After watching a video made by the students and faculty at Choate Rosemary Hall, a boarding school in Conneticut, and their disdain for the use of the word "gay" as a slur, I started to think about the motivations behind using the word in that way.
I was almost tempted to write that the use of the word gay in a negative way (for example, "that's so gay") doesn't automatically mean that the person saying it has something against homosexuality. When words catch on with young people, often we don't know where the word came from or even what it meant before we adopted it. So the use of "gay" should be an easy fix, right? Just tell those youngsters to stop saying it. Give them a different word to say. But saying something like "that's so gay," isn't as simple as saying something is stupid.
When you're saying some thing is gay, you're at least partially aware that you're saying that thing is bad, just like being homosexual. Regular use of the word might actually be representative of an underlying (or not so underlying) negative attitude toward homosexuality.
What I also think is interesting is that replacing gay with negative characteristics doesn't have the same effect. What if people started to say "That's so fat," or "That's so ugly"? It doesn't really strike a nerve. It seems that inserting gay gives the phrase just the right negative edge, so you know how serious a person is about what they're talking about. That alone proves that when the word is used, the person saying it is aware that it is an identity, or at least knows it doesn't innocently mean "bad."
These thoughts should leave us in a position of self evaluation, and force us to check our motivations for the words we use. Rather than just trying to stop using the word gay in that way, maybe we should ask ourselves why we're tempted to use it negatively in the first place. Are we the kind of people who want to turn someone's identity into a curse word?