Dudefile #90 – The Dude Who Said “Gay” as an Insult

Hi DW,

I love your advice, and have found it to be incredibly awesome in the past. I’m hoping you can help me out.

I have a guy pal that I spend a lot of time with. We’re in the same academic program, so we’re together basically 9-5 every weekday, and a lot of extra time when we’re studying etc. The dude is a great guy, funny, wicked smart, and generally a very kind person.

So the issue: I’m a lesbian, and while I know the dude is totally okay with having a butchy gal pal, he has slipped up a few times and dropped the “that’s so gay” insult. The first time I just let it slide, because while it’s a sh1tty thing to say, I’m not gonna go all angry-lesbo on him for one slip of the tongue. Then like, a week later, he says it again! This time, it merited a raised eyebrow and a “really, dude?” response on my part. It bothered me a lot and made me regret not saying something the first time.  I feel like I can’t say anything more about it now because time has passed and it’s a relatively minor thing, but I find myself being kind of bothered that he would think that’s okay. Because, obviously, I’m gay. And he’s my friend. And now I feel a little weird around him.

He hasn’t said anything like that since, so my question, DW, is this: did my understated response get the message across? Do I just forgive and forget?  Help me understand the dude.

A Hurt Friend of a Dude


Hi AHFoaD,

The DW has definitely noticed an uptick in casual usage of “gay” or “fag” as an insult or criticism by people who are otherwise nice, rational folks. Also “retarded.” The argument for using the gay and retarded insults is that, “they don’t mean what they used to.” Or sometimes it’s almost a way to brag about how, like, totally down you are with your gay friends that you can toss out words like “fag” in some kind of ironic, “you know I would never say that for reals, yo,” kind of way. Or that the generation coming up is much more socially enlightened across the board and, therefore, more comfortable talking frankly about topics like race and sexual orientation and less bound by political correctness. 

But here’s all the DW knows for sure. He’s never heard the parent of an autistic child casually tell a coworker, “Don’t be so retarded.” And he’s never heard a gay man insult someone by saying, “That’s so gay.” It’s just lazy and weird. Seriously, if you’re not intending to be a bigot with your words of choice, is it so hard to just call someone an asshole? Has “shithead” really lost any potency? Fuckface? Turdsnacker? The non-bigot alternatives are all around you, Ballcheese.

Anyway, you knew all this. The question is, what do you do now? 

Here’s where we’re at. You sent a message to a dude you think is overall a pretty solid cat. His behavior has changed, so we can assume that he received your message. What we don’t know is how. It could be anywhere from 1) Oh, crap. I had no idea what I was saying. I’m a changed dude and I feel like a dick and that “gay” shit is gone from my vocab forevs! to 2) Sheesh! What’s her prob? Mental note- No more “gay” in front of Miss Uptighty-whities!

Chances are, if your friend is as decent as you think he’s a lot closer to 1). What the DW suspects happens to people like your dude friend is that they simply just get caught up in a linguistic trend and don’t even fully consciously hear what’s coming out of their mouths until someone calls them on it the way you did and offers a little wake-up call. The DW bets your dude has owned his words and changed his ways, probably a little more embarrassed with himself than you realize.

If you still feel uncomfortable around him, though, and feel like you want to check in on the topic of “gay” again to make sure he understand what you objected to and why, the DW thinks you’d be well within your bounds. He started the weirdness. He can handle you bringing it up again and talking it out. Truly decent dudes often feel a little relieved when people give them a chance to have a conversation, offer an apology, and get to the heart of what went down. He might even have a ton of questions for you about gayness that he didn’t know how to bring up before. Dudes aren’t always good at bringing up personal or intimate topics, even when they’d like to. Especially if it involves a dude admitting failure or shame.

And, of course, the flip side of all this is that if the dude can’t handle a little chat about something this important to you, he can go fuck himself. Which, ironically, might technically be considered gay.

Here’s to you and your straight dude friend getting back to normal.


the DW

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3 Responses to Dudefile #90 – The Dude Who Said “Gay” as an Insult

  1. hokey pokey says:

    a similar thing happened to me just last night. i was in class and working on a project with this guy who, despite being in class with me all semester, i had never talked to. at one point he says, “man, this project is so gay.” i didn’t really know him and wasn’t sure if i should call him out. i didn’t feel like giving a pc lecture. but it really bugged me. so i made a joke, “this project is homosexual?” and he goes, “no, it’s really lame. i mean, yeah. i guess i shouldn’t use that term.” so you know what? every time someone says, “that’s so gay.” i’m going to call them out on it because it’s wrong and i shouldn’t tolerate it. no one should. (i’m straight, by the way.)

  2. marmot says:

    DW, you are SOLID. I’ve been trying to bring back the non-discriminatory profanity for years. Every time someone asks me why I have a problem with their use of “retarded” as an insult, I’m going to direct them to this website. Unfortunately, that’s likely to bring you a lot of readers.

    On a somewhat related note, have you considered writing letters of recommendation for single male friends who are as funny, smart, and overall awesome as you (or your online persona, at least)? There could be a “Dude Whisperer Endorsed” stamp to add to online dating profiles and such. The Dude Whisperer brand! A rich new vein of revenue!

  3. Lisa says:

    I tell people “you mean ridiculous” when they say retarded (which is true and has the bonus of starting with R) and use a version of “you mean, talented, beautiful and capable?” when they say “that’s gay”. I run a little heavy to sarcasm. Maybe we should start saying “Wow, that is so your grandmother dying of emphysema” or the like as a counterattack.

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