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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. Paul R,
    Your writing, and how flippant you treat this, amidst the battle cries of many on here with heartfelt personal ties to this phrase, remind me of the kind of gays in school who were bystandards to bullying, so long as the bully sat next to them in the lunch table and they felt like they were accepted, they really couldn't care less about the emotions of anyone else. You may have acceptance by your brother, and that may be all you're concerned about, but for the vulnerable gay youngin' who may face enough ridicule in his daily existence, who happens to overhear your brother make one of his gay digs that you say he uses often; that child could get hurt by that. Emotional by it. Or yes, even offended. He doesn't have the luxury of knowing your brother, but he did have a glimpse in your brothers lack of consideration.

    That could all simply be avoided if your brother would take the very effortless task of considering the thoughts of others. Ofcourse you're rebuttal will be, well those anti gay words don't offend you, so if they don't offend you then why should they offend anyone else. And that's where we run into trouble. When we tell an entire segment of population, who is already persecuted enough, to turn off their emotions completely and not react, or adopt YOUR very same reaction to all things that concern them, then you're really creating a space where you are attempting to tap into people's emotions and dictate how they should feel about very raw subject matters that inherently affect them. That's not realistic. But having a quality conversation with your brother explaining the ramifications of that phrase is realistic. But again, that would require you caring for more than just how he treats you.

    Posted by: Charles Jelensky | Aug 30, 2012 11:42:46 AM


    But my friend, the very thing you perceived as name calling directed toward you which you take offense with, is the very thing you yourself are doing by defending phrases like that's so gay. For many gays, that's phrase in and of itself is hurtful and insulting too. You boldly told gay people that they don't have any justifiable reasoning in having an emotional attachment to a phrase many of them have been hurt by, or have a long negative history of hearing. You, in a rather dismissive way, gave them the cold shoulder on hearing them out and their hurt behind this phrase. You also tried to sell them on the idea that the homophobic people in their surroundings who used this phrase were not at all coming from a homophobic head space, and that this phrase that seems to deeply resonate and hurt said gay people, is something these gay people just need to accept and get over.
    Then in a most ironic fashion, you respond by calling foul because you felt personally insulted by the response you got. In a most respectful manner, how could you not recognize the blatant hypocrisy in your own actions with your own two posts above?

    Posted by: Charles Jelensky | Aug 30, 2012 11:50:05 AM

  3. CDUBOIS...
    Huh? ur sitting here telling gays to not be insulted by insulting speech and basically we just gotta accept "that's so gay" as a way of speaking, but then you call others out on not respecting you? wait, how come your emotions trump others? you basically perfectly just represented the camp that uses this phrase. they really couldn't give two rat ish about others feelings, but they themselves will grab a whistle and call foul if they feel disrespected. you couldn't even practice what you preach for five minutes on here dude. but most peeps who go around saying "that's so gay" usually don't. so I'm not surprised.

    Posted by: Nike-Kid | Aug 30, 2012 11:53:56 AM

  4. Honestly? growing up the kids who did bully me DID use this phrase all the time. In my life, those who have been most hateful and bullied me used it without any care. Which isn't surprising. I mean, someone who uses this phrase knows what they are saying. they knowww a gay person nearby can hear it and can be hurt by it, and they couldn't care. so it's not surprising in my life that those who showed compassion for me have never used this phrase, and those who really don't give a sht about gays used it with pride. I don't think it's cool to say, because I know too many people who are effected by it and have been in the past, myself being one of them.
    you try being raised in an environement where everyone says you'll burn in hell for being gay, and then you have to constantly hear your peers reffer to horrible things as gay. not right.

    Posted by: Jim | Aug 30, 2012 11:57:36 AM

  5. We wouldn't tolerate this speech or phrase or even mentality of carelessness to the feelings of other minority groups. I mean, I can't imagine any other demographic where a phrase similar to this would be accepted.

    And the idea that gays need to play stupid and pretend it has nothing to do with them. I mean really now, THAT is even more insulting than the phrase. It has everything to do with gay. gay being lame, being gay = bad, and it always will and that's exactly where the saying stemmed from. Thankfully, it's not a popular phrase anymore. But to even pretend it's anything but a foolish, ignorant, and homophobic thing to say is to basically request people to turn off their brain cells and play stupid.

    Posted by: Deteor | Aug 30, 2012 12:02:44 PM

  6. It's always been amusing to me hearing people defend this phrase or those who use it. I always find myself chuckling, because they are usually such elaborate, whimsical, creations that almost rewrite the entire phrase, and you'd think the actual phrase was "that's so amazing and gay"

    I mean really now. Just say what it is and keep it real. It's a phrase that itself, in a most literal way, suggests being gay is undesirable. And those who use it really couldn't care how the phrase affects gays who hear it. Some may actually get enjoyment of the annoyance it causes gays, and again, they couldn't care less. No need for fancy novels, and fabrications. And no need to pee on the collective LGBT leg and say it's a rainy day outside.

    Posted by: Duration & Convexity | Aug 30, 2012 12:20:26 PM

  7. @Charles Jalensky Very eloquent and persuasive! However I don't view it as hypocrisy. Calling someone an idiot or clown directly is different than hearing a stranger say "that new Adam Sandler movie is gay." One is a direct insult while the other is a PERCEIVED insult based on the point of view of the listener. Without knowing EXACTLY what the thought process is of the speaker how can we assume he or she has negative feelings towards gays? I understand the phrase is offensive to some and I think if someone's words offend, you should by all means educate them in a respectful, well-reasoned manner. My trouble lies with the assumption that every person who says this has derogatory or negative intentions towards me.

    @Nike-kid My feelings certainly aren't hurt by anonymous posters. I would also like to point out that I am not attacking anyone or calling them dumb for their thoughts, just giving an alternative point of view. There is a HUGE difference! I just wish the level of discourse on message boards was elevated. A place where everyone could give an opinion without being PERSONALLY attacked. We are gay, we're better and smarter than that :)

    Posted by: cdubois | Aug 30, 2012 12:23:18 PM

  8. Right up there with 'no homo'. One of my friends uses that phrase and it definitely annoys me.

    There are lots of straight guys that are very insecure with their sexuality. The fact that you can't even acknowledge when a guy is good looking is sad.

    Posted by: Sam | Aug 30, 2012 12:35:02 PM

  9. Right up there with 'no homo'. One of my friends uses that phrase and it definitely annoys me.

    There are lots of straight guys that are very insecure with their sexuality. The fact that you can't even acknowledge when a guy is good looking is sad.

    Posted by: Sam | Aug 30, 2012 12:35:05 PM

  10. just a thought... what if we as a community flipped it around? Let's start using it in a positive context! "That new Audi R8 is so gay!" or "I love your shirt, it's so gay!" or "girrrl, who did your hair, totally gay!" LOL I think that would go a long way to satisfy everyone! : ) Just trying to bring some much needed levity to the convo! But seriously, I love you guys and I hope I haven't offended anyone. Just putting thoughts out there!

    Posted by: cdubois | Aug 30, 2012 12:35:24 PM

  11. The simplistic assessments of my intellectual capacity make me laugh. Here's a hint: words aren't what hurt people. Violence hurts people. If someone threatens you, fight back. I don't give a damn about what people think or say about me. I came out almost 30 years ago, when I was 12. I've fought plenty of battles. Why would I consider "gay" an insult? It reflects on the speaker, not me.

    Posted by: Paul R | Aug 30, 2012 12:36:45 PM

  12. @PAUL R. WORK!

    Posted by: cdubois | Aug 30, 2012 12:37:30 PM

  13. @C.dub: Paul's right in that ur use of gay that way or "that's so gay" that way makes YOU look bad. And most people would never tell you that to your face; they'll just silently judge you for your bigotry. If its not a situation where I can realistically call u on it, you better bet I have judged you as a bigot; your loss I guess.

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Aug 30, 2012 12:52:53 PM

  14. Err... Where I realistically cannot call u on it

    Posted by: Just_a_guy | Aug 30, 2012 12:53:33 PM

  15. I just told my straight friends that their fantasy football league is totally gay, they found it funny and so did I.

    Posted by: Brian | Aug 30, 2012 12:56:48 PM

  16. @just a guy. Um... I dont recall saying I use the phrase. Look at my comments. The core of my argument is that when you assume you know peoples intention you can end up writing them off without just cause. judgement is for God, by judging me without fully knowing my point of view or aim its really you who is losing because you are marginalizing people based on isolated aspects of their speach rather than their full being

    Posted by: cdubois | Aug 30, 2012 1:02:07 PM

  17. I hate THAT PHRASE. Luckily, i dont know a single soul who still uses it

    Posted by: HEAT | Aug 30, 2012 1:54:18 PM

  18. Any grown adult who uses this phrase is chemically imbalnced and trying to fight their age. it's ignorant speech and deserves to be called exactly what it is

    Posted by: Joles | Aug 30, 2012 1:55:31 PM

  19. no excuse for saying that's so gay.. If you know it has the potential to be divisive, why say it? to be a tool? well, then dont get mad when others call you a homophobic tool for your chosen antics

    Posted by: C.C | Aug 30, 2012 1:57:21 PM

  20. Ironic that the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland have adopted "That's So Gay.............Games" as their slogan. Hopefully, somebody in Marketing will read this study.

    Posted by: Majaflom | Aug 30, 2012 3:42:33 PM

  21. "Why would I consider "gay" an insult?

    @Paul R: It depends on the context and tone. If a friend, for example, points at two community center buildings and says "That one is Jewish and that one is gay," I would hope they are redering to the respective focus of the teo centers' outreach programs. If neither building has anything to do with Jewish or gay people and what they meant that the former is "greedy" and the latter is "ugly" then of course they are attaching offensive connotations to the words they use.

    Posted by: GregV | Aug 30, 2012 3:55:48 PM

  22. So "that's so gay" isn't really homophobic.
    And "white trash" isn't racist.
    And "Jewing somebody down" isn't anti-Semitic.

    I suppose I'm not really amazed at all that people who are supposedly gay are willing to collaborate in their own oppression. That's the way privilege and hegemony works.

    It's still sickening.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Aug 30, 2012 4:36:04 PM

  23. The whole that's so gay/no homo phrase has died down the last couple of years, luckily. I think it's because although some people may still use it, most recognize the term is completely immature and ignorant. Especially given the phrase is almost always used in a negative fashion. I can handle the phrase that's so gay used in jest. But it's rarely used that way. It's used in a way to indicate something is bad/distasteful/negative. The reason for that is homophobia, pure and simple, so anyone here saying this isn't a big deal needs a reality check. Homophobia is homophobia. And especially when the homophobia is this blatant, there are no excuses.

    The fact many straights will say "get over it" "stop being so oversensitive" or "it's just words" shows the lack of respect many of them have towards non-heterosexuals. If you know this phrase causes offense to many, gay and straight, that alone should be enough to prevent one from using it. Straight who go OUT OF THEIR WAY to defend and use this term are disgusting. Gay people who do so, in my eyes, are simply desensitized.

    Cdubois, using the word gay as in "this movie is gay" when there is no gay content whatsoever in the movie, is using gay as a means to label something negatively. The person using the term can be oblivious to that but it doesn't change the fact that, yes, it is an offensive phrase. Hell, the fact many straight people realize it's offensive should be enough for us.

    I hear this phrase a little bit, not too much. What's interesting is that it's actually people in the 16-28 age group, there or there about, who get the most offended regarding this phrase. I see A LOT of straights and gays over 30 defending this term.

    Posted by: Francis | Aug 30, 2012 4:38:00 PM

  24. Lgbt youth today have so many outstanding LGBT role models in so many different fields that these silly little slogans should have less and less impact I don't want to see our youth live as victims. We need to teach them to physically, intellectually and spiritually kick homophobic a$$. Be assertive, out and proud as soon as possible and that is usually sooner than many individuals think.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 30, 2012 8:17:39 PM

  25. Cdbuois- and Paul R
    Your asses would be the first to go livid if someone used anti racial slurs. So dont even play. Paul r, your brothers wife named Gracia wouldnt appreciate someone using terms like sp-c around her, an he'd be offended if that word were uttered in her presence, thinking less of the person who said it, and dont you ever tell the gay community what we are allowed to find insulting or flattering. In ur little mind, you simply convince yourself homophobia is acceptable. Dont be surprised when we dont agre

    Posted by: Awardgoldenist | Aug 30, 2012 10:07:03 PM

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