It’s impossible to count the number of times I’ve heard someone say “that’s so gay.”
That, along with always using “he” as a universal personal pronoun (it’s ok, I had to look up what that was called too) is something I’ve always noticed but had mixed feelings about. Not in the sense that I think either are ok to rely on, but realistically it’s hard to avoid them.
I stopped using “gay” in any slang context somewhere around the beginning of college. I’m not proud of the fact that I used it before then, but I will say that it was more a result of cultural conditioning than anything else (see also: Louis CK stand-up bit on the word “faggot”).
Regardless of the usage/intention, I’ve understood for a long time that the effect is often to make gays/lesbians feel marginalized and alienated. This list of tongue-in-cheek questions is a good example of how it would feel for those of us who are heterosexual to be constantly questioned/alienated.
It gets a little more grey when you consider personal pronouns like “he/she” and “him/her.”
“Don’t be a language Nazi” etc… is a pretty standard response when people bring up the discrepancy. When I make universal statements (which I try not not to) I usually alternate he/she, guy/gal, men/women but even I am not quite sure what to do when it gets more complicated, with bi/trans and just generally trying to keep things gender neutral. Not because I don’t understand, but because it’s hard to get meaning across when you’re constantly explaining yourself, at least in American culture. Still, there’s something to be said for advocating gender-neutral pronouns (see: Wikipedia entry) and some languages don’t even have personal pronouns for “he/she” etc…
Even though I make a personal effort not to “gender-type” language I’ve always been on the fence when it comes to calling it out. If I know someone a bit I may say something, but typically people I’m less familiar with don’t receive the reminder nicely….no matter how gently it’s put. But lately I’ve been thinking it’s a responsibility I’ll have to embrace more. Treating everyone equally isn’t always going to be easy…
How does gendered language affect your life?