I was part of the generation that used the phrase “that’s gay,” to mean dumb or lame or uncool. I heard my peers use it that way and I was no different. In high school it was said almost on a daily basis and, although I never asked, I assumed the gay kids at school didn’t care. Afterall, “We were just joking.”

A combination of things forced me to stop using that phrase. When I was a freshman in college, I met a gay person and, through mutual friends, we developed a friendship. 

Once, when a lot of us were hanging out together, one of us (and it could’ve been me; I honestly don’t remember) said, “That’s gay,” about something they didn’t like. 

“Don’t say that!” I remember my friend snapping at us. His face was a mixture of anger and fatigue. He was mad that one of us would say something like that, while the rest of us laughed; and he looked tired. It seemed like we weren’t the first people he had to tell to not use the phrase.

For a moment, none of us said anything. We realized that phrase had a different meaning to some people. It was hurtful.

Later that year, I realized I might have a gay family member. Although this person never officially “came out” to us as a family, there wasn’t really a need for it. This family member has a partner whom I’ve known since I was about 10 years old and, not knowing anything about homosexuality back then, I didn’t think it was weird.

My juvenile thoughts and behavior have changed since I was in high school. I love my friends and my family dearly. Occasionally, I’ll see people protesting homosexuality. Some will have signs that read along the lines of “God hates f*gs” or “Gays are going to hell.”

When did people become so harsh in the name of God? Don’t we all have a mother and father, or at least someone who raised us and cared for us? Why do some people feel the need to judge people based on limited knowledge about them? And why do others go as far as to determine where souls will be for “all eternity”?

Fr. Jerry Herda talks about welcoming homosexual people in the church on Page 8. He reminds us it is not our role to cast judgment on others, but that we must recognize the dignity of the person and treat them with the respect they deserve.