Knock It Off with the Gay Language

The Ad Council, a public service announcement (PSA) organisation in the USA, has partnered with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network to launch “Knock It Off”, a series of three television commercials challenging the ways that people unwittingly use language to verbally harrass people from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender orientations. The campaign is online at and includes radio and magazine advertisements.

Teenagers in Ad Council So Gay Pharmacy commercial

Almost 90% of LGBT students report being verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation. LGBT teens experience homophobic remarks and harassment throughout the school day, creating an atmosphere where they feel disrespected, unwanted and unsafe. Homophobic remarks such as thats so gay are the most commonly heard; these slurs are often unintentional and a common part of teens vernacular. Most do not recognize the consequences, but the casual use of this language often carries over into more overt harassment.

The Knock It Off campaign aims to raise awareness about the prevalence and consequences of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in Americas schools. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce and prevent the use of homophobic language in an effort to create a more positive environment for LGBT teens. The campaign also aims to reach adults, including school personnel and parents. Their support of this message is crucial to the success of efforts to change behavior.

Teenagers in Ad Council So Gay Pizza Shop commercial

Pizza Shop

In Pizza Shop comedienne Wanda Sykes takes a moment out of enjoying a slice of pizza to school a group of teenaged boys at the table sitting next to her about their derogatory use of the phrase “that’s so gay.”

Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube


Pharmacy takes the message further. Emma and Julia are working the counter at a local drugstore when Julia makes fun of Emma’s strict curfew by saying it’s “so gay.” A customer in line overhears the exchange and challenges them to imagine how they would feel if their names were used in the same derogatory way they use the word gay.

Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube

Fitting Room

Fitting Room takes a stab at the same “gay” phrase as two tweens comment on a top looking “so totally gay”. Pop singer Hilary Duff suddenly turns the corner and offers up an eye-opening lesson – how would you like it if someone described you as something bad.

Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube

The message is clear: using the word “gay” when you mean something is dumb or stupid is insulting to people who are gay, so knock it off!


The Knock It Off campaign was developed at Arnold NYC by chief creative officer John Staffen, creative director/art director Gary Rozanski, creative director/copywriter Thom Baginski, and executive producer Anthony Migliaccio.

Filming was shot by director Kevin Smith via Backyard Films with director of photography Randy Arnold, executive producer Peter Steinzeig, producer Peter Keenan.

Editor was Nathan Byrne at Post Millennium with executive producer Adam Soutar,

Sound was designed by Peter Holcomb at Sound Lounge. Music was composed by Diner at The Lodge.

  • DoubleStandard

    But seriously though…I really wish there was some kind of heterosexual equivalent. To me, it sounds like a bunch of uptight people who clearly can’t see the difference between common vernacular and an obvious derogatory comment. What’s more, are networks or film studios getting slapped with fines for using such phrases? If not, why not? Everyday common Joe might be slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit, but it’s perfectly fine to say it on television. This double standard is really f#*(ed up.

    • Scott

      Gay means happy, you stole that word in the first place. We are taking it back. Okay faggots? Look up that word too, it means a bundle of sticks, or a younger student who does menial tasks for an older student. or in slang it means a cigarette or a Harley rider. Oh and if saying something is gay offends you then you KNOW it’s a bad thing. If someone said “That’s so straight” then it means it’s correct or legit. Won’t offend me. Oh and you are saying you want to offend straight people with a slang term and yet you say you want to slap someone with a sexual harassment law suit for saying something ELSE is gay? Think about that dumb ass. Wow you gay people are so stupid to become gay that you have no logic to realize what you are saying contradicts itself.

  • Smiley

    These commercials show that two wrongs equals a right.

  • Richie Barker

    doublestandard, I don’t understand your comment. What do you mean a heterosexual equivalent? A derogatory term for straight that could be applied to things we fine lame or stupid?

  • AMP

    Doublestandard – Have you not heard of the term heterosexism? Heterosexual privilege actually exists, along with white privilege and male privilege – these are real issues in our culture. Having a sense of humor is very important, I agree, but I don’t think this is about having a sense of humor. Thinking about and understanding why we use language the way we do is even more important. How else would change ever occur?

  • Toya

    The PSAs are stupid. people really have to stop being so overly sensitive this includes the gay community.

  • Notso Gayistic

    Firstly, homosexuals do not OWN the word gay. They stole it, in fact. Secondly, homosexuality is a hate crime. Each of it’s members hate at least one half of the human race.

    • Dan

      Notso Gayistic – I do hope you’re a troll, but just in case anyone is actually that stupid to believe something so ridiculous as a valid point – not being attracted to someone is nowhere near equivalent to hating them. Seriously, you hate everyone you don’t want to have sex with? Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

  • sanssuave

    The two problems I have with these PSAs is that, one, they’re more of a bullying nature than the usage to which they so self-righteously take exception, and, two, they amount to saying to kids, how dare you speak freely? how dare you coin slang of your own? Gays have never been shy about bashing straights conversationally, since almost before there was a gay movement (they used to refer to us as “breeders”), but I never saw any PSAs denouncing this horrible slander. And just as well, because you don’t trample thoughts out of existence by trampling on the words that express them. Either the teen use of “gay” to mean “lame” is basically meaningless, or it contains an implied social obsevation. If the former, it should be left alone; if the latter, the observation should be analyzed and reflected upon. If it’s true, say so; if it isn’t, say why. Counter talk with talk, not with self-righteous censoriousness. And above and beyond all this, these ads show so little sense of proportion that I conclude the people who manufactured them are totally out of touch with contemporary culture. If they took a representative sampling of all the blogs or forums out there, they’d find such an abundance of much greater ill will, expressed with so much more offensiveness, they’d be prostrated by the horror of it all. But they shut their eyes to that, and instead stomp on teens, for using current tean slang – easy, innocent targets; and that, again, is just bullying, whatever mutual handshakes and backslaps of self-congratulation may attend it. Here’s right back at you, AC + GLSEN: KNOCK IT OFF.

  • jacob


  • David

    Listen to the logic of the commercials before you get emotionally flared up. The second one states it perfectly,”Imagine if who you are were used as an insult.”

    The “implied social observation” is that anyone gay is also dumb/stupid. Comments like the one above are meant to demoralize, teach hatred, and divide the country into whatever is gay and those who are normal, whole, and straight.

    How can America be raising future citizens who aren’t aware of what they are saying?

  • ThisisFunny

    I find it funny actually. If you take the literal meaning of ‘gay’, which is ‘happy’, then what they are saying is pretty amusing. But maybe that is just me.

  • The Enemy

    I can’t resist the urge to note that these commercials are gay.

    The gay community co-opted the word “gay” for their own use and now they complain while society at large does the exact same thing. Sorry gay community, you don’t get to pick a word of your choosing, alter or add to its meaning, and then close the door behind you so that nobody else can claim it for their own use. You don’t own a monopoly on linguistic evolution.

  • annonymous

    Where are our first ammendment rights? Free speech is a right, not a privilege.

    I may disagree with what you say, but I vehemently defend your right to say it.

    I do not say “that is gay”. I try to avoid this and other such derogatory comments in my speech and writing. I think such actions are insensitive and show negatively on the speaker. If you wish to speak in such a manner, be my guest, it only reflects negatively on you.

  • Jack Handy

    These commercials ROCK. Now everybody in school says “That is gay!”. hehehehe Infact, everytime I see the commercials, I say “Wow, that was gay!”

  • Robert

    These commercials are totally gay lol. I just love how the liberal left says your “homophobic” if you don’t agree with what they want you to. If you gay and are offended by people saying “gay,” you need to stop crying, build a bridge, and get over it. I also like how they want to have a heterosexual equivalent- how gay is that? What are they going to call us? Umm.. normal? “Hey, look at those child producing normals over there!”

  • Chris

    Gay was once used to express happiness ..

    “I’m so gay.”

    Then it was taken as a label for homosexuals.

    “He’s so gay/she’s so gay.”

    Now it means, well, pretty much anything from “stupid” to “weird.”

    “That’s so gay.”

    I don’t see the problem, sorry.

  • John Fernandez

    Freedom of speech baby!

  • Stark Industries

    Glad we don’t have these lame ads in Australia. They’re so homosexual…

  • jennifer marimpietri

    how about if you knock it off, its called freedom of speech, the first ammendment to the Constitution! remember that!!!!!!????!!!!! where is the commercials defending heterosexuals, “breeders”? im so sick of this!!

  • jennifer marimpietri

    this is amazing how many people disagree with your commercials. it just goes to show how the liberal elitists in the media push the homosexual agenda on normal middle class america! thanks for respecting our freedom of speech!! God made adam and eve not adam and steve!!!!

  • tony marimpietri

    You knock it off! If homosexuals are so secure in “who they are” why does this bother them? I’m Italian, you can call me a wop, a dego or whatever you think is degrading to Italians. I’m secure enough in who I really am not to care. How about if you let me enjoy the First Ammendment of the U.S. Constitution!

  • joebob1555

    These ads on TV are soooooo gay!!! For many years I have watched our American society be corrupted from within by crooked politcians, inept public servants, gay rights activists, pro-abortion advocates, athiests, liberals, illegal immigrants, left wing govt policies and the like.
    It is ashame that our country has been to such low moral decay by people who want to justify their own agendas by making other people sound wrong.
    Shame on all of you and may God be with us all as you lower us into this bastion of Hell that was prophesied so may years ago. Try reading the bible sometime with a truly open mind setting aside your biases long enough to find the truth.

  • misterx3

    You tell'em Joebob! The liberal media has brainwashed our society into thinking that these homosexuals actually deserve rights. The number one rule in my life is that if it ain't in the Bible, it ain't so, and God doesn't like homosexuality. Only straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Homosexuals, infertile couples, and old people should be put to death. The world needs more children and orphanages aren't full yet. I know most of y'all are probably gonna get mad when you read this but I don't hate gay people, I have friends that are gay. We get along real well as long as they don't act gay in public. Palin/Jindal 2012!!!

  • You can only hope to tell

    Well, now that I think of it, the message is, ultimately, implying to infringe on our right to free speech. Blah blah, anyone could just say, “this breaks my first amendment!” Well, it's implying the breakage. Don't say something just because other people get offended by it. Why? For example, if I say, “God created hell, therefore God is evil,” then numerous people will get offended. Yet, it's my right to express how I feel in the way I choose to do so. If someone leaves me a message telling me to knock it off, just because they were offended, then they are really saying they wish not to hear that again; and are not accepting of my expressed freedom. If we choose not to say controversial statements, well then my friends we would have a pretty boring life. Besides, if Hillary Duff and Wanda Sykes want to eat each other out, then they might want to get a room. This whole issue is totally Wanda and Hillary.

  • As a lesbian, I really cannot see the point of these commercials. The intention is spot-on but the commercials totally miss the point

  • Sigh

    The phrase has nothing to do with homosexuality. Words can have multiple meanings. Its as simple as that. For the few they manage to brainwash, many more are emboldened. This campaign is a waste of time and money.

  • thatsogay

    Funny how all the sitcoms on tv can say it (That’s so gay) but the general public is all of a sudden it not to say it? That is so gay!

    Almost as funny as the general public can’t say the “N” word but it is in every rap song around…

  • joe

    That’s so lame, retarded, sick, spazzed, crazy, psycho, nuts, tired, old, cracked, and everything thing else that might describe someone’s current situation that you’re glad you don’t have….

  • Blumpkin

    I wonder how much money is being spent on this “campaign”?

    It seems to me that the world has more serious issues that people with these means could be expressing.

    Watch Southpark – Wheel of fortune season 11

    It’s one of the best episodes. They really sum up everything on this type of thing. No one could have said it all better.

  • Realistic Chick

    Um I don’t really think everytime someone says that’s gay, they are refering to the gay people in the world!!!! I think everyone has a habbit of saying that’s gay! The commercials and the videos on youtube are stupid! And a waste of time! Wow gays are here there queer im cool with it!! But I don’t think that everyone that says somethings gay should be told not to say it!!

  • Extrapolating Mind
  • Name

    Please don’t use the words “dumb” and “stupid” every time you think something’s gay. These words are insulting to people who are deaf or have low intelligence. If you think something’s gay just say that it’s gay.

    • someguy

      Also, “lame” means crippled. Where are the public service announcements for these words?

  • bozman

    These commercials are totally gay.


    what is so gay about it…. fag tag, that’s so gay, OMG you are so gay. you are not swearing. This is the country of freedom of speech, or am I wrong? Only when it doesn’t effect the minority. Be careful what you wish for, tiptoe through the tulips softies everyone is a little too PC, and everyone deserves a medal for competing. Relax, not everything is a battle. Pick and choose. My mom and mom are “so gay” but I don’t luv em less, does that make me a bad guy or girl. I am sorry, but I am born this way.

  • Freeshk

    I say “That’s gay” often, probably because my friends have always said it. While it’s surely no big deal, as a homo, I do get the push to bring some awareness to the phenomenon. Watching these ads made me want to say “God, that’s sooooo hetero!” to show my digust for something. I’m going to say it as often as I can now. (Honestly, you’d have to be different all your life and be attacked for it often enough to understand. Free speech forever, so keep saying it’s gay or that’s gay until your tits fall off…but still…these ads remind us of how of unevolved and hateful we really are…and don’t even know it).

    • Scott

      yeah because that will offend me. If something offends you then you know it’s wrong in the first place.

  • Scott

    If you are offended by someone saying you are gay, then you know it’s wrong. Not once have I been “insulted” by someone saying I am a heterosexual. It’s like someone calling you fat. It has negative meaning, and it’s a CHOICE. Otherwise twins would both be gay.

  • Jendel

    I just saw this commercial, and quite frankly, it makes me disgusted. The phrase, or shall I say DEMAND, “Knock it off,” is definitely not helping send the right message across. If you want other people to respect you, and who you are (a gay person), then you need to respect them and ask them to politely stop doing it. Giving a command is going to get you nowhere. I could careless that when I use the term, “That’s so gay,” it offends the gay community, and I strongly disagree with the statement, “… challenging the ways that people unwittingly use language to verbally harrass people from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender orientations.” I am not prejudice against gay people. When I say, and many others say, “That’s so gay,” it is in NO WAY “Verbally harassing people from the lesbian, gay, What a joke. We relate the word “gay” as being bad, sure, in THAT context. We are NOT saying, GAY PEOPLE are bad. Get the f over yourselves and let other people live their lives, and you “gay” people live yours. This is not a hate crime. So get over it. There are other things in this world to be concerned over than you whiners taking offense and some petty BS. I am strongly against these commercials, and think it’s one big joke, and waste of time and money when there are FAR BETTER messages to be sending to our society. Wow. What. A. Joke.