Favorite, Queer stuff, Work

I’m working on an email for a co-worker and they’re standing over me while I was editing in Photoshop and they say “Take that out, it looks gay.”

“What?” I am aghast.

“Oh come on,” they said as if to say We’re cool! You and I can use ‘gay’ like that!

“WHAT?” I said louder.

“I guess I meant ‘stupid’.”

I got up from my desk and left them there alone in my cubicle, “What? What is it Ted?” hitting me in the back of the head as I stormed off. I got half way down to HR before calming down enough to realize I need to confront this person first before going crying to someone.

So I did.

I took them outside and said “If I ever hear you say that again in a derogatory manner, I will have you in HR’s office so fast your head will spin.”

Their reply?

“But my uncle is gay!”

The flood gates burst open. I went into a rant saying they just disrespected my family as well as their own. Their eyes wide, I went on to explain exactly why using ‘gay’ that way was demeaning to a large part of my life. I said I wasn’t militant, but I would ask that they refrained from using ‘gay’ in reference to ‘stupid’ things. I finished by saying I could not believe they had reduced our office to high school playground proportions. I was shaking mad by the end of it.

We talked more and we’re cool. This co-worker looked like a deer in headlights when I left them.

24 thoughts on “Disrespect

  1. Dead Robot

    So my reaction to get angry at a slur was over the top.


    I guess the Stonewall riots were just a “kerfuffle” then.

  2. Hubert

    My reference to the dictionary was to subtly make a point, which I guess I need to explicitly express: The word ‘gay’ had many meanings prior to it’s adoption by any social group. Most of the high school people you refer to use the word to describe something that is ‘lame’. Many people have, and still, use the word to describe something that is ‘awkward’. I’m not a history buff, but that could very well have led to why the word was used in the past; “decades ago”, when homosexuality wasn’t socially acceptable, people must have felt very socially awkward. This is in contrast to the other derogatory term you are referring to, which as far as I can see in the dictionary, has only offensive definitions.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I was under the impression that in order to combat this exact social faux pas; the homosexual community opted to adopt the word ‘queer’ to describe their sexuality. In which case, people should eventually cease feeling offended when the word ‘gay’ is once again used for it’s original intention.

    The point of my rant here is simple.
    In your story, as it was posted, you were acting like a child; I was wondering if anyone else felt that way after reading it.

    If your point is that it’s not fair that a word that is casually used to describe something ‘not right’ is also terribly used to describe someone who you know or love: You’re right. It’s not fair. We’ve all been made fun of directly or indirectly for something that we are or something that we chose to do. Suck it up princess. This is the real world where many people are mean and selfish. It’s too bad this coworker wasn’t deliberately making fun of you, otherwise you could have clocked them in the jaw and nobody would have felt offended about anything.

  3. Dead Robot

    Wow, Hubert, where to start…

    Did you see the Photoshop file we were working on? Did you know the element this person was referencing in a derogatory manner?

    The key word here is derogatory, Hubert. Make no mistake, this person was using it much like teenagers would use it to describe trash, garbage or something unwanted.

    I, and many other homosexuals don’t find the word ‘gay’ offensive when used in sexuality context. Not at all, I welcome it. I am a gay man, it’s a major part of who I am. It represents a large portion of my friends and family. When you use a word that represents my life, my family and my husband, in terms of something that should be deleted, rejected and belittled, then I take great umbrage. See salvage’s link to the article. It’s low, tired and lazy.

    If I wanted to call a co-worker “lazy” who happen to be of African decent, I wouldn’t use “niggardly”. I just know better. It’s offensive.

    The word ‘gay’ was co-opted by homosexuals decades ago. Seems like you may still have a problem with that.

    My dashing off to the HR department was a knee-jerk reaction to my anger. Omitted from the story was the fact that I’ve heard this person and other persons in my office use “gay” in a derogatory manner, without confrontation, comment or question on my part. I had had enough. I’m glad I stopped and confronted this person myself. In fact, we seem to have a better rapport because of my handling it directly. However, I hardly think going to a person skilled in arbitration an act of being a “tattle tale”.

  4. Hubert

    Am I the only one who thinks this person went severely overboard?


    Notice that ‘homosexual’ is the fifth definition, and also an earlier definition is “2. bright or showy: gay colors; gay ornaments.” Which seems to apply perfectly to your Photoshop situation. You may have stupefied them into blathering out the ‘politically correct’ defense to being caught using the word ‘gay’ in a non-politically correct manner.

    It’s funny that in your attempt to prevent the reduction of your office to “high school playground proportions”, you’ve effectively further reduced it to elementary school proportions; see: “tattle tale”.

    Even though you obviously interpreted the comment to be derogatory, you shouldn’t be so easily offended by the nonsense that idiots you work with may happen to say. It’s not like the co-worker was poking you in the eye telling you that you needed to eat a bowl of rocks or be thrown naked into an elevator (an event which would properly deserve the reaction you presented).

    A more appropriate response to such a derogatory comment, interpreted as an insult to your work even, would be an equally derogatory, appropriately constructed, albeit more personal, comment such as: “You’re gay.”

  5. salvage

    A good article about this here:


    It’s a pretty explicit statement: Gay equals bad. It’s a pretty versatile one, too. Anything can be “gay,” from a cell phone’s ring tone to the president to that weird thing your biology professor does with his belt buckle. It’s all “gay,” and it all should change.


    Our treatment of the word “gay” is less a sign of homophobia than illiteracy. We have a huge, neglected vocabulary that can do the same job for us, and it’s about time we start putting it to work.

    So, before you deem something or someone gay, consider your options.

    You have a friend who, apropos of nothing, quotes long passages of Gerard Manley Hopkins. He’s not gay; he’s pretentious, boring, bookish, self-absorbed and antisocial.

    You have a friend who played five hours of Final Fantasy instead of getting drunk at your 21st birthday party. That wasn’t gay; it was nerdy, confusing, lazy, unfortunate and insulting.


    And if you call me gay, I won’t be offended, for reasons that, by now, should be obvious.

  6. cowtown queen

    Bully for you, buddy. If we don’t all speak our minds about how irksome/offensive this misuse of the word is, it will go on to become listed in some kind of Canadian lexicon.
    The challenge, and I commend your restraint, is to remain calm and coherent while explaining just how f***ing mad it makes you to hear it used in a derogatory term. It is harder to confront the person, in person, than to go to HR. It’s always easier to complain to another about a 3rd person, much harder to confront them directly.
    I, too, have had similar conversations (yes, more than one) with people in my department and I suspect it has gotten around now that I don’t tolerate that kind of misuse of the word.

  7. Dead Robot

    Generally I do find a lot of taboo funny. Just ask Sharkboy how many times I like to fart.

    In hindsight, I think I was more upset with this person’s “Oh Come On!” comment and not so much the “gay=stupid” part.

    I have not a lot of respect for this person in the first place and to have them assume we could joke about it, just made me mad.

  8. andrew

    you have to drop by the ‘y’ sometime. there’s a whole herd of basketball players and a few staff who now know that the word ‘gay’, when used in a pejorative fashion, will now prompt me to holler ‘nigger’ at them.

    people are stupid and rude. that’s why humans should be made extinct.

  9. Normlr

    It bugs the shit out of me too. I heard someone say “Oh that’s so gay” while referring to something that was stupid. I screamed out “Honey, I know gay and that ain’t gay” across the hall. She tried to argue but I finally won.

    I find it to be derogatory unless referring to something that actually is gay.

  10. Dead Robot

    Lew/Lex, I make you both honourary homos for coming clean about your usage. I allow you to use it “ironically”

  11. Lew

    I just gut-checked my own ‘blog for the word “gay.” Since 2002, I have had six posts with the word. Two were negative — one dealing with flaming orange and neon artwork, and one about public access television hosts dressing sets with American flags. The other four were pretty much on topic and related to homosexuality itself or in our culture.

    I hope I get at least a B- for the effort.

  12. Lew

    I’ll be honest… I do drop the word gay now and then. And it’s usually about some fabulous, over the top, flamboyant design going on in my LCD. So it’s somewhat relative in a drag queen way.

    I don’t call people gay, if they’re stupid. I prefer to call them fucking inbred idiots instead. It’s more definitive.

    The last time I called anyone a homo, I was probably 12 and didn’t know better.

    I’ll try harder to keep that farther back in my head in the future. Thanks for the ass kicking — No offense meant.

  13. Evil Panda

    I’ve also had this same conversation with a coworker. I don’t think I got as pissed off as you, but I calmly explained to them why it was inappropriate slang.

  14. Dead Robot

    I’m just really tired of it. It’s become so widespread that it’s verging on acceptable and I refuse to accept it. Call me an old stick in the mud.

    But in all honesty I’m guilty of it too. Much like the N word in rap lyrics, I’ve called my friends “homo” etc.

    After today, I’ll be re-thinking that.

  15. Lex

    Good for you. And good for you for reminding those of us (and by that I mean me) who have occasionally been too stupid or lazy to find the right word, that it’s really not okay, any time, in any way.

Comments are closed.