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'That's So Gay' Hurts Youth, University Of Michigan Study Finds

SirIanResearchers at the University of Michigan recently surveyed 114 lesbian, gay and bisexual students to see how the common phrase "that's so gay" has impacted their psychological lives.

The results are unsurprising:

Data suggests gay, lesbian and bisexual college students who heard “that’s so gay” more frequently were more likely to report feeling isolated and to suffer negative health symptoms, such as headaches, poor appetite or eating problems.

Practically every respondent reported hearing “that’s so gay” on campus at least once in the past 12 months. Nearly half of the students said they’ve heard the phrase more than 10 times within the year. Only 14 respondents—or 13 percent—hadn’t heard it at all.

Hearing the phrase more often was found to increase students’ risk of health problems and feelings of isolation.

The study's author, Michael Woodford, suggests that the phrase "that's so go" simply exacerbates pre-existing low self-esteems. "Given the nature of gay-lesbian-bisexual stigma, sexual minority students could already perceive themselves to be excluded on campus and hearing ‘that’s so gay’ may elevate such perceptions,” he said, according to Detroit's local CBS affiliate.

"'That’s so gay’ conveys that there is something wrong with being gay. And, hearing such messages about one’s self can cause stress, which can manifest in headaches and other health concerns."

The study, called “That's So Gay!”: Examining the Covariates of Hearing This Expression Among Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual College Students", appears in the latest edition of Journal of American College Health.

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  1. As a black gay man, nothing infuriates me more than the phrase "that's so gay" seriously, I could be not tell you how offensive it is, on so many different levels. My grandparents didn't fight racial injustice so their grandchild could grow up and hear "that's so gross and gay" as a common phrase. It's a vile way of speaking and needs to be called out everytime someone close to you says it.

    I can tell you I've changed many a minds and helped them see why it's offensive by just simply pointing it out to the person. They instantly 'got it'
    I suggest others do the same for those around them that use it.

    Posted by: C.R | Aug 30, 2012 9:33:06 AM

  2. I mean, I guess in junior high and somewhat of high school I heard people say that, but does any self respecting grown adult...beyond the age of 18 REALLY still say "thats so gay" I mean that's pretty pathetic if they do. My straight friends seem to hate that phrase more than I do, and I really resent it.

    Posted by: lazerlightbeams | Aug 30, 2012 9:34:26 AM

  3. I remember in highschool when friends said it (agreed, haven't heard anyone around me even slip up and say it in years) I'd automatically find a trait about them and say "I know, it's soooo idiotic ditzy cheerleader. yuck!!" and they'd really quickly grasp why it's stupid, insensitive, and lame to use a phrase like that.

    And you can't hide behind the "oh, but I didnt mean gay, and you know I have no problems with gays"....FAIL. If you didn't mean gay, don't say gay as a negative word. There's many a thousands of words in the english language to replcae it with and just as easily get your point across.

    Posted by: Myles | Aug 30, 2012 9:37:07 AM

  4. Sorry, I got a zero tolerance policy with that saying 'that's so gay'

    Something about it really creates an emotion out of me. I think it's ugly and the epitome of ignorant, but what I hate worse is when people act all innocent and shocked that some gays could take offense to it. Really clown? Own up to your careless words and ignorance. Just own it.

    Luckily for me, I honestly, truthfully don't know anyone close to me who says it. And I don't think thats by accident either.

    Posted by: Scott Johanesen | Aug 30, 2012 9:39:01 AM

  5. You can't seperate "that's so gay" and being gay. It's a pejorative saying that's meant to be offensive toward gay people, or suggest being gay is lame. There's no two ways around that. There just isn't. If you really meant to say something was lame, you'd say lame. You said gay specifically because gay is connected with being bad. Just like when you say 'retarded' and pretend it's not meant to be AT ALL associated with mentally handicap individuals, that's a bold faced lie too. You say retarded because you meant to say stupid. It's all just ignorant, and unless corrected, just breeds ignorance.

    Posted by: Hassan | Aug 30, 2012 9:42:13 AM

  6. "Eww, stop being so Hispanic. That's soooo hispanic. Don't be hispanic. That's so hispanic"

    ^ Offensive? uneducated sounding? ignorant? So too is substituting the word gay for hispanic in every sentence above. Try it and see how flawed it is to accept this 'figure of speech' and how dangerous it is to not educate our friends when they do flippantly say it.

    Posted by: Texan Blues | Aug 30, 2012 9:44:55 AM

  7. I honestly, sincerely can't imagine hanging around with someone who goes around saying thats so gay, meant as a negative, and be able to sleep in my own skin at night. I'd feel like a dang sell out. For real. I mean, I wouldn't hang out with someone who wasn't Lebanse and took digs at peeps like me who are from lebanon, so why would I be ok with someone who goes around saying thats so gay, meant as a negative, right next to me: a gay dude. would make no sense.

    Posted by: B | Aug 30, 2012 9:47:02 AM

  8. I agree with one of the posters above. If you hear someone say it, just find a trait about them, be it their hair color, ethnicity, background, religion, and substitute it for gay, and see how they appreciate it. Thats always been a very perfect way of illustrating why many gays and lesbians take issue with that saying.

    Posted by: Amy | Aug 30, 2012 9:50:01 AM

  9. Why would any intelligent person say something not only offensive,but incredibly stupid?I've witnessed idiots referring to inanimate objects as "gay".How is a car gay?The next time i hear a moron use this idiotic phrase,i think i might lose it.

    Posted by: Miguel | Aug 30, 2012 9:57:11 AM

  10. Young women are often guilty of using this appalling phrase. They use it in a derogatory way. So much for the notion that women are gay-friendly. I, in fact, find that women are amongst the most hostile people around. They fear us because we represent a competitive threat to their ability to pick up men.

    Interestingly, gay guys use the phrase too. Usually it's the queenie ones who do it. While they're saying it, a purse usually falls out of their mouths....

    Posted by: jason | Aug 30, 2012 10:00:25 AM

  11. I think words evolve and very few people who say "thats so gay" are thinking derogatory thoughts about gays and lesbians. Just as gay meant happy for years then morphed into a term for same sex attraction, it has now, for a certain segment of the population, morphed into something outside the lgbt community. The problem with eliminating certain word usage is that who gets to decide? The example of "that's so Hispanic" or any other substitute is flawed logic as is those words have held a very specific definition for 100's of years unlike the word gay whose usage by the gay community didn't become prevalent until the late 19th century. Lastly, I find you give people power when you start taking offense

    Posted by: cdubois | Aug 30, 2012 10:05:14 AM

  12. @CDUBIOS

    Nice try but epic fail. 99.999% of gay people will fight the phrase 'that's so gay' with great passion. We'll call you bigoted for using a very bigoted phrase. Don't like it? Hurts you to be called the bigot you are? Awww, thats too bad now. Might wanna think about that next time you spew bigotry and try to decide for others what they can't be offended at. Nice try though.

    Posted by: Kyle | Aug 30, 2012 10:50:00 AM

  13. CDUBOIS,

    That was some serious pretencious, psuedo intellectual bull and you were probably cracking up while you wrote it. There's so many holes and flaws and hypocrisy in what you just wrote that I can't even believe that you wrote it with a straight face. Again, I'd bet you were cracking up the whole time you wrote that pretencious hog wash. Hog wash decorated with fancy words is still hog wash.

    Posted by: Falcon | Aug 30, 2012 10:53:07 AM

  14. @cdubois

    People like you are so transparent. You go from story to story tellings gays to not take offense to blatant homophobia, why? Because you want us to be complacent toward homophobia. Your ilk would love nothing more than the complacency and indifference of gays toward homophobia. When you homophobes try to pass off your homophobic speech as something that should be accepted and not seen as offensive, that's when we know you're getting desperate. Do you really think todays gay community is so weak that we'd accept a disgusting phrase like "thats so gay" as acceptable speech without calling out those who say it? Seriously, you clearly don't know the very unapologetic and active LGBT community of 2012. We grew a spine a long time ago.

    Posted by: SnowFlake | Aug 30, 2012 10:57:25 AM

  15. Of course those who use this phrase an love using it will attempt to sell you on the idea that it has nothing to do with gays. It has everything to do with gays and for me, the comment 'thats so gay' is single handedly the most homophobic saying by monsters in society. I agree with others. Zero tolerance policy, and if I hear it, be prepared to hear my freedom of speech and thoughts about it.

    Posted by: frank | Aug 30, 2012 10:59:47 AM

  16. @CDUBIOS: I'm pretty much on your side. One of my brothers, who is also one of my best friends, says this kind of thing a lot. But his wife is named Gracia and he calls her Gay as a term of endearment. He's gone to tons of gay bars with me (way more than straight bars, as did his girlfriends 15 years ago). He's messed around with men. Some people just don't watch their language carefully and are of an age where the semantics of certain terms and phrases have lost meaning.

    Do I like it? Of course not. Do I let people's use of poor language affect my life? Absolutely not.

    Posted by: Paul R | Aug 30, 2012 11:00:05 AM

  17. That the ignorant phrase -thats so gay- could even attempt to be falsely justified as anything but homophobic shows you perfectly what kind of homophobic society we live in.

    Thankfully, most educated people don't use it. And I agree with others, I honestly don't hear a single soul outside weird teenagers say it.

    But make no mistakes about it. It's a gay slur, derived from an anti gay intent. To even suggest otherwise is both laughable and disturbing. To believe it is the epitome of homophobia.

    Posted by: Jeannie | Aug 30, 2012 11:03:11 AM

  18. I'm not even going to address the clown who's trying to justify this phrase. And then claim that substituting other demographics in place of gay isn't appropriate. Educate yourself you foolish clown. There's been many a derogatory phrases aimed at other demographics in decades past that have been now shunned by society. Very similar to "thats so gay" they too made a pejorative of another community all while arguing "oh, we dont mean To offend you Indians/blacks/latinos, it's just a figure of speech"
    Speech does change. It changes for the more tolerant when the group most discriminated in society demands the shunning of derogatory speech aimed at their people. Yesterday it was the commonly used anti black phrases, native american phrases or jewish phrases. Those are shunned today because said groups took a stand, challenged and educated. Same is happening and will continue to happen with the GLBT community and usage of phrases like 'that's so gay'
    If that bothers you, that's not the gay communities responsibility. Go inward and do some soul searching and ask yourself why discontinuing using an ignorant @$$ phrase that cuts and offends so many being discouraged from being used upsets you so much. If you can't live with not saying 'that's so gay' you desered to be called out for the bigot you are.

    Posted by: Awardgoldenist | Aug 30, 2012 11:10:36 AM

  19. Anyone who defends these terms is contributing to societal homophobia, some without realizing, some realizing so but being too lazy to do or say otherwise. But it all boils down to homophobia, and that we live in a society where the feelings and respect for gay people is directed as silly and "they need to get over it" (mind you, we're the ONLY group who is told this) just reaffirms how deep rooted homophobia is in our society.

    Posted by: Gratit Gracious Pete | Aug 30, 2012 11:19:22 AM

  20. @ Paul R

    That's really a shame. Shame on your lack of commitment for many reasons. Do you realize you're inadvertently excusing homophobic phrases by not caring enough? Did you bother reading the study above? seeing how this phrase HURTS young gay children and even grown gays who endure enough legislative discrimination as it is. To have a commonly accepted phrase like this just heightens more disdain. How you couldn't connect the dots is mind boggling, and speaks volumes on your (lack of) character. That may be harsh, but so too is having a brother knowingly make slurs (yes SLURS) at gay people and saying you essentially couldn't care less to make him see differently because he goes to a gay bar with you. Wow. Just....wow.

    Posted by: Troudes | Aug 30, 2012 11:22:27 AM

  21. The first thing is that no one says this anymore... the trend came and gone. I mean its really over the hill as memes go

    But my most important point is, I picked it up from the gays. Gays were using this long before high school kids in Ohio. It wasnt until years later when Celebrities in California got all uppity that anyone even questioned it.

    It was also fun to use it as a "dozens" game. Thats so gay. That Liberace gay. Thats richards simmon on viagra in a bathhouse gay. Thats Marcus Buchanan gay.

    Posted by: Homo Genius | Aug 30, 2012 11:23:29 AM

  22. Paul R,
    That's lovely that your brother goes to a gay party or hangs out with gay people, but that still doesn't excuse a prejudice driven statement he makes that is not appreciated by most gay people, and most directly affects gay people. How? It intentionally states gay as a pejorative. And you really can slice it however which way you want, saying That's so gay as an insult IS offensive to gay people. That you can't recognize that, or choose not to, is fine. But to tell other gays to not be offended is where you're being sadly idealistic. We have every right to be offended and reactionary toward speech that directly takes aim at us. If it didn't. it wouldn't have gay in it. He'd be able to perfectly make his point, or joke, or comment without the need to drag gays, which that phrase does, in his sophmoric speech. When you do, you open yourself up to criticism.

    Posted by: Cali Greg | Aug 30, 2012 11:28:08 AM

  23. I can count on my one hand how many times I've commented on a towleroad article, so I would hardly consider that trolling. After today I doubt ill make this mistake again LOL! Further, almost every argument against my opinion includes name calling and a childish unwillingness to look at view antithetical to your own. I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything, especially not on a message board. Just putting another point of view out there. Bottom line is this, name calling, sarcasm and rudeness aren't a substitute for reasoned argument. No one should be called a name just because they hold a view different than your own, that's the fastest way to make yourself look silly while further illustrating you lack of reasoned logic.

    Posted by: cdubois | Aug 30, 2012 11:29:25 AM

  24. In a climate where gays are being fired for being gay, their civil unions are being stripped of them in some states, where they are the most targetted hate crime group, and our gay youth are killing themselves left, right & center, I genuinely don't see how any rational, logical, compassionate soul could justify the usage of this phrase. That GAY people would condone their friends or brothers using it just validates a point many have reiterated. In order for our equality to truly progress, first comes respect. People have to RESPECT us. What kind of foundation are we setting for our next generation when we have members of the gay community encouraging the usage of those kids using terms like "thats so gay" in negative manners? How do you ever expect some of them to grow up and not associate gay with a negative connotation?
    I mean these are basic logical fundementals that don't require massive critical thinking.
    We set the example.

    Posted by: Proud Nerd 81 | Aug 30, 2012 11:32:40 AM

  25. "Fancy words" lol

    Posted by: cdubois | Aug 30, 2012 11:40:33 AM

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