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How a Massachusetts teen changed Apple’s definition of ‘gay’
Apple reviewed a derogatory meaning of ‘gay’ that appeared in its built-in dictionary.
When Sudbury, Mass., teenager Becca Gorman looked up the word ‟gay” in the dictionary that comes standard on many Apple products while researching a history project on LGBT rights, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
In addition to defining the word to mean homosexual or “lighthearted or carefree,” the directory also listed a third definition: “foolish” or “stupid.” The accompanying example sentence read, “making students wait for the light is kind of a gay rule.”
‟At first I was kind of in disbelief,” the 15-year-old high school sophomore told MetroWest News Daily.
Gorman, whose parents are lesbians, was shocked and wrote an email to Apple asking for the elimination of the derogatory definition.
“I assume that you are a pro-gay company, and would never intend for any one of your products to be as offensive as this definition was,” she wrote. “This definition normalizes the terrible derogatory twist that many people put on the word ‘gay.'”
About an hour later, Gorman received a call from an Apple representative who said the company, which claims to pull definitions for its dictionary from multiple sources, was looking into the issue. As of Thursday morning, the third definition of ‟gay” still appeared in some versions of the dictionary:
However, it no longer appeared in others:
Apple has a reputation as a largely LGBT-friendly company. In 1993, it became one of the first tech firms in Silicon Valley to offer benefits to the same-sex partners of its employees. This April, openly gay Apple CEO Tim Cook topped Out magazine’s list of the most powerful gay men and women in America for the third consecutive year.
The contested definition of the word “gay” doesn’t appear in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, but it does show up on Dictionary.com.
The Daily Dot reached out to Apple for comment but did not receive a response.
As Americablog notes, one of the Apple dictionary’s definitions of the word ‟Jew” includes ‟to bargain with someone in a miserly or petty way.” However, that definition carries a tag labeling it as “offensive.”
Gorman’s recent effort isn’t the only time LGBT activists have attempted to promote gay rights by altering the dictionary. Earlier this year, a San Francisco-based group called HACKmarriage went into area libraries and bookstores affixing stickers that changed the books’ definitions of marriage from being a union of a man and a woman to being a union of ‟two people.”
Aaron Sankin is a former Senior Staff Writer at the Daily Dot who covered the intersection of politics, technology, online privacy, Twitter bots, and the role of dank memes in popular culture. He lives in Seattle, Washington. He joined the Center for Investigative Reporting in 2016.