That’s so gay — what my sister really thinks


I have zip zero nada no tolerance for name calling, especially when it’s discriminatory against a group of people so when a near-adult niece blithely repeated a that’s so gay comment, the kind of comment in which that’s so gay means that’s so stupid, something in me broke. Something in me broke away from my tethered position of remaining aloof and neutral in all things to do with some of my sisters because being anything but neutral with them unleashes dangerous levels of emotional toxicity and is not good for my well-being. And what broke in me wanted to take a stronger position because this niece is the daughter of a sister who has long made homophobic statements which I typically managed with humour because I thought it a higher road and I’m an adult who has no interest getting into pissing matches with anyone, especially some sisters.

I was goaded by the comment. Goaded, I said something — about the power of words, how the phrase is patently homophobic, even by people who claim my best friends are gay! and how hate and discrimination, including homophobia, start at home with words and how disappointing it is to hear that’s so gay from a near-adult relative.

My sister reacted. She told me there is nothing wrong with that’s so gay. Everybody says it. They’re just words, they don’t mean anything, so how could I be bothered? She also explained to me how that’s so gay only means that something’s stupid.

Right. I gave my head a shake which loosened a torrent of anger and hurt — gay means stupid? As in I’m stupid? Our brother’s stupid? My friends? The people I love and care about, and especially the one with her hand on my shoulder? We’re stupid?!

Inside, something more broke. I’ve been out to my family for a long time and this sister — not the brightest light on the family chandelier — has always been weird about it, making comments and saying, “but I don’t mean you.”


We were at an impasse, this sister and me. We might have reached this impasse over sociolinguistics, a debate over changing and morphing words, like gay for stupid or sick for good or murder for amazing but it was in truth symptomatic of larger issues. She  only accepts me, hears me, when I agree with her and her worldview.

I shook my head and wandered through what was broken inside knowing that this sister doesn’t and hasn’t accepted anything about me unless it was money, a place to stay, child minding, or for me to take care of something for her. I decided — accepted — that what broke inside me about this sister was not worth putting back together, not worth fixing. So I took a deep breath, calmed my inner dragon, protective of me and my tribe and said calmly, “let me set something straight, or rather let me set something gay: with all due respect, when it comes to what is and is not homophobic, you don’t know what you’re talking about. And I’d like to know how words can have no meaning when you get upset over something D (one of our other sisters) said.”

It was risky. I took a stand. I wasn’t neutral and I didn’t use humour in pointing out insidious labelling of gay people as stupid. I drew a line in the sand, set boundaries between my sister and me. On the inside of my line are the wonderful, courageous, creative and brave and everyday gay people, along with people who are accepting of difference and humanity including all the homosexual people of the world who get slagged in thousands of horrific and horrid and middling mean ways every day, sometimes by family members.

The net result of me drawing that line is that she excommunicated from her life and I suspect that the consequences of my action have yet to fully unravel. I have a huge family and I am, regrettably,  the oldest. What I know for sure is that if she has a fifth wedding — she just had her fourth — I won’t be invited. Maybe, in the spirit of things get better, it’s good to vanquish pretence from my life in the form of a sister who, among other things, believes I’m stupid and that’s so gay is okay to say.

About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween. On hiatus from writing ... at least for now.
This entry was posted in being a lesbian, lesbian, lesbian life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to That’s so gay — what my sister really thinks

  1. raumanticz says:

    Much love to u, from a sister in NZ.

  2. Laurie says:

    Thank you. How brave it was of you to say something to your sister. I did something similar and now she has mostly disowned me and it was for even something less. I miss her but I miss what I loved about her and her bigotry was not one of them. I always try to pick up others who are being picked on. I was elected to my daughter’s school council because I said it was important not to let bullying to go unnoticed or unpunished. I am working hard to make departments in the hospital I work at SafeZones for all people to feel free to talk about their orientation at any time. I want to be involved in the town’s GSA to show everyone that who you love is not the important thing, it is that you do love! Thanks for your blog! Laurie

    • FS says:

      Dear Laurie; I’m sorry to hear about you being mostly disowned. Not fun, is it? Sisters can be horrid to one another. Sounds as if you’re making a difference. You’ve chosen a tough place to be heard: hospitals and schools: bastions of the status quo, religious fervour and smalls mindedness, mixed in with forward thinking, smart, progressive types. You are so right: love from the sidelines doesn’t really help if when hate is planning, organizing and leading the game. And thank you 😉

  3. oypop says:

    It’s funny how the least open people can be in one’s family sometimes. Families are supposed to be about accepting, because you can’t change your family, not now .. but more often than not families are least accepting, least open about things ..
    And to take a stand against one’s family – even for something trivial – consumes a lot of energy .. and this is not a trivial matter at all. Stereotypes and name-calling is one of the key factors in shaping our judgement of people .. and people go on wasting their and others’ energies in inconsideration, nonacceptance and just insensitivity which they could be using to do something better :/
    You did a brave thing there .. and marriage ceremonies are overrated anyway, that is if you don’t get invited to her fifth marriage 😛

    • FS says:

      Dear Oypop: Thank you. Some days I think that families are strange creations — all the expectations and judgements and collusions, all mixed up with a fun, crazy, fierce love and/or hate. Or rather, what we believe and hope and demand of some birth family members can sometimes be unrealistic. Most people can never live up to those fantasies. I hafta think that four marriages (four!!! and straight people have the gall to say that accepting gay marriage will ruin the institution of marriage??) is an indication of something, and it ain’t good.

  4. MakingSpace says:

    Wow – beautifully written as always. And well done taking a stand. You never know, a niece or nephew might come to you one day knowing you are the safe person in the family to come out to. It’s odd, but so many times that deeply entrenched homophobia is really a part of a larger set of, dare I say, symptoms of how a person views their world. Your niece was fortunate that you stood up for the truth. And, whatever happens, you are probably fortunate not to have to deal with a sister who treats you that way anymore. Deep breaths…

  5. Malkor says:

    Ah yes.
    The people you have to deal with on a continous basis and the ugly moment when you realize what they really think about you. Doubly disgusting if the person in question is a relative.
    I believe it’s the little things people say that show who or what they truly are, and you did the right thing. We are only mortal after all, and when enough crap is thrown your way over a sufficient span of time it is your right to say enough is enough. I’ve been in a situation with certain relatives as well, and considering how I felt after finally adressing things I should have done so way earlier. Not having to deal with such candidates preserves mental stamina.
    Stay strong!

    • FS says:

      Dear Malkor: Thank you. People do show you what they’re made of don’t they, in those little, telling ways. I’m flexing my gay muscles and staying strong. 🙂

  6. cathyandcolleen says:

    We’re with you – and couldn’t be more sorry about the hurt families can cause. Be strong – you have lots of people who love you…(and obviously, some who don’t and don’t really matter).

  7. Sad. But, you know, you couldn’t be more right, why is it that gay people or women or fat people or goths or whatever people seem to think makes it right to pick on other people, always have to take the high road? Enough of this crap! We shouldn’t mention that they are users and losers but they can say ‘that’s so gay’ – this made me angry, you are right and it sounds as if you are well rid of her.
    That being said, it doesn’t make it any less painful or pathologically insensitive on her part.
    I used to take the ‘high road’ all the time, they don’t know any better, I’m bigger than that and now, I think the high road is telling them it’s insensitive and hateful, not always and sometimes I pick my shots, but, I try…Good for you for drawing the line. I, for one, I’m proud of you.

    • FS says:

      Dear BB: Thank you. Boundaries, huh? Oh what fun it is set them — in some universe. It is entirely possible to tell a truth and not denigrate someone in the process and to be dispassionately compassionate. I think life is both too long and too short to spend energy on people and things who/that are pretentious — all that Jungian, Buddhist, face-the-shadow, learning from conflict, everyone’s a teacher, situations to show me to myself kind of way notwithstanding. 🙂

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