A new study from the University of Michigan has found that simply overhearing the expression “that’s so gay” used to describe something in a disparaging way can have negative consequences for gay, lesbian, or bisexual students. Practically every college student interviewed for the study had heard “that’s so gay” at least once in the past year, with more than half hearing it with much more frequency. Those who heard it more frequently were more likely to report feelings of isolation, as well as negative health symptoms, such as headaches, poor appetite, or eating problems.
Study author Michael Woodford, assistant professor of social work at U-M, describes the results:
WOODFORD: 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. “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 must do more to address “low-level hostility,” which clearly still has a documentable impact on LGBT young people. The study is the latest in a series of studies in the past few years that show how LGBT health concerns among young people can be traced to bullying and stigma, not homosexuality itself, as conservatives constantly allege.
The Ad Council and GLSEN launched ThinkB4YouSpeak.com a few years ago to advocate against such negative rhetoric. Here is one of the campaign’s ads, featuring out comedian Wanda Sykes: