Some of my 'friends' say things like, "You're so gay right now" and "That's so gay!" All the time. I don't want to be friends with someone like that, but I still don't want to cut them out of my life. What should I do?
Sometimes hurtful, offensive expressions make their way into everyday language. Some of the people who say these things also have intolerant attitudes — but not always.
Unfortunately, people often use expressions like these thoughtlessly, without meaning to offend anyone. That doesn't make the words any less harmful or rude. But it's possible that your friends aren't aware of how offensive their words really are or the negative attitudes those words reflect.
Start by talking to just one of these friends. Explain that the phrases are offensive and rude, even though they may not be meant that way. Ask your friend to help you influence the others to stop using these expressions. Then, when you're in the group and someone says one of these things, speak up with calm confidence. Say something like, "Let's cut out the anti-gay phrases — they're ugly and unfair, whether you mean it or not."
Don't be surprised if you get some pushback. Your friends may tease you to try to make you feel bad for speaking up. They might say things like, "You're such a goody-goody" or "You're too sensitive." Don't let that throw you off. Stand your ground. Have a calm comeback ready, like, "No, I'm telling you what I really believe and what I know is fair." Or, "You can't change my mind by teasing me." Or, "You guys don't realize how bad these things sound. What you're saying is so 1990s. We're over that kind of prejudiced language now."
If your friends push back with teasing and comments, you also can choose not to respond at all. Just make sure you stay calm and confident, and don't let it ruffle you. You may notice that the offensive language disappears from the conversation because you mentioned it. The friend you asked to help may back you up.
It's good that you recognize the message these words convey, and that you want to stand up for fairness. A change for the better can start with one person — like you!
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: January 2014
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
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