Journalist Brendan O’Neill has denied that derogatory uses of the word “gay” are homophobic, saying that youth culture has altered the word so it now means “rubbish, or pathetic, or lame.”

Writing for the Telegraph, Brendan O’Neill said that youth culture has altered the meaning of the word “gay” in the same way it has changed words such as “bare” or “mad” or “ill.”

He wrote on the topic of Monday’s news that Stonewall has launched a new campaign to tackle homophobic language in schools, with the slogan “Gay. Let’s get over it”.

“It is fighting a losing battle,” he said.

“When youth culture starts fiddling with particular words, little can be done about it. Imagine if the General Medical Council launched a campaign to get schoolchildren to use the word ‘sick’ properly – it would be laughed out of every school in the land and probably find itself branded ‘whack’ (an American word for ‘bad’, now being imported by British youth, who of course can’t say ‘bad’ anymore because bad means good).

“It’s the same with Stonewall – its schools campaign is unlikely to have much traction with yoof for whom gay now only means lame.”

He added: “This language is not directed at gay people, in order to make them feel inferior – it’s simply used to describe things. Most young people who say ‘that’s gay’ are no more being homophobic than a person who uses the word ‘black’ to mean depressing is being racist.

“There’s a debate to be had over why the word gay specifically came to mean rubbish.

“My penny’s worth, as I’ve argued before, is that it’s because what is now presented to us as ‘gay culture’ is often quite knowingly naff, camp, shallow stuff, leading young people who have been exposed to such culture through pop music and TV to associate ‘gay’ with ‘rubbish’.

“But that’s a debate for another time. For now, we have to face up this fact: Gay now means rubbish. Get over it.”

Previously, on the now-passed Marriage (same-sex couples) Act, Mr O’Neill said: “I think same-sex marriage is an entirely invented, purely symbolic issue and it doesn’t have any roots in social activism.”

“People are tolerant of homosexuals, which is a wonderful, great thing, but they are confused by the priority that is given to this issue and I don’t think that’s surprising because this issue came out of thin air and it’s largely being pursued for the benefit of individual politicians and campaigners rather than for the benefit of society.”

Last month, singer Will Young said that children’s use of ‘gay’ as an insult is a problem that is not being dealt with properly in schools.

He said: ‘We as a country are failing our children within education. We are failing them if teachers don’t immediately clamp down on homophobia and the negative hijacking of language. We are failing our children if we don’t allow them to grow up in a nurturing educational environment of acceptance and love for everyone”.

According to Stonewall, almost two thirds of young LGBT people have experienced homophobic bullying, and nine out of ten and more than two in five primary school teachers say that homophobic bullying occurs in their schools.