Last week, while walking down the corrdidor at work I passed a group of students who were looking at some notice about coursework on the noticeboard. "Oh God!" said one, clearly displeased about something. "That is so GAY!"
Just as words like "queer" and "dyke" have been reclaimed as positive concepts, the word "gay" has been reclaimed as a homophobic one. And nobody bothered to tell me. A further investigation reveals that this has been going on for a while and is teenager-speak. "I use it all the time," a female (fag-hag) friend tells me. "I don't mean it to be homophobic. It's different from the other use of gay." Even gay rights advocates seem to be using it. I've recently noticed a poster at my University which says "Homophobia is Gay".
So is it OK to use "gay" to mean something lame or bad? I'd argue every time that it isn't. For example, would it be OK to give "black" a secondary meaning as bad? How are people who are on the verge of coming out going to create an identity for themselves if "gay" has so many associations with lameness? Gay is about the most positive word that we have for ourselves. It's not ideal, but it's taken 30 years to establish it as something we can be proud of - and now a stupid, thoughtless teenage word fad is attempting to wrestle it away from us. Even if people are claiming to use the word in two different ways now, we could well do without the association - particuarly while homophobia still exists.