Meet Ash Beckham. She has some really smart and hilarious things to help you out the next time you are thinking about using the word "gay." At 0:43, she makes the point I've been trying to make for years. At 2:10, I start feeling like I'm in an awesome church. And at 4:30, she gets to the point. Listen to her.
I wrote to Ash to ask her how I could help, and she said she'd really appreciate it if you would take the time to Like The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) on Facebook. Also, sharing this would help bunches as well. And you could totally Like Ash on Facebook if you like funny people. Totally your call though.
Hello Boulder, my name is Ash and I can say unequivocally
that I am *so* gay.
My Ignite topic is eliminating the word gay as a pejorative from our lexicon.
I'll explain to you the difference between what I just said and what this image conveys.
Now you may be saying: "Ash we live in Boulder, we love gays here".
We have Pride, we have BCAP. All true.
But I guarantee you there places you go everyday where someone will describe something
pejoratively as "so gay" despite the fact that it's neither homosexual nor happy.
Now why is this important?
First of all it's critical to know that there is a difference between
tolerance and acceptance. Tolerance is "to put up with", "the capacity to endure continued
subjection to something". Now I don't know about you, but
that is not exactly something I strive for.
Acceptance, on the other hand is
"to regarded as proper, normal, or inevitable". "To recognize to be true".
Tolerance is when the school district *allows* you to bring your same sex date to prom.
Acceptance is when your classmates don't whisper and laugh when you dance.
The difference is tremendous.
Now gay is not the first word in our language that needs a makeover.
All of these words evoke emotion.
They are hard to read, hard to say.
Your body physically reacts to seeing these words.
I have a similar reaction when I hear somebody describe something pejoratively
as "so gay".
I was at a gym in Boulder once and a trainer was teaching us how to spot
and another trainer came up and said "well you better never grab me like that dude, that's so gay".
And he was just saying that to give his buddy a hard time.
But can you hear the homophobia in it?
Now there's plenty of things it's ok to call gay:
Me - for example. The top row: they've all come out. Now the bottom row?
...we cross our fingers but until they do...
They're cartoons and muppets, so at the very least they're happy.
Now there's a long list of things that you should never call "so gay".
An assignment you don't want to do is not "so gay". Someone's new haircut is not "so gay".
A workout you hate is not "so gay".
A test that you bombed is not "so gay". Someone's car is not "so gay".
Now again, I may be preaching to the Boulder gay loving choir.
Some of you are gay.
Even more of you have gay friends.
But i chose this topic
because you can legislate tolerance - you can't legislate acceptance.
That takes a societal shift.
not sure if you should use the word "gay"? Here's a flow chart. Is it a person? No.
Tough start - we'll get you on the next slide. So it is a person. Is it actually
a self-identified homosexual? No? Are you describing their happiness?
*Really* their happiness? Then you're okay.
Alright so it's not a person? Is a place or thing related to gay culture like a gay bar,
or a rainbow flag. Okay then you're good. If not, "gay" is not the right word for you.
You're using it in a derogatory way.
What it often comes down to is not hate or bigotry but laziness. "Gay" is a really easy word
to throw in, but it's not what you're trying to convey.
Look at all these other options.
Say what you mean and mean what you say because the words that you choose matter. When you use....
When you use "gay" in a pejorative way, the effect that it has on the gay kid in the room or the kid with gay relatives,
is that being gay is less than, or inferior to. And our bar cannot be that a day that you just get through life
or just get your school, and don't get harassed
qualifies as a good day.
Now, in Boulder, we're much more like the guy on the right than the guy on the left.
In Boulder, it's rarely so overt. But it does happen.
So when it does, what do you do?
What do you say to the trainer at the gym?
Do you just stomp out and quit your membership the next day? Do you muster your best Gary Coleman and just glare?
Or do you sit them down afterwards and say: "hey you know what?
I know you're just trying to dig your buddy
but what you said was hurtful".
That part's up to you.
You do what you can. No more - but certainly no less.
We need all hands in on this one.
Societal change begins with small steps.
When you hear someone describe something as pejoratively as "so gay",
it's an opportunity for connection
and conversation not to be missed. And silence is consent.
And you know what? We're better than that.
We're Boulder - damn it.
And you all? You are the difference makers. You are parents and teachers and business owners
and all in all just freaking awesome people, that have more influence than you give
yourself credit for.
It speaks volumes in our society
that we're more comfortable seeing a picture of two men holding guns
than two men holding hands.
And the way that we right that is to make sure that the words that we use to
describe the latter are never used in a way
that is less than
or inferior to.
Now...I'm not perfect
and I'm not trying to get you all to join the gay police.
I did this topic because I didn't have an answer for the guy at the gym.
I did my best Gary Coleman, but that was about it.
But, it inspired this. Talking to eight hundred and fifty people, instead of one.
So when you can: say *something*.
Because in the end, it takes a village people.
I can't think of a better group of folks
to make change happen than the people in this room. Thank you to Ignite for allowing me to speak.
And for those of