The South African Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (SA GLAAD) has reacted with dismay at a ruling by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) that the word ‘gay’ can be used as a synonym for “stupid” or “useless”.

This followed a complaint about a regular feature on the University of Pretoria’s radio station, TUKS FM, in which listeners are asked to call or SMS about whether a person’s behaviour is “gay” or “ok”.

According to its statement, the BCCSA refused to uphold the complaint, saying that “the word gay was not used to refer to homosexuality, but according to widespread current usage of the word amongst young people, to a carefree attitude and unjustifiable statements.”

“We take issue with the BCCSA’s findings that ‘the broadcast was not intended to injure, that it was not malicious or mala fide’ when the word usage very clearly defines the word ‘gay’ – a word used to describe homosexuality since the 1960’s – as the polar opposite of what is considered ‘ok’, good or acceptable,” said SA GLAAD.

The organisation also noted that the word is described and defined clearly in the Oxford Dictionary as “relating to homosexuals” and as “the term preferred by homosexual men to describe themselves.”

“We find it relevant to ask which dictionary the BCCSA are using, and how they arrived at this defamatory verdict which in essence dictates that it is perfectly okay to use the word ‘gay’ to describe anything negative, ‘not okay’ and in particular ‘stupid?’”, commented SA GLAAD’s Christina Engela.

“We would like to note that referring to people or things as ‘gay’, meaning ‘stupid’ should be no more or less offensive than calling people ‘black’ or ‘white’ to mean ‘stupid’ or ‘bad’.

“There are many people, particularly young people, struggling to accept their own identities – and trying to find acceptance in an already prejudiced and hostile society without the added pressure of having more negative connotations added to the term which describes them and the community they form a part of. This verdict of the BCCSA is a very irresponsible and insensitive slap in the face to our community,” said Engela.

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