Sometimes in a YOLO-filled world, we forget about courtesy and respect. After the earthquakes in Ecuador and another talented artist dying too soon, I’m reminded again of how short life really is. I wonder about my legacy, what I’m teaching my children, what words of wisdom will they remember? At the end of the day, I hope they have learned to be kind to others.
I surprised my husband in October with a birthday trip to our alma mater’s football game. Something really bothered me on that trip. We decided to stop by our dorms from Freshman year. While taking our obligatory “aww, this is where we first met” pictures, I heard my husband’s old dorm hall, May Hall, referred to as “Gay May.” Heh heh, clever right? Um, no. Awful. Disrespectful. Ignorant. Ugly. Dumb.
My first reaction was, “That’s rude.” And then I started to get a little angrier. I got called a liberal Mormon (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I’m not. I’m just Mormon, and I’ve been taught to be kind, love everyone, to be respectful, to love my neighbor, to be inclusive, to have integrity and be charitable. I can’t say that I portray these characteristics all the time, but I try, when my snark doesn’t get the best of me.
Apparently May Hall has been called that for years. I had never heard it before. I can’t even say I wouldn’t have chuckled back then. You see, I used to use the phrase, “That’s so gay.” I don’t think my intent was malicious, it was just something I had heard, that other people I knew used. No one ever corrected me or said much about it.
That is until I was in the Missionary Training Center in Utah preparing to serve a mission in Ecuador for 1 1/2 years for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Someone around us used the phrase, and a friend of mine asked us not to say that anymore. She told us she came from a family with two gay moms. My friend wasn’t mean about it, but her point was made. I saw the look in her eyes, and I saw the hurt and discomfort. I can imagine she felt like a mother with a special needs child who hears the word, “retarded,” used as a substitute for stupid. I’ve never said that phrase again.
I’ll give these young people the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say they don’t know better. Well it’s time to stop. It’s time to stop using the word gay as an insult and as a joke. I’m sure some people will read this and roll their eyes, and think, ‘lady, quit your drama, it’s just a joke.’ Well it’s not funny. And I find a lot of things funny.
I can’t lighten up about this, because there are children committing suicide or attempting suicide over things like this. Someone’s son or daughter. LGBT youth that feel so desperate and hopeless that they’d rather die than live in a world that ridicules them or makes them feel like even their own families can’t love them. Enough is enough. Teach your kids to stop using unkind words. At least have a conversation with them about it. That’s what parents do; they have uncomfortable conversations.
If nothing else, follow President Uchtdorf’s advice and stop it. “When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm—stop it! Let us do good unto all men.” It’s my hope that we can be like my courageous friend, who simply asked us to stop it, and we did. Even laughing, chuckling, or giving an elbow nudge and a wink wink when hearing these things is accepting it. Be the change.
And if you really need a nickname for May Hall with the word May, might I suggest ‘May the Force Be With You.’ I hear it’s an up and coming phrase.