Ash Beckham Takes Back The Word “Gay”

by Rachel Gertz

You’ve probably seen this video going around. Standing centre stage at Ignite Boulder, LGBTQ activist Ash Beckham shares a lesson about saying, “that’s so gay” when something isn’t or can’t actually be gay.

“It speaks volumes in our society that we’re more comfortable seeing a picture of two men holding guns than men holding hands, and the way that we rewrite that is to make sure that the words that we use to describe the latter are never used in a way that is ‘less than’ or ‘demeaning’ or ‘inferior to’…” —Ash Beckham

It is a funny, thoughtful video. She discusses some solid reasons why all of us need to stand up and challenge people on their bad habit of using “gay” as a colloquialism.

The Rules

1. Is it human? Yes? Is the person gay? No. Don’t say it.
2. Is it human? Yes. Is the person gay? Yes. You can say it.
3. Is it human? No? Is it a gay symbol like a rainbow flag? Yes. Then it’s okay.
4. Is it human? No? Is it a regular object, place, or thing you’d encounter? Yes. Don’t say it.

Pejoratives We Still Use

I have this fear that everything I say is wrong. I know the word ‘retarded’ comes out of my mouth too much. I say ‘dumb’, ‘crazy’, ‘bitchy’, ‘stupid’, and ‘idiot’ almost every day of the week. It makes me think about our language and how its symbolism has often evolved out of dark places. And in some cases, it hasn’t evolved at all. It’s just retained its meaning and we still use it, albeit lightly to be derogatory. Makes you think, though, doesn’t it.

  • Dumb
  • Stupid
  • Retarded
  • Idiot
  • Mental
  • Midget
  • Moron
  • Crazy

‘Ridiculous’ seems like the only safe word left, and even then I have my doubts. I bet people used to call out servants and riddlers all the time for being ridiculous and it probably hurt their stupid feelings—oops.

See, this really does require a paradigm shift. If all the slang words we can’t say were banned, would we just invent new ones? Or could we elevate our language so we could give things their proper name?