The Phrase “That’s So Gay” Has Lasting Harmful Effects on LGBT Students

A new study in the Journal of American College Health found that the derogatory use of “that’s so gay” can have negative consequences on LGBT students.

Anyone that grew up gay — or grew up at all — knows that the playground is the nexus for all that is evil in the world. There, kids hone the bullying and taunting techniques that will lead them, if they’re lucky, into a life of public service. Calling something or someone gay is just another way to raise oneself up by putting someone down.

That kind of behavior lasts from grade school, through high school and even into college, where the study focuses its attention. Michael Woodford, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan, along with his colleagues, surveyed 114 gay, lesbian and bisexual students aged 18-25.

As reported by CBS Detroit:

Students reported how often they heard the phrase on campus in the past 12 months. They also answered questions about their perceived social acceptance on campus, physical well-being, mental health and willingness to disclose their sexual orientation.

Data suggests gay, lesbian and bisexual college students who heard “that’s so gay” more frequently were more likely to report feeling isolated and to suffer negative health symptoms, such as headaches, poor appetite or eating problems.

Practically every respondent reported hearing “that’s so gay” on campus at least once in the past 12 months. Nearly half of the students said they’ve heard the phrase more than 10 times within the year. Only 14 respondents—or 13 percent—hadn’t heard it at all.

“Given the nature of gay-lesbian-bisexual stigma, sexual minority students could already perceive themselves to be excluded on campus and hearing ‘that’s so gay’ may elevate such perceptions,” Woodford said. “‘That’s so gay’ conveys that there is something wrong with being gay.  And, hearing such messages about one’s self can cause stress, which can manifest in headaches and other health concerns.”

Woodford suggested that colleges address “low level hostility” including language, to effectively rid the lawns and halls of academia of “that’s so gay” and its ilk. “Policies and educational programs are needed to help students, staff and faculty to understand that such language can be harmful to gay students,” Woodford said in a press release. “Hopefully, these initiatives will help to eliminate the phrase from campuses.”