The word gay is used by both genders to mean “stupid”. Anything can be gay. A video game can be gay. A car can be gay. But only a boy can be a fag.
Does that get your attention?
This is what C.J. Pascoe – author of Dude You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School – found during her 18-month observation in a California high school.
She researched the high school students in a variety of settings and interviewed 50 students. And writes that “gay” and “fag” mean very different things – both with negative connotations.
OregonLive.com profiles the researcher – who says the use of the slurs starts around sixth grade. The insults are typically used by straight boys in a joking manner to establish masculinity – not necessarily as a homophobic gesture.
One boy told Pasco: “If you’re trying to turn a wrench the wrong way, you’re a fag. Even if a piece of meat drops out of your sandwich – dude, you’re a fag.” And one boy told Pascoe that he would never use the slur against someone who is gay “because that’s just mean.”
On a related note, OregonLive.com reports: “Of 30 school shootings since 1982 that were considered random, more than 80 percent were done by boys who had endured serious gay-baiting and bullying, although there was no evidence that any of the shooters were gay, according to Michael Kimmel, a sociology professor with the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
“Appearance or body size is the most commonly cited reason for frequent harassment at school, with sexual orientation following close behind, according to a 2005 national survey sponsored by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network.”
And a survey done in 2005 found that nearly 9 out of 10 high schoolers reported often hearing remarks like “You’re so gay” – with the intended meaning of stupid.