Teen writes letter to Apple, asks them to change definition of ‘gay’

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SUDBURY, Mass. — A Massachusetts teen is trying to get Apple to change the definition of the word “gay” that appears in the company's dictionary app, calling the definition "derogatory and offensive."

defBecca Gorman, 15, was writing a school essay on gay rights when she looked up the word ‘gay’ in the Apple dictionary on her MacBook.

Becca she he said she stared blankly as she read the third definition listed in the app.

“The first two were normal; They were ‘happy’ and ‘attracted to one’s own sex, and then the third one was informal, ‘stupid foolish,’” she said.

Gorman said she took it personally.

"At first, I was kind of in disbelief," the Lincoln-Sudbury High sophomore said, adding she couldn't find any other dictionaries that used that particular definition except to denounce it as derogatory.

Apple products include a "versatile dictionary application” to allow people to search a word’s origin. The app pulls definitions from the New Oxford American Dictionary.

Other online dictionaries, including Dictionary.com and Google.com, have derogative definitions associated with the term, however, they are all prefaced with "offensive," "derogatory" or "slang."

As the daughter of lesbian parents, Gorman decided to let Apple know she was displeased. She wrote a letter to Tim Cook, Apple’s Chief Executive Officer.

“I told him that I found the definition horrifying, and I’m sure he did too," she said.

She wrote:

cook“I assume that you are a pro-gay company, and would never intend for anyone of your products to be as offensive as this definition was. Even with your addition of the word informal, this definition normalizes the terrible derogatory twist that many people put on the word ‘gay.’ The use of ‘gay’ as a negative adjective is not okay and needs to stop; insulting or making people feel uncomfortable everyday. All other derogatory terms within the dictionary have it listed as an offensive term or unacceptable.”

To her surprise, Apple responded within minutes, not with an email but with a phone call. The representative that spoke to Becca told her Apple would look into the definition.

“It was just insulting and kind of like, I couldn’t even understand why that would be there.” Gorman said.

As of Thursday, the dictionary's definition remains unchanged.


  • Amanda Marshall Griffin

    I say good for her! People should always stand up for their beliefs, and wouldn’t it be nice if this world wasn’t so bigoted and homophobic, racist, and sexist? I think this girl did a great thing and hopefully the definition will be changed soon

  • jessicaedmonds84@yahoo.com

    Really? She was doing research…wonder when she will start with the origination of a word and go from there. Geez – parents please stop your children from being irrational and close-minded. Apple gave her a definition….they don’t have to ensure you will like it. ;)

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