If you work with teenagers, you hear the title of this post, and variants of it, a lot. Language changes. Words shift in meaning. There are no young romany homosexuals with cebebral palsy at any of the schools I have visited. 'spacker' means a stupid or incompetent person. 'gay' refers to general worthlessness. 'chav' means tacky and low class. I can cope with wicked meaning both morally bad and cool. I can cope with cool meaning both impressively hip and cold. I can cope with hip...you get the idea.
And to be honest, I grew up with a generation that thrust its tongue over its teeth into its lower lip and flailed its arms erratically to denote stupidity. I do it involuntarily. the other day I crashed a supermarket trolley into a bollard and suddenly, I'm making the "spacker face"- to nobody! It was just my immediate, self deprecatory reaction! It's not big or clever, no. But it doesn't mean I'm not cool with people with cerebral palsy. I am. It just means I have a bad habit, which I learned when I was about 5.
As for chav, I am reliably informed that it is a Romany word for young person, so chav, like 'Pikey' as an insult is basically calling someone a 'dirty gypsy', a la Enid Blyton at her best. I don't think it's cool to do this, for preference I prefer the term 'Kevs' for what most people call chavs (maybe that's more classist than racist, but there you go). However, chav is universal now, and I use it. And I do like Moon Chavs by Jay Foreman, despite the fact that it advocates wiping a social/racial group from the face of the earth, because it's funny.
So why do I get all up in arms every time I hear 'that's so gay' and variants? Gay used to mean cheerful, fun or brightly coloured - for a while, it was a euphemism for prostitution ('gay girls' was like 'loose women' in Victorian times) - and eventually it came to mean anyone not straight, including trans and bi people. Then it narrowed down to gay men, sometimes including lesbians dependant on context. Then, like spacker and chav, casual bigotry made it an insult.
So, am I just a hypocrite, offended by 'gay' because I am gay, and willing to let 'spacker' and 'chav' slide, because I'm not.... a spacker chav?
This is the issue. If i had cerebral palsy or was a gypsy, I'd say 'I have cerebral palsy' or I'm a gypsy'. I MIGHT call myself a crip, or a spacker, or a chav, or a pikey, same as I call myself a dyke or a lezzer sometimes: in a joking, reclamatory context. If I say 'I'm gay', I'm not reclaiming. I'm using the RIGHT SODDING WORD! If you want to be homophobic, fine, but use slang. There's a wealth of it out there. Apart from homo, queer, fag, faggot, battyman, dyke, lezzer, lesbo, rugmuncher, cocksucker, arsebandit, fudgepacker, lettucelicker, jessie, etc etc, there are the more subtle ones like bugger, and saying that something sucks (I'm assuming this is originally short for 'sucks dick', thus handily insulting sexually active gay men AND sexually active straight women. Yay!)
Bigotry isn't cool. But telling someone they can't use a word MAKES it cool. You think we weren't told not to mock people with cerebral palsy? We were. Daily. It just added to the power of words like 'spazz' and 'spacker'. Being wildly inappropriate and in bad taste is one of my greatest pleasures, smug in the knowledge that I'm being ironic and that really I know better. but gay... sorry. That's taken. It means gay.