Q. If I’m talking about gay people and I say “gays”, would that be offensive?
The word “gays” is not offensive, but it seems to not be the preferred word.
Major newspapers often use the word “gays” in their stories — for example, see this June, 2015 New York Times article on the titled “Historic Days for Gays, but Twinge of Loss for an Outsider Culture” — so the term is obviously considered acceptable by most people at this time.
However, GLAAD, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has a Media Reference Guide that points out a style guide from the New York Times that suggests “gays” may not be the preferred terminology to be using:
- From the New York Times: “Do not use gay as a singular noun. As a noun, the plural gays is acceptable, but avoid the singular gay.”
The GLAAD Web site itself rarely uses the word “gays” and, when it does, it is usually referencing some other publication or programming that has used the term.
Bottom line: If the New York Times is regularly using the word “gays”, you are unlikely to get into trouble for doing the same. However, if you are concerned about being politically correct or want to be sure not to offend someone, I’d suggest sticking with “gay people”.