Streams

Gay Rights in the U.S.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Michael Lavers talks about President Obama has expanded federal benefits and rights to the LGBT community, and upcoming national legislation.  He is national news editor for EDGE media network.

Guests:

Michael Lavers

Comments [25]

Voter from Brooklyn

Edward from NJ,
You’re right. And thought I’m guilty of using the phrase, I’ve always understood that to be its origin. This or that blows is another, though I’ve heard “this blows chunks” which could mean vomit, but Bart Simpson once uttered “I didn’t know it was possible for something to both suck and blow at the same time”, so where does that get us.

Jun. 24 2010 12:15 PM
Edward from NJ

Richard Posner's post raises another potential problem...

Two people are having an friendly argument. One scores a good rhetorical point and the other jokingly retorts, "Man, you suck." Assuming the omitted "d!@k" at the end of that phrase, we're back in anti-homosexual slur territory.

Jun. 24 2010 12:08 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Maybe this will help:
Word Origin & History

gay

1178, "full of joy or mirth," from O.Fr. gai "gay, merry" (12c.); cf. O.Sp. gayo , Port. gaio , It. gajo . Ultimate origin disputed; perhaps from Frank. *gahi (cf. O.H.G. wahi "pretty"), though not all etymologists accept this. Meaning "brilliant, showy" is from c.1300. OED gives 1951 as earliest date for slang meaning "homosexual" (adj.), but this is certainly too late; gey cat "homosexual boy" is attested in N. Erskine's 1933 dictionary of "Underworld & Prison Slang;" the term gey cat ( gey is a Scot. variant of gay ) was used as far back as 1893 in Amer.Eng. for "young hobo," one who is new on the road and usually in the company of an older tramp, with catamite connotations. But Josiah Flynt ["Tramping With Tramps," 1905] defines gay cat as, "An amateur tramp who works when his begging courage fails him." Gey cats also were said to be tramps who offered sexual services to women. The "Dictionary of American Slang" reports that gay (adj.) was used by homosexuals, among themselves, in this sense since at least 1920. Rawson ["Wicked Words"] notes a male prostitute using gay in reference to male homosexuals (but also to female prostitutes) in London's notorious Cleveland Street Scandal of 1889. Ayto ["20th Century Words"] calls attention to the ambiguous use of the word in the 1868 song "The Gay Young Clerk in the Dry Goods Store," by U.S. female impersonator Will S. Hays. The word gay in the 1890s had an overall tinge of promiscuity -- a gay house was a brothel. The suggestion of immorality in the word can be traced back to 1637. Gay as a noun meaning "a (usually male) homosexual" is attested from 1971. Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Jun. 24 2010 12:06 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Tom Crisp,
I’ll have to beg to differ. “Gay” has been understood to mean licentious, literally, for centuries. Its usage to mean “homosexual” dates to the late 19th to early 20th century when it’s negative meaning was well cemented. It wasn’t co-opted then, it was foisted upon homosexuals since it was already applied to loose women and whoremongering men. If anything, homosexuals “took-back” the word during the gay rights movement the same way women in the ‘90s claimed they were taking back “bi**h” referencing the gay community. I think the community thought it was taking the word gay back to its first meaning of mirth, but it was unsuccessful.
Maybe I was confusing it with the Bush press secretary’s hugging the “tar baby” comment. You’re right on word usage and audience, but the English language is in constant flux.

Jun. 24 2010 11:57 AM
Richard Posner from Brooklyn

I'm a little on the fence about the kids' using "so gay" as a pejorative---I basically dislike it, but I remember an incident in which a sister-in-law, not that over-proper a person but older than I by about a decade, was scandalized by my wife's using the phrase 'it sucks' about something.

To us, it was just a phrase---we might have a hazy knowledge of its origins in (pardon the obscene self-censorship, but I don't want this comment munched) 'This sucks s*it' or 'This sucks di*k'---the latter especially nonsensical for a man of any affections to use as a pejorative, but I digress.

She, on the other hand, probably encountered the full phrase well before our elided, euphemized version.

Still, I doubt the term would be used if 'gay' didn't have negative associations from cultural attitudes toward gay people, so I won't give ti sanction by use.

Jun. 24 2010 11:53 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Mike from Inwood,
“If gay people fail to vote for Obama, what will they end up with?” is exactly what the administration is banking on. He already has the black vote. (I’m both black and gay)
Obama is no fan of equality, a fan of Jim Crow, yes… but equality, not at all. He openly said as much during the campaign. That said, he’s a politician and even though he’s done nothing to conceal his prejudices, he also wants votes and he’s not getting them from “the conservative bigots”. Plain and simple.

Jun. 24 2010 11:43 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Mike from Inwood,
I think we’re almost in agreement but having some chicken and egg conflicts. Though the initial meaning may have meant merry or blithe, that lead to it meaning wanton because, I don’t know, perhaps wanton people were happy. From what I’ve read, in the 1700s gay men were womanizers and gay women were prostitutes…. Gay solidly meant licentious. It’s no small leap to go from licentious to it meaning “homosexual” in the early 1900s.
Look at Saint Awdrey. Aethelthryth was commonly known as Saint Awdrey. Her followers wore lace and made goods named after her, Saint Awdrey’s lace. Saint Awdrey’s lace became known as Tawdry’s lace (T’Awdrey’s). Fashion changed and lace looked cheap and old fashion… Tawdry, if you will. Now we describe things that happen on Jerry Springer as “tawdry”… Has nothing to do with the saint.

Jun. 24 2010 11:38 AM
Tom Crisp from uws

Voter, it wasn't a Bush admin official who said "niggardly" , but a DC official, if I remember right.

The fact is, it's a perfectly good, descriptive word, but the additional fact that few people know it's meaning made it a controversial word choice.

I could say "The appropriation for election monitoring in the new bill is niggardly at best," and be far from racist in my intent. The use is accurate, the comprehension is not.

This goes for a lot of words - but what we should seek is maintaining value of words while also letting language change.

BTW, "gay" is a word that was co-opted by the homosexual community, not one that was applied to us by the majority as a pejorative. Of course there were people who bemoaned this, saying they no longer could use the word in it's earlier meaning. Those same people didn't much mind that they had altered the meaning of queer and faggot. (although faggot and fag had undergone a continuing shift.)

Maybe what we need is a new word, or the co-opting of a new word.

Jun. 24 2010 11:21 AM
Mike from Inwood

Voter, the use of the word 'gay' to describe homosexuals was not originally derisive it was euphamistic. The original use was merry & lively, as your dictionary posting shows. The other meanings were originally metaphorical.

And while the number of homosexuals may actually be as large as you claim, (there are no good numbers) they do not vote in the block you imply they do. After all look at the conservative Republican senator and his wide bathroom stance. Backing gay rights has, by itself, never been a position that will be a net vote-getter in an election. There are other realities: Whether Obama enacts any gay-friendly legislation or not, the conservative bigots will never vote for him anyway. If gay people fail to vote for Obama, what will they end up with? A government actively trying to roll back what few legal rights they have instead of one that does nothing or very little. Will they hold their breath until they turn blue? Now that would be so gay.

Jun. 24 2010 11:13 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Edward from NJ,
I should have said “proper” and not “appropriate” use of the word.

Jun. 24 2010 11:12 AM
Tom Crisp from uws

<< If "so gay" is unacceptable, then "so lame" is as well. Think about it for two seconds. >>.

Touche.

Jun. 24 2010 11:10 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Edward from NJ,
Lame is tricky, so is retarded, blind, deaf and even black. Context means everything and these could go from proper usage to bigoted.
Remember that early Bush admin member that used the word “niggardly”… I can’t fully remember what exactly happen, but he used an unbelievably ill-advised but appropriated usage of the word.

Jun. 24 2010 11:09 AM
Tom Crisp from uws

The tangent that "so gay" had to all other things gay in the contemporary sense (homosexual self-identification) continues to gradually become weaker. it's not irrelevant that the expression is used by the same demographic that is most supportive of gay rights issues.

As a side note, when my friends and I comment "that is SO gay" on seeing someone's interior design, outfit or television show, we do not mean lame. We mean "gay". Yes, gay people, even those in their 40s and 50s, use the same expression in our own way - and often in reference to heterosexuals!

We use the word positively, of course, but we also use it pejoratively.

Was it insensitive for Finn, the straight athlete-singer on Glee, to tell Kurt, his gay counterpart who has suddenly become a roommate, that the new decor of their room was "faggy"? Maybe, but he pretty much had it right. Gay men all over the country watching that show were thinking the same thing. Kurt's concept of "Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman" being a mix of the masculine and feminine was both beside the point and the point itself = so, unlike Kurt's dad, I didn't find Finn's outburst or design critique unjustified.

My own point being, if I can say it, so can he.

Jun. 24 2010 11:07 AM
Edward from NJ

If "so gay" is unacceptable, then "so lame" is as well. Think about it for two seconds.

Jun. 24 2010 10:58 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Mike from Inwood…
“Gay” “gyped’” “Indian giver” “cotton picking” “paddy wagon”… I said in my post that the term “that’s so gay” has it’s etymological base in using the word derisively meaning homosexual. I basically said the same thing you did. That said, “gay” meant licentious and wanton long before it meant homosexual. Licentious begat homosexual and not homosexual has begat unacceptable, un-cool or “lame” as you’ve said.

Jun. 24 2010 10:58 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Mike from Inwood,
Not so. The Obama administration knows full well there are many in the LGBT community whom are apathetic at best and livid more likely to his treatment of this issue including is unbelievably repugnant parallel drawn between same-sex civil marriage and incest early on. Democrats have lost donations, Obama is a joke in the LGBT community and on top of turning his back on his base in general, the man hasn’t really done a damn thing for people who have typically mindlessly shoveled support and money into Democratic coffers. Obama needs some token issue to campaign on this fall to get votes from a block larger than the number of all non-Christian (excluding non declared) Americans combined; a number larger than all Asian-Americans, Indian -Americans, and continental African-Americans combined. The man has a problem and he’s playing catch up. It’s rather transparent, but he wants’ some Geffen and HRC money.

Jun. 24 2010 10:52 AM
Mike from Inwood

Voter agrees with Crisp and asks us to open a dictionary. Voter, crack open that dictionary again to the section on etymology and see that you're wrong.

Jun. 24 2010 10:46 AM
Mike from Inwood

Tom Crisp opines: "Seriously, let's not get distracted by the phrase "that's so gay", even used by the officer describing the dinner in Paris. That expression simply means "so lame" or "so un-cool." We do better to separate the real and the imagined."

Tom, the reason the expression "gay" has come to mean 'lame or 'un-cool' is because gay people were thought to be lame and uncool. Being 'gyped' means being cheated, but the phrase has its origins as a slur against gypsies, whether the speaker knows this or not.

Jun. 24 2010 10:43 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Mike,
Crack open a dictionary…. Matter of fact, I’ll do it for you. People using the term “gay” derisively know what they are saying and are associating it with same-sex sex, but knowing the history of the word (found for free online) also helps.
From dictionary.com:
gay
   geɪShow Spelled [gey] Show IPA adjective, -er, -est, noun, adverb
–adjective
1. having or showing a merry, lively mood: gay spirits; gay music.
2. bright or showy: gay colors; gay ornaments.
3. given to or abounding in social or other pleasures: a gay social season.
4. licentious; dissipated; wanton: The baron is a gay old rogue with an eye for the ladies.
5. homosexual.
6. of, indicating, or supporting homosexual interests or issues: a gay organization.

Jun. 24 2010 10:42 AM
Mike from Inwood

Voter from Brooklyn asks: "Not to take the wind out of anyone’s sails, but isn’t this nothing more than electioneering by an administration that knows it will take big hits in November?"

Voter, this is not a vote getter for any administration. For every gay-rights sympathizer who will be motivated to turn up at the polls there are two right-wing bigots that will also be there.

Jun. 24 2010 10:39 AM
Tom Crisp

Seriously, let's not get distracted by the phrase "that's so gay", even used by the officer describing the dinner in Paris. That expression simply means "so lame" or "so un-cool." We do better to separate the real and the imagined.

A poem:

SO GAY
It's no reference
To sexual preference.

I

Jun. 24 2010 10:39 AM
Catherine

Last night, I went to a "Marriage Equality Roadshow" at a Congregationalist church in Rockville Centre (LI), sponsored by the Empire State Pride Agenda. Seven same-sex couples simply talked about the difficulties they've experienced because of a lack of marriage equality. Every community should put together such a roadshow. Even for a supporter like me, it was eye-opening.

Jun. 24 2010 10:39 AM
Mike

It's not that kids don't know what they're saying when they say "that's so gay", it's that they are using the word in a different way. They are not even making the connection between homosexuality and lameness. Remember, gay used to mean happy. I'm sorry your word was co-opted, but that's what happens with language. It's not a big deal when people use the word like this.

Jun. 24 2010 10:37 AM
CW from Montclair

Using the term "gay" sadly, moved from the "bashing" to the simple slag one will say.

Not to forgive the McCrystal's guy, but to call it gay bashing is wrong.

Insensitive, YES.

Spend anytime around boys (and girls) and sadly, you'll hear the term used by folks who are NOT bigots or hateful.

They just need to be taught that it's wrong.

Jun. 24 2010 10:36 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Not to take the wind out of anyone’s sails, but isn’t this nothing more than electioneering by an administration that knows it will take big hits in November?

Jun. 24 2010 10:29 AM

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