Created by

« Return to Blog

When it’s okay to say “gay”, a flowchart

Ash Beckham delivered a very funny and persuasive presentation at Ignite Boulder in February about the pejorative use of the word “gay” to describe something that is neither homosexual nor happy. She advocates acceptance over tolerance, and argues that it takes a societal shift to help move toward the former.

You undoubtedly know people who use the word gay as a casual substitute for something they might normally describe as stupid, unfair, or annoying. Confronting them directly might be awkward, but if they happen to see this graphic crop up on your Facebook or Twitter feed, it might be just enough to do the trick.

In the words of Ash, “Societal change begins with small steps. Silence is consent, and we’re better than that. You have more influence than you give yourself credit for. When you can, say something, because in the end, it takes a Village, People.”

Watch Ash’s full presentation here:

Share this graphic!

Just want the flowchart? Download it here.

  • [pinit count="vertical"]
When it’s okay to say “gay”, a flowchart

Embed this infographic on your site:


  1. Garret North Mar 1, 2014 at 2:18 am

    Here’s a thought, gay individuals don’t like to be discriminated against which is understandable. So instead of using the term gay to self identify, why not simply stop the need to identify yourself as different then other people. Caucasian heterosexual people are considered the majority of people in North America, so for this reason do we call them Norms? Normies? no, people are people. The minute the world gets rid of the need for individuals to feel special for no reason other then to feel different, social problems and discrimination will begin to disappear.

  2. ashford Feb 27, 2014 at 7:03 am

    This is so gay! I’m gay and I call things gay all the time. Words only have power if you let them. People need to stop being so sensitive.

  3. John Smith Mar 17, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    I am so tired of this, no one I know uses the word gay as a substitute for any word like; bad, stupid, lame, frustrating, etc. They use it to associate things with stereotypically gay iconography. For instance no one ever uses gay to describe a “bad,” outfit but they very easily might use it to describe someone wearing gold lame pants and a pink feather boa. I’m not saying it’s a good thing to do I’m just saying people need to stop this completely false campaign that people should stop using gay because “they really mean stupid.” No one does that.

    • DJ Waldow Mar 18, 2013 at 12:28 am

      My college roommate’s brother does. All the time. He uses “gay” as a substitue for anything he doesn’t like.

      • charms Feb 27, 2014 at 7:08 am

        I do as well and i’m gay. It’s not my problem that people are way to over sensitive.

  4. Mark Strange Mar 16, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Context matters a lot more then individual words. People need to learn to be respectful with what they say then what words are considered “bad.” Gay means homosexual, it also means Happy. It also means “sucks” given the context.

  5. DJ Waldow Mar 11, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Really amazed (saddened?) by all of the negative comments on this blog post. Why do people have such a difficult time understanding that words DO matter? I honestly don’t understand why this is a tough concept to grasp. Maybe they have never been on the “wrong” end of hurtful words?

    Would love to hear back from some of those who posted negative comments here. Don’t be shy. I don’t bite. Again, really just curious…

  6. obsteve Mar 11, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Words change meaning. Get over it ;)

    • Evan C. Paul Mar 11, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      That’s why instead of riding a bicycle, I ride a nigger. I mean, words change, so I should be able to use the word “nigger” however I please, right?

      • DJ Waldow Mar 11, 2013 at 9:09 pm

        Well played. Well played.

      • obsteve Mar 20, 2013 at 3:53 pm

        Yes, you can use the word Nigger however you please, but if you try a personal mission to change the meaning of a word you will just end up sound like a dick. Go on, ask me how a dick sounds…

      • curious Mar 21, 2013 at 9:22 am

        how does a dick sound?

      • obsteve Mar 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm


  7. Dbakeca Italia Mar 11, 2013 at 5:10 am

    good to know

  8. Eric Mar 10, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Now, if only the mentally handicapped could express their like offense at the generalization of the word retard.

  9. Linguisth Mar 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Linguistically speaking, this argument has no real basis. So, people that have assumed the homosexual identity can change the definition of words such as gay, but anybody who decides to use the same word in a different way cannot do it? That is utterly ridiculous.

    What about all the people who had gay in their first or last name (I know a few). Some of these may be angry at the change of the word.

    If people want to change the word to mean stupid, nonsensical, weird, unusual, abnormal, or anything else is completely acceptable. Words change meaning. Homosexuals did it. I can do it too. Deal with it.

    And using the rainbow as a homosexual symbol? We’ll save that argument for a different time.

    • Evan C. Paul Mar 11, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Linguistically, no. Socially, yes.

    • JN Nov 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Hey. You. Fuck you. In case you take those words to mean something different than I mean them, let me be clear: you are a self-absorbed, self-righteous asshole. Your self-righteousness causes other human beings pain. That makes you wrong.

  10. Kate Dougherty Mar 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    In response to this I will use this term rather than gay: queer. I will be using it with the actual defninition: 1.strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; unusually different; singular: a queer notion of justice.
    of a questionable nature or character; suspicious; shady: Something queer about the language of theprospectus kept investors away.
    not feeling physically right or well; giddy, faint, or qualmish: to feel queer.
    mentally unbalanced or deranged.

    “The peanut butter jar is empty! That’s queer.”

    Oh, I’m sorry.. do you associate this word with homosexuality? Alas, that’s not what it means. My point is that words are words. Our language is entirely fluid and meanings for the same word can change from one moment to the next. Have you not had a conversation solely with the word “Dude”? I get that this is about bullying and use of derogatory words, but really? How about this for an overarching idea “Don’t be an asshole to each other.” Either way, people won’t change their minds until they want to. The homos I know (roommate and others) can be just as catty about each other as straights. No matter the term from whom or about whom or what; don’t be an asshole.

    • Marina Mar 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm

      “People won’t change their minds until they want to” and the fact that us gay folk can be just as catty as you straight folk doesn’t make it okay to use a term for a community of people who already have a rough go at it as a pejorative. Ash’s talk was largely about the fact that lots of people use the word gay derogatorily without intending to be an asshole, merely out of laziness or having never given the matter thought.
      Of course words change. But sometimes we have to be intentional about how we use our words. Why should we use a word that could cause damage when it’s so simple to find another word (and usually one that more closely means what you’re trying to say)? Eliminating a single word usage from our vocabulary isn’t all that difficult, and it can make a world of difference to us crazy, catty gay people.

      • ashford Feb 27, 2014 at 7:06 am

        i’m gay and i use the word gay for all sorts of things, why should I care, it is just a word.

    • Evan C. Paul Mar 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      There is more to words than their disinterested linguistic denotations.

    • Paul Swan Feb 27, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      Your defensive stance is as repulsive as your inability to understand that sometimes, words are not just words. They can be labels, identifiers, slurs, insults, pigeonholing enablers and weapons. What about the word ‘nigger’? Is that just a word? Prove it. Use it within earshot of a black person with the same blasé attitude you’ve applied to the use of the word ‘queer’. I’m sure they’ll apologise all OVER the place when you explain to them you were just talking about the colour of your sofa or those lovely pants at Abercrombie and Fitch.

      Let’s just over-overarch for a second and ponder on how not using certain words to certain groups could come under the umbrella ‘don’t be an asshole to each other’.


      People CAN’T change their minds until they’ve been educated. People who WON’T change their minds are the dangerous ones.

      Your use of the word ‘homo’ (apart from showing you up as the ineffectual troll you are) proves that you’ve not really got a grip on the issue just yet but I just BET your roommate (and others) harbour a faint dislike for you, however suppressed and unconscious it may be.

      I know I’m answering a comment made over a year ago, so I guess there’s hope that something has matured you in the interim and you’ve seen the error of your gays but if not (and sadly, I suspect this is so), don’t be a c*nt.

      Hey, it’s ok! It’s just a word, right? Right..?

  11. Pingback: When it’s okay to say "gay" | Social Butterfly Guy

  12. DJ Waldow Mar 8, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

    • cuteculturechick Mar 14, 2013 at 10:07 am

      Thank you DJ. And thank you for sharing the graphic, both on our blog and amongst your circles. I, like you, believe that gay rights = human rights. Getting these conversations in the light of day are SO important.

  13. idk Mar 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    that was pretty gay

  14. JJ Hula Mar 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    this is great! :)

  15. Eric Mar 7, 2013 at 11:27 am

    It’s missing the “Are you using it as an antiquated synonym for happy, such as ‘Don we now our gay apparrel’?”

    • Daniel DaggerPuss Peeples Mar 7, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Pretty sure that is what was meant when it was asked “are you describing their happiness?” and “really? Their happiness?”…

      • ak25 Mar 13, 2013 at 11:22 am

        He is talking about a “place or a thing”, not a person

  16. john Mar 7, 2013 at 10:55 am

    this is the gayest fucking article

    • Joseph LeBaron Mar 7, 2013 at 10:56 am


    • Kevin James Bennett May 23, 2014 at 7:32 am

      Spoken like a true neanderthal – it’s really sad that you haven’t evolved. But unfortunately some people aren’t smart enough. Maybe next lifetime…when you come back as a lesbian?

  17. Riley Welsh Mar 7, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Love seeing this from Thanks for educating the masses.

    • francescmier Jul 23, 2014 at 4:52 pm

      my Aunty
      Allison recently got a nice 6 month old Jaguar by working from a macbook.this website C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Quotes & Inspiration
, ,