5 Words and Phrases Straight People Should Stop Using
It’s OK to say “gay” — as long as you’re not in Florida — but let’s just banish these offenders from polite conversation.
I’m old enough to remember when “queer” was a dirty word, scarlet letters gay people were expected to wear with shame. “He’s queer,” the old church lady might say, whispering “queer,” because it was just too awful to say out loud in polite Christian company.
It wasn’t until the great reclamation of the word commenced — around the time I came out in the early ’90s — that “queer” started to reemerge as an acceptable designation: “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!”
Today, many of us wear it with pride. It’s become even more fashionable than “gay” (and for some Gen Z-ers, preferable to “gay”), perhaps partly because it’s not just about sexual orientation. You can call yourself “queer” without really committing to a label or fussing over pronouns. It encompasses sexual fluidity, politics, pop culture, and fashion. A guy who generally identifies as straight might actually call himself “queer” because he likes to wear makeup and frocks, and he’d rather watch RuPaul’s Drag Race than football.
My point: Language evolves. But I can’t imagine a day when it will be OK to refer to an effeminate man as a “sissy” or when anyone who isn’t British and talking about a cigarette will get away with saying “fag.”
Language evolves but maybe not that much. Still, I hope to see the day when certain gay-adjacent words and phrases, like the five excruciating ones below, are booted from regular circulation.
1. “The gays”
This is a cringey favorite of the type of straight woman who patterns herself after Grace Adler or Carrie Bradshaw and calls herself a “fag hag.” You’ve all seen her. On Friday and Saturday nights, she’s the one taking up way too much space on the dance floor or pushing her way to the front of the line at the bar.
The problem with “the gays” is that it makes us sound like a homogenous gang with the same tastes, dreams, and life experiences. We don’t meet up once a week to discuss what we love and what we hate so that we are all on the same page. We…