Gay Red Shirts

As you probably know, today is Gay Red Shirt Day.

The point is to make sure that people (such as a certain prominent politician) know that it is NOT ok to use ‘gay’ as a derogatory term.

Social media has been abuzz with people posting up their photos in their (gay) red tops or shirts, so we thought we would bring you some of those images (cheers Ms Rayner for the idea).

Probably the most prominent critic of John Key’s churlish outburst has been Sir Ian McKellen, who sums up the argument perfectly on his blog. Here’s his post in full.

New Zealand has an undeserved reputation (amongst those who have never visited) as living a little in the past, not quite up-to-date with the world elsewhere.  As a regular visitor, I’ve often pointed out how, on social issues, the Kiwis have lead the world – first country to give women the vote, a nuclear-free stronghold and in the vanguard of civil rights for gay people.

Which brings me to John Key, the prime minister of New Zealand.  Recently in a light-hearted radio interview (see above link) he referred to his host wearing a “gay red top,” by which he meant, apparently, “a weird red shirt.”  Defending himself later, he said he was using the word in the sense that his children used it and not in any way to disparage gay people.  Anyway, he said, the word was in the dictionary.  So of course are many other words that can give offence.

Nevertheless, Mr Key should watch his language.  I’m currently touring secondary schools in UK, attacking homophobia in the playground and discouraging kids from the careless use of “gay” which might make their gay friends (and teachers) feel less about themselves.  So even as he supports the proposal to introduce same-gender marriages in New Zealand, I do hope John Key listens to his critics and appreciates their concern.  Careless talk damages lives.

– Ian McKellen, 5 November 2012

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