When ‘Gay’ Means ‘Garbage’ – And Folks Are Okay With It

Trash bag

When a 5-year-old calls another boy on the monkey bars a “fag,” it might still be offensive. But calling him “gay?” Not as bad, according to the BBC Board of Governors, which has taken the surprising step in associating the slang usage of “gay” as to mean “rubbish.”

A listener complained after Chris Moyles dismissed a ringtone by saying on his Radio 1 breakfast show: “I don’t want that one, it’s gay.”

The complainant argued that the use of the word gay in this context was homophobic. The governors said, however, that Moyles was simply keeping up with developments in English usage.

The programme complaints committee noted: “The word ‘gay’, in addition to being used to mean ‘homosexual’ or ‘carefree’, was often now used to mean ‘lame’ or ‘rubbish’. This is a widespread current usage of the word amongst young people.”

The committee, which consists of five BBC governors, including the former Royal Ballet dancer Deborah Bull, was “familiar with hearing this word in this context”.

Troubling? Absolutely. Whenever someone outside a cultural group adopts such a charged term to apply a derogatory meaning, it’s a step backward. There’s plenty of debate within minority communities – whether gay, black, or physically disabled – on whether offensive words should even be used within their community, let alone by anyone else. But an outsider throwing around “gay” to mean something patently unsavory — because “young people” deem it okay? We shouldn’t even have to raise the argument about anyone but people of color using the word “nigger.”

Gay means rubbish, says BBC [London Times]