.” Everyone knew they were joking, and it wasn’t intended to do harm to anyone. That was when I saw my teachable moment.
I pressed them to interpret the intention behind the comment. Why say “that’s so gay?” What’s it supposed to mean and insinuate?
They all knew the word gay was about homosexuality, but at that moment did not consider it being negative. However, the more I pressed them to understand those words, the more they became aware of how it very well might be offensive to some students.
As I continued the conversation, it was clear they believed that not one of them was gay, therefore that comment really didn’t offend anyone of the players on the team. I asked them to tell me how they knew for sure that no one on the team was gay? There was silence — none knew with certainty.
I continued with the discussion, “If you were gay, how willing would you share that knowledge with your teammates?” They shook their heads immediately. They all admitted that, given the nature of the discussion, the comment was really not appropriate.
In the end, I realized that no one had ever taken the time to explain why it was inappropriate. They believed it was okay to joke in that fashion and there was little, if any, harm to anyone.
They were confused, as it seemed like the only thing to say in certain moments. So I shared with them a number of other words they could use instead. Here are some of them: absurd, ridiculous, pathetic, annoying, disgusting, goofy, and asinine.
Author Don Miguel Ruiz’s acknowledges the importance of words and has authored a book called The Four Agreements. The first agreement says for us to be “impeccable with our words.” When we take the time to help young teens understand words, the power they have, and how the words they chose reflect the type of person they are, we help create a more compassionate generation.
It is time to stand up to those words in order to do right by numerous youth who are doing all they can just to simply survive and live the best life they possibly can. If we don’t, then who will? If not now, when?