I was 19, living on campus at university, when someone first questioned me as to why I had attempted to insult a friend by calling him “gay”.
It was during one of the weekly games of porch poker we played on the outdoor tables of our campus apartments.
Six or eight students of the University of the Sunshine Coast living at the Varsity Apartments would each scrounge together five dollars of shrapnel (a veritable bounty in itself after alcohol and rent had been taken out of your Centrelink allowance) in the hopes of winning a student’s fortune in a hand of Texas Hold’em.
Surprisingly, as an arts major playing against engineering and accounting students, I occasionally held my own and claimed the $35 prize pool and would be the one drinking actual Smirnoff vodka that weekend as opposed to the brands I’m fairly sure are just random assortments of letters masquerading as Russian.
It was during one of my less successful reads of a friend and opponent, who I thought to be bluffing but had actually been dealt pocket aces and managed four-of-a-kind on the turn, that I lost the hand and exclaimed “Ah, you’re so fucking gay!”
I was laughing as I said it, as the poker games were always more for entertainment than financial gain, but the intent behind what I said was still, in a way, negative.
At the time I was sharing my particular Varsity apartment with three others.
We each had our own bedroom and bathroom but shared the living area and kitchen and, as young people do when they spend the majority of their time together drunk by a pool, became quite close with the majority of the revolving door of housemates I had during my two years living on campus.
During that semester, one of my housemates was an American free spirit by the name of Tasia who was abroad in Australia studying feminism and philosophy.
Tasia was also bisexual, I’ll let you decide whether or not that’s relevant.
She looked at me, after I lost that fateful hand of poker, and simply asked “Why’d you call him gay?”
I knew Tasia pretty well by that point in the semester and our friendship had been solidified on the previous weekend during a hungover excursion to the cinema to see the Disney Pixar film ‘UP’.
We still occasionally greet each other online by yelling “Squirrel!” or informing each other that “I hid under your porch because I love you”.
All of this online via Facebook chat though, as she moved back to Baltimore at the end of 2009 and I have not seen her since.
Although I have not seen her, I remember her asking me that one simple question because it questioned a phrase I had been throwing about as long as I could remember, and certainly since my early teens.
I was not homophobic, but I had never been close enough with a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex person to have been called out for using ‘gay’ as a negative.
It was a simple lesson for me – “Oh yeah, gay people are rad. Calling someone gay isn’t an insult.”
The same goes for ‘faggot’ and ‘dyke’ and all the other lingo keyboard warriors and insecure privileged white males everywhere are using – it’s not actually an insult, you’re just making yourself look like a muppet with an average vocabulary.
Not that there’s anything wrong with muppets, of course.