Homolexis Glossary

Copyright (c) 2008 by Wayne R. Dynes. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduced here by permission of the author.

Full Index


The Glossary returns to the theme of my 1985 book Homolexis: A Historical and Cultural Lexicon of Homosexuality. Some of the entries appeared in revised form in the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality of 1990 (available on line at www.williamapercy.com). Since those days there have been many new semantic developments, as well as enhancements in our understanding of older words. A curious example of a new meaning attached to an old word is the current use of the word gay among young people to mean "boring, geeky." To be sure, this is an unfortunate development, but it has happened.

Glossaries of this kind commonly observe a distinction between the learned, ostensibly scientific vocabulary, on the one hand, and argot or street terms, on the other. Since there are many crossovers it is not feasible to maintain this distinction, limiting the glossary to the one or the other category. Accordingly, the entries embrace both the formal and the informal vocabulary.

No effort has been made to compile a "complete" list of terms of the homolexicon. As these are constantly proliferating, that would be an impossible task. Instead, I have concentrated on the expressions that are the most revealing in terms of historical semantics and the underlying ideological connections.

Since beginning work in this area in the mid-1980s, I have become aware of the organic relationship between the "atomic" items in the glossary proper, and their place within the larger, "molecular" world of tropes. For example, the term swish belongs to the trope of Gesture and Movement, while proclivity finds its place in the trope of Directionality. The individual items, or homolexemes, constitute a first-order taxonomy. The overarching structure of the tropes represents a second-order arrangement. In my view, the identification of the tropes constitutes the most original feature of Homolexis.

There are other connections at several levels. I invite the reader to browse at leisure.

In the Glossary entries bold is used for the main term and others closely related to it. Italic is employed for other terms. Of course, italic also serves to distinguish the titles of books and periodicals.

[At this point I omit a general discussion of the methodology employed in this collection. An extensive treatment of methodological issues occurs here.]




We normally think of homophobic tropes as ones generated by the host society, while resisted by the victims. In some cases, though, the subjects internalize the negativity, manifesting various distorted and abject attitudes and modes of behavior as a consequence. As a form of self-inferiorization abjection is the reverse of the medal of disparagement by others.

Gays have internalized these hostile themes in various ways. In extreme cases the embrace of negativity may amount to self-hatred, what is sometimes termed internalized homophobia. In other instances the reception may be more playful, even constituting (according to some) a form of resistance. Some say that in adopting such epithets as queer, gay users are "taking back" the terms. There are limits to the applicability of this principle. During the sexual revolution of the 1970s a few radical gay men insisted on labeling themselves cocksuckers, recommending that others do the same. While most gay men have engaged in fellatio from time to time, it seems inappropriate to make this our defining concept. The argument would be similar if women, say, were joyously to call themselves sluts. Of course most don’t.

Expressed verbally, the phenomenon of abjection normally plays out on a much less theoretical and more mundane plane. In the appropriate context, embrace of a whole range of terms, from degenerate and anomaly to faggot and homo, can constitute abjection. But what is the appropriate context?

One useful distinction is between the inner and outer situations. That is to say, use of such a term in a closed setting in which only other gay people are present does not amount to abjection. That is the "inner" situation. The outer one occurs when the speaker presents himself to a heterosexual audience as an exemplar of inferiorization. A similar phenomenon occurs with African Americans, who feel authorized to use the n- word among themselves in certain contexts, but abject when it becomes overt in largely white contexts.

Some terms become detoxified over time. For example, in Britain one might refer to someone as "you old bugger!" without implying any real disparagement. That is because the word bugger, which possessed a powerful negative charge in the middle ages and the early modern period, has since lost it in the British Isles—-even though buggery was a statutory offense until 1967.

There are many gray areas. For example, at Gay Pride events one sometimes sees young people wearing tee-shirts bearing the motto: "I can’t even think straight!" The intent is ironic. Nonetheless, the motto feeds into the idea of the dizzy queen who can’t get it together.

There are exceptions to this general principle. The pink triangle reflects a color patch the Nazis required homosexual inmates of their concentration camp to wear. It might be thought the adoption of this symbol by gay-rights advocates in recent decades reflects the abjection principle. This does not seem to be so, and here we may have a successful instance of detoxification. S/M, camp flamboyance, and other dramatizing activities are probably not examples of abjection.

In addition to verbal embrace of the abjection principle, such behavior exists on the plane of action. This is the matter of so-called self-destructive conduct. Here again one must be careful. The accusation of self-destruction appeals to heterosexuals who view the "homosexual lifestyle" as itself self-destructive.

Still, most would agree that the bug chasers who deliberately seek to contract HIV are self-damaging; this is a form of abjection.

Clearly the concept of abjection has value, but it is hard to establish clear boundaries.


Nowadays the link has frayed, but at one time educated opinion firmly held that homosexuality was abnormal. In fact it was a prime example of that state. The conventional division of psychology into "normal" and "abnormal" has nourished this perception. It was generally accepted that abnormal psychology addressed itself to various types of pathology. This assumption opened the way for psychiatrists to attempt all sorts of phony "cures" of homosexuality.

To be sure, if one uses the term abnormal in the statistical sense of "diverging from the middle range; unusual in terms of frequency," there is no doubt that homosexuals are abnormal in our society. But then so are opera divas, arbitrageurs, and United States Senators.

When it is said that homosexuality is abnormal, a negative value judgment ensues. For this reason the term abnormal is particularly insidious, as it enables the user to glide (usually unconsciously) from a statement of fact to a statement of value. It is precisely this impermissible slide that the philosopher David Hume warned us about. But the misguided effort of trying to derive an "ought" from an "is" persists.

Two historical curiosities may be noted. In a harangue against sodomites, the French thirteenth-century poem Le Roman de la Rose (ll. 19619-20) refers to those who practice such exceptions anormales. In 1869 the Hungarian homosexual theorist K.M. Kertbeny coined a word normalsexual (corresponding to our "heterosexual") to contrast with homosexual (which by inference is not normal). Kertbeny’s first compound, in striking contrast to his second, did not catch on. Even so, today one sometimes finds the term "normals" casually deployed to designate straights, as if the assertion presented no problems.

In the recent debate over gay marriage some participants keep insisting the marriage is "the norm," seeking once again to bridge the gap between is and ought. Some fallacies never die.

A close cousin of abnormal is anomaly. In modern times this term seems to have been first used in a sexual sense in the German form Anomalie by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in 1877. Etymologically, the noun represents the opposite of the Greek "omalos," meaning "even, level." (It is not derived from "anomos," "unlawful," though a link is often perceived.)

In 1927 a guilt-ridden British homosexual chose the pseudonym "Anomaly" for his book The Invert.(The writer’s real name is not known.)

Other related terms are aberration, perversion (with pervert), and degenerate.

In ordinary language queer probably comes the closest to the core idea of abnormality. (For some reason freak and weirdo, the latter now a quaint survival, are not commonly applied to gay people.) In the case of the word queer the most relevant predecessor sense is probably the eighteenth-century usage regarding money. Queer money is counterfeit. (The term counterfeit sex has sometimes been applied to homosexuality.)

Recently, the word queer has been the object of a concerted reclamation project; hence queer studies and queer theory. Generally restricted to academic circles, the popularity of these terms seems to be declining even there.


In the early days of electricity a hundred years ago many buildings were wired for both alternating (AC) and direct (DC) current. Analogizing from the two electrical capabilities, AC/DC became a slang term for bisexuality. This sense has enjoyed some currency in the US since the 1940s.

This trope of Binarism and Dichotomy finds parallels in a number of other realms. Compare "swings both ways" and "double-gaited" (originally referring to a horse that could race well on either a muddy or a dry track).

There is some seepage into popular culture, not necessarily with a sexual connotation. "AC/DC" is the name of a successful Australian rock band.


In the expression "piece of the action," the term refers to monetary gain, sometimes illicit. A more general sense is "excitement." The word may also suggest impatience, as in the character nicknamed "Action" in the musical "Westside Story" (1957).

In the sexual realm the term originally referred to movement of the buttocks, as in "the guys knew he only went for girls with action." From this sense it morphed into a general term for sexual activity, as in the question "Where’s the action around here?" As a sexual invitation, one may say "How about some action?"

Remote from these mundane haunts is a lofty philosophical development. The French Catholic philosopher Maurice Blondel achieved renown with his 1893 book L'Action. In keeping with the vitalist currents of the day, Blondel held that philosophy must take its start not from abstract thought alone but from the whole of our life--thinking, feeling, willing. Late twentieth-century philosophy has taken up what is called "action theory," concerned among other matters with the question of agency. These inquiries have only a distant connection with Blondel’s concerns.


In contemporary parlance "sexually active" means that one has sexual relations on a statistically regular basis, as distinct from an individual who rarely or never does. A physician may ask "Are you sexually active?" This discrete question obviates the need for details about performance, which may be viewed as an intrusion on privacy. Moreover, the question allows the doctor discretely to sidestep the matter of whether one is gay, straight, or bi. Everyone is the same as regards diagnosis and personal health.

Until recently, though, the term active designated the male who plays the penetrator role, as distinct from the passive, the penetratee. The latter concept may be misleading, as the so-called passive may take the initiative in designating sex, and during the performance may squeeze and gyrate, so that he is just as involved as his partner. Still, the incorrect view persists that only the penetrator, the active partner, enjoys pleasure in the act.

This contrast was common in ancient Greece, medieval Scandinavia, and in modern Latin America. In the Spanish-speaking Americas the dichotomy is designated activo/pasivo. Sexual hierarchies in modern American prisons also adhere to the contrast. Those who do the penetrating are commonly termed pitchers, while those who accept the penetration are the catchers.

The difference persists in the lingo of ads in English-speaking countries, where one encounters "Greek active" (one who likes to penetrate) and "French active" (a fellator).

Contemporary S/M culture recognizes tops and bottoms. This difference has some acceptance in everyday culture, where top males are generally perceived as macho and "straight appearing." What they do in bed may be another matter.

From immemorial times, the state of being active has been privileged over passivity, which is equated with laziness and cowardice. Going against this general tendency, Christian theology has tended to invert this hierarchy, enshrining another contrast in which the active life is not disdained, but nonetheless ranks as inferior to the contemplative life. In its turn the exaltation of the latter goes back to classical Greek philosophy, where reflection (theoria) is preferred to commercialism and other active pursuits.

Activist, Gay

Familiar in the 1970s, the expression gay activist has become less common owing to the ebbing of the strenuous and utopian aspects of the gay liberation movement, which attained a pinnacle in those years. The label served to denote someone choosing to devote a major share of his or her energies to the accomplishment of social change that will afford a better life for all GLBT people.

In Europe the term variations of gay militant tended to be preferred, but in North America the word militant is generally eschewed because of its dated Old Left flavor ("Communist Party militant").

The history of the activist meme displays a complicated pedigree. Rudolph Eucken, who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1906, developed a philosophy of Aktivismus. At this time many figures of Germany's political and literary-artistic avant-garde were drawn to Franz Pfemfert's periodical Die Aktion (1911-32). Further permutations occurred with the Flemish nationalists in Belgium and the Hungarian artistic movement, Aktivismus, that arose in the aftermath of World War I. As early as 1915, however, Kurt Hiller, a political theorist and journalist, as well as an advocate of homosexual rights, drew several strands together in his broader concept of Aktivismus, urging the intelligentsia to abandon ivory tower isolation and participate fully in political life.

The Gay Activists Alliance appeared in New York City in December 1969 in the wake of the Stonewall Riots. Exiles from the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), its organizers sought to form a nonviolent "politically neutral, militant organization." Their goal was to "secure basic human rights, dignity and freedom for all gay people." As the energies of gay liberation converged, the group provided a model for the single-issue approach. This stood in contrast with GLF’s umbrella concept, which sought alliances with all "progressive" groups. Tactically GAA members innovated by performing zaps, surprise acts of confrontation with unresponsive media, hostile business firms, and public officials deemed homophobic.

New York’s Gay Activists published the Gay Activist newspaper until 1980. In 1974 arsonists had burned down their New York City headquarters, the Firehouse on Wooster Street in Greenwich Village. In October 1981 GAA disbanded, signaling the end of the gay-liberation era and a new one dominated by AIDS/HIV. Appropriately, gay health issues generated their own form of activism.

Recently, the controversial terms legal activism and judicial activism have come to the fore with regard to the movement to secure gay-marriage rights. Some gay spokespeople and their allies oppose the very concept of activist judges. They hold that the concept is inappropriate because in our legal system judges are accorded the power of review over all laws to determine whether they conform to the Constitution (whether state or federal). The law is what they agree it is. In that sense, either all judges are "activists" or none are. Conservatives take a very different view. When they castigate judicial activism, they are highlighting the discovery of new rights previously not detected in the Constitution—or at most resident there only in terms of "emanations and penumbras." Conservatives typically presume that stipulating something of that kind—that is, granting a right that has always largely prohibited or to taking away a right that has been widely enjoyed--ought to be done by the legislature. Not by judges.

And here we come to the constitutional right, recognized by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in November 2003, for persons of the same sex to marry each other. Subsequently, many gay-marriage advocates have come to understand that such court intervention may be counterproductive in that it tends to provoke a backlash. At most, the courts should decree civil unions or the equivalent. In this view, gay marriage proper should be instituted by a vote of the state legislature or by an initiative subject to the vote of the people.


The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was effectively formed on March 10, 1987, at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York. Larry Kramer was asked to speak as part of a rotating speaker series, and his well-attended presentation focused on action to fight AIDS. Kramer criticized the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), which he perceived as insufficiently activist and political. Kramer had co-founded the GMHC but had resigned from its board of directors in 1983.

The group was suffused with an urgent sense of the need to intervene decisively in the AIDS crisis—to light a fire under the government and its agencies and to educate the gay and general public. It created the terse slogan "Silence = Death," generating graphic logos to complete the message. The tactic of vigorous intervention recalled the zaps and other actions taken by the Gay Activists Alliance and other groups that sprang up in the wake of the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969.

The acronym seems deliberately to evoke the common expression "acting out," often used in pop psychology circles to stigmatize rebellious youth.

In the early twenty-first century ACT UP declined in prominence. However, there are still chapters in a number of American cities, as well as in France and Belgium. The group is still very much needed, and it may have an important future in blogging.


This term for discrimination towards or dislike of the elderly was first documented in 1969. Gay men are very much subject to this tendency; lesbians far less so. Another effect of the phenomenon appears in the attraction gay men show to males who are not necessarily young chronologically, but who have boyish features.

Sociobiologists hypothesize that most men, gay or straight, have a preference for younger sexual partners. This tendency, they believe, is rooted in longstanding heterosexual mating patterns, whereby men seek younger female partners who will bear and tend for their offspring. By contrast, women will tend to prefer older, more settled partners who can be relied upon to support them and their children.

The term consorts with a number of others, such as racism, sexism, and looksism.

Agenda, Gay

The backlash expression gay agenda gained popularity in the 1980s among rightwing opponents of gay rights, who claimed to detect a unified plan among gays and lesbians to achieve their aims. The concept trenches with the trope of Conspiracy. This perception ignores the contention and divisiveness that have repeatedly bedeviled gay and lesbian groups, hindering the formation of a single list of desiderata.

Some differences are caused by politics, as some have sought to achieve their aims by demonstrations, zaps, and other overt interventions, while others prefer to work quietly behind the scenes. Outsiders often perceive US gays and lesbians as liberal Democrats one and all. However, between a quarter and a third are Republicans, represented by the Log Cabin group. Furthermore, it is often difficult to inscribe a new item on this putative agenda. For example, when the gay-marriage movement arose in the mid-1990s, the mainstream gay rights groups pointedly ignored it. Only later did they rally round it.

As a matter of principle gay advocates would agree that having a single agenda would be a good idea, but found it hard to achieve this unity in practice.

A-list Gays

The term A-list (common from 1980 onwards) refers to members of the elite, who recognize one another and congregate together to the exclusion of commoners. Unlike the old Social Register, their prominence is usually achieved rather than inherited. The concept of the A-list recalls the Nomenklatura of the old Soviet Union.

A-list gays consist of wealthy businesspersons, together with successful professionals, entertainers, media eminentoes, and other "movers and shakers." Women enjoying this status are sometimes termed power lesbians.

These privileged individuals may think that they are operating democratically, but their eminence and exclusivity are widely resented by those whose names do not figure in the putative list. Despite this simmering discontent, those who have been excluded will sometimes seek to inveigle themselves into such circles. Unless they are young and good looking, they are likely to be disappointed in their quest.

Curiously, it seems that no one has sought to compile lists of B-list gays, C-list gays and so forth.


An androgynous individual is one who has the characteristics of both sexes. In the interests of conceptual clarity, this quality should be distinguished from hermaphroditism in the strict sense, whereby the fusion of male and female is anatomically expressed through the presence, or partial presence, of both sets of genital organs. There is a tendency to consider androgyny primarily psychic and constitutional, while hermaphroditism is anatomical. In this perspective most (psychic) androgynes are not strictly hermaphrodites in that anatomically they are no different from other men and women; some hermaphrodites may not be androgynous, that is to say, despite their surplus organ endowment, they behave in an essentially masculine or feminine way. Androgyny belongs to the general trope of Intermediacy.

The term androgyne stems from the Greek androgynos, "man-woman." The famous myth recounted in Plato's Symposium presents three primordial double beings: the man-man, the woman-woman, and the man-woman. The first two are the archetypes of the male homosexual and lesbian respectively; the third, the androgynos, is--paradoxically from the modem point of view--the source of what we would now call the heterosexual. Other ancient writers use the term to refer to an anatomical intermediate between the two genders, synonymous with hermaphroditos. From this practice stems the modern conflation of the meaning of the two terms, which is unlikely to disappear.

Cross-cultural material bearing on androgyny is very extensive, especially in the religious sphere. Hinduism and some African religions acknowledge male gods who have female manifestations or avatars. A strand of Jewish medieval interpretation of Genesis holds that Adam and Eve were androgynous before the Fall. If this be the case, God himself must be androgynous since he made man "in his own image." Working from different premises, medieval Christian mystics found that the compassion of Christ required that he be conceived of as a mother. Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), the German seer, held that all perfect beings, Christ as well as the angels, were androgynous. He foresaw that ultimately Christ's sacrifice would make possible restoration of the primal androgyny. Contemporaneously, the occult discipline of alchemy presented androgyny as a basic cosmic feature. After a period of neglect, interest in the theme resurfaced among the German romantics. Franz von Baader (1765-1841), who interpreted the sacrament of marriage as a symbolic restitution of angelic bisexuality, believed that primordial androgyny would return as the world neared its end. In France the eccentric Evades (Eve & Adam) thinkers advocated the equality of man and woman; one of their leaders, Ganneau, styled himself Mapah. The occultist and decadent writer Josephin Péladan (1858-1918) was a tireless propagandist for androgyny; through his Rose + Croix society he had a consider- able influence on Symbolism in the visual arts. In the twentieth century the psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was preoccupied with androgyny, which he illustrated through his ingenious, but eccentric interpretations of alchemical imagery. Some of his followers have suggested that androgyny is a way of overcoming dualism and regaining a primal unity; the half-beings of man and woman as we know them must yield to the complete man-woman. Thus androgyny points the way to a return to the Golden Age, an era of harmony unmarred by the conflict and dissension of today which are rooted in an unnatural polarization.

In the field of academic psychology, the research of Sandra L. Bem and others have sought to present empirical evidence that the androgynous individual enjoys better mental health and can function better socially. Significantly, it is usually "androgynous" women who score higher on such psychological tests than men. Thus these findings may be an artifact of the strategic situation in which a career- minded women finds herself: to succeed in a male-defined professional world an ambitious woman will find it expedient to incorporate some male qualities. The androgynous ideal had considerable appeal for feminist and gay/lesbian thinkers in the 1970s. It was pointed out, no doubt correctly, that the straitjacket of the masculine role tended to keep men from expressing their feelings, as through kissing or crying. Men can practice a wider range of expressiveness, and therefore lead more satisfying lives, if they will discard the extreme polarization inherent in the traditional masculine role. Science fiction writings, notably the Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula LeGuin, explored what complete androgyny might mean. In popular culture there was a kind of "androgyne chic," as exemplified by such rock stars as David Bowie and Boy George.

In current usage an androgyne is a person who does not fit neatly into the typical masculine and feminine gender roles sanctioned by their society. Many androgynes identify as being mentally between male and female, or as entirely genderless. The former may also use the term bigender or pangender, or ambigender; the latter non-gendered or agender. In the course of their lives they may experience mental swings between genders, a state sometimes characterized as gender-fluid. Intergender is another word that androgynes may use to describe being between or beyond genders. As neologisms all these terms remain relatively rare in general usage.

Towards the end of the twentieth century, a new focus on transpersons developed. This concept elided the previously distinct categories of cross-dressing and transsexuality. In everyday parlance persons who fit this category are termed trannies.

Lesbians who do not define themselves as butch or femme may identify with various other labels including androgynous or androg for short.

A recently coined word, often used to refer to androgynes, is genderqueer. Yet this term can be used to refer to anyone who identifies as transgender, or even someone who identifies as cisgender, but whose behavior falls outside the parameters of standard gender norms. An androgyne may be attracted to people of any gender, though many identify as pansexual or asexual.


The rarely used term androphilia serves to focus attention on those homosexuals who are exclusively interested in adult partners rather than adolescents and children. In our society such an object choice would seem self-explanatory, a feature inherent in the definition of homosexuality itself. Yet other societies (such as ancient Greece, China, and Islam, as well as many tribal groups) viewed age-graded differences as the norm in same-sex conduct. For these cultures androphilia ranked as a minority preference, one that was often disparaged. Because of the prevalence of androphilia in modem Western culture, its assumptions are sometimes unwittingly or deliberately imported into other settings; some discussions of homosexual behavior in Greece, for example, tend to gloss over the fact that it was predominantly pederastic (though not pedophile in the narrow sense of attraction to prepubertal boys). The relevant trope is Youth and Age.

In the early years of the present century, the great German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld offered a three-fold classification of homosexuals: (1) ephebophiles, who prefer partners from puberty to the early twenties (in current usage, from about 17 to about 20); (2) androphiles, who love men from that age into the fifties; and (3) gerontophiles, who seek out old men. Contemplating this scheme from the standpoint of an individual of, say, thirty years of age, it is evident that the first and third categories of sex object constitute differentiation, the second relative similarity.

The shift to dominance of androphilia, in which the two partners are of comparable age, occurred only with the rise of industrial society in Europe and North America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In Mediterranean countries the shift remains incomplete, and in much of the world it has barely begun or has not happened at all. Some scholars who have sought to explain the new pattern (sometimes termed the "modern homosexual") key it to a change in heterosexual marriage, which led the way by becoming more companionate and less asymmetrical. Others note the rise of the democratic ideal; demographic changes such as increased life expectancies; and changes in the social treatment of youth which made youngsters less available as sexual partners. Nevertheless, the dynamics behind this fundamental transition remain historically mysterious, constituting a major challenge to any attempt to draw up a reasonably comprehensive history of homosexuality.


From early times same-sex proclivities have been attributed to certain species of animals. The ancient Greeks held that male partridges are so highly sexed that in the absence of females they readily assault one another. Ganymede, often shown being abducted by Zeus’ eagle, sometimes appears riding a rooster (a traditional symbol of youthful virility) instead.

Early Christian writers associated the hare with pederasty because of the fantastic belief that it grows a new anus every year. More radically the hyena symbolized gender ambiguity because it changed its sex each year, switching back and forth from male to female. Finally the weasel, which was supposed to conceive through the mouth, stood for fellatio. To be on the safe side, the author of the noncanonical "Epistle of Barnabas" forbade eating the flesh of any of these creatures.

In the seventh century Insider of Seville thought that the Latin name of the kite (a bird), mulvus, was derived from mollis, soft. Since mollis was a synonym for passive homosexuality, this activity was attributed to this particular bird. Interestingly, Leonardo da Vinci in a childhood recollection made famous by Sigmund Freud, imagined that a kite flew into his mouth and flapped its wings there: evidently a disguised form of fellatio

In modern languages various animal terms are used metaphorically to designate homosexual persons, without any necessary connotation that the animals themselves are given to such behavior. Contemporary Spanish features several terms derived from the names of animals, commonly small, defenseless creatures, conveying the effeminate gay man’s vulnerability—-mariposa (butterfly), pájaro (bird) and pato (duck). In other instances they are coarse, offensive creatures–cabrón, goat: culebro, snake; and cangrejo, crab. A group of gay men may be referred to as alas de una otra pluma, birds of a different feather. Ironic are león and leopardo: gay men are notable by not being lionlike.

Butterfly Man is the title of a 1934 gay novel by Jay Levenson. The term has a limited circulation in English-speaking North America, but one should note Red Butterfly, a small gay Marxist group active in New York City in the early seventies.

The chicken, an attractive boy, is the object of the attentions of the chickenhawk—a word that has a Latin forerunner in pullarius. From hobo talk comes gunsel, a young acolyte (derived from German or Yiddish for "little goose). Because of the sound it is sometimes used to designate a young hoodlum who carries a gun. Occasionally, one hears the expression "gay as a goose," but that probably persists because of the alliteration. American Yiddish has produced faygeleh, little bird, as a term for a gay man.

An undesirable sexual partner accepted for the purposes of convenience is called a dog, toad or moose (the latter usage is applied only to women). The term bitch (a female dog) is used in slang as a disparaging term for a woman. As such it sometimes adopted by gay men, as in the expression "I’ll be your bitch" (probably originally prison slang). Also common is the word troll, generally an older man considered unattractive, is derived from a mythical Scandinavian semihuman group. Some bathhouses have a troll patrol, to exclude such individuals. In the gay slang of contemporary Spain a víbora or viperina, viper, is a queen with a vicious tongue who has a reputation for "putting down" others. Misogynous gays may refer to women as fish, a reference to vaginal odors; in Spain bacalao, cod. In US prison lingo a fishis a new inmate, young, attractive, and naive, who is viewed as ready prey by the more experienced sexual predators.

The bear subculture is a community of men who are husky and/or hairy and who appreciate such qualities. This subculture has generated a number of terms. The bear proper is a man with a beard or van Dyke, typically with a hairy chest and body and a stocky or heavyset build. The bear is often older (or older looking) and displaying a masculine appearance and mannerisms. The word chaser refers to someone who is not a bear, cub, or otter, but is sexually or romantically attracted to them (this term is often used to describe an outsider who has sexual attraction to people within that community). Ursophile and arctophile are somewhat arch terms to designate someone who seeks out bears.

A cub is a younger (or younger looking) version of a bear, typically but not always with a smaller frame. The term is sometimes used to imply the passive partner in a relationship. A daddy bear or papa bear is an older husky guy sometimes looking for a daddy-son relationship. A panda bear is an Asian guy. The terms muscle bear and muscle cub are obvious. An otter is a man who is hairy, but is not large or stocky; he is typically thinner, or with lean muscle. A polar bear is an older man with white or gray fur or beard. A pocket bear is a shorter bear, while a pocket protector is taller. A manatee is a heavy-set, hairless bear (usually derogatory). A sugar bear is a "sugar daddy" bear; a bear who seeks the company of a younger or more traditionally attractive male or "chaser" in exchange for favors and gifts. A fluffy is a camp or effeminate bear. Woof! is a greeting sometimes used when a bear spots another bear in public and wants to express physical attraction. He will make a growling noise ("Grrrr!") or say "Woof!"

An Edwardian admonition to gay discretion is "don’t frighten the horses."

The hare is involved in disco bunny and gym bunny (evidently gym bunnies do not take the trouble to adopt a façade of masculinity).

Toe sucking is termed shrimping.

Except for the bear family, animals referenced for male homosexuality tend to be small, defenseless creatures. Not so with lesbians. The aggressive lesbian may be termed a bull or bulldyke.

Italian offers several animal terms, including beccafico (garden warbler), and capretto (a little goat).

Bambi sexuality (UK) is gentle "vanilla" sex, stemming from the Felix Salten character made well known through the Disney film.

Sea pussy plays on the identification of the female genitals with the cat. Traditionally the crews of seagoing vessels included no females, hence the substitute outlet offered by gay sailors, also known as seafood.

Animals are of course consumed for food. One may encounter the term meat for the male genitals; a well-endowed person may be called "meat for days." Perhaps hunky belongs in this area. Note also butch (from butcher).

If microbes are considered animals, then bug-chasers, those who seek to contract HIV, belong in this section.

In a number of modern European languages, the word "bird" also means penis (polla, uccello, Vogel), though without a specific homosexual sense.

Such terms do not seem to bear much relationship to empirical reality in the animal kingdom. Indeed it has long been a commonplace that animals, living in a state of nature, do not engage in "unnatural" sexual behavior. Darwinian theory would seem to deny this possibility.

Yet observation has now disposed of this claim. Over the last few decades scientists have been accumulating data for same-sex courtship among animals, including genital contact. These carefully controlled studies report animal behavior in the wild, not in captivity where adverse conditions might affect conduct. A recent tome of 751 pages, Bruce Bagemihl’s Sexual Exhuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (1999) sums up this body of evidence, citing some three-hundred species of vertebrates. Among the animals in which same-sex behavior has been observed are sheep, squirrels, lizards, whales, dolphins, swans, gulls, and swallows. Birds, with ninety-four different species, represent the strongest cohort. Some have raised quibbles regarding this research, claiming, for example, that in some species males turn to other males only in the absence of females. However, animal behavior, like that of human beings, is governed by various factors, including scarcity. The point is that such behavior exists.

The upshot of this research is that the folk intuition that animals can be gay has a certain truth. However, science has determined more accurately which species are susceptible to same-sex behavior and which (in the present state of research) are not. Given the tenacity of linguistic habits and folklore, one should not expect that this research would have much effect on slang that pertains to human homosexuality.

As we have seen, the labeling of human sexual behavior in terms of animals is long-standing. Why did this practice start and why did it continue? The notion that such comparisons relegate homosexuals to the inferior realm of animality is inescapable. To be sure, to call someone the endearment "dovey" and the epithet "lion" (without irony) are complementary. However, such complements are rarely, if ever, implied in the beastly sobriquets that have evolved for gay people.


In ordinary usage an anomaly is an irregularity that deviates from the common rule. It is something unusual, abnormal, peculiar, or not easily classified. Etymologically, the noun represents the opposite of the Greek omalos, meaning "even, level." (It is not derived from anomos, "unlawful," though a link is often perceived.) The relevant trope is abnormality.

In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe the category of
anomaly was invoked to account for the so-called monstrous births, such as two-headed calves and hermaphrodites. Eventually this interest declined, but the concept remained, a precursor to the naming of psychic anomalies.

In 1877 the pioneering German sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing applied the notion to inverts, whom he also termed "step-children of nature." Then, in 1927, a guilt-ridden British homosexual chose the pseudonym "Anomaly" for his book, The Invert. .(The writer's real name is not known.)

The term took its place in a baleful gallery with abnormal (which it formally resembles) and unnatural. Indeed, it may be said to combine the two, for an anomaly is an abnormality that challenges the rule of nature. In the sexual context, the word anomaly is now rare. The concept has not disappeared, though, for in demotic contexts it equates with weirdo, freak, and perhaps queer.

Curiously enough, the revival of the term in the sexual sense might be of some use. In his 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn posited an initial phase of the proposal of a new theory where the innovation seems to sweep all before it. Once this revolutionary phase is over, however, a period of consolidation, called "normal science," sets in. During this second phase, glitches or anomalies may be discovered. As these become numerous and salient it becomes necessary to scrap the theory for another.

If one views nature as a normative system designed to produce only heterosexual behavior the continuation of homosexuality must seem an anomaly. The first reaction is to suppress the anomaly. But this has not been possible; hence it should be obligatory to scrap the theory of nature as a universal producer of heterosexuality.

Recent developments in sociobiology have addressed the apparent anomaly of homosexuality from a Darwinian point of view. Through the hypothesis of kinship selection and other theories these thinkers have sought to eliminate the seeming contradiction that exclusive homosexuality presents to evolutionary adaptationism.


Arcadia was a rustic district in ancient Greece celebrated by poets for the simplicity and innocence of its life. Gradually, the name became detached from a specific reference, to become "a place in the mind." As such, Arcadia became the basis for the European tradition of pastoral poetry. The ideal is evoked in the Forest of Arden of Shakespeare’s "As You Like It" and in two famous paintings by Nicolas Poussin bearing the title "Et in Arcadia Ego." The relevant trope is Localization.

Some Victorians, including A.J. Symonds, used Arcadia as a coded reference to homosexuality. In this context the word expresses the hope that "somewhere there is a place for us."

In postwar Europe, French gays created a monthly entitled Arcadie (published from 1954 to 1982), twinning with an organization bearing the same name. The journal sometimes appeared with the subtitle "Mouvement homophile de France." In keeping with the general tone of the "homophile" era, members were enjoined to remain respectable and discrete. The appeal of the word Arcadie, like that of its American counterpart Mattachine, lay partly in the fact that it did not include the word gay. One could always ask someone "Vous est Arcadien?" without giving oneself away. In addition the word probably embodied a vague utopian aspiration for a better life for the community.

Without using the word, the American Radical Faery movement of the closing decades of the twentieth century came close to observing the Arcadian ideal. The Faeries purchased blocks of rural land, which served as sites for their rituals. These "sanctuaries," as they are called, also provide home sites for those who seek a rural lifestyle untainted by heterosexual norms and expectations.


Architecture represents a major accomplishment of human ingenuity. The results can be studied from various points of view, including historical styles, constructional techniques, and the matter of function—-the way the buildings and spaces are used. A quasi-Freudian symbolism claims to detect the phallic origin of steeples and columns, while church interiors are thought to be womblike. These fanciful associations lack specific gay content.

The closet is the smallest category of spaces found in the modern house. The door to this chamber is normally kept closed, and the stored objects may be there because they need to be discretely hidden away. Accordingly, this cramped domestic space provides a useful metaphor for the situation of gay people who feel they must hide their sexual orientation. In Spanish residences where such chambers are less common the term is armario (a piece of furniture to hold clothes).

In England a toilet frequented for sexual purposes is called a cottage, based on the small rustic structures serving this purpose in parks. To frequent such places is called cottaging. In America these spaces are called tearooms (reflecting the link tea + urine).

Orientation stems from a standard practice in church architecture, in which the apse and altar are located at the eastern end of the building (from Latin, oriens, east).

Fornication, mainly a heterosexual or neutral term, derives from the Latin fornix, or arch in which couples would meet for illicit sexual encounters. Even today, gays meet at night in the obscurity of the shadowy arches of the Colosseum in Rome.

Gay churches, synagogues, and other religious structures require buildings, usually adapted from some previous use, but increasingly purpose-built, sometimes according to the design of a distinguished architect. Today we also see the growing importance of gay and lesbian community centers and archives.

The term built refers to both structures and bodies. The word erection has a similar duality.

Beginning in the 1970s, some bars began to feature back rooms or dark rooms, separate spaces behind the main part of the bar to facilitate anonymous sex. A bar catering to older patrons is called a wrinkle room. A feature found in old-fashioned saloons (not usually gay), is the swinging door, a minor architectural feature that seems to have given rise to the expression swings both ways for bisexuality.

Gay saunas are usually just called the baths. They tend to be located in obscure sections of town, with discretely marked signs so as to attract little attention from outsiders.

Hustlers are sometimes available in male brothels. One in Amsterdam is equipped with a balcony where the inmates may be viewed by passers by. This is uncommon, and the appearance of such establishments tends to be modest.

S/M adepts may have a specially equipped room at home called a dungeon, or more euphemistically, a playroom.

The familiar term for a lesbian dyke probably stems from a type of dress whereby the person was "dyked out." Some, however, perceive a secondary association with the Dutch equivalent of levees.

An urban district with businesses catering to largely or wholly homosexuals is termed the gay ghetto or gayborhood. Certain whole cities have the reputation of being gay. The archetype is Sodom, destroyed long ago, if it ever existed. But nowadays we have Amsterdam, San Francisco. and various resorts from Fire Island and Key West to Laguna Beach and Russian River. These are the gay meccas: see LOCALIZATION, below.


In terms of sociology an assimilationist is one who advocates that ethnic and cultural groups blend with the larger society. This sense goes back to 1899.

In their opposition to merger with the dominant society, Queer Nation and other radical activist factions have sought to endow assimilationist with an aura of negativity. Among other things, the term serves to stigmatize gays and lesbians who shun flamboyant, "in-your-face" lifestyles, and who seem willing to compromise with the political establishment. The prescriptivist assumption behind this condemnation is that gays must remain perpetually queer, that is to say, nonconformist and rejecting of society’s mainstream. The term is exclusionist rather than inclusive.

The sociologist Stephen O. Murray has recently coined the term deassimilation to designate the larger process of resistance to fusion. Deassimilation has been fostered by the so-called "roots movement" in which members of ethnic minorities are encouraged to seek out and cultivate distinctive features of their heritage.

The assimilation process has not always been regarded as unfortunate. The British Jewish writer Israel Zangwill introduced the term melting pot in 1908, to designate the process of ethnic fusion he detected in America. Theodore Roosevelt, an avowed opponent of "hyphenated Americans," welcomed the new term. One should also recall the word integration, favored by civil rights leaders in the 1960s. Whatever one thinks of the process it is probably inevitable, as formerly despised minorities shed their stigma and seek the place that is their due in the larger world.


From earliest recorded history human beings have construed the patterns of the night sky in terms of human interests, persons, and passions. Occasionally, these projections have a homosexual implication.

In classical antiquity the constellation Aquarius was interpreted as representing Ganymede, the cupbearer and lover of Zeus. Gradually this identification became forgotten. In 1609 the German astronomer Simon Marius named one of the four satellites of Jupiter (in the Roman pantheon, the equivalent of Zeus) after Ganymede. The name is still used.

In the lore of astrology the conjunction of Mercury (male) and Venus (female) presided over same-sex attraction. Michelangelo is one who believed in this determination of his nature.

Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895), the pioneering German advocate of gay rights, adapted Plato’s invocation of Aphrodite Urania, the Heavenly Venus, to produce a new term for gay men: Urnings. In English this term became uranian. While there is no direct etymological connection with the planet Uranus, a connotative link exists.

In 2005 it was learned that a new asteroid is to be named after a transvestite gypsy folk singer from Bulgaria. The asteroid, also bearing the designation 2005 UT12, was spotted in the Taurus constellation by Bulgarian astronomers, with the help of scientists from Spain and Britain,. A spokesperson for the Bulgarian team said: "We want to name the asteroid after the folk singer Azis, who is quite famous here." Azis is a controversial figure in the conservative country as he is openly homosexual, and a political campaigner for the rights of the minority Roma population.

Some science-fiction writers, including Samuel R. Delany, Ursula LeGuin, and Theodore Sturgeon, have used fictional societies on other planets as vehicles for exploring alternative same-sex arrangements.

In the nineteenth century the eccentric socialist thinker Charles Fourier (1772-1837) imagined that the planets in their orbits were interacting sexually. Although Fourier was interested in same-sex love, it is not clear if he applied the concept in this interest. Presumably as Mercury and Venus passed each other the connection would be heterosexual. For Jupiter and Saturn, both males, it would be homosexual.

The term attraction refers both to astronomical bodies and to human bodies.


According to slang research, the word "aunt" originally served to designate a bawd (procuress) or madam. In gay terminology, the word auntie refers to a prissy older gay man.

The adoption of this term may have been influenced by French usage. In French tante has the primary meaning of aunt, and the secondary sense of an older gay man. (There is also a diminutive, tatie).

The relevant trope is Families and Similar Groups.




Common features of gay bars and clubs in the 1960s and 1970s, backrooms can still occasionally be found. Typically, a backroom in a gay bar is a small dark or dimly lit room at the back of the club where customers can go to have sex, usually without undressing. In their heyday, the sex that took place in backrooms was usually unprotected and anonymous. The advent of HIVAIDS, and increasing awareness of risk spelled the closing of many backrooms in gay bars.

Darkrooms remain a feature of some sex clubs and bathhouses, where they may be advertised as an amenity or attraction. (The AIDS crisis, however, led to the closing of many bathhouses.) In a sex club a darkroom may be as simple as a small darkened area large enough for two or three people. Conversely, it may comprise a large portion of the club's floor area, with mazelike corridors, glory holes, private nooks, steel grilles resembling the enclosures of prison cells, and varying floor levels.

Today, with many locating sexual partners on the Internet, backrooms and darkrooms—together with gay bars and bathhouses themselves—attract a diminishing clientele. Many prefer to bypass them altogether.


The word baedling, a diminutive of baeddel, occurs in an Old English glossary as the equivalent of the Latin terms effeminatus and mollis, designating the effeminate homosexual. A synonym is the word waepenwifstere (approximately, "male wife"]. Evidently, these words reflect an Anglo-Saxon stereotype of the homosexual as an unwarlike, womanish type. In all likelihood, this negative concept derives in part from a common Germanic archetype, attested by a passage in Germania (12) by the Roman historian Tacitus--where death by drowning is stipulated for such individuals--but probably modified in the early Middle Ages by Mediterranean-Christian influences. Similar in form to baedling is deorling, the source of the modern English darling.

While the Old English word had a general sense of a beloved person or thing, it was also used more specifically to label a minion, a youth favored because of his sexual attractiveness. At the present stage of research further data about homosexual behavior in Anglo-Saxon times (that is, from ca. 500 to 1066) remains elusive. For its part, however, the word baeddel survived, turning eventually--through a process of semantic expansion--into the general English adjective of pejoration, "bad." The word also forms part of two place names in England: Baddlesmere ("baeddells lake") in Kent and Baddlinghame ("the home of the baedlings") in Cambridgeshire.

The broadening of the meaning of the word baeddel in the direction of general disparagement ["bad"] has several historical parallels. The first, from another Germanic sphere, is the shift from old Scandinavian argr, cowardly, effeminate, to modem German arg, bad, wicked. Then early medieval France seems to have witnessed the creation of felo/felonis, evil person (the etymon of our legal term felon) from Latin fellare, to fellate. It is also possible that Russian plokhoi, bad, is cognate with Greek malakos (with change of the initial labial from m to p), as the Polish plochy has the meaning of "timid, fearful," another of the nuances of argr.


Prior to the appearance of HIV/AIDS early in 1981, homosexual and bisexual men generally did not distinguish verbally between anal sex with a condom and without. While there were health campaigns that encouraged condom use, most gay men saw a trip to the clinic for antibiotics as an easy solution to any negative consequences (usually gonorrhea or syphilis). However, as the understanding of pathways for the transmission of HIV/AIDS became better understood, researchers and public-health officers encouraged condom usage as an effective way to reduce HIV transmission.

The gay male community, having been affected the most by this pandemic, mobilized quickly and the practice of unprotected anal sex quickly became unpopular within the community. At this point the need for a term to describe the difference between "protected" and "unprotected" sexual acts arose.

Despite these problems, the practice of barebacking seems to have become increasingly common again among men. There are several reasons for this belief, including correlations based on: an upswing in the level of new HIV infections among gay men in younger age groups, a more public presence of "bareback" literature, personal ads, and publicity that may have unintentionally glamorized the practice.

During the late 1990s and into the new millennium, gay columnists have offered several explanations for the recrudescence of barebacking in the 1990s in advanced Western nations. Among these are the following. 1) The advent and ensuing success of protease inhibitors and other drugs for HIV infections has changed the perception of HIV infection from an untreatable terminal illness to a treatable chronic malady. 2) Decreasing effectiveness of health education messages in the gay community failed to promote condom use (this factor is sometimes termed condom fatigue). 3) Methamphetamines have become a kind of "drug of choice" within gay male (and other) populations; individuals under the influence of meth are less likely to be concerned over potential hazards of their behavior. 4) Gay men with opposing beliefs about the practice of barebacking get more publicity about their feelings than in the past. 5) Bareback pornography is readily available, serving to romanticize the practice.

Anonymous or casual heterosexual sex without a condom has not created the moral panic that gay barebacking has. This difference has several explanations, notably the fact that gay men have become more organized in confronting STDs.

In the sex trade, the willingness to bareback tends to be a selling point for sex workers to their clients. Some consumers of gay pornography seek out older films where unprotected sex appears as a matter of course.


A gay basher is someone who physically or verbally assaults homosexuals (it is not a gay who bashes). These thugs usually operate in groups. Typically, they linger around cruising areas or outside gay bars, waiting for an opportunity to attack an isolated gay man. In some instances, the attackers may even be acquainted with their victim, as in the Matthew Shepard case.

Since gay assignations have largely shifted from public venues to the Internet, the incidence of these assaults should be declining. Yet that is not necessarily so, as bashers may attack individuals, some of them even heterosexuals, merely on the basis of appearance.

In former times, and occasionally even today, a hostile individual would opportunistically agree to be sexually "serviced" by a gay man, and then beat him up. These scoundrels were known colloquially as dirt.

There are documented cases where bashers have themselves been found to be gay. For this apparent contradiction several reasons have been advanced. One is that by acting together with a pack they can hide their own inclinations. Some may hold that in attacking another gay person they are somehow expelling the temptation from their own psyche.


This slang term refers to the outline of the male genital area as viewed through trousers, briefs, or trunks. Synonyms are package and meat. Gay men use these terms in assessing the endowment of a potential suitor

Wearing tight clothing—or even the insertion of a sock—may enhance the effect.


The bear subculture is a community of gay men who are husky and/or hairy and who appreciate such qualities. The bear community originated in San Francisco in the 1980s as an outgrowth of the gay biker and then later the leather and "girth and mirth" communities. Those who felt that the gay mainstream was unwelcoming to men who did not fit a particular bodily norm (smooth-bodied and young) created it. Sadly, body wasting among men living with AIDS may have been another reason for the popularity of the robust bear look. While there is no direct connection, their acceptance of chubbiness recalls some aspects of East Asian societies, with their enthusiasm for "fat Buddhas" and other well-padded types.

At the onset of the bear movement, some bears separated from the gay community at large, forming clubs to create social and sexual opportunities for their own. Many clubs are loosely organized social groups; others are modeled on leather back-patch clubs, with a strict set of bylaws, membership requirements, and charities. Bear clubs often sponsor large yearly events--"bear runs" or "bear gatherings" like the annual Lazybear event--drawing regional, national, and international visitors.

Unlike the earlier clone phenomenon, the bear identity has proved to be robust. In fact the bear community has spread all over the world, with bear clubs in North America, Europe, Australia, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Scholars have noted some interesting historical precedents. In his 1994 book Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, the University of Chicago historian George Chauncey surveyed turn-of-the-century working-class men who adopted a highly masculine personal style. These New York men rejected what they regarded as effete middle-class gay-male behavior. In those days the proto-bears sometimes called themselves "wolves." Walt Whitman is the best-known example of this type.

In his 1992 book, The Bear Cult, the British art historian Edward Lucie-Smith traced the big-muscled imagery of today's bears to 1950s gladiator movies. The minutes of a now-defunct Los Angeles gay organization, the Satyrs, include a 1966 reference to a Bear Club, perhaps the first known instance of the term being used in the sense it is employed today.

A common criticism of the bear community is that some bear-identified men tend to exclude individuals who do not meet their expectation of what a "real bear" is. Going against the grain, some bears see obesity as a political issue, as some regard their overweight condition as a form of self-acceptance. Some also flag a lack of racial diversity in the bear community, believing this to reflect adherence to a Caucasian standard of beauty.

In fact the bear subculture has a number of appealing features. Generally devoid of queenly bitchiness, its members show genuine concern for each other. They are little troubled by ageism or looksism, so rife elsewhere in the gay-male community. To be sure, not all bears are exempt from these predilections.

Bear Studies

Recent years have seen the tentative emergence of a fledgling academic discipline called Bear Studies. A number of scholars are exploring the increasingly visible subculture of ursine gay guys and their admirers. These scholars point to the fact that self-identified bears have created a kind of counterculture, with its own language, values and rituals.

The Papa Bear of the field is Les K. Wright, a retired professor and San Francisco-based founder of the Bear History Project. In 1997 Wright edited The Bear Book Readings in the History and Evolution of a Gay Male Subculture. That volume was such a success among students of bear culture that it was followed by The Bear Book II (2001). Wright and his fellow scholars draw on such theoretical academic disciplines as masculinity studies, cultural studies, gender and queer theory and eco-criticism.

In an essay titled "Theoretical Bears," Wright argues that bears can be "both masculine and feminine, strong and sensitive, gruff and affectionate, independent-minded and nurturing." Such views strike a utopian note.

John Edward Campbell is the author of "Getting It On Online: Cyberspace, Gay Male Sexuality and Embodied Identity," an ethnographic study of social scenes in the Internet. "When I began my work in media studies, all the research on the Web concerned straight white guys," Campbell said. "But my own experience of this world was radically different. My research looked at communities of masculine-identified-bears, a group that has exploded on the Internet, a phenomenon that no one had really looked at before."

Some bear theorists compare their scholarship to that of insurgent feminists twenty years ago, who in such polemics as "Fat Is a Feminist Issue" and "The Beauty Myth" assessed the toll that society’s premium on physical perfection takes on the individual. The same standards oppress gay men, bear scholars claim.

The tentative emergence of Bear Studies is a sign of the success of the "branding" of the bear label. Ever since the days of Walt Whitman America had known gay men of this kind, but the label and Wright’s books served as invaluable recruiting devices. Men who had been bears, in effect, for most of their lives found that they were members of a community.

There is an analogy with the label beatnik. During mid-twentieth century America, the inner cities contained pockets of "bohemians," low-income dropouts who prefer to pursue personal lifestyle issues instead of conforming to the norms of corporate America. It took the invention of the word beatnik in 1958 turned this backwater phenomenon into a mass movement. As with the Bear phenomenon, the label and the population worked synergetically. "Rebranding" alone would not do the job


The term beard to reflect the disguise of a person’s true identity seems to stem from the world of gambling, when gamers would use surrogates as go-betweens to place their bets.

Since the early seventies the word beard has had currency to designate a woman who agrees to date or appear with a gay man, in order to imply that he is heterosexual. In this sense the term is amusingly ironic, since, as a rule only men grow beards. However, a man may serve as a beard for a lesbian.

Beloved Disciple

The phrase the disciple whom Jesus loved or Beloved Disciple occurs several times in the Gospel of John, but in none of the other accounts of Jesus. In John's gospel, it is the Beloved Disciple who asks Jesus during the Last Supper who it is that will betray him. Traditionally, the Apostle John himself has been assumed to be the Beloved Disciple, and he is often shown as such in medieval and Renaissance art, where he appears as a beardless youth. However, this identification has no certainty. And indeed some scholars question whether John the Apostle is the same as John the Evangelist.

In fact the word "disciple" may be used generically, so that our quest for the identity of this figure need not be limited to the Twelve Apostles.

Some writers, including Dan Brown in his wildly popular fiction The Da Vinci Code, even suggest that the Beloved Disciple is Mary Magdalene. A gay Biblical scholar, the late Morton Smith, claimed to have discovered a Secret Gospel of Mark, existing only in fragments. As the account in Secret Mark describes a raising from the dead very similar to Jesus' raising of Lazarus in John 11:38-44, the young man is identified as Lazarus and fixed as the Beloved Disciple. The authenticity of Smith’s discovery has been questioned.

At all events, the figure of the Beloved Disciple, whoever he may have been, has been embraced by many gay Christians as evidence that Jesus could love another man, though not necessarily in the carnal sense.


From the beginning of the twentieth century British slang has used this adjective to mean criminal, illegal, crooked. The underlying trope is deviation. By the middle decades of the century it was given a more specific application to homosexuals, prostitutes, and flagellants. The implication that one is "straight" until "bent" suggests an element of corruption.

The American Martin Shearman’s 1979 play "Bent" was subsequently adapted as a film by director Sean Matthias. The drama revolves around the persecution of gay men in Nazi Germany. The title suggests that there is a German equivalent of the word that comprises the title. Apparently, there is not.


Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, travelers and anthropologists have employed the term berdache to denote a type of cross-dressing male frequently found maong the Amerindians of North America. The berdache often assumed the full female role by entering into marriage with a brave. Sometimes he was endowed with priestly or magical powers recalling those of the shamans of Northeastern Asia, the region whence the American Indians came. The Jesuit Joseph François Lafitau, who first analyzed the concept in 1724, though without using the word in its present restricted sense. Lafitau pointed out that one must be careful not to assume from the evidence of cross-dressing alone that homosexual behavior is necessarily present, as was so frequently done by the outraged Spanish conquistadores.

The origins of the term itself, properly bardache or bardashe (with an a in the first syllable), are complex. It began with the Persian bardağ, a young slave, in which sense it was borrowed by vulgar Arabic, making its way therefrom to Mediterranean Christian countries. In Renaissance Italian, with its forms bardassa and bardascia, the sexual sense of catamite became fixed. From Italian (with perhaps some collateral influence from Spanish bardaxe) it migrated into French in the middle of the sixteenth century in the form bardache (though Rabelais uses the variant bredache). In French texts the term bardache was often contrasted with the older bougre, as the pathic (or receptor) vs. the agent (or penetrator). The French term is the source of the older English bardache, or bardashe, a catamite. It is not certain how the currently dominant form berdache arose, but, but it is useful to retain the –e- form to distinguish it from bardache with the older meaning of catamite. In proto-Polynesian the equivalent of the berdache was the mahu, a term given to homosexuals in Hawaii and Tahiti today.

Anthropological research has documented male berdaches in some 155 tribes. In about a third of these groups, a formal status also existed for females who undertook a man’s lifestyle, becoming hunters, warriors, and chiefs. They were sometimes characterized with the same term for male berdaches and sometimes with a distinct term—making them, in effect, a fourth gender. This conceptual scheme employs "third gender" to designate male berdaches and sometimes male and female berdaches, reserving "fourth gender" for female berdaches.

Each tribe had its own terms for these roles, such as boté in Crow, nádleehí in Navajo, winkte in Lakota, and alyha: and hwame: in Mohave. Because so many native North American cultures were disrupted (or had disappeared) before they could be studied by anthropologists, there is no way of assessing the absolute frequency of these roles.

Washington Matthews first used the term berdache in an anthropological publication in 1877. In describing Hidatsa miáti he wrote, "[s]uch are called by the French Canadians ‘berdaches.’" The next anthropological use occurred in J. Owen Dorsey’s 1890 study of Siouan cults. Like Matthews, he characterized "berdache" as a French Canadian frontier term. Following Alfred Kroeber’s adoption of the word in his 1902 ethnography of the Arapaho, it became part of standard anthropological terminology.

In recent years, efforts have been made to replace berdache with "two-spirit." In 1993, a group of anthropologists and natives issued guidelines that formalized these preferences. "Berdache," they argued, is a term "that has its origins in Western thought and languages." Scholars were urged to discard it, inserting "[sic]" following its appearance in quoted texts. In its place they were encouraged to use tribally specific terms for multiple genders or the term "two-spirit." This attempt at rebranding recalls the shifts from homosexual to gay to queer to GLBT.

As the noted scholar Will Roscoe observed, "[u]nfortunately, these guidelines create as many problems as they solve, beginning with a mischaracterization of the history and meaning of the word ‘berdache.’ As a Persian term, its origins are Eastern not Western. Nor is it a derogatory term, except to the extent that all terms for nonmarital sexuality in European societies carried a measure of condemnation. It was rarely used with the force of ‘faggot,’ but more often as a euphemism with the sense of ‘lover’ or ‘boyfriend.’ Its history, in this regard, is akin to that of ‘gay,’ ‘black,’ and ‘Chicano’—terms that also lost negative connotations over time."


"Bilitis" is the name given to a fictional lesbian poet, a contemporary of Sappho by the French poet Pierre Louÿs in his 1894 work Les chansons de Bilitis..

The Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), which ranks as the first lesbian rights organization, was formed in San Francisco in 1955. The group was conceived as a social alternative to lesbian bars, which were considered illegal and thus subject to raids and police harassment. The founders claim that they had no knowledge of the male-oriented homophile groups, such as the Mattachine Society, when they first established the organization in 1955.

Influential throughout the 1950s and 1960s, DOB but was riven by factionalism in the 1970s. Its members split over whether to give primary support to the gay-rights movement or to feminism.

"Daughters" was meant to evoke association with other American sororal associations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution. The organization began publishing a weekly, The Ladder in 1956. This was, however, not the first lesbian magazine. That honor belongs to Lisa Ben’s Los Angeles effort Vice-Versa of 1947.

Binarism and dichotomy

Thinking in terms of basic contrasts-—hot and cold, day and night, male and female-—seems to be a feature encountered in every human language. It might be termed the antonym method. To be sure in many instances such dichotomies are not absolute. For example, we recognize an intermediary, warm, between hot and cold. Indeed the thermometer provides us with an almost infinite series of gradations. Still there is an undeniable polarity between the hottest temperature, on the one hand, and absolute zero, on the other.

Even allowing for the gradations, the antonym principle, one thing being opposed by its polar opposite, does not enjoy universal favor, for it is challenged by the principle of unity—-the idea that at many levels, from the universe itself to the human consciousness, there is no division. The latter view is sometimes known as holism. In short, dichotomy is ever-present—and ever-contested

In the realm of sex it was not until the second half of the nineteenth century that the conceptual system began to be organized in terms of such bipolar contrasts. In fact the discipline of sex research or sexology emerged during that period. Its first "star" was the psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902), whose 1886 treatise Psychopathia Sexualis was once a household word. Examining the phenomenon of S/M (as we would now describe it), Krafft-Ebing first noted the term Sadismus [in fact this was a borrowing from the French sadisme (1829), coined after the most famous exponent of the practice, the Marquis de Sade]. The German scholar decided to reserve the first term for the active role, creating a new antonym, Masochismus. The latter term derived from the fictional writings of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895). In the new binary system, one term expresses a predilection for inflicting pain as part of a pattern of sexual excitement and gratification, the other a desire to experience such pain. Of course the combination can be expressed in the compound term sadomasochism, nowadays commonly abbreviated as S/M. In a more informal way the concepts of frigidity (aversion from sexual activity) became paired with the idea of nymphomania. And so forth.

For our purposes the central binary contrast was between homosexuality and heterosexuality. The former term was introduced in 1869, the latter a little later—-both originally in their German dress. In common parlance the gay/straight contrast expresses this perception. While this dichotomy has lasted until the present-day, there is also an intermediate state, bisexuality. This example shows that thinking in terms of polar contrasts does not preclude positing intermediaries.

The general category of homosexuality has two subcategories: lesbianism and male homosexuality. Terminologically, there is some confusion, as some see lesbianism as entirely different phenomenon, reserving the word homosexuality for male-male relations. (This assumption is buttressed by the misleading etymology, which takes the homo- part as the Latin for man. In reality it is the Greek prefix for same.)

Historically and cross-culturally many societies have stressed the active/passive contrast of sex roles, which generally applies to males only. Passives are thought to be effeminate and exclusively oriented to other males—-if possible to macho men, the actives. The actives may swing both ways, functioning with both women and men, but always taking the insertor role.

The ancient Greeks recognized the polarity of the erastes, the dominant, older lover, and the eromenos, the younger partner.

French texts of the early modern period attest a major cleavage between the bougre, the aggressive, masculine appearing homosexual, and the bardache, slighter and more effeminate, usually younger.

The contrast vigorously survives in Latin America, where the dominant conception of same sex relations assigns the majority practicing same-sex relations to the pasivo class. Activos are assumed to be bisexual. In some circles this venerable contrast is yielding to a more unified concept, which is termed gay. There are other terms for those who are versatile enough to play both roles. An example is disco, a phonograph record, because individuals so designated can be played on both sides.

In American culture the active/passive contrast is less common. However, the same-sex subculture of our jails and prisons recognized the pitcher/catcher polarity, the former being the insertor, the latter the insertee. Many pitchers do not regard themselves as homosexual, and will commonly resume a heterosexual life style after release.

Pedophiles distinguish between the boy lover or chicken hawk and his youthful partner, the boy or chicken.

Some postmodern critics of the bipolar approach to segmenting human phenomena, have decried it, because it presents a recurring temptation to assign an inferior status to one of the two poles. In this context mention of the contrast tends to reinforce the inequality. Historically, historians of the status of women have shown how this has operated in the male/female binarism. The remedy is to insist on the equality of the two—-and perhaps that the contrast has been exaggerated. We see this process in the development of the heterosexual/homosexual pairing. For many decades those who invoked it, some of them themselves gay, had taken it for granted that heterosexuals are superior. With the rise of the gay liberation movement in 1969 this subordinate status was no longer acceptable. Thus we see slogans like "gay is good" and the like, affirming the inherent dignity of gayness. Increasingly, the matter of heterosexual and homosexual was viewed in terms of symmetry, two options of equal status, rather than subordination.

As has been noted, an intermediate category, bisexuality stands between the two poles of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Some observers, who believe in the absolute polarity of straight and gay, dispute the reality of this phenomenon. However, there is no doubt that individuals who regard themselves as bisexual exist in significant number, and this status is recognized. In youth some people may identify as bi as they are in transition to one of the poles. There is also the rare term ambisexual, employing the Latin prefix ambi-, "both."

There are a number of picturesque terms for bisexuality. Bimetalism reflects an antiquated dispute in the discipline of economics, where a bimetal system is based on both gold and silver. AC/DC stems from electrical arrangements. The term double-gaited derives from racing, where a double-gated horse can run on both a dry and a muddy track. The switch-hitter, who "swings both ways," is a sports metaphor, from baseball.

The prefix bi- should mean simply both or twice, as in "bimonthly." However, in the neologism biphobia it stands for irrational opposition to bisexuality; the term is modeled on homophobia. The term heterophobia is rare, because the condition is rare.


The term bisexual seems first to have come into prominence through its use by nineteenth-century botanists, who applied it to hermaphroditic plants, that is, those endowed with both male and female sexual organs. More recently, the sense "capable of attraction to both sexes or genders," without any suggestion of distinctive physiology, has become prevalent with regard to human beings.

On the theoretical level confusion has been caused by the propagation of Sigmund Freud’s theory of universal bisexuality (Three Essays in the Theory of Sexuality, 1905). It is generally agreed that Freud derived his theory of bisexuality as a developmental stage in the formation of character from his eccentric Berlin adviser, Wilhelm Fliess (who also championed a strange theory of 23- and 28-day cycles). However, the idea was evidently in the air, witness Otto Weininger’s sweeping version postulating a continuum from heterosexual to homosexuality (Sex and Character, originally published in 1903).

Given these perspectives, one might think that bisexuals are the only truly "normal" persons, since they permit the full range of their psychosexual endowment to be expressed. But not so. The concept is used by some psychoanalysts (e.g. Albert Ellis and Charles Socarides) to castigate exclusive (or in their terminology "obligatory") homosexuals for neglecting an essential component of their makeup, namely heterosexuality. By contrast, these experts have declined to admonish exclusive heterosexuals to seek to broaden their range of experience. Gays must change, if not completely, by adding a straight side to their behavior, but straights need feel no such imperative.

Still, the view persists in popular circles that "we’re all a bit bisexual." Oddly, this view has been attributed to Alfred Kinsey. However, Kinsey found that at least 50% of the men he studied experienced no homosexual feelings at all.

Another mistake is to assume that the definition of bisexuality requires absolutely equal attraction to both genders. This may be termed the Woody Allen theory. That comedian maintained that the advantage of bisexuality is that it doubles your chances of getting a date on Saturday night.

Moreover, now that the distinction between sex and gender is better understood, it is may be recognized that it is possible for a bisexual person to be attracted to all genders but only one sex, or to all sexes but only one gender. This point assumes that one recognize gender as an autonomous social and psychological category, distinct from biological sex. Apart from sexual preference, some bisexual people describe attribute their attraction to personality or other characteristics rather than gender.

Another view is that homosexuality and heterosexuality are two monosexual orientations, whereas bisexuality encompasses them both. However, many assume a triadic typology, with bisexuality ranking as a distinct sexual orientation on a par with heterosexuality or homosexuality. In this view there are three orientations, not two as the older convention assumes.

Oddly enough, bisexuality is sometimes misunderstood as a form of adultery or polyamory, for a popular misconception holds that bisexuals must always be in relationships with men and women simultaneously. The reality is that individuals attracted to both males and females, like people of any other orientation, may live a variety of sexual lifestyles. These options include lifelong monogamy, serial monogamy, polyamory, polyfidelity casual sexual activity with individual partners, casual group sex, and celibacy.

Some individuals others might classify as bisexual on the basis of their sexual behavior self-identify as gay, lesbian, or straight. For example, a bisexual woman who considers herself a lesbian may do so on the basis she defines a lesbian as any woman who is attracted to women (even one who is also attracted to men), or a woman who is primarily attracted to other women. Likewise some men may identify as heterosexual because the only activities they engage in with other men do not involve anal sex (or more commonly, do not involve being the receptor in anal sex). This kind of ambiguity is problematic for several reasons. First, because some people maintain that exclusivity is part of the definitions for monosexual orientations. Others feel that only one's current situation is what matters (if one is in a heterosexual marriage, they are straight). Still other groups insist that true bisexuality does not exist—the "bisexual" person’s heterosexual feelings are merely a manifestation of internalized homophobia.

Some bisexuals regard themselves as distinct from homosexuals but nonetheless accept membership in the larger LGBT community. Some people who engage in bisexual behavior may be supportive of lesbian and gay people, but still self-identify as straight, while still others consider any labels irrelevant to their consciousness and situations

As if these complications were not enough, some young people who are just coming out adopt bisexuality as a kind of transitional identity. This label serves as a kind of protective coating as they get used to their homosexual orientation. Sometimes such persons simply term themselves "questioning." At all events, this transitional identity should not be confused with the settled, mature forms of bisexuality.

Some bisexuals and sex researchers are dissatisfied with the term bisexual, and have developed a variety of alternative or supplementary terms to encompass significant aspects and forms of bisexuality. Many are neologisms that are not widely known.

Pansexual, omnisexual, anthrosexual, and pomosexual (postmodern sexuality) are substitute terms that rather than referring to both or "bi" gender attraction, refer to all or "omni" gender attraction. These descriptors appeal to those who wish to express openness to all gender possibilities including transgender and intersex people, not just two. Pansexuality sometimes includes an affinity for less mainstream sexual activities, such as S/M. Some people who might qualify as pansexual or omnisexual choose to self-identify as bisexual because the term bisexual is more widely known, and because they regard it as an asset in identity politics.

Bi-permissive describes someone who does not actively seek out sexual relations with a given gender, but is open to them. Such a person may self-identify as heterosexual or homosexual, and engage predominantly in sexual acts with individuals of the corresponding gender, and might be rated 1 or 5 on Kinsey's scale. Near-synonyms include heteroflexible and homoflexible.

Ambisexuality has been defined as an indiscriminate attraction to either sex (corresponding to the Woody Allen concept noted above). A person who self-identifies as ambisexual might be attracted with equal intensity on physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual levels to partner(s) regardless of sex or gender presentation, while maintaining selectivity standards in other areas. Some might experience equally intense attractions that could be triggered by sex- or gender-specific traits in given partner(s). A person with this orientation might fall in the 3 category on Kinsey's scale, as would some who qualify for the 2 or 4 rating (though some individuals in these latter categories consider themselves bi-permissive).

The term bi-curious has several distinct and sometimes contradictory meanings. It is commonly found in personal ads placed by those who identify as heterosexual but are interested in same-sex "experimentation," Such people are commonly suspected--not necessarily correctly--of being homosexuals or bisexuals in denial of their homosexuality. The expression can also be used to describe someone as being passively-bi, bi-permissive, or open to indirect bisexual contact.

Biphobia, a term modeled on homophobia, is a fear or condemnation of bisexuality, reflecting the belief that only heterosexuality and homosexuality are genuine orientations and appropriate lifestyles. Bisexual persons may also be the target of homophobia from those who consider only heterosexuality appropriate. The reverse can also occur, in that bisexual persons may be the objects of heterophobia or discrimination by some gays/homosexuals.

Much of this material pertains to the trope of Intermediacy.


Deriving from the Old English bicce, a female dog, the word was employed as a derogatory term for a woman, especially a prostitute, as early as 1400 CE. The application to male homosexuals is documented from the 1920s. While the use of this epithet is widely condemned by feminists and others, it is unlikely to disappear. It figures in the trope of Animals.

With regard to gay men, bitch designates one of the varieties of the queen type. Cynicism, vindictiveness, malicious gossip and putdowns, together with extravagant displays of "attitude" characterize bitchiness. It is related to camp, except that the latter phenomenon is generally good humored and self-deprecating.

In prison slang a bitch is the regular sexual partner of an aggressive jock.


"To blow" is one of several slang uses of this verb, in this case for the act of fellation. The primary reference is to the mouth, the organ of blowing, but there may be a secondary association with "blowing it." When one "blows one’s wad," all the money is spent. (To spend is an old term for ejaculation).

English terminology does not generally observe the distinction Latin makes between fellatio, where the receptor produces the stimulation, and irrumatio, aggressive thrusting on the part of the penetrator. Thus Catullus’ "ego te irrumabo," would be the equivalent of "I’m going to mouth-rape you." Conventionally, the fellator is regarded as passive; however, he may be termed French active.

In the compound blow job, the latter part probably derives from the printing trade, where a job a specific piece of work. There are amusing parallels with nose job, lube job, and snow job.

The abbreviation BJ is common.

Since Greco-Roman time the act has been a common adjunct to the repertoire of prostitutes. During the middle decades of the twentieth century it was more commonly associated with gay men. Recently, there have been reports of growing popularity among teenagers, in part for convenience but also as a form of contraception.

Body part focus

Alfred Kinsey held that male sexuality typically focuses on one part of the body, while female sexuality addresses the whole body. However this may be, gay men do seem to have particular body-part concerns.

Gay men are stereotypically thought to be size queens who prefer large male members. Their sex objects are termed well-hung. (Cf. the Latin term mentulatus.) Note also, endowment.

Naturally, orality (involving the mouth) is important. As a role or a preference, cocksucker designates someone who adopts the receptor role in fellatio. The fluffer, an employee in the porno industry, is a special (paid) form of this role. A preference for this behavior is sometimes euphemistically termed the French culture.

In designating the penis or genitals in general, a food term, meat, has some currency. Hence the expression, now uncommon: "meat for days." The ensemble of male sexual parts is termed a basket, especially if there is a noticeable bulge. Circumcision, or its absence, is important as an erotic marker to many gay men; hence the terms cut and uncut.

Some eroticize the buttocks, a quality already evident in the erotic vase paintings of ancient Greece. In early modern France a culiste, buttocks man, was a term for a male same-sexer. In modern American gay slang that region of the body may be termed the buns. Sex ads sometimes note a bubble butt.

A predilection for anal activity is sometimes termed Greek culture. Practicing anal sex without the protection of a condom is now termed barebacking. Application of the mouth to the anus (or anilinctus) is called rimming in street parlance. Fisting occurs when the fist, or sometimes the whole arm is inserted in the partner’s rectum. Toe sucking is called shrimping.

The face queen (UK) is someone who judges the attraction of another by the face. A face artist, however, is someone who offers fellatio, who gives head.

Eye-lock is a key move in making contact during cruising. Good-looking, but inacessible young men are sometimes termed eye candy. Dating on a more-or-less steady basis is termed seeing someone.

An informal earring code indicates that wearing one earring is acceptable for a heterosexual man (bestowing that pirate look). Two earrings on a man usually indicate that he is gay.

A more generalized body development of the muscles is called built. In recent years, gyms have grown greatly in popularity with gay men, attracting body builders and gym bunnies.

Heterosexuals tend to stereotype the male homosexual body as willowy and pliable, a quality localized at the hand-arm juncture, the limp wrist. In Spanish this is mano quebrada.

Beard is an ironic term for a woman who consents to appear with a gay man, so as to hide his homosexuality.


This spelling of the word originated in a gay magazine called XY in the early to mid 1990s. XY targeted gay male teenagers. The new spelling describes a youthful, hip, and attractive male. Widely accepted in the gay community to mean any young, sexually attractive male, this spelling also appears in heterosexual contexts to mean similarly, a young, handsome guy.

In the S/M community a boi is a male who presents himself in a young boyish way, usually taking the role of a bottom (submissive).

Somewhat paradoxically, in the lesbian community the word boi may designate young transgendered/androgynous /masculine persons who are biologically female and present themselves in a young, boyish way; a boidyke; such persons are also sometimes known as genderqueer.

Boston Marriage

This nineteenth-century term describes a household shared by two women, independent of male support. It is debated whether such arrangements had a sexual component—probably some did, others did not.

The term came to be used, apparently, after Henry James' 1885 novel The Bostonians, which limned a marriage-like relationship between two women. These were "New Women" in the language of the time, women who were independent, not married, and self-supporting. Imbued with a definite class content, Boston marriages often meant living off inherited wealth or making a living through some professional career. The recent play Boston Marriage by David Mamet depicts such a marriage as having an explicitly sexual component. Less common was the term "Wellesley marriage."

On May 27, 2004 Massachusetts became the first state in the United States to sanction legal same-sex marriages. This advance makes Boston the only major city in the U.S. where a "Boston Marriage" can be a legal marriage as well. The development has given the term a fresh slant, as some people, hearing it for the first time, think it is a new term coined to refer to legal same-sex marriages.


From the anatomical meaning relating to the buttocks, this term has been adapted to describe those who adopt a submissive role in S/M conduct. It is applied more generally by those who tend to divide gay men into two contrasting types: bottoms and tops.

The relevant trope is Binarism and Dichotomy.

Boy Love

In pederasty and pedophilia, boys are the object of an adult man’s love. (Note that the term is not commonly used for adult women who form relationships with teenage boys). The advocacy group NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association) has made the term notorious. An "in" abbreviation is BL. Intergenerational sex, though widely used as a synonym is not accurate. A relationship between a 30 year old and a 60 year old involves two different generations, but this is not what is usually meant.

See the trope of Intergenerational Sex.


This term for anal sex was common in the middle of the twentieth century. Men who specialized in the receptor role were termed brownie queens or browning queens. Perhaps as a result of improvements in hygiene, these expressions died out. Yet those who engage in bareback sex in the porn industry sometimes complain of the experience of a "chocolate fuck."

The relevant trope is Color Symbolism.

Bug Chasing

This is the practice adopted by a few gay men in the 1990s deliberately to seek infection with the "bug" (virus) of HIV. Some men would place a minus (-) tattoo on their upper arm, crossing it into a plus (+) when they had attained their goal of contracting the disease. Some chasers would attend "Bug Parties," sometimes called "conversion parties," in hopes of acquiring "The Gift". Participants who were already HIV+ were designated "gift givers." These parties constitute a kind of sexual "Russian roulette."

Risk taking has always characterized some aspects of gay-male life, but this behavior raised it to an unprecedented extreme. Interviews have disclosed some ostensible reasons for the behavior. Among them are the following. Some participants believe that infecting their sexual partner will mark an advance to the deepest level of intimacy. Some men report that the element of danger in sexual encounters of this kind adds to the "rush" of arousal. There are men who, once infected, feel like they finally belong to a "fraternity" of infected men. Similarly, there are men who feel that acquiring HIV will cement a relationship with their positive partner. Many men bug chase because they feel that once they have HIV they will finally be free: they can sleep with whomever they want, party endlessly, and live their life without worrying about any consequences.

Not surprisingly, responsible individuals in the gay community view bug chasing with disdain as a self-destructive activity. Leaders of the gay community at large are concerned that the behaviors of bug chasers may contribute to a public perception that the practice is common or encouraged by all gay people.

Although bug chasing had been occurring for some years, the phenomenon became notorious after Rolling Stone magazine printed an article in 2003 by a freelance journalist, Gregory Freeman, entitled "Bug Chasers: The Men Who Long to Be HIV+." The article provoked a storm of controversy, primarily because it concluded that the practice might be relatively common. This seems to be untrue, and in fact the frequency of the behavior was already declining when the article appeared.


Bugger and faggot are the two most affect-laden terms in the English vocabulary of homosexuality. Bugger is the characteristically British form of abuse, faggot the American. The former word ultimately derives from Old Bulgarian bularinŭ, the ethnic name of the Slavic people inhabiting the Southeastern part of the Balkan peninsula (as shown by the work of Borislav Primov and Ivan Petkanov). Although the Bogumil and Paulician (dualist) heresies emerged in Bulgaria, on the periphery of the Byzantine Empire, as early as the tenth century, it was only in the wake of the Fourth Crusade (1204) that Medieval Latin bulgarus (with vernacular offshoots) came to be associated with these heresies. In the West the principal reflex of this dualistic system was the Cathar or Albigensian heresy in the south of France.

And so in the thirteenth century bougre appeared in Old French with two meanings: 1) Albigensian heretic; 2) sodomite. Sexual depravity had, in fact, been charged with certain Gnostic sects as early as Irenaeus of Lyon (late second century). During the Middle Ages heresy and "unnatural" sexual activity were both attributed to the instigation of the devil, since neither could presumably have occurred to anyone spontaneously. At all events the ascription of homosexuality to the Albigensians seems wholly unfounded, albeit the higher orders of the perfecti did abstain from heterosexual—and any other—intercourse.

An additional factor is the Old French use of bougre to mean "userer." This association (heretic = sodomite = usurer) derives from the ancient notion that interest in "unnatural" because money, unlike land, is intrinsically sterile, just as homosexual activity is doomed to sterility. There may be some echo of the accusation advanced by Philo of Alexandria that the pederast "debases the coin of nature." In eighteenth-century England "queer money" was counterfeit.

The English derivative of bougre is bugger, which in the medieval texts has the sole meaning of "heretic." The first instance of the word buggery in the legal sense of sodomy is Henry VIII’s Act 1533 (25 Hen. VIII c. 6). This law ranks as the first civil legislation applicable against male homosexuals in the country, such offences having previously been dealt with by ecclesiastical courts, The law defined buggery as an unnatural sexual act against the will of God and man. In practice, this provision has almost always been applied to anal sex between men, or its attempt. Unlike Continental jurisdictions and that of Scotland (in both of which burning was stipulated), the Act made buggery (with man or beast) punishable by hanging, a capital penalty not finally lifted until 1861. Although it has sometimes been suggested that the Act was introduced as a measure against the clergy during the separation of the Church of England from Rome, there is no firm evidence for this claim, and indeed the Act preceded the separation.

In his commentaries on the law of England, Sir Edward Coke (1552-1635) defined buggery as "a detestable and abominable sin amongst Christians not to be named, committed by carnal knowledge against the ordinance of the Creator and order of nature by mankind with mankind or with brute beast, or by womankind with brute beast." (Third Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England, pp. 58-59). (A seventeenth-century text mentions buggerone italicus, thus imputing the vice to Italy and revealing that by this time all memory of the putative Bulgarian origin had been lost.)

Following the final confirmation of the Act by Queen Elizabeth I, it was firmly ensconced as the charter for all subsequent criminalization of homosexual behavior in England. Nonetheless, only a few executions are known during the two centuries that followed.

The Act itself was supplanted by the 1828 Offenses Against the Person (England) Act and the Criminal Law (India) Act of the same year, though the crime persisted on the statute books under other rubrics. Buggery remained a capital offence in England until 1861; and the last execution for the crime took place in 1836. England and Wales repealed the buggery laws in 1967, a step subsequently extended to other parts of the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, legal statutes in many former colonies, such as those in the Anglophone Caribbean, have retained the crime. These laws are among the lingering banes afflicted by colonialism.

Why American jurisdictions substituted the European expression sodomy as a legal term has not been clarified.

That the term has lost much of its sting in some English countries is shown by the humorous Australian television show Club Buggery.


Folk perception singles out rabbits both for their "cuteness" and for their lubricity, which makes them prolific breeders.  In early modern English the term bunny was commonly given to young women or children as an affectionate diminutive. Eventually, and especially in America, the word came also to connote lack of brains, as in "dumb bunny" and "jungle bunny" (the latter a harsh stereotype for an African American).

According to the slang dictionary of Wentworth and Flexner, at one time bunny meant the female equivalent of a hustler, a woman who offered herself sexually to other women for money.  Like the practice, this use seems never to have been very widespread.

The disco bunny (1970s early eighties) was a young man, ostensibly frivolous and hedonistic, who frequented such places of entertainment. Possibly, the implication was that his dancing was frantic and incessant, indirectly recalling the reputed copulatory habits of the hare, and perhaps more directly suggesting that the individual was sexually indiscriminate and "hot to trot." While there was some self-application, the term was generally disparaging.

A curious sidelight to the matter is a legend propagated by Early Christian writers who singled out several "unclean" animals. These writers associated the hare with pederasty because of the myth that the creature grew a new anus each year.

The relevant trope is Animals.


This American slang term may derive from "butcher." Originally butch designated a tough youth or man, often strongly built and sporting an "attitude" (cf. the outlaw Butch [George] Cassidy at the beginning of the twentieth century). In the argot of the gay-male coteries of the 1940s and 50s, butch could be used for an overtly masculine homosexual. Such individuals were often prized as "straight-appearing," as opposed to the stereotypical nancy boy or swish.

Although the older term was not much used, the 1970 clone types adopted a butch look, sporting work shirts and facial hair. Among the subcultures composed of butch gay men today is the bear community.




Walt Whitman entitled the most overtly homoerotic section of Leaves of Grass "Calamus" after a plant, the sweet flag, which he adopted as an emblem of male-male affection. The word calamus probably had a secondary attraction for Whitman since it also means "reed pen," the traditional instrument of the scribe. In Greek mythology Calamus, the son of a river god, was united in tender love with another youth, Carpus. When Carpus was accidentally drowned, Calamus was changed into a reed.

The English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne, whose attitudes to homosexuality were conflicted, dubbed John Addington Symonds and his associates "Calamites," with a mocking echo of the older word catamite. J. Z. Eglinton (1964) employed the term to designate the broader school of minor English and American poets who flourished during the period ca. 1890-1930, under the aegis of Whitman, Carpenter, and Symonds. Timothy d’Arch Smith, the author of Love in Earnest (London, 1970), the standard monograph on the subject, prefers to call the English poets—somewhat ambiguously—Uranians. More appropriately (though still confusingly) Donald Mader, in his learned introduction to the 1978 edition of the Men and Boys anthology, speaks of the American poets as "calamites."

Just as Whitman had used the calamus plant to symbolize male homoeroticism, some of the English "calamite" (= Uranian) poets singled out the plant ladslove (Artemisia abrotanum), ostensibly because the odor of its sap resembled that of semen, but more likely simply because of the name.


Camp is a type of wit common to, but by no means exclusive to male homosexuals. A definition of the concept is elusive, but it may be tentatively circumscribed by saying that camps consists of taking serious things frivolously and frivolous things seriously. Camp is not grounded in speech or writing as much as it is in gesture, performance, and public display. When it is verbal, it finds expression less through the discursive means of direct statement than through implication, innuendo, and intonation. As an art of indirection and suggestion, it was suited to the purposes of a group that found it imprudent to confront culturally approved values directly, preferring to undermine them through send-ups and sly mockery. Because it is viewed, perhaps mistakenly, as relatively unthreatening, camp gains entrance into the upscale worlds of chic and swank.

The word camp may ultimately derive from the French slang term camper, a verb meaning "to pose in an exaggerated fashion." The Oxford English Dictionary gives 1909 as the first citation of "camp" in print, with the sense of "ostentatious, exaggerated, affected, theatrical; effeminate or homosexual; pertaining to or characteristic of homosexuals. So as n., ‘camp’ behaviour, mannerisms, etc….; a man exhibiting such behaviour." According to the OED, this sense of the word is "etymologically obscure."

Two key components of camp were stem from mimicry of feminine traits: swish and drag. With swish featuring flamboyant gestures and liberal use of superlatives, and drag being (often outrageous) female impersonation, camp came to embrace all things "over the top", including female female impersonators, as in the exaggerated Hollywood antics of the Brazilian actress Carmen Miranda.

There is an overlap with bitchiness, as seen in the practice of dishing, a conversational style that includes retorts, vicious putdowns, and malicious gossip. However, the ironic sophistication of camp usually precludes the pettiness and vindictiveness that characterize the bitchy mode. .

In recent years postmodern theorists, who admire its defense of marginalized forms, have embraced camp. In this view, its claims to legitimacy are dependent on its opposition to the status quo. Camp has no aspiration to timelessness, but rather feeds on the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the dominant culture.

We turn now to particular uses.

The term camp is normally employed as an adjective or noun, even though earliest recorded uses treated it mainly as a verb. In the characterization of one authority it refers to the deliberate and sophisticated use of playful, mawkish, or corny themes and styles in art, clothing, or conversation. In addition to its specifically gay component, camp has been appropriated by theorists of popular culture and postmodernistm to refer to various trends in entertainment and writing. Sometimes these inquiries detect unintentional camp, but it is usually a carefully chosen strategy.

The bisexual American intellectual Susan Sontag was the first to attempt a theoretical explanation. In her 1964 essay "Notes on ‘Camp’," Sontag emphasized artifice, frivolity, naïve middle-class pretentiousness and shocking excess as key elements of camp. It seems, however, that the first (brief) attempt at an explanation appeared in Christopher Isherwood’s 1954 novel The World in the Evening, where he comments: "You can’t camp about something you don’t take seriously. You’re not making fun of it; you’re making fun out of it. You’re expressing what’s basically serious to you in terms of fun and artifice and elegance."

The Oxford English Dictionary gives 1909 as the first relevant citation of "camp" in print. Two key aspects of camp were originally feminine performances: swish and drag. Swish meant exaggeration and flamboyance, while drag required feminine garments, wigs, accessories, and mannerisms, not necessarily very convincing.

Another aspect of camp is dishing, a conversational style sometimes termed fag talk that includes bitchiness, vicious putdowns, unfounded rumors, and over-the-top gossip or "dirt."

The pseudo-religious order known as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, which flourished in San Francisco and other cities in the 1980s, was a sriking public enactment of camp. The Sisters incited much indignation–in their view a sure sign of success.

In Australia the term camp is sometimes used to mean simply "gay."


The Latin common noun, catamitus, designating a minion or kept boy, is usually derived from the Greek proper name Ganymedes, the favorite of Zeus. Another possible source is Kadmilos, the companion of the Theban god Kabeiros.

The word entered English in the sixteenth century as part of the Renaissance revival of classical literature, and has always retained a learned, quasi-exotic aura. The term could also be used as a verbal adjective, as "a catamited boy."

In Modern English the termination -ite tends to be perceived as pejorative, as in Trotskyite (vs. the more tactful Trotskyist) and sodomite. Hobo slang records a turn-of-the-century expression gey cat, for a neophyte or young greenhorn, of which the second element may be a truncated form of catamite, though this is uncertain. In keeping with the active-passive contrast, the catamite is commonly perceived as the passive partner of the sodomite or pederast.

Synonyms include ingle, minion, chicken, and prushun.


This term is common among pederasts for an attractive teenage boy (and among pedophiles for one younger). The word must not be confused with the clipped form chick, a demeaning term for a woman. The general derivation from slang chicken = child is clear (found from the eighteenth century onwards). The homoerotic sense goes back to the late nineteenth century: "The Affection which a sailor will lavish of a ship’s boy to whom he takes a fancy, and makes his ‘chicken,’ as the phrase is." (Congressional Record, April 11, 1890). The pursuer is called the chicken hawk.

Curiously, this development was first enacted in classical Latin, where pullus, "chicken," is a general term of endearment, especially for handsome boys. Pullarius meant a "kidnapper of boys" or "boy stealer"; more generally it signified a pederast.

The male fowl, the cock, has provided a slang term for penis, by way of the intermediary of the watercock or faucet (a semantic shift paralleled in some other languages). Once the metaphor was created, it was reinforced by a renewed attention to the barnyard creature, where the extreme erectness of the rooster, straining upwards, suggests a tumid penis. Roosters were among the love gifts offered by ancient Greek pederasts to boys they admired.

The relevant trope is animals.


In common parlance a chocoholic is a person who craves or who obsessively consumes chocolate. This has led to the slang use for a white person who prefers black people as sexual partners. This preference may be either exclusive or dominant. The relevant trope is Food Symbolism.

In principle one should be attracted to any desirable person, regardless of race. Political correctness would suggest such neutrality, but reality is different. Just a people may have preferences regarding facial hair, age, and weight, so too people may be attracted on the basis of perceived racial characteristics.

The word chocoholic replaces the older, offensive dinge queen. (The antonym of that expression was snow queen.)


Chubbies (or "chubs") are gay men who are overweight or obese. Although there is some overlap between the chubby community and the bear community, the chubby contingent makes up its own distinct subculture and community. It has affinities with the fat-admirer subculture, which is primarily heterosexual, and with the fat acceptance movement. Some straight men are attracted to women who are buxom or zaftig.

The fact that mainstream gay culture is not welcoming of chubs or chasers has caused the chubby community to turn inwards, focusing on its own culture. There are bars, organizations and social events specifically catering to this group. This allows for members of the community to socialize with each other and develop social networks. In the last several years, large regional social events have developed. They often feature pageants (much like beauty pageants but more sexual in tone) where winners receive titles, like "Mr. Chubby International" and "Mr. Chaser International". In the United States, there is an annual national event, known as Convergence, as well as several annual regional gatherings. There is also an annual observance in Europe called European Big Men’s Convergence. Held in different cities each year, these events are usually hosted by that city's local big men's organization.

Circuit Party

A circuit party is a big dance event, extending through a night and into the following day, usually accompanied by a number of satellite gatherings in the days leading up to and following the main event. Circuit parties were first developed, in connection with the early tea dances and theme parties held on Fire Island near New York City, in the carefree days after police abuse and before the beginning of the AIDS/HIV health crisis. In some respects they resemble underground rave parties, but differ in that circuit parties are highly publicized and professionally produced, attracting participants from a wider age range and a broader geographic area.

In principle open to anyone, the parties are essentially social events for gay men. Circuit parties charge admission fees, with some being run for profit and others contributing to charities, generally those, which benefit the GLBT communities or HIV and other health-related programs. Gay men who are regular attendees at multiple circuit parties are sometimes referred to as circuit boys.

The start of the circuit has been traced to many different parties that sprang up during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Although Flamingo and 12 West were New York clubs that hosted theme-centered gay parties, the opening of The Saint in the East Village in 1980 eclipsed those venues. For its day this members-only male club was technologically advanced. Located inside a cavernous former theater, The Saint featured a dome-covered dance floor. A complete planetarium mechanism projected a starscape onto the dome above the dance floor. While open every weekend beginning in September, The Saint's once monthly parties became marathon events that drew gay men from around the world. These parties created the concept of a single party being the focal point for a weekend get-away in the gay community.

In the late 1970s Corbett Reynolds founded what was to become another circuit party. Initially, Reynolds envisioned a one-night party-to-end-all-parties, focusing on the theme of the color Red (hence the name Red Party), which was to be held at Reynold's nightclub, Rudely Elegant. The Red Party proved to be so successful, and drew so many outside visitors, that it filled the Valley Dale Dance Hall in Columbus, Ohio to capacity and became an annual event, outliving the closing of the bar in the early 1980s.

The AIDS crisis began in 1981. Several benefit parties sprang up around the country, which were run by volunteer organizations that donated their proceeds to AIDS/HIV-related charities. Many events were named after colors, such as White Party, Black Party, Blue Ball, and Black and Blue Festival. Others center on other observances, such as Southern Decadence and the Folsom Street Fair.

A well-run circuit party can serve to shower tourist dollars on the locality where the event is held. Because of their economic impact, circuit parties have actually been welcomed into some of the more liberal cities where they are held.

In the early 2000s several factors blunted attendance at many circuit events. The original audience that began attending the circuit parties of the eighties and nineties had grown older and no longer had the stamina for multi-day partying. In addition, all-gay cruises, attracting upwards of 1500 passengers, provide an appealing alternative.

Many hold that circuit parties serve an important social, recreational, and cultural function for some gay men, especially those who live in communities where homosexuality is still highly stigmatized. Often, a circuit party will be the largest gathering of gay men that the attendee has ever witnessed. This, along with the generally celebratory atmosphere of the event, can yield an experience that is gay-affirming for many gay men.

Nonetheless, observers within the gay and medical communities have expressed reservations about the culture of circuit parties, particularly the common use of drugs (including alcohol, marijuana, crystal methamphetamine, ecstasy, and other "party drugs"). These critics point to the risk of overdose, dehydration, and impaired judgment leading to unsafe sex and exposure to STDs.

Cities Of The Plain

According to the Biblical narrative, for the sins of their inhabitants five cities--Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Zoar--were destroyed by "brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven" (Gen. 19:24-25). Since then, their names are synonymous with impenitent sin, and their fall with a proverbial manifestation of God's just wrath (cf. Jude 1:7).

The expression Cities of the Plain sometimes serves as a decorous synecdoche for sodomy, as in C. K. Scott-Moncrieff’s rendering of the title of Proust’s Sodome et Gomorre. In 1907 the prolific pornographer Alphonse Momas (writing as "Le Nismois") published a novel, Les villes maudites, assigning a separate practice to each of the five cities.

Civil Union

A civil union is a legally recognized union similar to marriage. Beginning with Denmark in 1989, civil unions under one name or another have achieved legal recognition in several Western countries in order to provide same-sex couples with rights, benefits, and responsibilities similar to those enjoyed by opposite-sex couples in marriage. In some jurisdictions, such as France and New Zealand, civil unions are also open to opposite-sex couples.

The terms used to designate recognized same-sex unions are not standardized, and vary widely from country to country. Unions that may be similar to or synonymous with civil unions include civil partnerships, domestic partnerships, significant relationships, reciprocal beneficiary relationships, "life partnerships" (Germany), "stable unions" (Andorra), "civil pacts [PACs]" (France), and so forth. The level of rights and benefits also varies, depending on the laws of a particular country.

Most civil-union countries recognize foreign unions if those are essentially equivalent to their own; for example, the United Kingdom, whose civil partnerships are nearly identical to marriage, lists equivalent unions in Civil Partnership Act Schedule 20.

As used in the United States, where the term was devised, civil union designates a status similar to marriage for same-sex couples. Domestic partnership, offered by some states and municipalities, generally connotes a lesser status with fewer benefits, though these may vary.

The state of Vermont enacted the first civil unions in the United States in 2000. The federal government does not recognize these unions, and under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) of 1996, other U.S. states are not obliged to recognize them. By the end of 2006, Connecticut and New Jersey had also enacted civil union laws. Moreover, California's domestic partnership law had been expanded to the point that it became practically a civil union law.

As of March 2007, only five nations (The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Spain, and South Africa) and the US state of Massachusetts offer full same-sex marriage (though in Massachusetts benefits are restricted because of the lack of federal recognition). Some gay advocates are critical of civil unions because they say they represent separate status that lacks the dignity of ("marriage apartheid"). For their part, opponents are critical because they say civil unions allow same-sex marriage by using a different name.

Civil unions and cognate solutions have been criticized as "riding in the back of the bus," that is accepting a second-class solution. Yet many on both sides recognize that civil unions can constitute a transitional status, one that may ultimately lead to true same-sex marriage.

Classical aura

The great revival of classical literature and art that began in the Renaissance brought with it an awareness, at least among the educated classes, of the major role of same-sex love in ancient Greece and Rome. Some of the Humanists who were the standard-bearers of this revival wrote poems and other works in Latin with a powerful and sophisticated erotic content. Perhaps the first of these was il Panormita (Antonio Beccadelli), who published his Hermaphroditus in 1425.

Perusal of the surviving works of ancient Greek and Roman literature soon made it clear that much of this same-sex love was age-differentiated. In short we are dealing with pederasty (paiderasteia). In the original Greek texts, the paiderastes was the active partner only. In some modern languages, as in French, the term became more generalized, simply meaning "homosexual." Today, the French clipped form pėdė is one of the commonest nouns to designate a male homosexual.

In some texts, particularly the Latin ones, the passive partner was commonly termed the catamita (catamite in French and English). The Greek term for the youthful beloved, the eromenos, was known only to a few specialists. In Renaissance texts, young men could be designated by the names of famous exemplars, as Bathyllus (rare), Ganymede, and Giton. More generally, the penetratee was termed a pathicus.

One of the greatest poets of ancient Greece, Sappho, who resided on the island of Lesbos, gave her name to the common noun sapphist. In its various national variations this was the preferred early modern term to designate a woman attracted to other women. In the second rank of popularity was tribade (ancient Greek for "one who rubs"). Only in the twentieth century did those two words yield definitely to lesbian.

For oral service, the term cunnilingus (or cunnilinctus) stems from Latin, as does fellatio. Much less common that to fellate is to irrumate. The first designates a type of male-male oral activity in which the main action, so to speak, is performed by the person stimulating the other’s member in his mouth. By contrast, irrumation occurs when the insertor, instead of just accepting the penile attention, actively engages in vigorous thrusts. The word masturbation is likewise of Latin derivation. (Onanism, not classical, is the product of a misundertanding of a Biblical passage.)

In eighteenth-century England the term Greek love became common as a general term for same-sex behavior, not necessarily in Greece. To some degree this was a camouflage term, but one readily understood by initiates. In its original usage it is one of the rare general terms without any tincture of disparagement.

In American slang today, sometimes found in advertisements, one encounters the expression Greek culture. Alas, this does not connote a cultivated devotion to ancient literature and art, but a predilection for anal activity. More specifically, one may be known as Greek active (the penetrator) or Greek passive (the one who "takes" it).

In a separate category are terms not found in classical languages, but which have been devised in modern times using classical roots as combining forms. These include the international terms homosexual, homophile, bisexual, and pedophile, as well as transvestite and transsexual. Employing this venerable word stuff in new ways endows the coinage with an aura of being scientific or medical, since much of the language of those disciplines is neo-Latin or neo-Greek. As these particular words have acquired overtones of judgmentalism, it is debatable to what extent they are genuinely "scientific."


In current general usage, the word clone has come to mean "a living organism created as a duplicate of another through genetic engineering." In addition, the word acquired a vogue use in gay circles in the late 1970s to designate an emergent male homosexual style. First attracting attention as a definite type, it seems, in such enclaves of gaydom as San Francisco's Castro and New York's Greenwich Village, the gay clone wore short hair and a clipped moustache, while sporting (if possible) a sculpted chest with prominent pectorals. Clothing, typically flannel shirts and leather, served to accentuate these features. The intent was to create a masculine, even macho image, while at the same time signaling one's orientation. Such signaling might be accentuated through gay semiotics-- keys worn externally on a ring and a handkerchief, color-coded to indicate specific sexual wishes, placed in the back pocket.

In public gathering places, especially bars, gay clones were said to be frequently observed "giving attitude," that is, assuming a scornful and haughty demeanor, and offering only laconic and surly replies when addressed. The popularity of this style reflected several converging tendencies. On the one hand, there was a rejection by a substantial portion of the gay male community of both the effeminate mode (as prescribed by the traditional stereotype] and the androgynous mode (championed by early gay liberation), in favor of a markedly masculine style.

Hostile observers were wont to say, of course, that the clone look was just another form of gay costuming, and therefore just as much "drag" as the looks it displaced, but this was surely not the motivation of those who adopted the trend. American culture itself had tended to promote rough-hewn, proletarian styles for men, television's adaptation of the Hollywood Western being the most notable source. Then there was the national interest in physical fitness, which was surely a healthy reaction to the neglect of health and the body that the hippie style and the drug culture had fostered. Not surprisingly, the clone look was taken up in Europe and other places where local homosexuals eagerly followed changes in American gay fashions.

In recent years the gay clone type has been supplanted by the bear subculture. While bears also sport the appurtenances of traditional masculinity, they are much less looksist and ageist. The bear subculture owes its stability to its genuine sense of community, one in which various types of persons feel at home.


Until the late 1970s the term closet was restricted to gay jargon, where it meant a state of concealment in which one immured one's homosexuality. Individuals were said to be remaining "in the closet," and thus passing for heterosexual--or so they hoped. Some were chastised for their illusions by being labeled "closet queens," the idea being that they remained what they were no matter how elaborate and seemingly successful their impersonation of heterosexuality might seem. Others emerged from the closet, or were urged to do so, by coming out. Then mainstream journalists appropriated and extended the usage so that they could speak of "closet conservatives" and "closet gourmets" with no sexual connotation.

All these connotations of closet depend on an underlying metaphor. In American usage, the architectural space designated in the primary meaning is typically small and con- fined, essentially an alcove secured by a door for the storage of clothing. Older English usage treats a closet as any private room or chamber. Through a combination of these meanings, the verb "to closet oneself" came to merge the idea of privacy and remoteness, on the one hand, with narrow confinement, on the other. For the element of secrecy occasioned by the suspect character of what is being hidden, compare the proverbial expression: a skeleton in the closet. Historians of literature also speak of a "closet drama," that is one never intended for public performance. An ecclesiastical writer of the reign of James I of England penned the expression "closet sins," so that the adjectival use of the word has a long history.

Sometimes gay writers and speakers reactivate the metaphor, so that the expression is taken in a literal, architectural sense, as in "stifling closet" or "his closet is nailed shut." Assisting in the process of coming out has been dubbed, by Philadelphia activist Barbara Gittings, as "oiling the hinges of the closet door." It is also possible to speak of "returning to the closet" with respect to those who have come to feel uncomfortable with their homosexuality out in the open or to sense that it is imprudent to advertise their sexual orientation.

Sociologists, preeminently Erving Goffman, have written of seemingly analogous tendencies among other groups, as ex-prisoners and former mental patients, to "manage spoiled identity" by editing their presentation of self. It is doubtful, however, that closeted gay people think of themselves in quite the same way. Unencumbered as most of them are by stigmatizing documentation of official origin and convinced that their cover has not been blown, they rarely give consideration to their own self-concealment. When pressed, they appeal to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of the separation of public business from private lives. Many heterosexuals would agree that sexuality is a private matter.

In the view of gay activists, closeted persons can have a negative impact on the welfare of other homosexuals. As the late Randy Shilts observed, "a truism to people active in the gay movement [is] that the greatest impediments to homosexuals' progress often [are] not heterosexuals, but closeted homosexuals. . . . By definition, the homosexual in the closet [has] surrendered his integrity. This makes closeted people very useful to the establishment: once empowered, such people are guaranteed to support the most subtle nuances of anti-gay prejudice. A closeted homosexual has the keenest understanding of these nuances, having chosen to live under the subjugation of prejudice. The closeted homosexual is far less likely to demand fair or just treatment for his kind, because to do so would call attention to himself." (And the Band Played On, New York, 1987, p. 406).

For a variety of reasons--which may not even be clearly known to themselves--a vast number of homosexuals and lesbians in our society can and do remain "in the closet." This is so despite frequent and fervent exhortations on the part of the leadership of the gay-lesbian movement to "come out." Their reluctance makes it hard to organize gay men and lesbians politically, to estimate their true numbers, and to collect valid samples for social science research. There has been some discussion of the ethics of the forced decloseting known as outing. For example, liberal gays asserted that the late conservative politician Terry Dolan was benefiting from "playing both sides of the street": participating in fund raising for causes that included antigay planks, while personally enjoying a gay life though closeted to the general public. As it happened, Dolan died in 1987, making the issue in this particular instance moot--though the general question abides.

The matter may call for individual judgments. In some cases, closet rights should be observed; in others not.

Even in obituary notices, many newspapers still refuse to mention that a same-sex partner has survived, or other aspects of gayness, presumably in order to protect the privacy of relatives. This situation is now changing. Yet past restrictions on information have hindered the ascertainment of the homosexuality or lesbianism of past figures who very likely were gay.

Recent discussions have emphasized the psychic costs of remaining in the closet. These life-shaping patterns of concealment signify an effort to erase one of the most vital parts of one’s being. Individuals may marry or avoid certain jobs in order to avoid suspicion and exposure. The harms are not experienced solely on the individual level, but on the societal one as well. While these points are valid, there may nonetheless remain circumstances in which, for prudential reasons, it is desirable to remain in the closet, at least for a time.

The relevant trope is Secrecy.


The primary meaning is someone who performs an act of fellatio; one who sucks a man's penis. The cocksucker may be a man or a woman. During the seventies some gay men attempted to "reclaim" the word, by publicly styling themselves cocksuckers, and demanding that others acknowledge the label—as well as the practice.

Statistically, it is probably true that almost 100% of gay men have sucked cock on a fairly regular basis at one time or another. As a rule the practice becomes more common as a man grows older and is less able to demand such service for himself, and less interested in anal contact. On these grounds there is reason to believe that a cocksucker simpliciter, that is, in the absence of other information, is a gay man.

Poor hygiene may result in the condition known as "dickbreath."

By extension the word cocksucker may be used as an epithet for a stupid or malicious person.

Color symbolism

A superb enhancement of our daily life, color has attracted attention from various points of view. These include study of the scientific properties that produce color effects in the human eye and brain, the evolutionary value of color (that is, why do we see in color and not in black and white?), and the use of colors by artists.

There is also such a thing as color symbolism. It seems that humanity acknowledges no universally valid set of responses to colors. Instead color symbolism varies according to culture. For one culture a particular color will elicit one emotion, for another a different color will serve the same function. For example, in Western civilization black connotes mourning, while in some Asian societies white performs this function. In our own society today some men will avoid wearing lavender or pink because of their fruity associations. In Japan Yukio Mishima evoked this general idea in his homosexual novel entitled Forbidden Colors.

Yet which are the "forbidden colors"? The identification of the colors that are so marked has varied widely. Indeed, over the centuries so many hues have been linked to homosexuality that any enumeration must be selective. The following text presents a few salient examples.

According to Latin poet Martial (writing ca. 100 C.E.), several colors were associated with effeminacy in imperial Rome. He describes an exquisite "who thinks that men in scarlet are not men at all, and styles violet mantles the vesture of women; although he praises native colors and always affects somber hues, grass-green (galbinus) are his morals" (I, 96). While scarlet and violet were the traditional colors of effeminacy, an off-green seems to have been the new "in" color of Martial’s day. The censorious poet even uses the galbinus shade as shorthand to designate the lifestyle as a whole.

In late Victorian England, Robert Hitchens’ novel The Green Carnation (1894) helped to revive the association. Oscar Wilde and members of his set did in fact sport such a buttonhole at evening events. In 1929 an American physician, John F. Meagher stated flatly of homosexuals: "Their favorite color is green." The Philadelphia lesbian activist Barbara Gittings (b. 1932) has recounted how as a young woman she wore green in order to signal her orientation to others in the know. This association even gave rise to an urban legend, for in the 1950s American high school students avoided donning green garments on Thursday, reputed to be "National Fairy Day." In Italy in 1960 there was a scandal about the balletti verdi, green dances, invitation-only events in which well-heeled older men would gather to see go-go boys cavort. These gatherings were so called, it is claimed, because the boys were "green" (that is to say, young and desirable). Today a green queen is a UK term for a gay man concerned with environmental issues.

Another color associated with the decadent 1890s was yellow, because of the London periodical that was almost synonymous with the aesthetic sophistication of that era. Perhaps there was some recollection of the connotations of the hue in the Middle Ages, when it symbolized heretics, sinners, and deviants of various kinds.

A current Russian term for a gay man is golubchik, from goluboy, light blue, evidently through association with the blue blood of the aristocracy of tsarist days. Some speakers will avoid this compromised adjective, sticking to siniy, meaning "dark blue." Cécile Beurdeley’s major book on gay art is called L’amour bleu (1978). From the early years of the twentieth century, pornographic films were called blue movies, applying to both heterosexual and the less common homosexual specimens. A more favorable connotation emerges from the Spanish gay sobriquet for Prince Charming or Mr. Right: el Príncipe Azul, the Blue Prince.

Sexually, probably the most enduringly significant sector of the color wheel is the red to purple range–as Martial duly implied almost two thousand years ago. His view found support in the Bible, for based on a passage in Isaiah (1:38) scarlet came to rank as a kind of general descriptor for sexual sins, a notion reinforced by the Apocalyptic "scarlet woman," the Great Whore of Babylon. With great poignancy Nathanael Hawthorne evoked the link in his 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter). According to Havelock Ellis, one could not safely walk down the streets of late nineteenth-century New York City wearing a red tie without being accosted, since this garment was then the universal sign of the male prostitute. In gay slang this fashion was referred to as "wearing one’s badge." In this period "red-light districts" developed in a number of cities, where the availability of bordellos (usually heterosexual only) was signaled by such street lights.

During the Nazi holocaust homosexual inmates of the camps were made to wear the pink triangle (rosa Winkel). Beginning in the 1970s gay activists rescued the symbol, turning it from a symbol of shame into a marker of pride and defiance. In Europe the words rosa and rose are widely used. The popularity of this shade seems to reflect the contrast boys/blue vs. girls/pink, suggesting gender reversal when pink is applied to males.

In American culture the word lavender—a blend of red and blue—almost speaks for itself. The expression "lavender lover" has long been current. In 1940 radio networks saw fit to ban a song called "Lavender Cowboy." In 1941 Gershon Legman sketched a fanciful sequence of seven stages of homosexuality: "from ga-ga to the deeper tones of lavender." This shade has a secondary association with scented powder and aromatic flowers, producing a subliminal effect of synaesthesia—parallel sensory perception. Words, it seems, can take on this hue. In America and Britain during the 1990s there was an upsurge in interest in what was termed lavender linguistics, the special usages of gay men and lesbians. In 1993 Professor William Leap founded the annual Conferences of Lavender Languages and Linguistics. Perhaps this field of research represents an instance of detoxification—adopting a term of disparagement and turning it around so that it becomes positive.

Beginning with the Romans it has been customary to refer to florid passages of writing as "purple passages." Purple is the imperial color, and the emperor is the superlative of queen. Reflecting at the end of his life on his many bittersweet encounters with male prostitutes, Oscar Wilde situated them typically towards the end of day at the violet hour, with the off-shade providing temporary relief from the grayness of everyday existence. In his time gay Vienna was commonly termed das lila Wien, mauve Vienna. In 1980 a circle of seven American gay writers took the collective name of Violet Quill.

In trendy gay circles a black party is one in which the guests all wear dark leather. At a white party the attendees all wear white garments, to be sure, but there is an additional association: cocaine will be widely consumed.

During the 1970s some segments of gay-male society utilized a back-pocket handkerchief code with colors connoting one’s specific preference. For example, yellow signaled an interest in water sports or urolagnia, black stood for S/M, and brown for scatophilia. Often repeated in writings and charts, these observances never seem to have been very widespread.

Colors can be employed in combination—-symphonically, as it were. The Rainbow Flag has become accepted internationally as a gay and lesbian emblem. Designed by the artist Gilbert Baker, it was first flown in the 1978 San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. Originally the flag had eight horizontal stripes: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit. For practical reasons the stripes were subsequently reduced to six. The pink and turquoise stripes disappeared, and blue replaced indigo.

From San Francisco the flag spread to other US cities and abroad. Gay businesses and households ubiquitously display the Rainbow Flag during June, Gay Pride Month. Not surprisingly the design has been adapted for use in such saleable items as jewelry, candles, and tee shirts. The decoration of the Montreal subway station Beaudry, in the gay quarter, incorporates a permanent version of the design.

While Baker may have invented his design independently, the idea is not new. In 1925 the International Cooperative Movement adopted a rainbow flag as its emblem. The seven horizontal stripes are red, orange, yellow, green, sky blue, dark blue, and violet. According to Charles Gide, the flag’s inventor, collectively the hues represent unity in diversity, as well as the power of light, enlightenment, and progress. In Peru this design of the rainbow flag has been adopted as a symbol of the Department of Cusco, and of the Inca people generally.

As we have seen the color preferences ascribed to gay people are various. Still, two features, not altogether compatible, stand out. First, there is a fondness for mixed hues and off-shades, generally chosen from the red-to-blue gamut. In keeping with the notion of the "third sex" as an intermediate entity, these hues may be associated with a particular time of day, the transition between daylight and night that is the special province of "twilight men." Second, following the stereotype of homosexuals as "screaming" self-dramatizers who flaunt their abnormality, they are held to be irresistibly drawn to such bright colors as red and purple. One meaning of the word gay is "brilliant in color" ("Don we now our gay apparel.") To be sure, such purported traits reveal the degree of prejudice that is involved, but over the years many gay people have acquiesced in adopting such colors, in part as a signal that can be easily understood by their peers.

Coming Out

Coming out of the closet (commonly shortened to "coming out" in a sly reference to the public introduction of debutantes) describes the voluntary public announcement of one's sexual orientation or gender identity. The process has several distinct stages. The first, essential step is coming out to oneself. This matter is important since some individuals linger in a state of denial. Then one may come out to close friends, to family, at work, and finally—especially if one is famous like Ellen de Generes and Lance Bass—to the entire world. For most people a general coming out is not necessary, and may even be stigmatized as exhibitionism.

The process assumes two fixed points. First, there is the closet, the place where one starts. At the other end of the journey the point of arrival is achieved when one is fully "out." The coming-out process is usually conceived of as consensual and self-guided. However, various justifications have been offered for outing individuals without their consent. This practice remains controversial in the gay and lesbian community. Those who oppose involuntary outing frequently express their respect for closet rights.

Some people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer, or who might prefer same-gender sexual activities or relationships, have engaged in heterosexual activities or have had long-term opposite-sex relationships, including marriage. Even Oscar Wilde was married and a father, until his real orientation became known as the result of an ill-advised libel suit, which led to his conviction for gross indecency.

The idea of coming out has been traced to the German homosexual rights advocate Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who advocated something of the kind in 1869 as a means of emancipation. Realizing that invisibility was a major obstacle toward changing public opinion, he urged homosexuals themselves to come out. In his 1906 work Das Sexualleben unserer Zeit in seinen Beziehungen zur modernen Kultur (The Sexual Life of Our Time in its Relation to Modern Civilization), Iwan Bloch, a learned physician of Berlin, urged elderly homosexuals to come out to their heterosexual family members and acquaintances. Magnus Hirschfeld revisited the topic in his major work known in English as The Homosexuality of Men and Women (1914), discussing the social and legal potentials of several thousand men and women of rank coming out to the police in order to influence legislators and public opinion.

Possibly the first important American to come out was the poet Robert Duncan. In 1944, using his own name in the anarchist magazine Politics, he claimed that homosexuals were an oppressed minority. In 1951 Donald Webster Cory (Edward Sagarin) published his landmark The Homosexual in America, exclaiming, "[s]ociety has handed me a mask to wear. Everywhere I go, at all times and before all sections of society, I pretend." The name Cory was a pseudonym, but his frank and openly subjective descriptions served as a stimulus to the emerging homosexual self-consciousness and the nascent homophile movement.

While most people are content to live according to the gender to which they are assigned at birth, some transgender or transsexual people eventually decide to live according to the gender role with which they more closely identify. They therefore elect to announce their gender identity and their intention of changing their gender role if they wish to transition. Unlike sexual orientation, coming out as (for example) female-identified rather than male-identified is not optional if one wishes to transition from one sex to another. Ultimately, though, many transgender and especially transsexual people seek to hide their birth sex once they have completed the transition. Thus a transsexual or transgender person can come out twice: once before the initial transition, and once afterward to those unfamiliar with their previous sex.

Today, more gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are out than ever before, and many believe that being in the closet is unhealthy for the individual. A common saying is, "Closets are for clothes". One major gay journal is titled Out Magazine.. Coming out is often seen within gay and lesbian communities as politically healthy, even a duty or necessity, taking into account the argument that the more out gay people there are, the harder it will be for opponents to misrepresent, marginalize, and oppress.

Apart from sexual identity, it is becoming increasingly common to hear "coming out" used by analogy for disclosures of other private-sphere features, behavior or allegiances, e.g. "coming out as an wine-lover," "coming out as a conservative," "coming out as a gang member." The appearance of such expressions exemplifies a general tendency for gay and lesbian terms to migrate into the general vocabulary.


The archetypal commercial relationship among gay men is prostitution. Generally, hustlers work the street, while call boys wait by the telephone for clients to ring (or nowadays get custom over the Internet). Traditionally the call boy may operate under the direction of a mister, corresponding to the madam of heterosexual establishments. Recently, the more decorous term escort has begun to replace hustler. There is a connotation of higher quality—and higher prices. Also, the term escort is ambiguous, a useful quality for eluding the law when services are offered over the Internet.

In the middle of the twentieth century straight-identified young men available for sex (usually in exchange for money or other favors) were collectively termed trade. Oftentimes this status was transitional; hence the expression "today’s trade is tomorrow’s competition."

In the UK hustlers are called rent boys or renters, terms which reflect the purchase of their bodies for temporary use. Adoption of this mode of economic survival is sometimes called on the game. In Germany the term for hustler is Strichjunge, because they patrol their Strich or beat. A new US term comes from a dubious practice of paid live performances by teenagers on the Internet using the camcorder; these young people are called cam whores.

Historically, gay-male prostitutes were sometimes found in a brothel, for which their were a number of terms: spintry (Elizabethan), molly house (London, early eighteenth century), jag house, peg house, stud house (all uncommon). In more recent decades the backrooms of gay bars, requiring beverage consumption and occasionally a fee, have been used for sexual purposes. Bathhouses are another venue for do-it-yourself sex, once the admission charge has been paid. Relatively low fees, if any at all, are required to enter tearooms, public toilets used for sexual purposes.

The world of gay pornographic films has generated fewer terms than one might expect. There is, to be sure, the money shot, the point where one of the actors ejaculates outside the body of another (unlike the real world where such ejections are usually internal). This expression seems to have generated the asexual "money quote," a key quotation within a text that is climactic or revealing. In the gay porno industry the fluffer is a preparer to makes the star "ready" by his oral ministrations.

Less sordidly commercial, or so it seems, is the relationship between the sugar daddy and his protégé: financial support flows from the more financially secure person to the beneficiary. In this connection the term kept is considered offensive.

Historically, the homosexual meaning of gay was preceded by Victorian usage, in which gay (woman) referred to a sexually available ("loose") female or a prostitute.

The term well=endowed, referring to the size of male genitals, is ultimately an economic metaphor. The lucky possessor may either "give it away," reaping the advantage in terms of numerous sexual partners, or (if desired) seek a career in male prostitution.

Successful gays and lesbians tend to have a fair amount of disposable income, which they spend on clothes, entertainment, and travel. This source of money (sought out by savvy niche marketeers) is called the pink pound (UK) or pink dollar.

In a broader sense, the gay ghetto with its network of bars, restaurants, baths, and bookstores, is commercial. Various guidebooks exist to indicate the location of these establishments, which may nowadays be looked for on the Internet.


Because of Western society’s taboo on deviant sexual expression, those who pursue it have been historically constrained to adopt coded and clandestine means of communication. Thus in the nineteenth century the French critic Charles Auguste Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869) wrote of a freemasonry of love. In twentieth-century America the slang term mason (borrowed from hobo slang) has enjoyed some currency with the meaning "homosexual." In the late 1940s the organizational proposals of the pioneering gay activist Harry Hay led to the formation of the Mattachine Society. These arrangements were based on both the Freemasons and the Communist Party (in which Hay had been active). The term Mattachine served to disguise the aim of the group to outsiders, a tactic which struck some as devious, however necessary it may have been in that repressive era. To homophobes the very existence of gay organizations, even with transparent names, seems conspiratorial by definition. For this reason, these opponents speak of a gay agenda, as if there were some central body in which gays and lesbians gathered clandestinely to draw up a list of desiderata, and then set out to achieve them.

This notion, redolent of the appalling anti-Jewish fraud known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, had an early avatar in the 1950s phantom of a Homintern or secret international society. (The reference is to the Comintern, a coordinating agency created by Joseph Stalin to promote world Communism.) In point of fact the various international homosexual organizations have been too loosely organized to fufill any such subversive function. The belief in a great homosexual conspiracy probably reflects a guilt formation on the part of some heterosexuals, who unconsciously fear that their bigotry merits such a response.

In a more informal sense gay cliques have developed in offices and other organizational settings. Initially, the members recognize one another by gaydar. Some of these cliques were indeed clandestine, meeting a minimalist definition of conspiracy. Nowadays they tend to be replaced by gay caucuses, among journalists, college teachers, and businesspeople, to name three groups. As these groups operate openly, often with the encouragement of the employer, they cannot be termed conspiracies.

Contrary Sexual Feeling

Die konträre Sexualempfindung was a German designation proposed by Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal in an article published in the Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten in 1869. Westphal regarded the phenomenon as the symtom of an inborn pathological condition, an alienation from the feeling proper to one’s anatomical sex. He confused attraction to the same sex with compulsive transvestism, an error that was not to be corrected until fifty years later. Westphal did, however, make the forensic distinction between exclusive and occasional homosexuality.

The term "contrary sexual feeling" found some favor among English and American physicians and alienists, generally with German connections, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Romance-language countries, the term quickly yielded to the more elegant inversion, which has also served Anglophone writers, though it never rivaled the popularity of homosexual.

The relevant trope is Inversion.


This coarse term for anal penetration ostensibly goes back to American rural habits a century or so ago, when dry corncobs were kept in outhouses as a form of toilet paper. They could also serve other purposes.

The following custom seems to have arisen recently as a take-off of the practice. A game popular in the Midwest consists of eight beanbags, four for each player, and two boards with holes. The object of the game is to get all four of your bean bags in the hole. The game is played at tailgate parties and picnics.


Cottaging is a British slang term for having casual gay sex in a public rest room or lavatory (known as a cottage) and for picking up partners in public lavatories with the intention of having sex elsewhere. Historians have documented cottaging in the United Kingdom as early as 1729. The term may have its roots in the English cant language of polari, or more likely in the fact that many self-contained English toilet blocks have in the past looked like small cottages.

The use of the term cottage in this sense is characteristically British, though the term occasionally appears with the same meaning in other parts of the world. In America toilet facilities used for this purpose are sometimes called tea rooms.

A common aspect of cottaging (in its British sense) in a lavatory cubicle is "putting the curtains up"--inserting toilet paper in the lock to prevent authorities or others from looking through,

The element of risk involved in cottaging makes it an attractive activity to some. Historically in the United Kingdom, detection of homosexual acts occurring while cottaging often resulted in a charge and conviction of gross indecency, an offence only pertaining to acts committed by males and particularly applied to homosexual activity. However, the Sexual Offenses Act 2003 removed this contentious offence in favor of "indecent exposure" and, more specifically, "engaging in sexual activity in a public lavatory," an offence which for the first time specifically encapsulated and outlawed cottaging.

Closures and changes in design of the "conveniences" (as they are also sometimes called) have tended to curb the activity. At the same time, new ways of meeting people on the Internet have made cottage cruising less appealing.


There has long been a popular view that gay men, who are supposedly unproficient in physical activities (sports) and lack the hardheadedness to be successful businessmen, tend to go into the arts. In their youth well-meaning parents and mentors may even steer them into such a career to them. Even casual observation reveals that the worlds of ballet, the theater, and interior decorating boast more than an average gay contingent. To be sure, these activities are generally interpretative, not creative in the primary sense. No matter, as for the latter aspect one need only consult lists of famous homosexuals, featuring such giants as Michelangelo and Whitman, Sappho and Gertrude Stein, Tennessee Williams and Benjamin Britten.

The aesthetic movement of late-nineteenth-century England, the era of Oscar Wilde, marked a special intersection of gays and creativity. Some adepts sported a green carnation for identification.

Wilde’s younger contemporary, the sex researcher Havelock Ellis, regarded the capacity for same-sex feeling as a special gift, akin to perfect pitch. In Ellis’s day the term musical was often used as a euphemism for gayness. In other countries, too, male homosexuals are thought to have special sensitivity; hence perhaps the Italian expression arte dei poeti.

Harry Hay, the American gay activist, thought that gay people must cultivate a double vision, a gaze that afforded them both the vantage point of the host society and that of their own subculture. He may have derived this idea from W.E.B. Dubois, who used it to explain the dual consciousness he ascribed to his own group, African Americans. Some educated homosexuals in nineteenth-century Germany spoke idealistically of their own kind as vernünftig, rational. This motif stemmed from the ancient Greeks, who regarded same-sex behavior as uniquely human, in as much as (in their view) it did not exist among animals. In Spanish speaking countries, the verb entender, to understand, is widely used for being aware of gays and their subculture. Participants are called entendidos.

Today gay men are thought to have a special predilection for the musical theater and for opera (opera queens). During the heyday of baroque opera castrati took leading roles. Although born male, they attracted the erotic interest of male operagoers.

In everday life queens have shown much ingenuity in creating new terms and expressions. Many of these inventions do not have staying power–they are nonce expressions–but the almost inexhaustible capacity to create them is ongoing evidence of gay creativity. Not surprisingly, considering the long history of discrimination, some everyday gay creativity is edged with bitterness and personal putdowns. The predilection for CAMP (which see) includes a component of sarcasm sometimes termed bitchiness. Moreover, the uncomplimentary term drama queen refers not to an aficionado of the stage, but to a person who tends to indulge in overemotional "scenes" in daily life.


Cruising for sex, or cruising, describes the act of walking or driving about a locality in pursuit of a partner for sex, typically quick and anonymous. While the expression originated in gay slang, it can be used to characterize the behavior of either homosexuals or heterosexuals. To be sure, in the United States the term generally applies to homosexuals only. Yet in Australia and Britain it is used just as much by heterosexuals, a common term being "cruising for chicks." The term "sarging," used in what is euphemistically termed the "seduction community," is a synonym; sarging, however, refers to searching for specifically heterosexual partners.

In practice cruising involves milling activity which may consume many hours before contact is made. There are various forms of signaling, though eyelock is probably the most effective.

There are literally tens of thousands of cruising sites throughout the world. Public parks, especially dimly lit ones with rambling paths, are perennial favorites because one has an excuse to loiter there. At one time railroad depots and bus stations were common sites, but with the growing importance of the automobile these venues yielded to rest stops adjacent to major highways. Many cruising sites are enumerated in gay guidebooks and websites dedicated to the purpose. Such citations may cause danger, though, because the police and other authorities are known to peruse them. Homophobic thugs who lurk in order to gay bash represent other dangers. Formerly, blackmailers trolled the precincts as well.


This is a common street term for an aspect that is important to many gay men: circumcision. Some advertisements specify either "cut" or "uncut."

In Western culture circumcision has been historically associated with Judaism. A 1916 slang text defines "cut cock" as "a Jew." Beginning in the 1930s, however, circumcision of male infants became standard practice in American hospitals. It remains controversial, with some defending it on secular health grounds, while others oppose it as a nonconsensual invasion of the body of the baby being circumcised.

Circumcision is found among a number of ancient and modern medieval peoples. The original significance of the practice remains obscure.

Cut Sleeves

Tuan-shui ("cut sleeve[s]"), a delicate Chinese euphemism for the male homophile, refers to an episode in the life of Emperor Ai-ti (6 BCE-2 CE). When the favorite Tung fell asleep lying over part of his master’s sleeve, the emperor cut off the fabric rather than disturb the boy’s rest. Beginning in the third century BCE Chinese history records numerous rulers who kept minions (tuan-tung) for sexual purposes.

Today the expression "cut sleeves" is sometimes used by Chinese-American gays to identify their community.



Daisy Chain

In innocent days long past, a daisy chain represented a choral round of chaste young American women, linked by a floral garland. In due course this meaning yielded to that of a sexual cluster. An example is group of three or more male homosexuals conjoined penis to anus to form the nucleus of a potentially endless chain. The ultimate achievement is for all to ejaculate at exactly the same time. Linkage can also occur mouth to penis. According to legend, daisy-chain gatherings of the latter kind were so well attended on one Greek island that the human links stretched all the way around the island, forming a circle.

This feat may never have occurred, and in general daisy chains were more celebrated in talk than in reality. Moreover, in the age of HIV/AIDS orgies of all sorts have lost much of their appeal.

There can also be lesbian and heterosexual daisy chains, both being expressed mouth to vagina/penis.

The relevant trope is Plants.

Days, months, and special periods

The celebration of particular days and special periods has long been a significant factor in maintaining the cohesion of human groups. We are all familiar with the role of the Christian and Jewish holidays in this regard. There are also national days. These tend to be joyous celebrations marking the founding of a country or some victory over its enemy. Others, such as Memorial Day in the United States, are more somber.

The value of some commemorations has been contested. Until recently both Italian Americans and some Hispanic groups celebrated Columbus Day in a wholly favorable sense. More recently, native Americans have protested this observance, regarding Christopher Columbus as the prime author of a long period of degradation to which they have been subjected.

The observance of a special time for gays and lesbians is relatively recent. The Stonewall Rebellion, protesting a police raid on a popular bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, took place over the weekend of June 27-30. It is now commemorated in many marches and parades, not only in the United States but abroad. These usually occur towards the end of June, but sometimes earlier in the month, to allow participants to attend more than one such event. In this way the entire month of June is given over to gay pride, at least some see it that way. In many countries, however, the day is June 28, since it was (just after midnight) on that date that the infamous raid began.

Another month is less well known in this context. In the US Gay History Month is observed in September.

Mid-twentieth-century America saw the prevalence of a curious urban legend, the notion that Thursday was National Fairy Day. As green was thought to be the color of gays, high school students took care not to wear that hue on Thursdays, lest they be stigmatized, correctly or not, as fairies. Oddly, in today’s Britain Thursday is associated with heterosexuality; Wednesday is the gay day of the week.

In Germany May 17 is regarded somewhat sardonically as a special day. The old paragraph in the penal code criminalizing same-sex conduct was numbered 175. In the continental system of reckoning 17.5 is equivalent to May 17. By an odd coincidence this is also the day that gay marriage came into force in Massachusetts (2004).

Many young people welcome Halloween an opportunity to dress up and, if desired, to be flamboyantly gay. While it is mainly heterosexual, Mardi Gras has something of the same function in New Orleans. Similar celebrations in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Sydney in Australia are more thoroughly gay.

In some US cities November 1 is observed as the Day Without Art, in honor of those who have AIDS/HIV.

In emulation of Catholic calendars, in which a saint is assigned to each day, enterprising authors have created gay calendars, honoring a famous gay snd lesbian figures. This genre seems to have started in 1982, with Martin Greif’s The Gay Book of Days.

One more example, a sinister one, must be noted. That is Christmas Eve, December 24, when according to medieval legend the sodomites all had to die in order for Christ to be born. This bizarre claim is recorded, apparently for the first time in the Golden Legend of Jacobus of Varagine (thirteenth century). One would have thought that this evil notion would have been long forgotten. But it lingers: the legend was still accepted by an Orthodox Greek priest in 2004, who cited it in a warning of the dangers of tolerating homosexuality.


This rare verb lends itself to several interpretations. It could designate the process leading to a successful graduate of an "ex-gay" program, problematic though these undoubtedly are. However, this sense is not found. Instead, the term generally means to filter out the homoerotic elements from a person, an event, or a piece of literature. This procedure is usually unjustified, as in the long quixotic effort (now concluded) to sanitize the poet Walt Whitman, erasing him from the list of famous gays. Another example is the seventeenth-century Italian editor who changed the pronouns in Michelangelo’s poems from male to female.

In a few instances the procedure may be justified. An amusing case is that of Flo Kennedy, a civil rights lawyer mistakenly regarded as a lesbian (though she was gay-friendly). Once she was asked about her orientation at an elegant party. "Darling, just because I am wearing pearls, don’t think I’m an oyster," she replied. Kennedy had wittily degayed herself.

In a larger sense the term links up with the expression post-gay, which may reflect a certain fatigue about gayness in general. Such jaded feelings are not general, however.

Delight and pleasure

Ancient Greek thinkers wrestled with the idea of pleasure. They recognized this range of experience as a major aspect of human existence, but tended to feel uneasy about it. Somewhat improbably, Plato concluded that the highest form of pleasure was the austere contemplative life of the philosopher. This finding illustrates the point that opinions about the "inherently" pleasurable tend to be subjective. What is an undeniable pleasure for one person, strikes someone else as indifferent or downright repellent. In later Greek thought Epicurus wholly accepted the value of pleasure. This doctrine is known as hedonism. See J.C.B. Gosling and C.C.W. Taylor, The Greeks on Pleasure (1983).

Allegedly, Puritans detest all sorts of pleasures, repressing them in the interest of godliness. This does not seem to be entirely true, as the first settlers of New England enjoyed eating, dancing, and celebrations of various sorts, reserving their opposition to those forms of pleasure regarded as sinful. Sigmund Freud influentially proposed that human life plays out the conflict of two primordial forces. The first is the Pleasure Principle, which causes us to seek gratification. The second is the Reality Principle, which serves as a check on the first.

Gay people, especially gay men, do seem to be more concerned with the pursuit of pleasure than straights. This has to do in part with the fact that, generally unburdened with the responsibilities of taking care of children, they have more discretionary income. Much of this "extra" money is spent on travel and entertainment. While some humanitarians may prefer travel to trouble spots of the world where they can do good, most gays travel to resorts, especially in friendly third-world countries (where their sexual tourism provides a valued infusion of cash), as well as to venerable cultural capitals, such as London and Paris. The world of entertainment—theater, ballet, musicals, and films—is almost wholly given over to providing pleasurable experiences. To be sure, a performance of Shakespeare’s "King Lear" is not what we would normally consider a light-hearted romp, but then again such plays do not usually figure as the blockbusters of Broadway and the London stage. In fact gays seem drawn to the lighter side of entertainment, as seen in musicals, popular movies, and (in former times at least) drag shows.

As they tend to be highly fashion-conscious, gays pay much attention to such matters as dress and décor. For abundant examples of these preoccupations, see the hit television series "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." Because of their sometimes-extravagant tastes, and desire to be seen as embracing them, the lifestyle of gay men sometimes figures as a form of exhibitionism.

As Stephen O. Murray has noted "in the beginning was the bar." In earlier decades this institution was virtually the only venue were gays could be themselves, freed from the prying eyes of censorious straights. By definition bars provided alcohol, sought after for its pleasurable effects. Drugs could also be found there. In addition to the canned music of the jukebox or the disco mixer, there were also entertainers—-pianists, singers, gogo boys, and drag performers.

In recent times high levels of alcohol consumption have been associated with the gay lifestyle. Moderate consumption of fine wines, together with gourmet dining, is scarcely to be censured, except by killjoys. However, consumption of excessive amounts of liquor, often of poor quality, marks one as an alcoholic. It may be that this behavior reflects a form of self-medication. However this may be, for the ordinary alcoholic the unfortunate consequences soon come to take the upper hand over the pleasant ones. Still, there persists some of the idea found at the beginning of one’s alcoholic career that the activity is pleasant, providing a motivation for continuing the behavior. Similar logic applies to taking hard drugs, the incidence of which is thought to be considerably higher than among the general population

Apart from drinking, gay men have traditionally gone to bars to find sexual partners. The two reasons are symbiotic, as drinking reduces inhibitions, making it easier to approach a potential partner. While this quest could be frustrating—and often was—its goal was to "score," to obtain a partner for an evening of private enjoyment. This brings us to the most controversial aspect of gay-male life, the purported obsession with sex. It is a truism that one cannot have sex on a regular basis for more than a few hours of the day, and often not that even much. Still, thinking about it seems to occupy much gay time, and the thinking, full of anticipations of gratification, is itself pleasurable.

Some gay men have thousands of sexual partners over the course of their lives. Others have only scores or fewer. All the same, the average is clearly higher than for straights. Much of this sex is anonymous; and the individual partner may be designated simply as a number. All this seeming indulgence serves to summon the label of promiscuity.

In modern French the verb jouir, to enjoy, also means "to come." The French gay writer Roland Barthes wittily played on this connection in his idea of literary jouissance, the joy of writing and reading.

During the 1960s American society shifted from its earlier emphasis on conformity and the work ethic to a new orientation on personal expressiveness and enjoyment. The sexual revolution was at the heart of this development. As Hugh Hefner and his Playboy enterprises show, this had a major straight component. Yet in some ways gays were rightly seen as the "shock troops" of the sexual revolution. Homosexual men were more likely to move beyond vanilla sex to the paraphilias, including S/M (whose rituals included bondage, flagellation, and abusive language), fisting, and exchange of bodily fluids. While these excursions tended to repel straights (though not universally), in the aggregate they clearly represent an effort to advance the boundaries of the realm of pleasure.

For all these reasons many (including a few gays themselves) deplore the homosexual lifestyle as hedonistic self-indulgence. Sometimes the condemnation seems to mask a secret fear that many would switch to it if they dared. As an old joke has it: "Do you suffer from homosexuality?" Answer: "No, I rather enjoy it."

The examples just noted stem mainly from contemporary life. Yet there is an earlier background. Early modern Europe gave birth to the libertines, a group of generally well-healed men who were devoted to hedonism. Like dandyism, libertine enjoyments were originally primarily heterosexual. Yet as straights, motivated by religion and the quest for success in the work place, relinquished the libertine lifestyle, homosexuals increased their devotion to it.

As noted above, one of the key components of the present-day concept of gay is light-hearted enjoyment, especially if it is on public display, perhaps as a reproach to dour and censorious onlookers. Before, in the nineteenth century, "gay" connoted prostitution and easy sexual behavior. A life of prostitution is not on the whole a happy one, or so it seems. But whores and hustlers do exist to provide enjoyment for their clients.

The term predilection is sometimes applied to the homosexual orientation, and etymologically the term encapsulates the idea of delight. It also trenches on the idea of a lifestyle, a particular set of individual and cultural traits, involving in this instance pursuit of pleasure.

A transitory but perhaps revealing phenomenon was the emergence in San Francisco in the 1980s of a religious parody group, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Apart from its parodic element, this group’s name and its antics seem to embrace the idea that homosexuality is at base a search for unending pleasure. That this is not the whole story is seen in the careers of many striving gays, from Michelangelo to Alan Turing, who forsook any frivolous enjoyments in the interest of their all-consuming life work. Still the pleasure component seems inseparable from the homosexual experience.


An awareness of direction is an important human attribute, probably inherited from prehistoric times when this capacity was a major element in personal survival. Directionality allowed individual human beings to escape from potentially dangerous situations, as well as to migrate effectively. From this skill to sexuality is something of a stretch, but the transition has been significant.

In every day life we shun shifty dealings, preferring straight ones. However, homosexuals are held to be bent, the antonym of straight. Since in most cases no physical deformity is discernible, this ascription must be a metaphor. This family of terms is extensive, including kinky , crooked, and twisted. The term kinky sex covers all sorts of unconventional behavior in that realm. It is interesting that both bent and kinky can mean "stolen." The word crooked refers mainly to business dealings. The term twisted connotes mental instability or perversity. During the 1920s H.L. Mencken introduced a witty euphemism for a homosexual encounter, non-Euclidean sex, referring to an innovative nineteenth-century geometry in which a straight line is not necessarily the shortest distance between two points (or so it seems). That the quest for straightness may be ultimately vain is suggested by Immanuel Kant’ maxim: "Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing ever was made."

Shifting from the realm of individual bodies and dealings, a broader sense of directionality is implicated in such terms as orientation (value neutral), deviation, from the Latin idea of straying from the road, and perversion (a pejorative term stemming from the idea of false turning). The term orientation, not common in the sexual sense until the 1950s, may stem from German sexuelle Richtung. Ultimately, the idea is architectural, as churches are oriented towards the east. German also supplies sexuelle Neigung, which may rendered as (sexual) inclination. Similarly, proclivity stems from a Latin term for a downward slope. Homosexuals are sometimes said to be decadent. Although decadence is a term of vast scope, implying the downfall of whole civilizations, it ultimately depends on this idea of a fall or decline. A transformation that is reversed backwards to forwards or upside down is implied in the term inversion. Both perversion and inversion are variations on the Latin verb vertere, to turn.

Descent figures in the expression go down on (perform fellatio.) A current term among African Americans is on the down low (DL); this ploy implies "walk on the wild side," perhaps temporary.

More generally, this general sense of inappropriate directionality is implicit the notion of going wrong. Dwelling on the "wrong side of the tracks" is to live in an undesirable neighborhood. The expression "she done him wrong" connotes sexual betrayal.

The Latin prefix trans- means "across." Transpeople are thought to cross a boundary. The word Transvestismus was invented by Magnus Hirschfeld in 1910. Transsexual appeared several decades later. Some distinguish between pre-op and post-op transsexuals, though this pair presumes that those in this situation are destined to follow the trajectory to its conclusion, which may not be the case. Those who do not intend to have the operation are called non-ops. The current vogue expression trannie covers both transvestites and transsexuals.

Cruising (walking about in search of sexual partner) may appear to be aimless, but in fact the cruisers direct their steps to paths which are likely to be productive. They proceed in several directions, but not in any and all directions.

Disaster bringing

Many cultures have feared deadly danger from "radioactive" persons. These must be cast out or neutralized. Familiar examples are the Prophet Jonah of the Hebrew Bible, who was cast overboard by his shipmates, and Oedipus, King of Thebes, who had to blind himself in order to end the miasma that afflicted his people owing to his incestuous relationship with his mother.

Jonah and Oedipus are individual examples. These aversive projections can extend to entire sections of society. For centuries the Untouchables were despised and feared in India. Even to have the shadow of an Untouchable fall upon one was pollution. In Japan the Eta formed a similar underclass. While discrimination against such groups is now against the law in those countries, the deleterious effects of past treatment persist. Notoriously, the Nazis employed such tactics when they labeled the Jews "our misfortune," with lethal results.

Sometimes homosexuals have been stigmatized in this manner. The dangers posed by some groups are best avoided by taking preventive measures. It is too risky to tolerate homosexuality, because all may be punished for the misbehavior of a few. Some religionists hold that he Bible offers conclusive documentation of this problem, one not without its contemporary analogues.

In its antihomosexual version, this aversive view goes back to the story of the destruction of the city of Sodom by fire and brimstone, as described in the book of Genesis. A little-known apocryphal work, The Testament of Naphthali (ca.100 BCE) sets forth a veritable cornucopia of unrighteousness, embracing the themes of idolatry, resistance to the divine will, defiance of the cosmic order, and the sin of Sodom. The notion continued to resonate. In a law of 539 CE the Christian emperor Justinian castigated homosexuality as a danger to the body politic. "Because of such crimes famines, earthquakes, and pestilences occur, wherefore we admonish men to abstain from the aforesaid unwonted acts, that they may not lose their souls." By the seventeenth century learned prejudice and folk credulity had combined to aseemble a roster of no fewer than six Sodom-like catastrophes: earthquakes, famine, plague, Saracen incursions, large field mice, and floods. How powerful gay people must have become to be able to unleash such a passel of troubles!

The antigay crusader Anita Bryant seemed almost modest when she blamed a 1976 California drought on the toleration of homosexuals in San Francisco. Had she waited a few years longer, she would have been able to adduce the more traditional earthquakes.

One-time presidential candidate and evangelist Pat Robertson has just divine retribution to account for hurricanes, raising questions about how he would have operated the Department of the Interior and the Federal Emergency Management Association. A few years ago, Robertson claimed that the observance of Gay Day at Disney World in Florida would provoke God to send a hurricane or some other natural disaster. In reality, if there is a divine hand in these matters it is to be seen in the concentration of hurricanes and tornadoes in parts of the United States inhabited by evangelical Christians. Perhaps God is telling them to mend their ways.

During the course of the nineteenth century the notion that homosexuals were degenerates, defective biological specimens, came to the fore. In order to avoid the possibility that they might pass on their "bad genes," castration was urged-and sometimes carried out.

In the recent past, clinical intervention with homosexuals has been justified by the claim that they are a danger to themselves: their "escapades" are self-damaging or self-destructive.

Gay men have long been regarded as particularly prone to spread sexually transmitted diseases. Statistically there may be some truth in this claim, but were gays to disappear tomorrow, there would still be sexually transmitted diseases.

Fortunately, society has been able to avoid an extreme response to the AIDS/HIV crisis. This more reasonable attitude is seen in the preferred terms. The media stopped speaking of those suffering from AIDS, preferring expressions like "people with AIDS." (PWA) or "people living with AIDS. Negatives are those not infected, positives are those who are. Sometimes the short form poz is used. Barebacking is unprotected anal sex, which may lead to infection.

The AIDS terrorist is someone who knowingly spreads the disease, expressing his resentment for his condition by spreading it to others. Those who knowingly pass on the disease to others are sometimes ironically termed gift-givers. By contrast, bug-chasers are those who seek to acquire the disease-—surely a form of abjection. They indicate their status, first by a minus (-), before acquiring the condition, transforming this into a plus (+), after they have become infected. This self-destructive tendency was found occasionally in the 1990s and now seems to have ebbed.

These matters involve specific diseases. More subtle, but elusive and hard to analyze, is the complaint that the presence of gays erodes social solidarity. It is said that gay men and lesbians may not serve openly in the US military as that would undermine "unit cohesion." More generally, the notion has surfaced in the current gay marriage debate, where opponents allege that this step would destabilize the institution of marriage.


Disgust is an emotional response associated with things that are unclean or inedible. The response ranks as one of the basic components of the theory of emotion advanced by Robert Plutchik. In this view there are two categories of disgust: physical disgust, linked with physical or metaphorical uncleanness, and moral disgust, a more sublimated form. A sense of fastidiousness represents perhaps the most diluted form of disgust. Disgust is the opposite of sympathy, affinity, and liking.

Evolutionary psychologists hold that disgust stems from instinctive reactions that evolved as part of natural selection for behavior which tended to prevent food poisoning and infection. In this sense the response is "hardwired."

Martha Nussbaum has published a thoughtful monograph entitled Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law/ She acknowledges that no strictly intellectual approach to law will ever illuminate the true reasons human beings join in self-governing unions. Because they reflect our vulnerability, the emotions of fear, compassion, and indignation provide guides to sound legal philosophy, but disgust, Nussbaum argues, should never form an emotional basis for law because it springs from fantasies of superhuman purity and omnipotence.

While they may be intellectuallly persuasive, the views of philosophers like Nussbaum are more reflective of an ideal than a social reality. A recent study found that women and children were more sensitive to disgust than men. Researchers have sought to explain this finding in evolutionary terms. However that may be, it seems that the socialization of "real men" involves a desensitizing process which makes them less susceptible to the emotion. As will be seen below, negative reactions to homosexuality among men are an exception to this tendency.

There are those who find even the thought of homosexuality repellent. This response is in part a reflection of individual temperament and experience, backed up, as so often noted in these pages, by centuries of disparagement. The notion that homosexuality is distasteful is a mild expression of this dislike.

Some straight men report that even seeing the penis of another man is displeasing. The thought of two persons with penises interacting sexually is even more so. It is odd that one should have this response to an organ that is, after all part of one’s own body, but it sometimes happens. As a rule these phallophobic men do not exhibit the same response to lesbian behavior. Up to point they may find it titillating. It is for this reason that short lesbian scenes sometimes appear in straight porno films. Gay-male scenes never do.

Apart from sex and the contemplation of it, some dislike what they regard as the "antics" of gay people, their flamboyance and assertiveness. These individuals find that the discussion of homosexuality—even in the harmless way of mentioning one’s significant other—to reflect a supposed homosexual obsession with sex, which they find distasteful. Needless to say, they are bewildered when gay people say that they are not interested in the details of the opposite-sex life of those they encounter. For some straight studs boasting of their sexual conquests is their privilege. But such rights are withheld from "loathsome, promiscuous" gays, who "insist on rubbing the sordid details of their sex life in our faces." The oddity of this comment is shown by the fact that such offendees object to gay people’s showing signs of affection, such as hugging and holding hands, conduct they find readily acceptable with opposite sex couples.

Sadly, objection to the more ordinary expressions of gayness, including dating and affection, is a reality. It does not have any excuse. It is different when we enter the realm of the paraphilias. While S/M does exist among straights, it seems to be more common with gays. Urolagnia, sexual interest in urine, may have a prima facie disgusting quality, in keeping with the survival instincts noted at the outset of this section. Involvement with scat, involvement with faeces, is even susceptible to this explantion. In Europe a recent fashion has appeared among small groups for poopie parties. Most find it hard to remain objective about such matters. Still, such forms of gratification are probably an acquired taste, not unlike cherishing snakes as pets. That is to say, the aversion can be overcome, but if it has not been, an adverse reaction will ensue.

Disgust with gayness and its attributes is an aspect of homophobia in the strict sense. In everyday parlance the word homophobia is used to cover all sorts of opposition to homosexuality. To the extent that it involves an emotional, possibly irrational aversion, that is a phobia, it may be properly regarded as the umbrella category to which disgust at homosexuality belongs.

In Leviticus 18 and 20 the Hebrew Bible characterized male same-sex love as to’ebah, which the King James version renders as abomination. Other terms represent later strata of disapproval, including such common expressions as bugger and faggot. Learned discourse speaks of reprobates and degenerates.

Some slang terms, including cocksucker and turd burglar (UK), emphasize the more graphic aspects of gay sex. Some, it is said, have a predilection for smegma or cock-cheese. Poor personal hygiene is stressed in the characterization dickbreath.


The word disco is a clipped form of French discothèque. Etymologically a library of phonograph records, it generally means a nightclub where records, generally the latest pop favorites, are played.

More specifically, disco designated a form of music popular in the late seventies and early eighties, generally danceable and characterized by pleasant melodies. While the leading "disco divas" were African American heterosexual women, the clientele was largely gay. In gay dance clubs, bathhouses, and backrooms disco music became omnipresent. Those who were fond of these venues were disco queens or disco bunnies

Dissidence, resistance, and nonconformity

Even the harshest authoritarian regime must from time to time confront the fact that dissidence—whether political, cultural, or sexual—lurks beneath the surface. Historically, the European Middle Ages, when the Christian church fomented antihomosexuality, was no exception. Gradually evidence is coming to light of sexual nonconformity. As the power structure sought to grapple with these phenomena, it applied the terminology of heresy to sexual variance. Thus a Swiss-German document of 1422 observes that there are two types of heretics (Ketzer): those who are heretics according to the spirit (persons we would call religious dissidents in the strict sense) and those according to the flesh (that is, sodomites).

The most widespread term making this link was bougre (French), and its cousins in various languages (bugger, buggerone, Puseran, bujarrón). Bougre was originally a term for the Bulgarian people. Since they were thought to be adherents of the dualist heresy, the word came to be understood more generally to characterize a heretic, with the secondary meaning of sodomite. Eventually, the latter meaning prevailed.

We know that sexual dissidence occurred even within the church, particularly with monks and nuns who lived in a same-sex environment. For obvious reasons, most of the participants took care to conceal their activity. But they could not manage this completely, and the lay public assumed that such conduct existed, and perhaps flourished within the church. Italy provides the best example of this recognition, as seen in the term gioco dei frati, the "game" of the friars. Those who followed a homosexual lifestyle were sometimes said to belong to the other parish (dall’altra parocchia). Today in America a discreet way of identifying a person of same-sex inclinations is to say, "(S)he goes to our church."

During the nineteenth century homosexuals were said to belong to a group conspiracy, a kind of freemasonry. In Southern Europe especially the Masons were feared as a powerful, but semisecret organization of dissidents. In the mid-twentieth century there was talk of a Homintern, an expression modeled on the Comintern. Note the paradoxical association with the Communist "heresy," even though every major Marxist party has been opposed to homosexuality.

In 1897 the first gay-rights organization, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, appeared in Berlin. Under the leadership of Magnus Hirschfeld, the committee adopted a deferential attitude to authority. Nonetheless law reform was its central mission. The group was joined by several other gay rights organizations in Central Europe.

The Mattachine Society, founded by Harry Hay in Southern California in 1950 was more openly dissident, a stance fostered by Hay’s background in the Communist Party. Still, during the conformist fifties discretion was the order of the day, especially as Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed (falsely) a particular affinity between homosexuality and attraction to Communism.

As the fifties yielded to the sixties, dissident trends emerged in American society, beginning with the civil rights movement and the women’s movement. At the same-time the beatnik and hippie phenomena encouraged social deviance. At the outset it was natural that the gay liberation movement (starting in 1969) should inherit this coloration.

During the following decades many gays, especially those were "out," were drawn to leftist and radical movements, some favoring the revolutionary dissolution of American society. For a time it seemed that being gay was almost synonymous with being a leftist, or at any rate someone entirely disaffected with the status quo. Among the more specific developments was the radical faeries, a 1980s group that met for gentle interactions in a kind of unisex mode that rejected gender norms.

Gradually, the "in-your-face" defiance of the would-be revolutionary left lost its momentum. A mood towards acceptance of social norms and integration set in, a development that was, not surprisingly, stigmatized by the radicals as assimilationism.

In keeping with this shift the mainstream gay organizations in America trended to liberal reformism, generally allying themselves with the Democratic Party. Their straight opponents were tempted to overestimate their power, ostensibly organized according to the gay agenda. No one was able to state, though, how this agenda was agreed upon. Gay groups were also said to be seeking special rights, when in most cases they were only asking for the same rights as other citizens. During the 1990s the issue of gay marriage became the focal point of the conflict between gay political and legal organizations, on the one hand, and their (often religiously inclined) opponents, on the other. It came to be perceived that the most stubborn areas of resistance to gay advance were in the so-called "red states" of the American heartland.

At the same time a new mode of political critique appeared, this time on the right. Gay conservatives, some associated with the Log Cabin Republican group, became vocal. These individuals are sometimes termed gaycons, a variant on "neocon."

Not all the dissidence was framed in terms of the political polarity between left and right. After the appearance of AIDS in 1981, a vocal, for a time effective movement for AIDS treatment and education was mounted by the organization ACT-UP. An offshoot, Queer Nation, had less success, and today gay and lesbian people seem more concerned with fitting into society as productive citizens than with revolt. All the same, the earlier history of dissidence has left a permanent impress. As Tammy Bruce has remarked, gay people are not just going to turn into Ozzie and Harriet.

Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT)

Don't ask, don't tell (DADT) is the common term for the US military policy supported by Public Law 103-160 (10 U.S.C. paragraph 654). Unless one of the exceptions detailed in 10 U.S.C. 654(b) applies, the policy prohibits anyone who has sexual bodily or romantic contact with a person of the same sex from serving in the armed forces of the United States. The regulation further prohibits any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her sexual orientation, or from speaking about any homosexual relationships, including marriages or other familial attributes, while serving in the US armed forces.. The policy further stipulates that as long as gay or bisexual men and women in the military continue to conceal their sexual orientation ("don’t tell"), commanders must not proactively investigate their sexuality. Despite these seeming protections, evidence suggests that some unscrupulous commanders have covertly pursued a proactive policy to detect and embarrass gay men and women in the service, leading to their discharge.

While campaigning for the presidency in 1992, Bill Clinton had promised to allow all citizens regardless of sexual orientation to serve openly in the military, a departure from the ban on those who are not heterosexual. After he assumed the presidency in the following year, Clinton encountered a storm of opposition to his proposed change in policy regarding military service. He waffled, and approved DADT as a compromise measure. Crafted under the auspices of General Colin Powell, the policy has been retained by Clinton's successor, George W. Bush. DADT has encountered opposition from some pro- and anti-gay advocates alike. The group that has opposed it most vigorously is the Servicemen’s Defense League.

A significant number of Western military forces have now removed policies excluding individuals of different sexual orientations (while retaining strict policies on sexual harassment). Of the twenty-five countries that participate militarily in NATO, more than twenty permit gays to serve.

More generally, "Don't ask, don't tell" has come to describe any situation in which, for prudential reasons, persons must keep their sexual orientation and any related attributes, including their family, a secret, but where deliberate lying would be undesirable.


In a learned article of 1907, the German philologist Erich Bethe argued that the Dorian Greeks, representing the last great wave of Indo-European invaders in Hellas, were the original bearers of the cultural trait that emerged in historical times as Greek pederasty ("Die dorische Knabenliebe" in Rheinisches Museum, vol. 62). In Bethe’s reconstruction of the original core idea, the older lover functions as the "inspirer" of his younger charge, literally breathing in or injecting his quintessential qualities of manliness or courage. Subsequently, anthropologists have reported extensive evidence of a similar (though probably not causally connected) conception among several tribal peoples of New Guinea. Sir Kenneth Dover has shown that there is no evidence that homosexuality was ever a monopoly of the Dorian branch of the Greek-speaking group, since we know, for example, that it was intensely cultivated among the non-Dorian citizens of Elis and Boeotia. The historical problem of the origins of the distinctive character of Greek pederasty remains elusive, though William A. Percy has offered the most considered answer—namely that it evolved internally among the Greeks in archaic times.

The word Dorian has sometimes been chosen as the name of a somewhat closeted gay group (at least for a time in Seattle), an association perhaps reinforced by Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). A Greek toponym supplied the name for a small British Group, the Order of Chaeronea, created by George Cecil Ives in the 1920s. The name commemorates the battle of 338 BCE in which the homosexual Sacred Band of Thebes fell heroically in combat against the Macedonians. Contemporary America generated a motorcycle group, the Thebans. Today, there is a gay blogger who styles himself the Boi from Troy (here Troy refers to the University of Southern California).

Down Low

The down low, DL, or on the Dl are slang phrases used in the United States for "secret information," as in "Keep it on the down-low" (meaning "Do not make it known"). It can be used between two people, as in "let's keep this between the two of us." More commonly, however, it is used in a group context, where it serves to hide information, restricting it to those who are considered "trustworthy," "on the inside," or "in the know."

Down is a term similar to down low. The single-word form derives from the definition of "down low," and "Are you down?" It may stem from California or Hawaii as a type of surfer talk or ski-bum speak. "Are you down?" could be rendered as "are you trustworthy?" or "can you keep the secret?" or "are you in?"

One popular usage of the down low is to characterize discreet sexual behavior, particularly that of people in relationships who are involved with others outside that relationship without the consent of their partner. In the gay community in recent years, the down low often refers to married men having sex with other men, but who identify themselves as neither homosexual nor bisexual owing to their being in the closet. This use of the term is commonly associated with African American men, but it can be applied to others as well. A similar term is MSM (men who have sex with men).

Among some sectors of male subculture ("men on the DL" or down low), same-sex sexual behavior is sometimes viewed as solely for physical pleasure. Men on the "down-low" may engage in regular, secret sex acts with other men while maintaining sexual, romantic, and marital commitments with women. Some feel that being openly gay may entail stigma in communities were traditional family patterns are the norm. This situation leads men to engage in male-male sex in secret while publicly maintaining a heterosexual façade and heterosexual relationships. The ordinary connotations of the word "low" (base, morally reprehensible) suggest an element of self-desparagement, though this is widely denied.

As far as can be ascertained, the first person to employ down low in a homosexual context was George Hanna, who used the words "down-low" in the 1930 song "Boy in the Boat" about lesbian women. Beginning in 2001 a media blitz made the term familiar to the general public. Most of the stories linked the down low to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African American community. Yet several responsible observers have questioned this connection.

The relevant trope is Directionality.


Drag involves wearing highly exaggerated and outrageous costumes or imitating movie and music stars of the opposite sex (e.g. the New York entertainer Rupaul). It is usually defined as a form of performing art practiced by drag queens and drag kings. Drag is generally more theatrical, often comedic and sometimes deliberately grotesque. As such it has attracted controversy, with some feminists disparaging it a caricature of women.

Drag often occurs in a gay or lesbian context. Yet it is a not uncommon aspect of straight culture as well, with many straight men dressing in drag at Halloween and straight comics like Dame Edna and the Monty Python troupe incorporating drag in their acts. In such contexts, the practice overlaps with camp.

The word drag sometimes applies more loosely to cross-dressing in general. In this sense, transgender people who are not performers will sometimes refer to themselves as drag queens or drag kings.

Drag King

This phenomenon has attracted considerable attention in recent years. The term is patterned on drag queen (see the entry below).

Drag kings are female bodied or identified performance artists who dress in masculine clothing as part of their routine. A typical drag king performance involves dancing and singing or lip-synching. Drag kings often perform as exaggeratedly macho male characters or impersonate male celebrities like Elvis Presley.

The term drag king sometimes extends to comprise female-bodied people who dress in traditionally masculine clothing for other reasons. This usage includes women temporarily attempting to pass as men and women who wish to present themselves in a masculine gender role without identifying as a man. Some transmen (female-to-male transgendered and transsexual people) also self-identify as drag kings.

Reflecting lesbian culture, drag kings can most often be seen at lesbian bars or festivals. Yet not all drag kings are lesbians, and some participants in the drag-king subculture are not otherwise involved in lesbian culture, society, or politics. Bio queens (also called femme queens or femme performers) often perform alongside drag kings and may or may not be lesbian-identified.

Unlike drag queens, who pride themselves on making individual names for themselves and creating a "lineage," drag kings tend to form troupes or performance groups. While they may join houses and maintain a solo persona, this is increasingly rare in the drag king community. Many troupes arise out of the desire to forge a cohesive unit in order to book shows and performances.

The International Drag King Extravaganza (IDKE) is an annual gathering of drag performers aimed at celebrating gender performance and exploration of gender issues. Delegates from various troupes throughout America, Canada, and Europe congregate at IDKE to perform and engage in discussion and debate at a series of workshops organized by the host city under the guidance of the IDKE Steerage Committee. Each year a different city hosts the event.

Drag Queens

The term drag occurs in England as early as 1870, with reference to female clothing worn by male actors on the stage. In this sense the word had no explicitly sexual connotations, though as time wore on it became increasingly evident that many female impersonators were sexually unorthodox. By the 1920s, the expression "going in drag" was used in nontheatrical contexts. The specific expression drag queen was first attested in the US in 1941.

Drag queens are performers—often, though not exclusively, gay men or transgender people—who appear in clothing associated with the female gender, often exaggerating certain characteristics for comic, dramatic or satirical effect. These individuals participate in events such as gay pride parades, drag pageants, or at venues such as cabarets and discotheques. On these occasions they may dance, sing, lip-synch, or simply generally behave in an extravagant, "flaming" manner. There is also a kind of everyday variety of drag queen, consisting of gay men who attempt (usually only in their off-hours) to fit the pattern. All of these patterns reflect some form of exhibitionism. A man who dresses up in female costume solely in private as a personal ritual or exploration of personality is not generally regarded as a drag queen.

Another term for a drag queen, female impersonator, is still occasionally found—though it is often regarded as inaccurate, as many contemporary drag performers are not attempting to pass as women. Female impersonation, under that name, used to be illegal in many places, which inspired José Sarria, a famous San Francisco drag queen, to hand out labels to his friends reading "I am a boy," so he could not be accused of female impersonation. The African American drag queen RuPaul has explained, "I do not impersonate females! How many women do you know who wear seven-inch heels, four-foot wigs, and skintight dresses?" He also said, "I don't dress like a woman; I dress like a drag queen!"

While in drag most drag queens prefer to be referred to as "she," as they strive to remain in character.

In a kind of double disguise, some biological females perform as drag queens. They are known as bio queens or faux queens. An example is the character played by Julie Andrews in the film "Victor/Victoria." Historically and currently, there have been and are a significant number of heterosexual men, generally actors, who perform in drag. There are also transgender or transsexual individuals who perform as drag queens.

There are various reasons for adopting the drag-queen role. Some individuals perform for personal fulfillment as a kind of hobby. For others it is a profession or an art form. The role may appeal as a way to be in the spotlight, or as a path to local or wider fame.

Drag queens are sometimes characterized as transvestites, although that term has somewhat different connotations than the term "drag queen" "Drag queen" usually connotes cross-dressing for the purposes of entertainment or performance without necessarily aiming to pass as female. It is not generally used to describe those persons who cross-dress for the fulfillment of transvestitic fetishes alone, or whose cross-dressing figures as part of a private sexual activity or identity.

A drag show is an entertainment consisting of a variety of songs, monologues or skits featuring either single performers or groups of performers in drag meant to entertain an audience. Occurrences range from amateur performances at small bars to elaborately staged theatrical presentations.

Some drag queens primarily perform in pageants, hence the term pageant queen. Pageant queens gear their act toward winning titles and prizes in various contests and pageantry systems. Some of these have grand prizes emulating events such as the Miss America contest..

Even in the gay community drag queens have not elicited universal approval. Some LGBT people criticize drag queens and their participation in pride parades and other public events, believing that this presence projects a harmful image of gay people. In this view their flamboyance impedes the cause of broader social acceptance. Some feminists assert that drag promotes harmful stereotypes of women, though others are more approving, perceiving drag as a critique or "subversion" of traditional gender roles. Some drag performers may regard their acts as a satire of accepted sex roles, as a form of social criticism. Others may view it as entertainment, as an art form, or simply fun.

Drama Queen

A drama queen is a histrionic gay man who relishes his capacity to "make scenes." A kind of exaggerated patter that resembles the recitatives and arias of opera may accompany the scenes. The term has also found some acceptance among biological women.

The affinity of gay men for the theater and the opera has often been observed. However, it is not necessary to be an aficionado of these art forms to qualify as a drama queen.


While some still view it as offensive, dyke is the most common American vernacular term for a lesbian. The origin of the term is obscure, and many theories have been proposed. An etymology that has attracted some support derives the word from a clipping of hermaphrodite to –dite, which was then mispronounced as "dike." Yet the variant dite has never been found, and unfortunately this attempted derivation is probably of many post festum explanations that litter the history of efforts to explain the words of our subject.

In late nineteenth-century slang, dike denoted a man in full dress, or a set of male clothing; it would then have been easily transferred to women who preferred male garb, a common usage of lesbians in the first decades of the twentieth century. This term would then parallel a large class of expressions for male homosexual which reflect a perception of gender-role confusion (e.g. faggot, Molly Ann, nance, etc.). In her book Another Mother Tongue, Judy Grahn speculated that the word bulldyke might have arisen from the name of the early British queen Boadicea.. In the absence of relevant historical evidence, such theories are "just-so stories."

In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, the term dyke was reclaimed by many lesbians (to a far greater extent than, for example, fag for gay men). Examples include the comic strip "Dykes to Watch Out For," and the traditional contingents of Dykes on Bikes (motorcycles) that lead gay pride parades. In addition, the word "dyke" is sometimes preferred because it can encompass bisexual and transsexual women, in contrast to the word "lesbian."

The term lends itself to compounds, as in the following:

Bulldyke or Bull dyke or Bulldiker or Bulldiger (also, earlier, Bulldagger) present an interesting set of variations. The first printed references stem from 1920s novels connected with the Harlem Renaissance, suggesting that the term was originally bulldiker.

A diesel dyke is a kind of superlatively butch version. She need not drive a truck to qualify.

A baby dyke is a young lesbian or one who has recently come out; a newbie. This term acquires a pejorative connotation within the LGBT community when it is adopted to refer to a lesbian whose attempt to appear butch is clumsy or unsuccessful.

A femme dyke is a lesbian who presents in an (often-stylized) traditionally feminine way. This is related to the term lipstick Dyke, a variation on the pop-culture term lipstick lesbian.

A stealth dyke is lesbian who can pass for straight, or does not fit the usual "dyke" stereotype. Such individuals may or may not be closeted.

A dyke tyke is a child of a dyke or dykes.

A dyke bar is a term used to describe any bar or club in which lesbians often attend, but can also indicate a "tougher" establishment (as defined by the patrons or the atmosphere). As with the stand-alone word "dyke," the term is considered not only slang, but a potential slur when used by non-LGBT persons.

A dykon is a celebrity known to be lesbian, or admired by lesbians.



English gay language

Part 1

Most readers will be more familiar with the English language than the other four covered in this endeavor (French, German, Italian, and Spanish). Recent decades have confirmed the status of English as the world language. Its spread has been complex and irresistible—fostered by international corporations and institutions, technology (including the Internet), and the general enthusiasm for American popular culture, especially the products of Hollywood. Accordingly, English is ubiquitous in the main section of this book [II], which presents the Tropes. For that reason the following presentation must work synergetically with the many categories of the Tropes section, above.

Some relevant characteristics of the English language may be noted at the outset. English has been extraordinarily welcoming to words from other tongues, especially from French and Latin. Today, these lexical items far outnumber those inherited from the Anglo-Saxons. In addition, English shows a great deal of informality. Its grammar is simple. Moreover, it shows an easy familiarity with words. Clipped forms, such as sod, fag, lez, and so forth, are common. Such reductions have several emotional valences (and as the examples cited show, not always pleasant ones).

Sparsely recorded as it is, of all the early medieval vernaculars Anglo-Saxon (or Old English; to 1066) preserves the most fullest range of offerings. A diminutive of baeddel, a hermaphrodite, the word baedling occurs in Aelfric’s Glossary of ca. 1000 as the equivalent of the Latin terms effeminatus and mollis. Although there is some argument about the matter, the first term is probably the origin of the common modern English adjective bad. A synonym from the same glossary is waepenwifstere, male wife. Not exclusively sexual, the term deorling could designate a young male favorite or minion. The most intriguing of these early terms is scratta, stemming from the Old Norse skratte, a wizard, or goblin. The English term combines the idea of sexual irregularity with that of magical powers—the qualities of a shaman in short. In short, this array of terms includes the idea of physiological hermaphroditism (often confused with homosexual orientation), assumption of the female role (in becoming a "wife"), intergenerational sex (the minion or catamite), and finally that of being, so to speak, a powerful queen, one able to summon magical powers, and therefore to be feared.

The Norman Conquest of 1066 inflicted a massive invasion of French words and usage, reinforced in some instances by the Latin of the church. The two flow together in the thirteenth-century import sodomy. By 1538, though, it had been ousted in legal usage by another import from the continent, buggery (law of Henry VIII, 1537).

Elizabethan times saw the introduction of classical terms, such as Ganymede and catamite. For these imported terms designating the object of pederastic relations there was a native equivalent ingle (of unknown origin). Imported from the Continent was bardash (French and perhaps also Spanish, but ultimately of Persian origin). A learned Elizabethan innovation was tribade (from the Greek for to rub) for a lesbian.

Further ecclesiastical influence is seen in abomination (seventeenth century) and unnatural crime or vice. Both derive from scripture, the first from the Hebrew Bible, especially Leviticus; the second from Paul’s Letter to the Romans (1:26-27). Sometimes the first word was written "abhomination," with an h added to suggest that the practice is a departure from the human (homo = man). While the term retained a sinister aura, it has always been somewhat mysterious, signifying something that is taboo, though one can’t quite say why. The idea of the unnatural was much more fully buttressed, notably by the Stoic and medieval philosophy of Natural Law. While there are many logical objections to this use, we are still afflicted with the term today.

Early eighteenth-century London saw the appearance of the subculture of the Molly Houses, gay clubs in which men could gather for sex and various ceremonies. After their discovery they were suppressed. The name Molly fits in with the later tendency to dub male homosexuals with women’s names, especially (as in this case) with diminutives. Yet the term may also display a reminiscence of the Latin term mollis, weak, which was also used with reference to masturbation and effeminacy.

The late eighteenth century saw the appearance of the first slang dictionary, that of Captain Francis Grose, The Vulgar Tongue (London, 1785). In this book Molly is defined as "A Miss Molly; an effeminate fellow, a sodomite," showing that the term had survived the closing of the houses. Grose also includes indorser, defined as a "sodomite," etymologically someone concerned with rears.

In the eighteenth century queer designated any sort of swindle, including passing of counterfeit money (hence the later "queer as a three-dollar bill"). The sexual meaning emerged only in nineteenth-century Britain. At that time, though, few would have predicted its extraordinary fortune in the closing years of the twentieth century.

During the eighteenth century, a combination of linguistic purity and prudery temporarily retarded the growth of sexual terminology, at least in the more formal registers of the language. Characteristically reticent is the description of buggery as "a crime not to be named among Christians." The legal scholar William Blackstone went so far as to state the formula only in Latin: inter Cillud crimen horribile inter Christianos non nominandum. On the continent the idea that homosexuality is the nameless sin is older.

The Hellenism of the Romantic Movement, whose most prominent representative was the bisexual poet Lord Byron, led to some popularity of Greek love.

With the modern meaning, lesbian became salient in the nineteenth century; as also the (rare) Sapphist. Terms for female homosexuality have always been less numerous by far than those for gay men.

Reticence and reluctance to be direct continued through the nineteenth century, even though the Victorians were not as prudish as is sometimes though. Circumspection was often wise, witness Whitman’s adhesiveness (a term derived from the pseudoscience of phrenology).

However, several developments in late-Victorian England, including the Cleveland Street affair and the Oscar Wilde trials, served to draw back the curtain of secrecy. So we find the street homosexuals, the Mary Anns. Rarified circles took up uranian (a version of the German urning) and calamite (from a group of poems by Walt Whitman). Lord Alfred Douglas, Wilde’s companion, wrote of the "Love that dare not speak its name." Perhaps as an indication of internalized homophobia, Douglas used the term shame by Alfred Douglas. A euphemism, more pleasant than most, was musical. Although this term anticipates the later gay affinity for the musical theater, it was not originally connected with it.

At the end of the century the term bisexuality came along in the baggage, so to speak, of the pair homosexual and heterosexual. Inventive ways of alluding to bisexuality, including AC/DC (reflecting the new technology of electricity) and bimetallism (a coy reference to a turn-of-the-century economic controversy). Later are double-gaited (from racing), ambisextrous (a coy variation on ambidextrous), and gillette (a razor blade that can cut on both sides; a rare 1950s term for a bisexual woman).

Transvestite entered English in the early twenties, deriving from a major 1910 treatise in German by Magnus Hirschfeld. It replaced the term Eonism, preferred by Havelock Ellis. The word transsexual did not show up until the 1940s, when it appeared from time to time in the popular American magazine Sexology.

The twentieth century was the heyday of the expert, with medical doctors, psychiatrists, and sociologists offering authoritative pronouncements on same-sex behavior, about which they understood very little. Anomaly was one term favored in the twenties. The whole was framed as a matter of course by the discipline of abnormal psychology. Some other terms introduced by these professionals include homosexual panic, situational homosexuality, latent homosexuality, deviation, and injustice collecting (a supposed homosexual propensity for complaining). In this olla podrida, one useful term stands out: sexual orientation.

Part 2

The previous main section (Part I) combined the discussion of British and US usage. During the twentieth century Britain lagged behind linguistically, hewing largely to older habits and taboos, while the United States forged ahead, not always with happy results.

We may start with two special argots, those of hobos and prisoners. A hundred years ago the hobo subculture was characterized by dyads of an older experienced man and a novice, who may have provided sexual services. For some reason, as yet unexplained the minion was termed a Prushun or Prussian. Hobos also took over the expression gaycat, originally a newcomer to a Western mine or other type of labor situation. This was before the word gay acquired its present meaning, and the usage may have helped in that regard.

Today’s prison lingo shows some precursors in the nineteenth century (e.g. kinshin, a youthful punk, one who plays the passive role in same-sex encounters). Only in the last few decades, though, has the homosexual vocabulary of this large subculture been recorded and studied. Central is the contrast between catchers and pitchers. The pitchers do not regard themselves as gay, and in many instances the catchers do not either. Hooking up is a standard term for forming a couple of this kind, usually cell mates. (The term has recently made its way into the language of collegiate heterosexuals, who use it to denote a relationship that is sexual but devoid of commitment—the heterosexual version of the coarse fuck buddies, gays who have sex together, but without emotional commitment.)

Immigrant communities made their own contribution. Italian Americans contributed finocchio, an edible plant, and Jewish Americans faygeleh (or feygele), little bird (but with an connotative link to fag). More recently, Latinos have contributed maricón.

Four terms–fairy, faggot, gay, queen—deserve special attention.

As regards fairy the connection with the sprites of legend requires little explanation. As early as 1895 there was ostensibly a secret organization known as the Fairies of New York. During the 1950s homophobic literary critics ridiculed a purported "fairy Freudian" school of novelists. Towards the end of the century Harry Hay and his associates created a Radical Faery group (using a slightly different spelling) to combine homosexuality with spirituality.

Faggot has been the object of a misleading etymology, claiming that it derives from a supposed custom of using gay men as kindling in witch burnings. In reality the expression arose from a term of opprobrium applied to women in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The clipped form fag has given rise to other unlikely explanations, that it derives from cigarettes, or from menials in British public schools. During the heyday of the gay liberation movement, there was some attempt to reclaim the word, as seen in the Boston journal Fag Rag, but these were of little long-range consequence. Thus we hear of queer studies, but not fag studies.

The word gay has undergone the most adventurous and varied career of any term examined herein. When first borrowed from French in the late middle ages it had the connotation of "merry; particolored" (for the latter, cf. "don we now our gay apparel"). By the seventeenth century it had come to signify something like a playboy or dashing man about town: a "gay blade." The nineteenth century saw a further metamorphosis, to the sense of a "loose woman, prostitute." Contrary to the view of some there is no evidence that it referred specifically to male homosexuals in Victorian times. In fact the first attestation of the modern meaning in print stems from as late as 1933. Of course it must have circulated orally earlier than that, but how much earlier is hard to say. For some decades it remained a code word, one that insiders could use without straights catching on. After Stonewall in 1969 there was considerable pressure to use it in preference to "homosexual," which was regarded as too clinical. Some regarded the change as equivalent to the coeval shift from "Negro" to black. By the end of the twentieth century high school and college students brought about a new turn of the wheel. Now gay was divorced from sex, and (in such circles) meant "boring, nerdy, dorky."

The term queen is commonly taken to refer to royalty, but in fact may derive from another word with the same sound, quean, a hussy. In any case, like faggot and gay it represents the appropriation of a term originally applied to women. Today the appellation queen strikes most gay men as dated and inappropriate. Still, it functions as a kind of suffix in many compounds, such as rice queen, taco queen, and watch queen. (The last is not someone attracted to particular timepieces, but someone who keeps lookout at a place of group sex activity.)

During the 1920s hustler had a dual connotation: depending on the circumstances it could designate either a female or a male prostitute. Eventually usage decreed the reservation of the term for males; vernacular parlance came to prefer "hooker" for female sex workers. Adaptation of the female term call girl yielded call boy (1942). A young man who is available, but not necessarily a hustler in the formal sense, was called trade. Sixty-nine (also 1920s) once referred to simultaneous cunnilinctus and fellatio (as a heterosexual act); now it means either mutual fellatio or mutual cunnilinctus (both homosexual).

The period after the end of World War II in 1945 was an era of national confidence and rapid expansion of wealth and consumerism. Although many gays found it expedient to remain in the closet enough information is available to sketch a broad panorama of activities, venues, and personality types.

A common behavior, though increasingly less so as time went by was mutual masturbation or plain knitting (according to W. H. Auden, who probably transferred the term from the UK). With the Princeton rub the two partners practice frottage or rubbing, as well as placing the male member intercrurally. (Why that particular university acquired this reputation remains a mystery.)

We turn now to oral sex or fellatio, a term inherited from classical Latin. The distinction between fellator and fellatrix (the latter term now rare) allows one to distinguish which gender is doing the sucking. Of course the term cocksucker is well nigh universal (sometimes used by straights as a general term of opprobrium). The act is designated as a blowjob (sometimes abbreviated BJ). In ads one may refer to French culture, based on a presumed affinity of that nation for the practice. To French, however, is to French kiss, extending the tongue into the other’s mouth. Sixty-nine is mutual fellatio (though in former times it could refer to a similar heterosexual coupling).

Anal activities are also important. The term browning, common in the mid-twentieth century is now obsolete. In everyday usage gays usually call this practice simply fucking, though there is also some usage of buttfuck, and packing fudge (1970s). The anal intruder may be called a backdoor man, or disparagingly a turd burglar (UK). In ads the expression Greek culture may appear, based on the ancient Greek preference. It may be appropriate to distinguish between Greek active (the penetrator) and Greek passive (the receptor). Anilinctus, placing the tongue against and into the other’s rectal opening, is termed rimming. A dangerous practice involves the insertion of the hand, even the whole arm into the other’s rectum: fisting or fistfucking.

Orgies originally took place in private residences, but later in orgy rooms situated in bathhouses. In heterosexual parlance gangbang usually refers to a situation in which a single woman services several males. Gays use the term simply to mean an orgy. A daisy chain is combination of several males having sex. .

Paraphilias include sadomasochism (usually termed S/M), fetishes (as the fascination with military and police uniforms, as well as cowboy hats and boots), and leather paraphernalia. There is also the toe queen or shrimper.

In an age requiring that placed a premium on discretion and even clandestinity, a number of venues developed. The gay bar was the central institution of this period. One went there to drink, hang out, "let one’s hair down," meet friends, and (above all) to make contact with a sexual partner. Originally sexual activity in bars was strictly forbidden, but with the flourishing of the sexual revolution in the 1970s, some bars opened back rooms where a remarkably full range of sexual activities occurred. If they did not make payoffs to the police, or even if they did, gay bars were vulnerable to raids, in which the patrons would be arrested and charged. In small localities everyone, gays and lesbians alike, gathered in the town’s one gay bar. In larger cities lesbians had their own bars. Others developed a special clientele for leather people, as a place to meet hustlers, or for older patrons (the latter were called wrinkle rooms). Bars continued to flourish until the end of the twentieth century, when a marked decline set in as more and more people met over the Internet.

Fancier places of entertainment had drag shows, performances, some professional but most amateurish, by female impersonators.

Many resorted to toilets for easy access to sex, a procedure often fraught with danger because of police surveillance. Such places were known euphemistically as tearooms (or cottages in the UK). Some toilet stalls had openings bored between the stalls, or glory holes, for the insertion of one person’s member to receive oral gratification on the other side.

Certain streets and parks were favored as cruising grounds. In Australian slang such venues are known by the useful term beat.

Over time the gay or lesbian person experienced a number of phases. The first, formerly called the latent phase (a psychiatric term) was when the person did not realize his orientation, though others might, labeling him sissy or her tomboy. Then there was the stage of acknowledgment, sometimes called "coming ut to oneself." Remarkably, some believed that they were the only people in the world who had such feelings. A visit to the public library would offer some information, though tainted by judgmentalism and sometimes simple error.

Eventually the tyro must make contact with others of his kind. Revealing himself to them is the most important phase of the coming-out process. Then the person generally enters the gay world, though shyly and cautiously at first. Some proceed immediately to a more declaratory or provocative stance, flamboyance, accompanied by challenging behavior termed dropping pins or camping up a storm. Some affect makeup, or wear clothing typical of the opposite sex. This may be moderate or full-scale; in the latter case it is called drag. Most gays were not "obvious" or stereotypical, so that some subtlety was required to identify them. Only towards the end of the century did this knack come to be called gaydar.

Subcultures also became noticeable. One was the leather set, usually involved with s/m. Some would seek specialized partners, such as sailors and marines. They were said to have a uniform fetish.

Many, however, felt a need for a stable relationship; they were looking for Mr. Right. All too often, though, one had to settle for "Mr. Right Now.") Nonetheless, many did form stable dyads, called gay couples. The possibility of gay marriage was broached in the late 1950s, but only towards the end of the century did that cause become a mass movement.

The question of what to term one’s companion in a couple tended to present problems. One could speak of my husband, but this had connotations of asymmetry that were often unwanted. Lover was commonly used, but regarded by some as emphasizing the sexual aspect too much. By the end of the century partner had emerged the winner. This term was also used by heterosexual couples, whether stable and unmarried, or in some cases married. The advantage was that it signaled the equality of the two persons.

Outsiders and newcomers to the scene, tend to think of gays as all one thing. Lesbians rightly object to this, because in many ways they are quite different from gay men. There are still many differences in preference among gay men. Some prefer circumcised partners (cut); the opposite is uncut. Some are quite particular about facial hair, either requiring it or insisting on its absence. A ubiquitous condition, perhaps regrettably so, is the characteristic obsession with the dimensions of one’s partner’s member (size queens). Those who meet the specifications are termed well-hung. Ethnicity may play a role, with some preferring Asian partners (rice queens), others blacks (chocoholics), and still others Latinos (taco queens). One may also obtain a "twofer," combining the latter two (a Blatino).

Special subgroups are S/M adepts, clones (affecting flannel shirts and other macho clothing), and bears (burly, hairy men who enjoy each other’s company).

Pedophiles are sexually attracted to children or to adolescents. A tactful term for this preference is intergenerational sex. Among themselves, pedophiles refer to boy lovers. Negatively they may be referred to as chicken hawks. Generally this group is shunned by the gay mainstream.

Lesbians seem to show less variety—or at least it has not been well documented. One contrast is between butch lesbians (perceived as assertive and "mannish") and fems. The latter may also be known as lipstick lesbians. A variant of the former is the stone butch, who is, initially at least, very unresponsive in bed. Lesbians are perceived as being more malleable in terms of orientation than gay men. Some have had an earlier phase as heterosexuals, in some instances having been dragooned into marriage. Children may accompany such a lesbian. Some may turn away from lesbianism, after an initial period of experimentation. In college these are known as LUGS (lesbians until graduation). The type may also be termed hasbian. Women who have never had sex with a man are known as gold-star lesbians.

With the Christine Jorgensen case in the mid-fifties, transsexualism became a topic of interest. One must distinguish the two types, which came to be known as M2F (or male-to-female) and F2M (female-to-male). Of course many restrict themselves to wearing the dress of the opposite sex (transvestites), without seeking the operation. To be sure, not all cross-dressers are gay; some heterosexual men adopt female garments in order to feel close to women. Others make a point of incongruity. Shemales or chicks with dicks adopt feminine clothing and mannerisms, but have prominent male members

In 1950s America, the combined impact of the depression, World War II, and the Cold War had produced an atmosphere of unparalleled machismo and heterosexism. Those who would hurl wounding epithets had a rich repertoire from which to choose. In addition to such older terms as fairy and faggot, flower terms such as pansy and lily became popular. In official circles anticommunism became a pretext for hunting out "security risks, many of them reputedly "Commie pinko fags." Not exactly a counterpart to the Comintern, the shadowy Homintern was supposed to function as a homosexual conspiracy.

This hostile proliferation found a response in the mid-century flowering of homosexual vernacular. This rich creativity is documented in Rodgers’ 1972 The Queens Vernacular, which however combines words that enjoyed some popularity with many rare birds, nonce terms. Such ad hoc inventions do demonstrate a remarkable vein of individual creativity. One combining form that circulated widely was –queen as a suffix, sometimes joining ethnic labeling with food metaphors (rice queen, taco queen); queen is a meme that can proliferate almost endlessly. The expression straight for heterosexuals became common, evidently the antonym of bent.

Feminine names continued to be significant. At mid-century Mary was the most common; could be used by men speaking to men as a vocative: "Get you, Mary!"

Harry Hay and some friends began the modern American homosexual movement in Los Angeles in 1950. They created the Mattachine Society. The name refers to a medieval group of jesters). This was soon followed in the Bay Area with the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian group. Bilitis was a lesbian character in poems of Pierre Louys. The early American gay movement tended to eschew the word "homosexual," favoring homophile instead. The latter, a European import, had the advantage of emphasizing love and affection (philia), instead of sex.

For almost two decades these groups, and several others, labored in relative obscurity. Matters took a quantum leap in 1969, when the Stonewall Rebellion took place in a bar in New York’s Greenwich Village. New groups were formed under a new concept, gay liberation, a rubric influenced by women’s liberation and the national liberation groups in several countries struggling to escape from colonial domination. The word "gay" now came to be overwhelmingly preferred to "homosexual" or "homophile." A major group centered in New York was the Gay Activists Alliance, which adopted the lambda symbol. Another symbol, taken from the days of Nazi persecution, was the pink triangle. During the seventies a number of aggressive techniques were pioneered, including the zap, an organized disruption of some straight event. At the same time lawyers were working intently for sodomy law reform, a process not completed until after the beginning of the new century. Others succeeded in having the disease concept removed from the official rosters of psychological organizations. At the same time, a new concept, homophobia, was launched. Instead of homosexuals being sick, it was their opponents. Gay radicals went further, denouncing the "hegemony" of heterosexism, the presumption that heteronormativity must be dominant. Gays who declined to agree with the radical analysis were accused of assimilationism, conformity with the beliefs and lifestyle preferences of the host society. These individuals might even be guilty of internalized homophobia.

All these changes engendered a backlash, and opponents began to issue dire warnings of the homosexual agenda.

After working with men in some joint groups, lesbians felt that their interests were not being properly served. This led to a change in terminology, as one began to speak of lesbian and gay liberation (sometimes the formula was abbreviated as lesbigay). The militant phase of the movement showed some fraying of the relations between gay men and lesbian women. On the other hand, some heterosexual women were drawn to associate with gay men. There is really no suitable term for these women; fag hag and gay mascot are clearly disparaging. The archetypal version of the relationship appeared towards the end of the century in the popular television program "Will and Grace." Sometimes these women serve as beards, the ironic name for a person of the opposite sex who appears in public with a gay man or lesbian, hinting at a straight relationship, and throwing possibly hostile observers off the track.

For their part pedophiles also sought inclusion, but they were generally shunned. They formed their own, very controversial organization, NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association). The issue of intergenerational sex continued to roil discussion, as seen towards the end of the century in the scandal of the Catholic pedophile priests.

During the 1980s the AIDS crisis engendered a number of organizations in response, most dealing with health issues. However, ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) intervened vigorously in the political realm. Those who had acquired the condition were termed PWAs (persons with AIDS). The infected were distinguished from the rest by the terms positive (or poz) and negative—later HIV positive and HIV negative. Health personnel urged the use of condoms. Those who disregarded this advice, and practiced unprotected anal sex, were said to be engaging in barebacking.

The nineties saw some further terminological changes. The queer epithet was in effect dusted off and given a positive import as a new, more inclusive term. Many felt, however, that the q-word had not been successfully detoxified; effectively the adjective was limited to some segments of the movement and to academia. The latter engendered queer studies, though some scholars felt that the subject should be folded into the larger context of gender studies.

Gay studies were slow to take hold in the universities. When they began to do so in the 1980s, it was in many instances in alliance with the postmodernist trend (note the po-mo homos). The result was Queer Studies, characterized by a style of discourse than many found opaque.

The general public perceives gays as leftists or liberals, the latter inseparably joined to the Democratic Party. Studies have shown, however, that about a third of gay and lesbians vote Republican. This factor has found expression in a gay political group known as the Log Cabin Republicans. Some intellectuals have been dubbed the gaycons (an expression modeled on neocon).

Recently, there has been some increased awareness of special usages among African-American gays—sometimes termed gaybonics (after Ebonics). These groups tend to eschew the word gay, preferring to talk about being on the down low (DL). Or they may speak simply of men having sex with men (MSM). Popular music supplies homo-hop, hip-hop performed, promoted, or consumed by gays. The popularity of rap music has led to a certain idealization of "tough" types; hence the request in ads for thugz. A reflection of the current trendiness of "criminal chic," these sex objects are not real hoods, but simply macho men.

The expression giving attitude means to assume a cocky, defiant, or arrogant manner. This conduct sometimes occurs as part of the mating ritual in gay bars, as those who hold that their looks are superior seek to ward off potential partners deemed inferior, as well as, in some cases, to attract deferential individuals drawn to the presumed macho essence of such behavior. This expression stems mainly from African-American usage. Of similar origin is voguing, meaning to strike campy or exaggerated poses imitating fashion models, especially in a kid of dance.

The politically-driven quest for greater inclusivity has fostered interest in allied issues, especially those of bisexuals and transpeople (the latter concept combined transvestites and transsexuals). Often they were known simply as trannies. This expansion of scope was subsumed under new alphabetical terms, especially LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans), which many felt was too cumbersome. During the nineties a major new issue emerged, gay marriage or same-sex marriage.

After the "quantum leap" of 1969 the American gay movement and its language took the lead throughout the world, especially in English-speaking countries. Nonetheless Britain made some contributions, including the pink pound (less frequently, US pink dollar). At century’s end there was renewed interest in Polari, a British argot. Comprising some 500 words, it is a mixture of Lingua Franca, Italian, Romany, backslang, rhyming slang, and thieves cant. Polari was not originally a gay phenomenon as such, but the property of various marginal circles, especially in London. The gay connection comes from a popular 1960s BBC radio show, "Round the Horne," in which two obviously gay characters bandied about various words from the repertoire. While a few words, such as bona, good, and omee-palone, effeminate homosexual (literally man-woman), may be used by a few British gays today, Polari does not rank as a major contributor to the homolexis.

Perhaps because homosexuality involves artifice, gay men have long been concerned with the world of entertainment–musicals, theater, and movies. Until recently some gay men identified with female stars, such as Bette Davis and Judy Garland. The latter is commemorated in the expression friend of Dorothy. Since Susan Sontag’s pathfinding 1964 essay, there have been a number of explorations of the concept of camp, proposed as an aesthetic to explain the affinity. Late-twentieth century modernism has sought to carry the discussion further, in terms of such "gender-bending" personalities as Michael Jackson and Elton John.

The 1990s saw the rise of several openly lesbian celebrities, or dykons, such as the singers k. d. lang, Melissa Ethridge, and the comedian Ellen De Generes. Others, active in the worlds of business and government, are termed power lesbians.

There are backlash phenomena. Somewhat slow to become aware of the "problem," religious and other opponents have risen up in arms, generating terms: special rights and gay agenda. Gays are thought to be conspiring against the interests of society as a whole, instead of simply seeking to be treated fairly, as is generally the case. Sometimes the backlash forces were able to pass repressive legislation. In Britain there has been Clause 28, prohibiting public authorities from doing anything to promote homosexuality. In the US the Clinton administration secured passage of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), in an effort to block the advance of same-sex marriage. On a popular level there was a perceived increased in violence against gays and lesbians: fag bashing, in short (the term arose in Britain in the 1980s, probably based on the analogy of "Paki-bashing").

Gays and lesbians have long complained about demeaning treatment in the press, and rightly so. Several organizations, notably the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), have intervened with press and media spokespeople to eliminate biased language. Recently, however, these watchdog groups have engaged in linguistic prescriptivism that goes beyond eliminating disparagement, entering the realm of language policing. At their behest the 2006 edition of the Associated Press Stylebook, nicknamed "the journalist’s bible," contains some instructions that border on prohibition Use of "homosexual" is to be restricted in favor of "gay." "Sexual preference" is to be prohibited, apparently because it implies that sexual orientation is a choice. "Sex change" must be eschewed in favor of "transgender." It seems that language filtration is still going on, even though the parameters are different.

A thoroughly positive development is the rise of the metrosexuals, individuals who are "straight but not narrow," and who care for grooming, clothes, fine dining, and interior decoration in ways formerly thought to be gay. Beginning in 2003, the remarkably successful cable television series "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" might be termed the metrosexual’s finishing school. In the arts, some prominent heterosexual figures, such as Matthew Barney, appropriated elements of the gay sensibility for their own use. Such borrowings were sometimes derided as faux-gay.

REFS. Paul Baker, Fantabulosa: A Dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang, New York, 2002; Wayne R. Dynes, Homolexis: A Historical and Cultural Lexicon of Homosexuality, New York, 1995; Dynes et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, 2 vols., New York, 1990; Bruce Rodgers, The Queens’ Vernacular: A Gay Lexicon, San Francisco, 1972.

Emancipation, Homosexual

Modeled on the nineteenth-century achievement of civil rights for Jews and other religious minorities, the concept of emancipation denotes the accession of gay men and women to full rights as citizens, exempt from legal sanctions and harassment based solely on sexual orientation. Gay emancipation, nowadays often termed the "gay-rights approach," contrasts with gay liberation, which posits a more thoroughgoing process of regeneration or even rebirth of the gay person, accompanied if necessary by revolutionary changes in the social matrix to foster this new being.

According to gay liberation one must not accede to society’s demands that gay people change to "adjust" to prevailing norms. Gay liberation holds that it society that must change. This insurgent view posits an either/or choice between collaboration or revolt.

Gay emancipation (however it is called) seeks a middle path. Without supinely accepting traditional disparagement and discrimination, the emancipation approach restricts itself to the acquisition of rights within a stable social framework. As such, it has been called part of the unfinished business of the European Enlightenment.

The emancipation approach has come under fire from some leftists and others who accuse it of "selling out," of committing the mistake of assimilationism. This charge seems fair, as emancipationists do in fact advocate change. That is to say, they insist that liberal society live up to its professed ideals with regard to gay people and other disadvantaged minorities.

Somewhat confusingly, some twentieth-century German writers (including those of the Marxian Frankfurt School) use Emanzipation to designate the broader process of regeneration, the creation of the new man. Fortunately, this confusion has not gained much purchase in English.


During the middle decades of the twentieth century the vice squads of the American police commonly employed the technique of entrapment. Typically, a handsome police officer in plain clothes would linger in a public toilet or some other place that homosexuals were known to frequent. He would then exhibit his genitals or make lewd comments to one of the patrons. If they responded positively, sometimes by touching but not necessarily even that, they were under arrest. These arrests ruined many lives. Perhaps the first person to challenge these practices was the pioneering gay activist Dale Jennings, "the Rosa Parks of the gay movement." Jennings was arrested in 1952 in Los Angeles for allegedly soliciting a police officer in a public toilet. He fought the case in court and won.

There has been much improvement since those days. It is widely recognized that the police should restrict themselves to punishing real crimes. They must refrain from eliciting so-called crimes by their own behavior. Though much less common, instances of entrapment still occur. A scandal occurred in April 1998, when the British pop singer George Michael was arrested in a Southern California toilet by an undercover police officer pretending to be a homosexual.

In contemporary jurisprudence, entrapment counts as a legal defense by which a defendant may argue that he or she should not be held criminally liable for actions which broke the law, because the individual was enticed by police officers to commit such acts. For the defense to be successful, the defendant must demonstrate that the police induced an otherwise unwilling person to commit a crime. In the view of the law, however, when a person is predisposed to commit a crime, offering opportunities to commit the crime is not entrapment. This misconception recalls the idea that police officers must answer questions truthfully if they are asked the same question three times, or that they must say "yes" if asked if they are a police officer.

Entrapment exists if the main motivation of the accused was the offer made by the police. If the accused was more motivated by other concerns, such as financial gain, then it is not entrapment despite police actions. Entrapment may be an aspect of sting operations.


This now obsolete learned term refers to cross-dressing, especially of a man disguised as a woman. The expression seems to have been introduced by the British sexologist Henry Havelock Ellis in 1928. It derives from a historical figure, Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée Éon de Beaumont (1728-1810). The Chevalier d'Eon was a French diplomat, spy, solider, and Freemason, who lived the first half of his life as a man and the second half as a woman.

Eventually, the word was supplanted by the international term, transvestism, which had been coined by Magnus Hirschfeld in 1914.


The term ephebophilia refers to an erotic attraction to a maturing male youth. As such it stands in contrast to terms such as androphilia (love of one adult male for another), gerontophilia (love of the elderly), pedophilia (a term properly restricted to the love of prepubescent children), and what might be termed "puberphilia" (love of pubescents).

The word ephebophilia seems to have been coined by Magnus Hirschfeld in his Wesen der Liebe (1906), where he applied it to attraction to sexually mature youths from puberty up to the age of 20. In his 1914 magnum opus, Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes, Hirschfeld specified the range of love objects as from "the beginning to the completion of maturity, so approximately ages 14-21." The German scholar estimated that 45 percent of all homosexuals were ephebophiles. For women, he proposed the term parthenophiles.

The Greek word ephebos, which Hirschfeld borrowed for his compound, lends itself to various interpretations. It may be employed for one arrived at adolescence or manhood (the latter at 16 to 18, depending on locality), or at the prime strength and vigor of youth. It seems, however, most commonly to have applied to older youths, those with bearded faces who had outgrown the stage at which they were appropriate as the younger partners in pederasty, but not yet old enough to marry. They were nonetheless at the prime age for military service. The ancient Greek age of puberty was likely in the mid-teens rather than the younger ages typical of contemporary Western society.

In current usage, the term seems to have shed the youngest segment of Hirschfeld's definition, those adolescents just emerging from puberty, focusing on the later years, 17-20. In many societies, this age group is treated as adults for consent purposes, drawing a strong legal and practical boundary between ephebophilia as currently understood and the sexual attractions to younger ages. In other societies, ephebes are legally on a par with younger children, but in practice sexual activities with them are not as harshly sanctioned as with the younger group. According to Hirschfeld, two ephebes in love with each other are both ephebophiles, but as attraction of same-aged persons is not of special intrinsic interest, this article focuses on adult ephebophilia.

Many male prostitutes and models for homosexual pornography seem to be drawn from the ranks of ephebes, supporting Hirschfeld's assertion that ephebophilia is a major component of adult homosexuality (in modem Western cultures). Aesthetic considerations (which may well have biological roots related to the best ages for childbearing) under which in most cultures males prize youthfulness in their sexual partners, whether male or female, play a role in this attraction, but other factors are also significant.

Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey's 1948 finding that the statistically average white American male reaches his peak sexual activity (measured in orgasms per week) at the age of 17 points to the widely held belief that ephebes are the most sexually energetic male population group. Seventeen also appears to be the age at which the average male attains his fully mature erect penile length. This fact, together with other observations, suggests that ephebophiles may be more interested in the late teenager's fully developed and highly energetic maleness, in contrast to pedophiles (here understood as those attracted to younger boys) who seem to be interested in more androgynous or even feminine features (hairlessness, smaller stature, lack of muscular development) and for many if not most of whom the greater sexual interest is in the boy's passive-receptive capabilities.

The historical development of ephebophilia has yet to be written. The ancient Greeks acknowledged this trait with the term philephebos (fond of young men) and philoboupais (one who is fond of over-matured boys, "bull-boys" or "husky young men"), but generally slighted it in favor of the pederastic preference. Nevertheless, the athletic games of which the Greeks were so fond featured nude ephebes, and the victors basked in adulation; Pindar wrote odes to them. (Contemporary athletics, especially at the high school and college levels, still display widespread, if sublimated, ephebophilia on the part of their adult male fans.) The ancient Romans seem to have drawn a distinction between ephebic prostitutes, who were sexually passive, and those in their twenties (cinaedi), who were sexually active. By the time of the Renaissance, the ephebic ideal as seen in Michelangelo's classic statue of David (1503-4) had gained wide currency. In contrast, there seems to be little evidence of ephebophilia in the literary tradition of the Islamic countries.

By the mid-nineteenth century, in America Walt Whitman was composing erotic poems of clearly ephebophilic nature, followed by John Addington Symonds with his attraction to strapping young Swiss peasants and robust gondoliers, while in England the ephebic soldiers of the Guards were prized sexual partners. Examples of ephebophilia in literature include Herman Melville's Billy Budd and Christopher Isherwood's autobiographical works, in politics the British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, in art Marsden Hartley, in film "Maurice" (based on the novel by E.M. Forster), in popular music Pete Townsend of The Who ("Rough Boys"), in photography Howard Roffman.

In the twentieth century, the dominance of the androphile model of male homosexuality has tended to subsume, appropriate, and obscure the ephebophile current, and to consider it as a mode of adult-adult relationships rather than as a distinctive type of preference. As it becomes clearer to the research community, however, that the umbrella concept of homosexuality (and indeed, of sexuality itself) covers a wide variety of behaviors rather than a unitary phenomenon, it can be hoped that further investigation of ephebophilia will result.

The relevant trope is Youth and Age.


In origin epicene is a grammatical term, referring to a noun which could be of either gender. During the Renaissance it came to refer to persons who were perceived as belonging to an intersexual category. Note Ben Jonson’s play, "Epicene, or the Silent Woman" (1609). The relevant trope is Intermediacy.

The shift in meaning is an example of how grammatical terms can yield behavioral ones. Neuter offers an interesting parallel.


As used in this section the term eponym refers to named individuals who are held to typify some particular class of persons. In some cases these individuals correspond to what anthropologists call "culture heroes." Citing the names helps to reinforce the identity and sense of self-worth of the members of the group that cherishes them. In other instances they may be notorious.

Since at least the seventeenth century authors have been compiling lists of famous gays and lesbians. There are now a number of biographical dictionaries that take this approach. Many of the names are individuals active in the arts, helping to reinforce the notion that there is a link between same-sex orientation and creativity.

Within this large realm, there are a few individuals of special status. Oftentimes the mere mention of such persons suffices to call up their homosexuality. They may even rank as eponyms, individuals who have a kind of pars pro toto status for their whole tribe, so to speak.

Since classical antiquity enjoys such a privileged status in Western civilization, it is appropriate that two names should stand out. The poet Sappho has given her name to Sapphic love, while the philosopher Socrates stands for Socratic love. There is a rare verb, to Socratize, meaning to anally penetrate another. During the Renaissance three classical exemplars were revived to represent the minion, the youthful lover of the older male homosexual. These names are Ganymede, Giton, and Bathyllos

In modern times Oscar Wilde stands out. For a time the jocular expression Wildman enjoyed currency. Others spoke disapprovingly of the "Oscar Wilde type." Earnest (from Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest) seems never to have had more than a modest circulation.

The old term Eonism (for transvestite) stems from a famous exemplar, the Chevalier d’Eon de Beaumont (1728-1810), a French adventurer. For a time in the mid-twentieth century Christine Jorgenson became a byword for a man changing his sex to that of a woman, after a highly publicized operation in Denmark.

The first part of diesel dyke stems from the German engineer Rudolph Diesel.

In today’s America Liberace and Michael Jackson evoke special recognition, but it is uncertain whether their eponymous status will last.

Because of the need that many gays have for concealment, they have shown, in a few cases, a special talent for spying. This was true of the Chevalier d’Eon, just noted. The Austrian Colonel Alfred Redl is still famous in Central Europe. For England Guy Burgess, one of the "Cambridge spies for the Soviet Union, is a name to conjure with. Regarded alternatively as a national hero or a traitor is Roger Casement, the Irish patriot and German agent, whose diaries reveal extensive homosexual activity. While a few still question the authenticity of these documents, with their revealing sexual details, it now seems proved beyond reasonable doubt.


The word escort is gradually replacing older terms for those offering professional sexual services. Hooker, hustler, call girl/boy are disappearing, at least in public notices. (There still seems to be some traditional use of the word escort, with the meaning of "date," on American college campuses.)

"Escort" allows for plausible deniability, in case the authorities come nosing around. Yet as it gradually becomes the standard term, the advantage of deniability fades. There is also an economic factor, as escorts tend to cost more.

To some extent model has followed a similar trajectory, but the older usage may still be assumed in most cases. Masseuse and masseur apply to special circumstances.

It is usual to label such terms (understood in their sexual sense) as euphemisms. Yet this broad-gauged explanation fails to capture the semantic shift involved.

A distant parallel is the replacement of the word lover (standard in US gay circles twenty-five years ago) with partner. In this instance, the new term offers several advantages, suggesting stability and the recognition that most long-term human relationships are not based exclusively on sex. Many young heterosexual couples now prefer to refer to their "partner," even married ones. The advantage seems to be that the new term connotes equality. Seemingly tainted with patriarchal differentiation, husband and wife still convey a sense of asymmetry. Like partner, escort does not (at least in origin) connote a prima facie sexual content.


In philosophy essentialism is the view that, for any specific kind of entity it is at least theoretically possible to specify a finite list of characteristics, all of which any entity must have to belong to the group defined. This view contrasts with nominalism, which states that for any given entity there can be no specific inventory of traits that entity must have in order to qualify as that entity.

In ethics essentialism implies that some things are wrong in an absolute sense. For example, the act of murder breaks a universal, objective and natural moral law and not merely an adventitious, socially or ethically constructed one. Essentialist positions on gender, race, and other group characteristics, consider these to be fixed traits, discounting the significance of variations among individuals or over time. During the 1980s gay and lesbian theorists of the Social Constructionist trend strongly criticized this view, stressing the transhistorical and cross-cultural variations of sexual identity. Contemporary proponents of identity politics, including feminism, gay rights, and anti-racist activists generally take constructionist stance, agreeing (for example) with Simone de Beauvoir that "one is not born, but becomes a woman."

The constructionist viewpoint is commonly equated with progressive politics. However, many religious traditionalists, especially those of the "ex-gay" movement, also hold that homosexual identity is contingent and alterable. For them it can and must be "corrected" by therapeutic intervention. Conversely, essentialist claims have provided useful rallying-points for progressive politics, including feminist, anti-racist, and anti-colonial struggles.

Essentialist conceptualizations of homosexuality arose in the later nineteenth century, the era that saw the emergence of serious research on same-sex behavior. For example, the German homosexual reformer Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895) regarded Urnings (gay men) as men with an inborn attraction to other men. If Urningism is inborn, Ulrichs argued, how can it be a crime for Urnings to do what comes naturally to them? Later thinkers in Central Europe, such as Karl Friedrich Otto Westphal and Richard von Krafft-Ebing, agreed that inversion is inborn, but categorized it as a disorder.

Arguably, the dominant essentialist position in the twentieth century stems from Sigmund Freud who located the essence of homosexuality in the mind and attributed its causes to the vicissitudes of a child's upbringing. More recently, some biologically oriented researchers, including Simon Levay and Dean Hamer, have ascribed homosexuality to brain differences and/or to genetic variations


Ethnophaulism is a learned term coined in 1944 by the American independent scholar Abraham Roback. It refers to the chauvinistic practice of attributing some undesirable trait to neighboring peoples and nations. "How could one even think that our group has any affinity with such-and-such a practice? To the extent that it exists among us it must have been imported from abroad." Following this principle, we speak of German measles, taking French leave, and going Dutch (paying individually at a restaurant). In former times Italians regarded syphilis as the mal francese (or in Latin as the morbus gallicus). In turn the French designated the ailment mal florentin (or mal de Naples.)

In the case of homosexual behavior, the resort ethnophaulism is not only a type of group libel, but also reflects what might be termed etiological curiosity. How did we get such-and-such a behavior? Well, it must have been imported from x country, where it is native. Thus in eighteenth-century England, where indigenous same-sex behavior had been observed for centuries, it was nonetheless commonplace to label it an import from Italy.

The Greeks were accustomed to attributing unusual sexual practices to neighboring, but distinct Hellenic groups, as well as to foreigners. Surprisingly enough, a special proficiency in heterosexual fellatio distinguished the inhabitants of the island of Lesbos—-its association with female same-sex love became de rigueur only in fairly recent times. The same fellatial virtuosity was ascribed to the alien Phoenicians. At various times unusual fondness for pederasty was remarked in Crete, at Sparta, Chalcis, and on the island of Siphnos. To become blatantly homosexual was sometimes called taking ship for Massilia, after the ancient Greek colony on the site of modern Marseille. That city may have acquired its lavender reputation through its closeness to the territory of the notoriously homosexual Celts. The Scythians, northern neighbors of the Greeks, were associated with a particular type of effeminacy—their warlike nature notwithstanding. .

The Roman writer Cornelius Nepos (first century BCE) seems to have been the first to label pederasty Greek love. The Romans themselves were often chided for special devotion to the posterior Venus with wordplay on the palindrome Roma = Amor.

In later times in Europe there were various expressions linking sodomy with Italy. In 1432 a Zurich legal text designated the practice with the verb florenzen, attesting to the reputation that the city of Florence had acquired in this regard. This accusation became more salient in the Reformation context of attacking Italian (that is, Roman Catholic) corruption. Thus Martin Luther used several expressions to describe a homosexual relationship as an Italian marriage. (Later this accusation was transferred to the Turks, who were thought to excel in various types of sexual excess.)

Pierre de Bantôme (ca. 1540-1614) characterized the fashion for lesbian relations in sixteenth-century France by the Italian phrase donna con donna (lady with lady). At the courts of Louis XIII and XIV male homosexual indulgence was traced to Italy, as in the Sun King’s sarcastic comment "La France devenue Italienne!" In England Sir Edward Coke (1553-1634) maintained that Lombard bankers had introduced buggery in his country when they were active there in the late Middle Ages, while in the eighteenth century Italian opera was held to be a new source of infection. Ironically, Mussolini was later to reject a proposal to criminalize homosexuality in Italy on the grounds that its practice was limited to rich foreign tourists. A virile people, Italians could harbor no natural affinity for such a vice.

Some French writers localized the custom in other zones of the Mediterranean littoral. French trade with Arab countries and the occupation of Algeria (1830) are probably responsible for such expressions as moeurs levantines and moeurs arabes. Recently Islamists have sought to turn the tables, alleging that the industrial West has become decadent because of its toleration of "unnatural vice."

Just after the beginning of the twentieth century, the Krupp and Eulenberg-von Moltke scandals contributed greatly to the popularity in a hostile France of the expression vice allemand, apparently reviving a notion current there in the time of Frederick II in the second half of the eighteenth century. The temptation to hurl such charges become particularly great in wartime, as seen in one refugee’s allegation that Hitler had worked as a male prostitute. (It is uncertain whether the term prushun, for a catamite serving an American hobo, derives from the German province.)

Until recent decades Americans were fond of ascribing a predilection for gayness to the effete English. This notion seems to have perished with the appearance of the first wave of sexy British rock stars—-though by the same token Sir Elton John and George Michael may have brought it back again.

Comparatively harmless are the current expressions Greek culture and French culture, sometimes found in sex advertisements and similar venues. The first refers to anal sex, the second to oral sex.

Ex-gay Movement

This rubric subsumes a number of organizations that claim the ability to change a homosexual orientation into a heterosexual one. The idea of "curing" homosexuality goes back to psychoanalysts of the middle of the twentieth century, some of whom developed a lucrative practice with their dubious cures. More recently, the tendency has taken on a religious coloration. The two tendencies converge in what is termed Reparative Therapy.

The leading group active in this realm is the Christian-oriented Exodus International, which claims 11,000 members. Other groups are People Can Change (secular) and the Jewish JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality).

There has been much justified criticism that young people are coerced or cajoled by their parents and other authority figures into joining these programs. Ministers, especially those of evangelical background, believe that sexual orientation is not fixed, but can be altered by "the saving power of the blood of Jesus."

The chances for long-term change employing such methods have been shown to be very slim. The chief problem is that such therapies work by suppressing homosexual desire, rather than by nourishing heterosexuality. If the individual is bisexual, this approach may have some success. Yet with persons whose orientation is predominately homosexual, it is generally futile in the long run. The "cure" consists of adopting celibacy, which is difficult to sustain, especially for young people. More commonly, the person reverts to same-sex practice. Such individuals are known as ex-ex-gays.

Exhibition and excess

For generations concealment and discretion, the closet in short, have been the rule for homosexuals. Yet some "obvious" or stereotypical gays, in an almost fatal attraction, defiantly adopt the opposite tactic of being flamboyant, exhibitionistic, and outrageous. Several metaphors are used to describe this gambit, including camping up a storm, flaming (also sending up flares), and screaming (as in screaming queens). The now-dated expression dropping pins means to disclose one’s feminine side. These procedures may be regarded as instances of exhibitionism, especially when deliberately chosen. Some flaming may be involuntary, however.

Such behavior is not always a purely personal expression. The exuberance of the gay-liberation movement of the 1970s represented a positive channeling of collective exhibitionism. Utilizing zaps, confrontation, and in-your-face tactics, gay activists of the 1970s pioneered in channeling such impulses as creative instruments in promoting social change. During the following decade AIDS activists, especially those in the organization ACT-UP specialized in positive uses of conrontation. Today, with some of the key goals accomplished, the need for such interventions is less keenly felt. What has survived is the colorful extravance of the annual gay pride parades in the month of June.

Apart from public display, excess also occurs in one’s lifestyle. Some gay men have had thousands of sexual partners, and boast of their conquests, which are generally anonymous. These sexual athletes would not, however, regard their exploits as excess, but as a natural expression of the male erotic drive. Some individuals of this type are oncers, who never have sex twice with the same person. The circuit parties, so popular in the nineties, combined indulgence in drugs with anonymous sex.

Polyamory is the condition of establishing stable love relationships (often involving joint-living arrangements) with several people at once. Polyamorous arrangements may be heterosexual, homosexual, or both. While outsiders may view the situation as an example of excess, it is not usually so viewed by the participants.

Eye Candy

Male sex objects who are considered hunky fit this description. Some gay men, and women as well, are said to flock to malls and other public venues to ogle young men with big pecs or attractive buns. At the end of each year gay bookstores do a lively trade in calendars offering a different ration of male eye candy for each month.

The relevant trope is Food Symbolism.

Eye Lock

This practice begins with an individual staring fixedly at an attractive person. This first step is akin to ogling, except that it is less explicitly amorous. Should the person who is the object of the gaze respond with a similarly fixed look, eye lock occurs. Gay men commonly employ this practice during cruising behavior. In some cases the stare is resented by the other, who may regard it as equivalent to eye fuck. The relevant trope is Gesture and Movement.

Attitudes towards staring vary in many cultures. Behavior that might be acceptable in another society is regarded as leering in our own. At one time looks that were regarded, rightly or wrongly, as lewd or lascivious were severely sanctioned in our culture. This was particularly true when a young black man looked at a white woman. Such accusations, often trumped up, could be a prelude to lynching.




This contemptuous slang term for male homosexual carries overtones of effeminacy and cowardice. Because the use of faggot is widespread and its origins usually misunderstood, the word deserves careful consideration.

One of the most persistent myths circulating in the gay movement is the belief that faggot derives from the basic meaning of "bundle of sticks used to light a fire." The claim comes with the historical commentary that when witches were burned at the stake, "only presumed male homosexuals were considered low enough to help kindle the fires." An additional twist appears when the Book of Genesis in the Bible is cited to refer to homosexuals stoking the fires of hell (Sodom and Gomorrah). This story, though common, is a kind of urban legend.

The English word has in fact three forms: faggot, attested by the Oxford English Dictionary from circa 1300; fudge, attested from 1588; and faggald, which the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue first records from 1375. The first and second forms have the additional meaning "fat, slovenly woman," which according to the English Dialect Dictionary survived into the nineteenth century in the folk speech of England. The homosexual sense of the term, originally unknown in England itself, appears for the first time in America in a vocabulary of criminal slang printed in Portland, Oregon in 1914, with the example "All the fagots (sissies) will be dressed in drag at the ball tonight." The tendency of American colloquial speech to create words of one syllable yielded the clipped form fag. The first known instance appears in a book by Nels Anderson, The Hobo (1923): "Fairies or Fags are men or boys who exploit sex for profit." The short form thus also has no connection with British fag as attested from the nineteenth century (for example, in the novel Tom Brown’s Schooldays) in the sense of "public-school boy who performs menial tasks for an upperclassman."

In American slang faggot/fag usurped the semantic role of bugger in British usage, with its connotations of extreme hostility and withering contempt. In more recent decades it has become the term of abuse par excellence in the mouths of heterosexuals. It often serves simply as an insult aimed at another male’s alleged want of masculinity or courage, without any specific reference to a sexual role or orientation.

The ultimate origin of the word is a Germanic term represented by the Norwegian dialect words fagg, "bundle, heap," alongside bagge, "obese, clumsy creature" (chiefly referring to animals). From the latter are derived such Romance words as French bagasse and Italian bagascia, "prostitute," whence the parallel derivative bagascione whose meaning matches that of American English faggot/fag. In Catalan bagassejar signifies to faggot, "to frequent the company of loose women."

The final proof that faggot cannot have originated in the burning of witches at the stake is that in English law both witchcraft and buggery were punishable by hanging, and that in the reign of the homosexual monarch James I the execution of heretics came to an end. By the time that American English gave the word its new meaning the popular mind would not have retained even the faintest remnant of the complex of ideas credited to the term in the contemporary myth. It is purely and simply an Americanism of the twentieth century.

Given the fact that the term faggot cannot refer to burning at the stake, why does the myth continue to enjoy popularity in the gay movement? On the conscious level it serves as a device with which to attack the medieval church, by extension Christianity tout court, and finally all authority. On another level, it may linger as a "myth of origins," a kind of collective masochistic ritual in which the homosexual identifies himself as victim. This is part of the larger phenomenon of abjection, the willing assumption of humiliating and inferiorizing status. Since gay people have enough real burdens to bear, there is no point in assuming this fictional one.

The real significance of the term is different from the one fostered by the myth. The word has been used since the late sixteenth century to mean "old or unpleasant woman". Female terms are often attached to homosexual or effeminate men (cf. nancy, sissy, queen), and this seems the most likely semantic mechanism. In this way misogyny and homophobia are linked.

In British English the term fag (though not faggot) most commonly means a cigarette. A military marching song popular with the British army during World War I featured the line "while there’s a Lucifer [matchstick] to light your fag…". This sense comes from the original meaning of "fag-end," that is, the "last part of a piece of cloth," which by extension became used for "the last part or portion of anything". When cigarettes were invented, this was first applied to the butt, the unsmoked part, and then came to mean the whole cigarette.

There is another meaning, unrelated to the rest, which is somewhat amusing. A traditional British usage of the word faggot, especially common in Wales and the Black Country, is a kind of pork meatball covered in gravy.

In recent years the use of fag and faggot to mean homosexual have become understood as Americanisms in British English, mainly due to their use in films and television series imported from the United States. When Labour MP Bob Marshall-Andrews was allegedly heard using the word in a bad-tempered informal exchange with a straight colleague in the House of Commons lobby in November 2005, he was criticized for engaging in homophobic abuse.

Because of its strong connotations of cowardice and inadequacy, the word faggot has not lent itself to the kind of reclamation that queer has attracted, though Larry Kramer’s 1978 novel Faggots may seem to gesture in this direction.

The overtones of opprobrium have not stood in the way of some popular usages, though. For example, a fag hag designates a woman who associates with (and may prefer as non-sexual social partners) gay men, though many still regard this expression as pejorative. Young people casually employ the term as a synonym for words such as fool or jerk (i.e. "What a jerk!" becomes "What a faggot!"). Compare the recent nonsexual usage of the word gay to mean "lame, geeky, uncool."

In 1995 the then-Majority Leader of the House of Representatives Dick Armey referred to openly gay congressman Barney Frank as "Barney Fag" in a press interview. The ultraconservative pundit Ann Coulter labeled Al Gore a "total fag," remarking that Bill Clinton was a "latent homosexual." These charming observations occurred during a television interview (July 27, 2006) with MSNBC host Chris Matthews.

The second album of New York punk band Mindless Self Indulgence (Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy) is entitled "Faggot." Another instance of the word’s use in rock music is in the song "The Great Deceiver" by King Crimson. The line "health food faggot" opens the album Starless and Bible Black, though no gay reference is intended, as "faggot" refers to a vegetarian meatball.

Students of the historical semantics of the word owe a special debt to the late Warren Johansson. See his "The Etymology of the Word Faggot," Gay Books Bulletin, 6 (1981), 16-18, 33.

The relevant trope is Plants.

Fag Hag

This unpleasant rhyming term designates a heterosexual woman who has an inclination for friendship with one of more gay men. The phenomenon has been variously explained; in many cases it reflects similar interests--in men, shopping and entertainment.


The word fairy, derived from the French féerie (the name of the mythical realm of these supernatural beings), was one of the commonest terms for the male homosexual in America in the 1925-1960 period. In an article published in the American Journal of Psychology in 1896, "The Fairies" of New York are mentioned as a secret organization whose members attended coffee klatsches; dressed in aprons and knitted, gossiped and crocheted; and held balls in which men adopted ladies’ evening dress. The spellings faery and fary also appear in the literature.

It is of interest that during the nineteenth century the term fairy applied to a woman or girl, specifically a prostitute. The application of the expression to gay men belongs to a fairly numerous category of terms originally applied to women that came to designate gay men. These include faggot, queen, skirt, nancy and many others.

In our realm the word designated the more stereotypical or "obvious" sort of street homosexual, with the semantic link supplied by the notion of the delicate and fastidious that had attached itself to the expression, so that it was transferred effortlessly to a dainty and effeminate type of male. The image of the "fairy" in book illustration as a winged creature flitting about the landscape probably contributed to the further evolution of flit as a slang term for homosexual.

The semantic development of fairy in this sense began on the East Coast and spread to the rest of the country, but not to other English-speaking areas of the world. In the 1960s the word yielded to gay as a positive term preferred by the movement, and to faggot or fag as the vulgar term of abuse.

We turn now to an attempt to institutionalize values purportedly associated with fairy status. In 1979, Harry Hay, his partner John Burnside, Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker, veterans of various phases of gay liberation, issued the call to a "Spiritual Conference of Radical Faeries." Those who heard the appeal showed up at an ashram in Benson, Arizona over Labor Day weekend (September 1st). Hay introduced the idea of spirituality into gay liberation, challenging the political orientation dominant in the gay movement at the time. Radical Faeries recognize the isolation and anomie that Gay men grow up with, as a spiritual wound needing spiritual healing. This movement, combining counterculture survivals with elements of the hermetic tradition, is part of a larger complex of New Age religious phenomena that are characteristic of the western United States, though they also enjoy some following elsewhere in North America, as well as in Europe and Australia.

In keeping with the hippie, neopagan, ecology, and eco-feminist trends of the time, gatherings were held out-of-doors in natural settings. To this end, distinct Radical Faerie communities sought to create Sanctuaries in idyllic rural settings.

At a gathering rituals may include candles, fires, prayers, chanting, dancing, streamers, bedizened drag queens, ritual music, mud pits, sweat lodges, fire dances, drumming, running through the woods naked, Sufi twirling, and spiral dancing. Nudity at ritual events is common.

While the Radical Faeries have emphasized consensus as a process for issues resolution, some cherish confrontation, ostensibly rooted in the "contrarian" tradition ascribed to some Plains Indian tribes.

Faeries sometimes assume faerie names, blending and borrowing from many traditions of tribal nicknames, magic practice, and covert culture (such as "drag names"). The HIV epidemic did not, as was feared by some, bring about the demise of the Faerie phenomenon. During the 1990s, however, disputes emerged about a number of issues. Some held that the movement should be pangender, including heterosexuals and women, while other felt that only "faggots" (gay men) could become formal members. Other disputes concerned living arrangements at rural "sanctuaries." In short these are the problems that have plagued utopian and communal movements since the nineteenth century.

At all events, the Faeries’ earlier prominence, linked to the Counterculture and to New Age spirituality, has largely faded. Today, the movement probably counts only two-to- three thousand members in North America, with a scattering of others abroad.

Families and similar groups

Birds of a feather flock together. Gay and lesbian persons are individuals, to be sure. However, in many organizations they tend to form affinity groups, groups that tend to be viewed by outsiders as cliques. They detect each other through the use of gaydar, that sixth sense that enables a gay person to spot another, when the identity might be invisible to outsiders.

The existence of such groups is signaled by terms such as fraternity or sisterhood. Deriving from the Judy Garland role in the film "The Wizard of Oz" is the expression friend of Dorothy. Another term stems from religion, as when one asks, "Is such and such a person church?"—meaning "Is the individual one of us?" The sports world yields on the team.

From the field of transportation comes the Spanish term tripulante, a member of the crew. Originally referring to sea-going vessels, this term is now appropriate for male flight attendants, a profession with strong gay representation. A version of this trope is spreading in the US. In the film "Broken Hearts Club" (2000), a gay softball player remarks to an opposing player, from an ostensibly all-heterosexual team: "We think that one of you is playing on our team."

Of course there are formal organizations. In the United States the first stable gay-rights organizations were the Mattachine Society, ONE, Inc. (which still exists in Los Angeles), and the lesbian Daughters of Bilitis (DOB). Now the leading US organizations are the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Lambda Legal plays an important role in law reform and the defense of the legal rights of gay and lesbian persons. Often excoriated by liberal gay groups are the Log Cabin Republicans. Despite unhappiness with some policies of the Bush administration, it seems that they are here to stay.

Gay associations and caucuses exist in most universities and many businesses. Robert A. Martin, also known as Stephen Donaldson, formed the first student gay group, the Student Homophile League, at Columbia University in 1967.

There are also phantom groups, often the product of the imagination of homophobes. In the nineteenth century homosexuals were said to form a freemasonry of their own. During the 1950s, when there was much fear of subversion at the direction of the Comintern, homosexuals were said to belong to the Homintern. Even today, paranoia on the part of homophobes tends to attribute an organizational and conspiratorial prowess to gay people that they do not possess (the "gay lobby" promoting the "homosexual agenda").

More generally, one can speak of the gay community and the lesbian community. These, however, are terms of convenience that do not reflect any particular formal organization.

We turn now to mimicry of family relationships. Until recently at least, gay men and lesbians were less likely to form families in the sense of two parents and children. Moreover, it has often proved appealing to move away from one’s family of birth and kin, to avoid questions and to live a more open life in one of the gay meccas.

Accordingly it is paradoxical that some terms have recreated family relationships. Or perhaps it is not paradoxical, since the need for a circle of close friends, amounting to families, is universal.

Uncertainty has been evident in the appropriate term for one’s significant other. Formerly lover prevailed. Now partner is more common. Sometimes husband or wife are used, even if the same-sex pair is not formally married. At one time husband was a common term used by delicate or effeminate men who aspired to a permanent liaison with a macho partner.

The current interest of gay and lesbian couples in adopting children, or having them by artificial insemination, has led to a boom in gabies.

In former years gay men, adopting the effeminacy gambit, would refer to fellow gays as sisters. An older associate would of course be an auntie. Compare French tante, which engendered German Tunte. If effeminate and nurturing, mother may seem more appropriate. In the bear subculture, older mentors are styled daddies. With some homosexual use, the term sugar daddy seems mainly used for heterosexual benefactors.

Churchgoers and others may use the term family (as in "she’s family") in the sense of a fellow gay or lesbian person.

Some women’s prisons show patterns in which older lesbians will become recognized as mothers, with a group of dependent daughters. None, of course, are related in the biological sense.

For a long time terms like "marriage," "husband," and "wife" have circulated in everyday usage, which is sometimes jocular. Now, however, legalized gay marriage has appeared in a number of countries in the industrialized Western world.


Together with interior decoration and the ballet, the world of fashion is one that is stereotypically dominated by gay men. This is an aspect of gay CREATIVITY (which see).

Whether fashionable or not, most of us are obliged to wear clothing most of the time. In an age of increasing affluence it is unlikely to be just any clothing. Garments may serve either to conceal or to reveal—-the latter sometimes flamboyantly. Wearing the garments of the opposite sex has been variously termed eonism, transvestism and cross-dressing. The most likely derivation of the word dyke is from a nineteenth-century expression "all dyked out," referring to the donning of special dress. Sometimes gay men are dismissively labeled as skirts. A recent British term is shirt lifter, seemingly designating a man who pulls another man’s shirt up to determine if his torso is muscular or hairy, according to taste.

Drag occurs when men adopt the dress of the other sex, to more or less convincing effect. Hence the expression drag queen. Drag king is a more recent term for the female counterpart, who often struts her/his stuff as an entertainer. The diesel dyke typically wears rough clothing associated with the male working class. By contrast the fem, also sometimes known as the lipstick lesbian, generally adheres to the standards of elegance espoused by her attractive straight counterpart.

Various accessories may be communicative. One is a handkerchief in the back pocket, ostensibly governed by the hanky code, never very rigorously adopted, in which specific colors were said to reflect particular preferences. Placing the handkerchief on the left ostensibly signifies a bottom; on the right, a top.

Several types of pins signify adherence to the gay-rights. The pink triangle is an emblem the Nazis forced gay inmates of the concentration camps to wear. The term stems from the German rosa Winkel. A more recent invention is the rainbow flag pin (see COLORS). Finally, there is the lambda pin, utilizing a symbol propagated by the Gay Activists Alliance in New York in the 1970s.

Excessive displays of jewelry—-necklaces with or without religious symbols, turquoise rings, fancy tie studs—-tend to be frowned upon, but some are unable to resist.

A fascination with footwear is not limited to gay men. However, some S/M adepts are involved in kissing, caressing, or worshipping boots; cf. the exprssion boot boy (UK). Others are given to more gentle fashions: hence the disparaging comment offered by straights, light in the loafers.

A ubiquitous, indeed obligatory feature among adepts are the garments of the leather subculture. Wearing of leather jackets (once associated with motorcyclists) is now general in our society, and does not imply any particular sexual taste. However, adopting a leather garb from cap to boots is another matter. Sometimes chains and other macho accoutrements accompany these garments. The leather subculture overlaps with the S/M subculture, though not completely. Those who mock this subculture refer to leather as simply another form of drag. The expression leather boy is pejorative.

More simply, leather is a clothing preference adopted by some gay men. A different fashion interest emerges in the uniform fetish ("I love a man in uniform"), typically accompanied by eroticization of the military as such. During the first half of the twentieth century the sailor’s garb with its bell-bottom trousers was widely regarded as particularly enticing. Now the uniforms of Marines and police officers attract a similar clientele.

From time to time particular waves of fashion appear. Thus in the 1980s the ephemeral gay-clone look fostered a preference for such working-class fashions as flannel, "lumberjack" shirts and the wearing of keys on a ring fastened outside the trousers.


This expression is American Yiddish for a gay man, usually Jewish. Apparently, the term derives from German Vögele, "little bird," suggesting also the vulgarism vögeln, "to fuck." It seems that the sonic similarity to faggot clinches the association.

Although unrelated, the term chicken also belongs to the bird family.

The relevant trope is Animals.


Deriving from the Latin verb fellare, to fellate is the learned and medical term for "to give a blow job. Also common, particularly among working-class people are the espressions "to give head" and "to get head." Compare Latin alicuius capiti illudere for "to make someone give head."

The ancient Romans distinguished between fellatio in the strict sense and irrumatio. In fellatio proper the receptive individual does most of the work, through lingual and buccal stimulation. In irrumatio, however, the penetrator vigorously, perhaps brutally, thrusts his erect member with little regard for the wishes or feelings of the receptor.

The ancient Greeks attributed special skill in the art of fellatio to the inhabitants of the island of Lesbos; hence lesbizein meant to "give a blow job. (The primary association of Lesbos with female homosexuality is modern.)

In sex advertisements today the expression "French culture" designates a preference for oral sex (often qualified by "active" or "passive"), contrasting with "Greek culture," which signifies an anal preference.

The relevant trope is Body part focus.


Fisting (also FF, for fist fucking) is a sexual activity that involves inserting the hand and forearm into the anus or vagina. Typically, fisting does not involve forcing the clenched fist into the orifice. Instead, all five fingers are kept straight and held as close together as possible (forming a beak-like shape), then slowly inserted into a well-lubricated anus or vagina. Once insertion is complete, the fingers either clench into a fist or remain straight. In more advanced forms of fisting, such as punching, a fully clenched fist may be inserted and withdrawn. Fistees who are more experienced may take two fists (double-fisting) in the orifice. In the case of double-fisting, pleasure accrues more from the stretching of the anus or vaginal wall rather than from the thrusting (in-and-out) movement of hands.

Potential health risks must be carefully considered before engaging in fisting. When done with proper care fisting carries a low risk of injury; when done improperly it can result in serious injuries, including ruptured bowels, internal tears, rectal/colonic infections, urinary-tract infections, pelvic inflammatory disease, bruising of the cervix, mucosal laceration, muscle tearing, and temporary fecal incontinence.

To avoid scratches or tears of mucosal tissue, the fingernails of the fister must be trimmed and filed and his or her hands covered with surgical or other specially chosen gloves. Both the fister's hands and the anus or vagina of the receiver should be well lubricated, usually with a thick water-based or silicone-based sex lubricant.

The relevant trope is Body part focus.


In former times the adjective flaming was a common descriptor for an extravagant, exhibitionist gay man, as in the expression "flaming faggot." A synonym is flamboyant, though this seems to have no specifically sexual connotation.

Currently, the word flaming is commonly used for those who behave aggressively on the Internet. Those who do this habitually may be termed trolls.


In the porn-film industry a fluffer is someone who helps out the male actor by giving them head before and in between shots. The sense derives from "fluffing up," as when one gives apparent volume to a pillow.

The older meaning of fluff, a woman or women, may also have influenced the current slang meaning of fluffer. Among lesbians, fluff once served to designate the femme in a relationship.

Food symbolism

The term "sexual appetites" alludes to the parallel between sex and eating. Different in many ways, the two activities are also similar. They may also be linked in practice. An old proverb has it that Venus (erotic desire) is cold without Ceres and Bacchus (food and drink).

A common conceit is that sexual preferences are tastes (cf. French gout). In this view, not only is homosexuality a taste but so are preferences for certain body types, ethnicities, and the like.

Food comparisons may serve to designate ethnic preferences in erotic activity. A rice queen favors Asians, while a taco queen is attracted to Mexicans or Mexican Americans. Note also potato queen and tanduri queen (both UK). Spag fag, a fancier of Italian partners, seems to be exclusively British. A chocoholic is someone who prefers black partners. The fascination with sailors as sex objects, a predilection that has declined in recent decades, was expressed by describing them as sea food. The principle of designating a member of a desired group in terms of food can be extended indefinitely.

By contrast a granola dyke is not someone who prefers a health-food partner (though she may), but one who herself favors such foods. Note also crunchy.

A muffin or stud muffin is an appetizing young man, probably collegiate, considered sexy. The word twinkie may belong here, though eating is not the primary reference, but rather the bright-as-a-button appearance of such persons.

If large and prominent, the genitals of a desired male may be termed meat. Hence the exclamation "Meat for days!" In various cultures milk is a common term for semen; cf. Spanish leche.

During the mid-twentieth century in the US heterosexuals were dismissively referred to as jam. (The interpretation of this term as "just a man" is fanciful.) This epithet was applied when the presence of straights was inconvenient, as at a party. Hence, apparently, the trope of stickiness.

Eye candy is a term for a very attractive person, usually available for looking at only, however.

The term buns is common for the buttocks. A graphic term for anal intercourse is Hershey highway. In the UK another brand of chocolate serves the same function: Cadbury Avenue. A British expression for one who takes the receptive role in anal intercourse is fudge packer. Typically American is the term cornholing. The cornholer is the one who performs the active role in anal intercourse (from the old redkneck custom of providing corncobs as a toilet-paper substitute in outhouses).

In Britain a vegetarian is a gay man who refuses to perform fellatio. The expression toss the salad (for an exuberant sexual coupling) seems to be mainly used by heterosexuals.


The demand for freedom voiced by minorities derives in large measure from the African American experience, where it was found that escape from slavery was only the first stage of a complex process of liberation by stages.

The civil rights and women’s movements offered important models for the turn to gay liberation at the end of the 1960s. These sources were joined by the national liberation movements, as in Algeria and Vietnam. After the Stonewall Rebellion a number of organizations took the name Gay Liberation Front. While these groups proved ephemeral the basic idea of liberation proved more durable, ramifying into many realms. The 1978 San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade was the occasion for introducing the Rainbow Flag. The idea of gay freedom was closely allied with the affirmation of gay pride.

Of course the term freedom has many meanings. As the appeal of the gay left faded, some gay people gravitated to the political movement known as Libertarianism, which stressed both economic and personal freedom.

It is said that one person’s freedom is another person’s license. Hence the critique by some individuals of what they perceive as exhibitionism and self-indulgence engendered by the gay-freedom approach—-or as some would say, its exaggeration.


Originally, the verb "to French" meant to kiss by inserting the tongue in the mouth of another. In gay advertisements French culture refers to fellatio. One may be either French active (servicing the partner’s member through vigorous buccal activity) or French passive (having it done to one).

In the world of escort services, a French lesson is a visit to a prostitute. Greek culture is anal sex and English culture is BDSM. If someone "speaks the language without an interpreter" it means that the individual performs the sexual act without a condom. Such terms are mainly used to advertise escort services with some ambiguity, so as to deflect the attentions of the police.

The relevant trope is Ethnophaulism.

French gay language

French is a romance language that descends from Latin. As the romance tongue that has diverged most from the classical norm, it may be said to have a position apart, as departures from classical Latin are more radical than in Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Traditionally the French language has enjoyed a special position owing to its power of cultural radiation. During the seventeenth and eighteenth century French was the language of diplomacy and culture generally. Until recent times, many held that it was necessary to know two languages; one’s own and French. This prestige facilitated the spread of French lexical items into other Western European languages, including sexual terms.

Since the seventeenth century, the French language has been subjected to centralizing and normalizing institutions, first and foremost the Acadėmie Française. This language policy has preserved the perceived purity of the language. It has also engendered a popular revolt, an ever-growing popular or demotic trend, which ignores many of the official taboos. Today, even educated French people must be diglossic, proficient not only in standard French and also in its popular rival. On may contrast English where the standard language is a kind of loose baggy monster, with all sorts of variants—US, Australian, Indian, Caribbean and so forth—which are still within the pale. Nonstandard forms, such as cockney and Ebonics, are not in the position of being rivals. So this binary or diglossic situation makes it harder for a term to migrate from one form of the language to the other. Harder, but not impossible, and the challenge has energized many clever users. The linguistic innovations of the major novelist Louis-Ferdinand Céline rest in large measure on his skill in creating a hybrid, violating this separation. The many popular expressions he introduces into his basically standard French novels are not only signs of linguistic impropriety, but also an indication of transgressional views seemingly derived from the popular social strata from which the highly educated author collected them.

The preferred device for coining new words in standard French is to use combining forms derived from Greek and Latin; thus, olduc for pipeline from Latin roots meaning "oil" and "lead." That is why "homosexuel(le)," though coined in Central Europe, easily into made its way.

While official French circles have shown some tendencies to linguistic isolation, the power of the language, or portions of it, to spread abroad has been extraordinary. This seeming paradox has been addressed by a kind of asymmetry principle: lots of exports, few imports. In recent decades as English has become the international language it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the old barriers.

Historically, French has contributed most to English, so that today borrowings from French (some ultimately of Latin origin) outnumber the Anglo-Saxon lexical stock. Some say that as a result English has become a romance language. Since the grammatical structure is still Germanic, that would be an exaggeration. Still, as documented (e.g. by Otto Jespersen, Growth and Structure of the English Language), the amount of cross-channel importation has been extraordinary, far surpassing, in all likelihood, the number of Arabic and Persian words that made their way into Turkish. The source of these massive incursions into English is easy to pinpoint. It was the Norman Conquest of 1066, which placed French speakers at the commanding heights of English society. In this way there was a kind of Francophone take-over, not unlike the way that English has been functioning in India. It was as if French "raped" English. During the high Middle Ages French became the standard language of English administration, diplomacy, and the law. Sodomie became "sodomy" and bougre readily converted to "bugger." Today, English speakers are notorious for their poor command of French. All the same, the linguistic imprint remains.

Beginning in the eighteenth century Paris acquired the reputation (only recently dissipated) of being the capital of erotic stimulation. Pornography was available in various languages. The writer recalls buying a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer in Paris in 1958, when it was almost impossible to obtain in the US and Britain.

Medieval theology and the Bible are at the heart of the emerging concepts of homosexuality. This is a heritage (if so it may be termed) that French shares with the other leading tongues of Western Europe. The linchpin of these concepts is the term sodomie, a noun originally formed in Medieval Latin and generalizing from the wicked City of the Plain in Genesis. Medieval usage (inherited in the early modern era) distinguished both an inclusive and a narrow sense of sodomy. In the first, broad usage sodomy could be any sexual act between two people that was not capable of initiating reproduction. There were three types of activity: with the wrong vessel (anal and oral sex), with the wrong gender (homosexuality), and with the wrong species (bestiality). In the narrow sense, which increasingly prevailed, sodomie referred to anal sex, possibly heterosexual, but more commonly homosexual.

Also, influential was the concept of contre nature, stemming from Romans 1:26-27. Placed in the philosophical setting of the natural law, this usage tended to confirm the view that homosexual conduct is unnatural.

Same-sex behavior was also associated with contemporary heresies. The penalty for sodomy and heresy was the same—burning at the stake. The Albigensian dualists were thought (falsely for the most part) to be particularly given to same-sex sin. As the Albigensian roots were traced to Bulgaria, the disparaging term bougre came into wide use. At first the word combined the ideas of heresy and same-sex behavior; eventually, only the latter was meant.

Claude Courouve has shown that during the sixteeenth century French observers formulated an early version of the distinction between homosexual and heterosexual, though without using those terms. The distinction was expressed by amour des garçons, love of boys, as contrasted with amour des femmes, love directed towards women. Somewhat later this distinction took a more graphic form, the culistes versus the conistes. That is, those who were attracted to the buttocks (of their own sex) versus those who were attracted to the vagina.

The expression amour des garçons places the emphasis on age differentiation. The attractions of the youthful male also came to the fore in the expression mignon (formerly simply a favorite, or "minion," but beginning in the reign of Henri III a male sexual object. Revived from classical antiquity, the word catamite, suggests a somewhat younger partner. Also classical are the eponymic Ganymede, after Zeus’ favorite, and Giton, from Petronius’ Satyricon. The term bardache derives ultimately from a Persian term for "slave" (via Arabic). The generic term pédérastie, or love of youthful males, also became prominent. Later this last term became more general, being basically equivalent to "homosexual. This shift in sense is evident in the clipped form pédé, found in the nineteeenth century and still widely used in a disparaging sense.

The older, roistering homosexual was also recognized, and designated by the term bougre, which shed much of its association with heresy. Some authors, such as François Rabelais, observe a reciprocal pairing, coupling the aggressive bougre with the passive, receptive bardache.

Turning now to women’s terms, tribade is from ancient Greek. A problem arises with sapphique, which for a long time meant simply a prosodic measure. One thing most people "knew" (until the early or middle nineteenth century about Sappho is that she was heterosexually in love with Phaon and committed suicide because of it. The term Sapphiste, in the sense of a female same-sexer, was a fairly uncommon (that is, a learned or "arch" term) in French until the twentieth century. Lesbienne is also problematic, since until the middle of nineteenth century it could simply mean a "loose" woman, not necessarily a female homosexual

As in other countries there was a tendency to ascribe the predilection for same-sex behavior to other nations. Not being native to France, it was suggested, it must be an import. Because of the influence of Italy over France at this time that country seemed to be a logical place to pinpoint the origins of the conduct. Hence the imprecation: "la France devenue italienne!" Pierre de Brantôme referred to lesbian relations in a borrowed Italian phrase as donna con donna, woman with woman, Later, the source of the propensity was shifted to the Middle East (moeurs levantines) or to Germany (vice allemand).

Hermaphrodite sometimes served as a code word for homosexual, as in the satire of Henri III’s court, L’Isle des hermaphrodites (1605).

The eighteenth century witnessed the emergence of three somewhat shadowy groups. The members of the first group, the ordre de la manchette (order of the cuffs, an expression from 1726) were distinguished by their dress. The second were the Ebugors (an anagram of bougre, 1733). The most substantial of the three was the all-female Société des Anandrynes, which flourished in the years immediately prior to the Revolution.

The Paris police kept those suspected of sodomy under close surveillance; they were usually known as the infâmes (or infamous ones). Classical influences continued, as seen in amour socratique and péché philosophique. Dealers in banned erotic literature sometimes referred to their wares euphemistically as "philosophical books." The bisexual Marquis de Sade coined a useful word antiphysique to replace the idea of contre nature. Among the learned the eighteenth century witnessed an almost universal appeal to the norms of Nature. It was commonly assumed that same-sex conduct was unnatural. But not be everyone. Towards the end of the century a pamphlet defending homosexual conduct proclaimed "Tous les goûts sont de la nature"—all tastes are natural.

For most of its history argot has been an important factor is spoken French. Argot can be traced back to the thirteenth century. However, it truly came into its own in the nineteenth century, when a number of significant dictionaries covering the realm appeared.

By way of a general definition, argot is a register of language or a way of speaking specific to a social group—a sociolect in short. It typically starts with a desire to encrypt messages, concealing their meaning from outsiders. Use of argot serves as a badge of identity, allowing the members of the group to recognize one another and to forge bonds of social solidarity. Argot is not limited to France, but is found for example in England in Polari and Cockney slang. Argot differs from ordinary slang because of its origins in a desire to function as a special way of speaking for certain groups.

The vocabulary of argot tends to concentrate on certain themes—sex, violence, crimes, and intoxication. In this way it constitutes a massive challenge to the norms of respectable, bourgeois society.

There is not just one argot, but many, differentiated by time and place. Nonetheless the argot of Paris enjoys a special status. Today, the housing projects ringing French cities have developed their own argots. All these ways of speaking show a rapid turnover of expressions, increasing the opacity to outsiders.

The origin of many argot words is hard to determine. Others result from a change of meaning. There are some well-established procedures, however. One is clipping. Thus pédé (first recorded in 1832) is a shortened form of pédéraste. Through suffixation this in turn gave rise to pédale and pédoque. In this chain, there is first subtraction, then addition.

Other argot terms for male homosexual are tante (auntie), tapette (a synonym), and folle (crazy queen). A lesbian could be designated at gouine or gousse. During the first half of the twentieth century urinals were almost ubiquitous in French cities. Resorted to as "tea rooms" for sexual purposes, they were called tasses.

It has been said that the two creative poles of language innovation are the common people and the savants. Argot illustrates the first tendency. Scholars, scientists, and medical experts represent the second. Coming just a little later after the profusion of argot was an infusion of learned terms from abroad. In most cases these were invented in the second half of the nineteenth century. Yet resistance to foreign creations delayed their entry into French. Thus K. M. Kertbeny sent homosexual out into the world from Central Europe in 1869, the word did not make its way into French until 1891 (homosexuel), and then in the translation of a German work. In 1893 another translation supplied heterosexuel. The Italian savant Arrigo Tamassia created inversione in 1878; the French equivalent appeared in 1882. Uranismus (cf. also Urning) was created by the German independent scholar K. H. Ulrichs in the 1860s. Uranisme only began to circulate in France in the 1890s. A native French term unisexuelle seems to have been coined by the eccentric anarchist Charles Fourier, ca. 1840. A recent effort to revive it has not met with success.

Along with homosexuel and heterosexuel went bisexuel. This has led to a number of more or less humorous coinages, such as a voile et a vapeur (under sail and steam, a nautical expression) and the ineffable jazz-tango.

In the period immediately after World War II the leading French monthly was called Arcadie. The term arcadien referred to a member of this circle, and more generally to male homosexuals.

Defying the strictures of the Académie Française, contemporary French has shown great creativity. Argot grew apace. Building on earlier foundations in the nineteenth century, this demotic variant of standard French has now permeated the spoken language at almost all levels.

Another common feature affecting contemporary French words is clipping. Linguists term this procedure by two words: apocape and apheresis, excision of a fore part or latter part of a word, respectively. Thus restau is common for restaurant, manif for manifestation, zique for musique, and so forth. We have already encountered pédé, the clipped form of pédéraste.

In the French language Verlan is the inversion of sounds in a word common in popular speech and youth language. It draws on a long French tradition of permutating syllables of words to create slang words. The name verlan is itself an example: verlan = lanver = l’envers (meaning the inverse, or backwards).

The basic principle of verlan is that in a word or syllable the two most prominent consonants are retained, but appear in reverse order, usually separated by an "uh" sound (represented in French by the digraph eu). In this way femme and mec (the latter argot) become meuf and keum, respectively. Some words may have their syllables inverted twice; for example, femme > meuf > feume. A well-known example, adopted by North African immigrants themselves, is Beur (Arabe).

Verlan is primarily a spoken patois passed down orally, so that there is no standardized spelling. It is not so much a language, but a means of highlighting certain words. The fact that many verlan words refer either to sex or drugs attests its original purpose: to keep the communication secret from institutions of social control. No one would rely only on verlan while talking. Verlan words and expressions are typically mixed inside a more general argotic language. Specifically gay words seem to be uncommon, but note deup (from pédé). Individual gays are of course free to make up their own versions (nonce coinages).

Among current terms in (more are less) regular spoken French, the following may be noted. Goudon and gougnotte both mean lesbian. Crevette or glabre is a smooth-bodied young man, who may be just coming out. A Cyrille is a young man whose friends recognize him as gay, but who hasn’t realized it yet. A burly, older man, usually bearded, is a santa or nounours. If he is generous to young men with money and gifts, he is a Papa gãteau, sugar daddy. An Eddy is a tough homophobe, possibly violent. Turlute is fellatio, while partouze is an orgy. A triaude is a gay gathering place.

Many influences have contributed to the breakdown of traditional French linguistic purism. Since the English-speaking world has been so influential in the gay movement and in popular culture (music, movies, TV), it has been hard to stem this tide. This means that much of the influence flows into demotic French, where such terms as "cool" (approbation for a particular style of self-presentation) and "baskets" (sneakers) have taken root.

Conveyed by waves of popular culture, as well as business usage and now the Internet, the appeal of the foreign interlopers was irresistible. This receptivity is particularly evident in the gay world in France, heavily influenced by Anglo-Saxon models. In some cases it has been possible to find French substitutes, as placard for closet ("dans le placard," "sortir du placard") and fierté for (gay) pride. However, a long list of unmodified borrowings culminating in the 1990s shows the effect: coming out and outing, drag queen and drag king, butch/fem, bear, chub/chubby, and quicky all found in contexts that are otherwise completely French. Note the present-day gay, which forms a pair with gai, retaining the original meaning (ironically the original source of the English word). In French Canada, however, gai/gaie is preferred. The abbreviation LGBT has also been borrowed.

As with other modern languages, acronyms are proliferating. These include SIDA (an acronym reflecting the French term for AIDS) and PACS (Pacte civil de solidaritė, 1999), the French version of our civil unions (that is, all but marriage), a legal arrangement available to heterosexuals as well. Some usages found on the Internet are AVS (ãge, ville, sexe), SSR (sexe sans risque), and TBM (très bien membré; well-hung).

As elsewhere, neologisms, words made up out of whole cloth rarely survive. The French homolexis presents one prominent exception, for in 1978, the French writer Renaud Camus invented achrien/achrienne, a vaguely Greek sounding word for "gay." "From this point onwards [he decreed] achrien and achrienne designate individuals sexually attracted to their own sex, and everything that pertains to them; henceforth one must substitute these words for their synonyms." While it was perhaps utopian to expect that this word would effectively supersede the established ones (pédé, homosexuel, inverti and so forth), the neologism has been adopted by some student groups, such as Gage (Group Achrien des Grandes Ecoles).

REF. Claude Courouve, Vocabulaire de l’homosexualité masculine, Paris, 1985 (the author of this standard work has privately published (2006) an enlarged edition with many more citations, entitled Dictionnaire historique de l’homosexualité masculine.)

Friend of Dorothy

In gay slang a friend of Dorothy is a term for a gay man. In all likelihood the expression originates from the film The Wizard of Oz. Judy Garland, who starred as the main character Dorothy, ranks as a major icon in the gay community. A less likely theory that the Dorothy referred to is in fact the New York writer Dorothy Parker, who befriended many gay people.

The English bell-ringing society, The Friends of Dorothy Society of Change Ringers, takes its name from this euphemism.


It is usual to distinguish friendship of two members of the same sex from homoeroticism, even though in former times (and still occasionally today) the two friends may profess their love for one another. Hence the expression "we were more than just friends." A more general term for associations comprising persons of the same sex is homosociality.

For psychological reasons, present-day American males tend to observe the following precept. Two men who are lovers can become friends, but two people who first connect as friends cannot become lovers.


In general English usage, the noun fruit designates the edible reproductive body of a seed plant, particularly one having a sweet pulp. In North American slang, especially in the second and third quarter of the twentieth century, it was a common epithet for a male homosexual--sometimes used in the vocative: "Hey, fruit!"

Unlikely as it may seem, the term belongs to that significant class of words in which a pejorative appellation at one time given to women shifted to male homosexuals (compare gay and faggot). The explanation of this transfer is as follows. At the end of the nineteenth century, fruit meant an easy mark, a naive person susceptible to influence, reflecting the notion that in nature fruits are "easy pickings." From this sense it came to mean "a girl or woman easy to oblige." The transfer and specialization to gay men was probably assisted by the stereotypes that homosexuals are soft and use scent. In the 1940s, the heterosexual counterpart was the more specific "tomato," meaning an available woman (or so the speaker fancied). In England the expression "old fruit" is a mild term of affection (compare "old bean").

The word may also function as a clipped form of fruitcake, as in "nutty as a fruitcake." The current epithet fruitloop, referring to the trademarked name of a sweetened breakfast serial, seems to have the added nuance of eccentricity or craziness. Fruit-picker is a mid-twentieth-century term for a hostile individual who blackmails or robs gay men.

The disparaging use of the term in reference to male homosexuals is now less common, and for some years the gay activist Jim Kepner conducted a Los Angeles gay radio program quaintly termed "Fruit Punch."

Wholly unrelated is the "Sodom apple," a name given to a mythical fruit that is fair to the eye but, once touched, turns to ashes--recalling the conflagration of Sodom in Genesis 19. The transformation could be glossed as a symbol of the disappointing outcome of vain or illicit conduct. "Through life we chase, with fond pursuit,/ What mocks our hope like Sodom's fruit" (J. Bancks, Young's Last Day, 1736).

The relevant trope is Plants.




In ancient Greece Ganymede was a beautiful Phrygian shepherd boy who attracted the attention of Zeus, the king of the gods. Unable to resist the boy, Zeus seized him and carried him aloft to be his cupbearer and bedmate on Mount Olympus. While the motif of flight through the heavens is probably of Near Eastern origin, the abduction recalls the Cretan custom of older men "kidnapping" their adolescent innamorati and living with them in the wild for a time. (Plato states that the myth of Ganymede originated in Crete.)

In any event the motif is part a large set of stories of the Olympian gods falling in love with mortal boys.

In ancient art Zeus is sometimes depicted abducting the boy in mortal form and sometimes in the guise of an eagle, his attribute. Vase paintings occasionally show the anthropomorphic Zeus pursuing Ganymede as an analogue to the wooing of a youth by mortal pederasts. In later antiquity the motif of the beautiful youth being carried aloft by an eagle was given an allegorical significance, as the soul's flight away from earthly cares to the serenity of the empyrean.

In the medieval debate poem Altercatio Ganimedis et Helenae (twelfth century) the dramatic character Ganymede conducts an able defense of male homosexuality. The mythographers of the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance (above all Giovanni Boccaccio in his Genealogia Deorum of 1375) presented a number of examples of the male amours of the Greek gods, and these texts influenced artists. In 1532 Michelangelo created a drawing of "Ganymede Abducted by the Eagle" for presentation to a Roman nobleman, Tommaso de' Cavalieri, for whom he experienced a deep, though Platonic attachment. Correggio, Parmigianino, Giulio Romano, and Benvenuto Cellini produced other images of Ganymede.

In the French language, beginning in the sixteenth century, the divine youth's name became a common noun, with the sense of "passive homosexual" or bardache. Joachim du Bellay (1558) speaks of seeing in Rome "Un Ganymède avoir le rouge sur la tête" ("A Ganymede with red on his head," that is, a cardinal). The definition in the Dictionnaire comique (1718) of P. J. Le Roux is explicit: "Ganymede: bardache, a young man who offers pleasure, permitting the act of sodomy to be committed on him."

In "As You Like It" (Act I) Shakespeare made the transvestite Rosalind assume the name of Ganymede, "Jove’s own page." In 1611 the lexicographer Randle Cotgrave defined "Ganymede" as an ingle (passive homosexual or catamite). A pointed reference comes from Drummond of Hawthornden: "I crave thou wilt be pleased, great God, to save my sovereign from a Ganymede" (1649). This comment alludes to the tradition of royal minions at the Stuart court. Such associations notwithstanding, in the seventeenth century the German astronomer Simon Marius named Jupiter's largest moon after Ganymede, giving him preference over the female lovers who are commemorated in the names given to the smaller moons. Thus the way was paved for Ganymede to enter today's age of space exploration.

Gang Bang

This rhyming expression denotes an orgy, or cluster fuck. More particularly, especially as used by heterosexuals, it means a scene in which one person acts as the receptor for acts of penetration by several individuals. This is sometimes interpreted as gang rape, but it may be consensual.

In recent years the expression gang bang has acquired a nonsexual sense. This occurs when a street gang selects a person, almost randomly, on the streets in order to beat the ever-living hell out of him. A common ending is the removal of the victim’s shoes, which are then strung from power lines.


Gay ranks as the leading contemporary colloquial equivalent of homosexual. It also has achieved considerable general use.

There are several nuances. In recent decades some activists have preferred gay to the term homosexual. They falsely believe the latter word to be of medical origin, regarding it as clinical, suggesting pathology. Even though the word homosexual was invented by a Hungarian journalist (K. H. Kertbeny), who was probably oriented towards his own sex, the term has been thoroughly embraced by the heterosexual mainstream. Thus it appeared to be bestowed by "them." By contrast, gay is an "us" term. Variously inflected, disapproval of the older, polysyllabic term is the main reason for the strong surge in preference for gay evident in the early seventies in the wake of the 1969 Stonewall Riots.

At all events, the triumph of gay has not gone unchallenged. A few have continued to harbor reservations about the monosyllable because it seemed slangy and undignified. Lesbian activists complained that it did not clearly encompass women, hence the usage, obligatory for a time, of the dyad "lesbian and gay." During the 1990s it seemed for a time that queer would replace the three-letter word as the term of choice, but this gave way to LGBT (and variants). These challenges notwithstanding, the word gay has not gone away, as it remains a kind of "default preference," the term that most people use unreflectively and (de facto) preferentially.

The adjective gay (though not its three later slang meanings) stems from the Old Provençal gai, "high spirited, mirthful." This term in turn may have come from the Old High German gahi, "sudden; impetuous" (cf. modem German jäh, "sudden"—not "pretty," as some claim). Gai was a favorite expression among the troubadours, who came to speak of their intricate art of poetry as gai saber, "gay knowledge." Via Old French the adjective made its way into English towards the end of the twelfth century.

Despite assertions to the contrary, none of these uses reveals any particular sexual content. In so far as the word gay (or gai) has acquired a sexual meaning in Romance languages, which it has very recently, this connotation is entirely owing to the influence of the American homosexual liberation movement as a component of the American popular culture that has swamped the developed and much of the developing world.

Beginning in the seventeenth century, the English word gay began to connote the conduct of a playboy or dashing man about town, whose behavior was not always strictly moral, but not totally depraved either. Hence the popularity of such expressions as "gay lothario," "gay deceiver," and "gay blade." Habitually applied to women in the nineteenth century—the earliest attestation is from 1805–it had the sense "of loose morals; a prostitute." "As soon as a woman has ostensibly lost her reputation we, with grim inappositeness, call her ‘gay’" (Sunday Times, London, 1868). Curiously, the 1811 Lexicon Balatronicum, an enlarged edition of a dictionary compiled by Captain Francis Grose in 1785, defines gaying instrument as "penis."

Thus far the development has an interesting forerunner in the Latin lascivus, which first meant "lively, frolicsome," and then "lewd, wanton." What was to come, however, has no independent parallel in any other language. The expansion of the term to mean homosexual man constitutes a tertiary stage of modification, the sequence being "lothario," then "female prostitute," then "homosexual man." Viewed in the perspective of the saturation of nineteenth- century usage by the spectacle of the "gay woman" (= whore), this final application to homosexual men could not fail to bear overtones of promiscuity and "fallen" status.

Setting aside ill-informed speculations, thus far not one unambiguous attestation of the word to refer specifically to homosexual men is known from the nineteenth century. The word (and its equivalents in other European languages) is attested in the sense of "belonging to the demi-monde" or "given to illicit sexual pleasures," even specifically to prostitution, but nowhere with the special homosexual sense that is reinforced by the antonym straight, which in the sense of "heterosexual" was known exclusively in the gay subculture until quite recently. While the latter semantic innovation (straight) has been tacitly accepted by those to whom it applied, it has not spread to other languages, just as K. H. Ulrichs’ coinage Dioning (= heterosexual) never gained any currency with the general public, even if its antonym Urning (and the English counterpart Uranian) were used for some decades by German authors and their British imitators.

A passage from Gertrude Stein’s Miss Furr & Miss Skeene (1922) is possibly the first traceable published use of the word to refer to a homosexual relationship, though it is not altogether clear whether she uses the word to mean lesbianism or happiness: "They were … gay, they learned little things that are things in being gay, … they were quite regularly gay."

Other evidence comes from an entirely different source. This is the hobo term gay cat, meaning young, inexperienced recruit (found from 1893 onwards). While this term was not specifically sexual, it could apply to a prushun, a young catamite who was the partner of an older more experienced hobo. At all events, in 1933 Noel Ersine’s Dictionary of Underworld Slang flatly defined gay cat as a "a homosexual boy") Bringing Up Baby (1938) was the first Hollywood film to use the word gay in apparent reference to homosexuality. In a scene where Cary Grant’s clothes have been sent to the cleaners, he resorts to wearing a lady’s feathery robe. When another character inquires about the reason for his garb, the actor responds "Because I just went gay … all of a sudden!" Grant (who was bisexual) ad-libbed the line, apparently secure in the knowledge that he could get away with it at a time when the in-group meaning of the word would have been unfamiliar to most filmgoers.

This evidence suggests that the main locus of the development was the United States. And in fact in 1955 the English journalist Peter Wildeblood defined gay as "an American euphemism for homosexual," at the same time conceding that it had made inroads in Britain.

Fundamental to the semantic progress of the term is the binary contrast gay/straight. However, the word straight has an entirely different history.

In the light of the semantic peregrinations outlined above, a particularly ludicrous complaint is the notion, advanced by some heterosexual writers, that the "innocent" word gay has been "kidnapped" by homosexuals in their insouciant willingness to subvert the canons of language as well as morals. As we have seen, the sexual penumbras of meaning were originally introduced by the mainstream society (i.e., chiefly heterosexuals), first to designate their own rakes and ramblers, and then the women these men caused to "fall."

Quite apart from the grotesque charge of verbal kidnapping (which ignores the fact that many words in English are polysemous in that they have two or more distinct meanings), there does exist a legitimate concern among homosexuals themselves that the aura of frivolity and promiscuity adhering to the word has not been dissolved. In that sense the comparison of the substitution of gay for homosexual with black for Negro is not valid, though the two shifts were contemporary. To be sure gay has gained the allegiance of many well-meaning outsiders for the same reason as black, the assumption being that these terms are the ones preferred by the individuals they designate.

As noted above, many lesbian organizations now reject the term gay, restricting it to men, hence the spread of such binary phrases as "gay and lesbian" and "lesbian and gay people." Such ukases notwithstanding, expressions such as "Is she gay?" are still common among lesbians. Despite all the problems, brevity and convenience suggest that this three- letter word is here to stay. Significantly, in 1987, in the aftermath of negotiations with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the New York Times, which had formerly banned the use of gay except in direct quotations, assented to its use.

In the closing decades of the twentieth century some sought to replace gay with queer, ostensibly an inclusive word, which also captures the purported outlaw status of sexual minorities. This alternative seems to be declining in popularity. Acronyms like LGBTQ and GLBTT and so forth seem too cumbersome. The word gay has proven surprisingly hardy as the most common general term, at least in the developed world of Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. The term has also been introduced into most Latin American countries and into several Asian ones. In these venues, however, it has a more restricted meaning, referring to a life style in accord with that of the West, in contrast to the more traditional forms of same-sex behavior, which retain their original terminology. As with other terms of this kind fanciful theories about origins abound. It has been claimed that "gay" was an acronym for "Good As You", but this is a backronym (based on a false etymology). Another folk etymology refers to Gay Street, a small street in Manhattan’s West Village, a nexus of homosexual culture. Despite the complexities noted above, one might have expected that the meanings of the word gay had become settled. Not so, for there was a further development that partially removed the word from the sexual realm. In the late 1970s, American students began to use gay with the meaning of "lame, geeky, uncool." This pejorative sense has appeared in Britain also. On June 6, 2006 the Times of London commented that while retaining its other meanings, it has also acquired "a widespread current usage" among young people, to mean, "lame" or "rubbish." For understandable reasons, this practice is frowned upon in communities that seek to ensure respect for people of all sexual orientations, and is considered by some to be on par with ethnic slurs. A few defenders of the word’s pejorative usage choose to spell it "ghey" to avoid any sexual connotations.


A gayborhood is a district in a city that is largely populated by gay people. This was formerly called the gay ghetto, and now more commonly referred to as the gay village.

The relevant trope is Localization.


The term gayby does not refer to a baby that is gay, but the children that lesbians and gay men decide to have, either biologically or through adoption. These children may be raised by couples or (less commonly) by single parents.

Recent years have seen an increase in this phenomenon: the gayby boom. At the end of 2006 the news spread that Mary Cheney, the Vice President’s lesbian daughter, was going to have a gayby.


Gaydar is the mysterious "sixth-sense" that enables one to detect whether another person is gay. This talent operates even in the absence of specific markers, such as gestures, clothing, or speech mannerisms. The person with gaydar "just knows." A decision as to whether a person is gay or not is often virtually instantaneous. In this sense the capacity recalls the knack some art connoisseurs report in deciding whether a painting is authentic or not. First comes the hunch; then they can set forth reasons.

The term is a portmanteau of "gay" and "radar" (after the radio device invented in 1941 to detect aircraft and other distant objects). The first recorded use of the new term "gaydar" seems to stem from a journalistic piece by Nik Cohen in The Independent for May 15, 1992. Cohen was describing cruising activity in a London park.

Some object that the application of gaydar tends to reduce people to a series of stereotypic qualities. This may be, but it is impossible to restrain those who believe they have the knack from exercising it.

Two types of persons find this knack helpful. The first is gay men, who may be looking for a sex partner, or at least a kindred spirit. The other type consists of heterosexual women, who wish to avoid "barking up the wrong tree," that is, forming a romantic interest in someone who is not available.

Some hold that gaydar functions through a mysterious implant known as the homometer, which can detect degrees of gayness. When the implant is missing, the person "lacks gaydar."

Gay Village

A gay village (sometimes called a gay ghetto and increasingly gayborhood) is an urban district with generally recognized boundaries where a large number of gay men and lesbians, as well as bisexual and transgender individuals live. In addition to housing, these neighborhoods offer a wealth of gay-oriented establishments, such as gay bars or pubs, nightclubs, bathhouses, restaurants, bookstores, and other businesses.

There is no uniform agreement as to the terminology of these districts. They may be called the gay village, gayborhood, gay ghetto, gay-to (a pun on ghetto), gaytown, gayville, and Queer Quarter.

Such areas may represent a gay-friendly oasis in an otherwise hostile city, or may simply enjoy a high concentration of gay residents and businesses. As with many identifiable urban groups, gay and lesbian spaces reflect both the need for a tolerant space as well as a pattern of personal choices. Gay men and lesbians utilize their spaces as a way of affirming gay culture, as well as a vehicle for the special needs of individuals. They play an important role in the socialization of young people, who may leave the rural or small-town environment in which they were brought up, to enjoy the advantages of the "finishing school" within a big city.

These neighborhoods often arise from zones of discard—that is, crowded, high-density, and often blighted inner city districts. Indeed, many of these inner city districts were the only spaces where alternatives to the norms observed in the rest of the city—concepts of identity and community based on the nuclear family--could be constructed. On the one hand, these spaces are places of exile created by pressure from an often hostile heterosexual community. On the other, they are places of refuge where members of gender and sexual minorities benefit from the concentration of safe, non-discriminatory resources and services. They thus reflect a confluence of the contradictory forces of exclusion and attraction. As tolerance grows, the element of attraction has become paramount.

While the examples in the United States and Canada are the best known, gay villages have been identified in more than thirty countries spread all across the globe.

Gender Identity Disorder

Gender Identity Disorder (GID) has been defined in the psychiatric guide, the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (302.85). This book lists five criteria that must be met before a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder may be given: 1) There must be evidence of a strong and persistent cross-gender identification; 2) This cross-gender identification must not merely be a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex; 3) There must also be evidence of persistent discomfort about one's assigned sex or a sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex; 4) The individual must not have a concurrent physical intersex condition (e.g., androgen insensitivity syndrome or congenital adrenal hyperplasia); 5) There must be evidence of clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Despite this effort at clarification, transgender advocates find all such definitions questionable, as they tend to problematize experiences that may be appropriate for the individuals who have them. In fact, many transgender people reject the idea that their cross-gender feelings and behaviors constitute a disorder. They question easy assumptions about what a "normal" gender identity or a "normal" gender role is supposed to be. In fact, the very existence of a "normal" gender identity or gender role has been examined and rejected by sectors of modern gender studies. Scholars in this field point out that not everyone who is born male is stereotypically masculine, and not everyone born female is stereotypically feminine.

Some people see "transgendering" as a vehicle for deconstructing gender. However, not all transgender people wish to deconstruct gender or feel that they are doing so. Other transgender individuals object to the classification of GID as a mental disorder on the grounds that there may be a physical cause, as recent studies of the brains of transsexual people suggest.

In a landmark publication of December 2002, the British Lord Chancellor's office published a Government Policy Concerning Transsexual People, This document categorically asserts: "What transsexualism is not...It is not a mental illness." In all likelihood other countries will follow this lead. Nonetheless, existing psychiatric diagnoses of gender identity disorder or the now obsolete categories of homosexual disorder, gender dysphoria syndrome, true transsexual, and the like, continue gain approval as formal evidence of transsexuality.

Many observers have concluded that the deletion of homosexuality as a mental disorder from the DSM-III and the ensuing creation of the GID diagnosis was merely sleight of hand by psychiatrists. These experts shifted the focus of the diagnosis from deviant desire (of the same sex) to the subversive identity (or the belief or desire for membership of the opposite sex/gender). Those who make this criticism point out that the same underlying idea characterizes both diagnoses, that is, that the patient is not a "normal" male or female. As Katharine Wilson, an advocate for GID reform put it, "[b]ehaviors that would be ordinary or even exemplary for gender-conforming boys and girls are presented as symptomatic of mental disorder for gender nonconforming children."


This current term refers to a combination of gender identities and sexual orientations. One example could be a person whose gendered presentation is sometimes perceived as male and sometimes as female but whose gender identity is female, gendered expression is "butch" and sexual orientation is lesbian. The expression suggests nonconformity or mixing of gendered stereotypes, conjoining both gender and gayness. More generally it has been defined as "pluralistic challenges to the male/female, woman/man, gay/straight, butch/femme constructions and identities."

Individuals who identify as gender queer must accept a degree of incomprehension—and downright disparagement—from the general society. Most adopt the identity in full recognition of these realities.

German homosexual language

In the great panorama of Indo-European languages, German belongs to a family that includes Dutch, English, and the Scandinavian tongues. Occasionally, early Norse texts provide parallels casting light on pre-Christian concepts of same-sex behavior, poorly documented in Germany itself.

Historically, German and English are sister languages. Over the centuries, though, the two have gone their separate ways. For this reason the cognates linking the two languages sometimes turn out to be "false friends." Gift means poison in modern German (it is something that is "given" to another person); while After, which once had a meaning similar to the English word, is now avoided in German as it has come to be localized to the after-part of the human body, the buttocks.

English has avidly borrowed words from prestige languages abroad, especially from French and Latin. German also did so for at time, especially during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, as a consequence of the Thirty Years War and the allure of French culture, which captivated such leading figures as Frederick II of Prussia. This did not last. During the nineteenth century a tendency to linguistic purism took hold. This predilection fostered the dominance of vocabulary of native stock ("echt Deutsch").

In terms of vocabulary this nativist policy dictated "import substitution," a procedure that takes the substance of the foreign word and reformulates it using indigenous materials. Technically this device is known as loan translation or calque. In this way pudenda (things that are shameful) becomes Schamteile (sixteenth century). Later the word degeneration was rendered as Entartung, a favorite Nazi term of disparagement. The French le troisième sexe, became das dritte Geschlecht, the third sex. Sometimes the attempt at import substitution didn’t take hold, so that homosexuel, for example, did not yield to gleichgeschlechtlich, though the latter term can be used. A second feature which sometimes baffles non-German speakers is the easy formation of compounds, such as Schadenfreude, joy at the misfortunes of others, and Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age.

The barriers erected to keep out foreign words have been successful only in part. German attitudes have in fact oscillated between purism, relying on native roots (though oftentimes these are put into service to render imported ideas), and openness to foreign imports. There remain many words taken from French, including expressions that did not migrate into most other West European languages. Examples are Chantage, blackmail, and Dementi, denial.

After World War II came a tidal wave of English. Some texts are "Germish," peppered with English words, which are nonetheless embedded in a German grammatical structure. The dimensions of this invasion are enormous. Yet words purloined from English often have a narrower sense, so that Trip usually describes a drug experience rather than travel, and Boy means either a hotel bellhop or the younger partner in a gay relationship. There are also invented words that look English, but are not, such as Dressman, male model (also a euphemism for a callboy), and Twen, person in his/her twenties, as "Teens und Twens."

All the same, the tension between the two tendencies, purism and receptivity to imports has created a gulf between the two linguistic stocks. The imported words tend to be interpreted as "high class," even mysterious and obfuscatory in meaning—as distinct from "plain German." Terms for sexuality adhere to this duality, so that ordinary language supplies schwul for gay, while the learned terms are homosexuell and invertiert (the latter now obsolescent).

Linguistic idiosyncrasies aside, attitudes expressed in German towards homosexual behavior generally reflected the West European consensus. However, there are indications of an indigenous attitude, more specifically of homophobia. Writing ca.100 C. E., the Roman historian Tacitus noted the Germanic scorn of individuals who defiled their bodies ("corpore infames"), who were drowned in bogs as cowards. These attitudes seem to survive in the later Scandinavian concept of the "unmanly man," for which the term argr is used. This was a fighting word, and a man publicly accused of the fault must fight or live forever after in dishonor. The German cognate of this Scandinavian word was arg, which however less commonly had a sexual connotation.

During the high middle ages, German received Christian attitudes as shaped by scholastic analysis. Sodomiterei is prominent. Generally, despite the views of some, this designates homosexual behavior and not a broader range of prohibited sexual practices. Heresy is common association, at first with reference to the Albigensian (or Dualist) heretics, who were commonly believed to have hailed from Bulgaria—hence Bulgare for homosexual, and the French import bougre. During the fifteenth century these terms were joined by a cognate imported from Italy, where German speakers commonly served as mercenaries. The Italian word buggerone became Buseran, then Puseran with a typical devocalization of the first consonant. The word Puseran appears in a famous 1494 print of the "Death of Orpheus" by Albrecht Dürer, where the Greek hero is labeled "der erst puseran," the first bugger. Buzerant survives in Czech as a loan word. A latinate variant is pusio, plural pusiones. The alteration of the first consonant appears a little later in Partass, for bardassa, a catamite.

A special German development is the idea of "heresy according to the body." Sometimes the word Ketzer, heretic, is employed simply to denote a sodomite.

During the late middle ages and the sixteenth century German students, clergy, and soldiers commonly traveled to Italy. There they found morals looser than at home. Hence a tendency to attribute bawdiness to Italians, and to Mediterranean people in general. This tendency to stereotype foreign peoples, often neighbors, by attributing undesirable practices to them is known as ethnophaulism. The city of Florence, reputedly the epicenter, gave rise to a verb, florenzen, to florence. In fact, the recent research of Michael Rocke on the prevalence of homosexual behavior in the Italian city suggests that German observers were not wide of the mark. This verb could be either active (for the penetrator) or passive (the recipient, der lässt sich florenzen, who got florenced.)

Other contexts named the Lombards (Lumbarden, a generic term for North Italians), as in England. In 1474 in Basel eighteen captured Lombard soldiers were tried for sodomy, with a characteristic deployment of the stereotypes against them. They were all executed. Not surprisingly, in view of his long struggle with the Catholic hierarchy, Luther shifted the epicenter of Italian sinfulness to papal Rome. He claimed that the Lateran Council of 1515 granted each cardinal an allotment of pusiones et ganymedes (boys and ganymedes). The German version of this text makes it clear that the youths were intended for sexual purposes.

The Italian link fostered the further spread of the borrowed form buseran, noted above. Note also the somewhat later term welsche Hochzeit, an Italian (i.e. homosexual) wedding. Somewhat coyly, Martin Luther preferred to render this expression in Latin.

In his translation of the Bible and other writings, Martin Luther was a harbinger of linguistic puritanism. Thus he rendered catamite as Schandbube (shame boy). The term Schande, shame, sometimes appears as a euphemistic stand-in for sodomy.

Humanist scholars began to use classical terms, as cynaedus (properly cinaedus) and Ganymedes. Lesbica may mean simply a loose woman rather than Lesbian in our sense. Latin was also preferred when the writer was seeking to limit his audience to the educated and discreet.

Preaching in Strasbourg in 1506, Geiler von Kaisersberg evoked the pan-European concept of homosexual conduct as the mute or unspeakable sin. Such expressions-—stumme or ungenannte Sünde—-were widespread. But here a problem arose. If one could not even utter the name for it, how was one to oppose it? A further paradox ensued. Mentioning the sin of sodomy could be suggestive, implanting the concept in young minds previously untainted by it. Thinking might lead to action. Oddly enough, the idea of unspeakability applied also to divine matters, in what was sometimes termed the apophatic theology. Things are undiscussable either because they are vile and lowly or, conversely, too exalted for human understanding.

Occasionally we learn that "decent languages" such as German and Latin lack any words for such horrors as sodomy. Yet the bawdy Italians were not so restrained, so that sometimes, holding our nose, we need to borrow these words. These claims notwithstanding, German popular language could be blunt, as in arsbrutter, buttfucker.

Rotwelsch is a jargon that has been traced back to the thirteenth century. Also known as the Gaunersprache, this "secret language" was used by vagabonds, traveling artisans, thieves, and confidence tricksters. The words derive from various sources, including Hebrew, Romany (Gypsy), and Slavic languages. The word in this cant for homosexual is Kodesch (deriving from the kadesh/kedeshim of the Hebrew Bible). In the modern expression kesser Vater, bulldyke, the adjective kess, cheeky, stems from the Gaunersprache, and also ultimately from Hebrew.

During the eighteenth century, the French language enjoyed great prestige in Germany. Homoerotically inclined, Frederick the Great of Prussia preferred to write in the Gallic tongue. Yet sexual borrowings from French are relatively rare at this time; some in fact arrived later. Sokratische Liebe (cf. amour socratique) may owe something to this source, but more to the German concentration on classical philology (other) . King Frederick, though, left a souvenir, in Frida, a feminine sobriquet for a male homosexual paralleling English Mary and Nelly.

The expression warmer Bruder, warm brother, is curious and so far not completely explained. The brother part seems to reflect the notion that homosexuality was rife in the religious brotherhoods and monasteries. The notion of warmth is something else. The related term schwul, which is a cognate with English sultry and swelter, combines the idea of warmth with humidity. Perhaps there is again here a link with Mediterranean lands, the supposed home of sodomy. Alternatively, the idea could have been influenced by the traditional medical theory of the humors, still prevalent as late as the eighteenth century. In this theory women are cold and wet, while men are hot and dry. Schwule, who are warm and wet, fit neither pattern, possibly illustrating the idea of homosexuality as intermediate.

During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries prudence fostered the use of camouflage words or Tarnverzeichnungen. Classical studies, very much in vogue among the educated, made significant contributions. Die griechische Liebe, Greek love, and die Platonische Liebe were used generically. There were also proper names, such as Zeus and Ganymed to reflect an older man and his younger lover. The term vernüftig, rational, is ultimately classical, reflecting the Greek idea that homosexual behavior, ostensibly not found among animals, characterizes beings of reason, that is humans. Two camouflage words popular a hundred years ago are die Anderen, the others, and der Eigene, the special. The latter was the somewhat arch term for a monthly, founded by Adolf Brand and others in 1896, possibly the first homosexual periodical.

In the general population (and sometimes among gays themselves) negative expressions abounded. Some were formed with the prefix halb-, half, suggesting that homosexuals were but half men. Confusingly, the term Mannweib, can refer either to an effeminate male homosexual or to a lesbian.

Other forms of negativity stem from medical and professional usage, as Abartung and Abirrung, deviation, and Entartung, degeneration.

As in other nations homosexuality was sometimes defensively ascribed other countries. Above we noted above the tendency to shift it to Italy. In more recent times the Middle East came into play, hence Araber, Sidonier, Syrer, and Levantiner. Ironically, during the 1970s and 1980s young Turkish youths (generally straight-identified) became prominent as street hustlers. As with the English slang expression "French culture," Franzose stands for oral sex.

The Imperial German Penal Code of 1872 had an article (175) directed against male homosesuality, hence the expressions Hundertfunfundsiebsiger and 17 Am Mai [17.5] geboren. Nowadays well-heeled gays are said to drive a Mercedes 175.

A net importer of sexual terms until the 1860s, the German language then entered into a nova-like explosion of creativity, coining many expressions that have achieved international acceptation—-with homosexuell in the lead. Some of these terms this ebullience generated did not survive. An example is Pygismus, anal sex, a noun deriving from the Greek pygos, buttocks.

A key figure in rethinking sexual conceptualization was the psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebbing (1840-1902), who added Masochismus alongside previously existing Sadismus (derived from French) to make a pair. The period is characterized by a general tendency to stark contrasts as indicated in binaries, each term having its antonym. The "money shots" the franker passages of Krafft-Ebing’s book Psychopathia Sexualis, are in Latin, serving as a kind of medical jargon designed to hide the content from outsiders.

Krafft-Ebing was famous from the first publication of his book in 1886. However, even more fundamental contributions to homosexual vocabulary came from less prominent scholars and writers, beginning in the 1860s. These authors realized that existing terminology sagged under the burden of negative value judgments that impeded a true understand of same-sex love. Accordingly, a series of proposals were advanced for new terms

1) Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (1825-1895), and independent scholar and early fighter for gay rights, took the first step. Ulrichs started from the classical goddess Venus Urania, whom he identified with same-sex attraction; her counterpart the Venus Dione. This source yielded his first tentative coinage of Uranier in 1862. Soon, however, Ulrichs decided that the term would have more success if it were presented in a native guise, hence Urning. The lesbian was termed Urninde. The "normal" man was a Dioning, his female counterpart the Dioninde. The bisexual Ulrichs termed Uraniodioning. Uraniasters, or "pseudohomosexuals" were essentially straight men, who nonetheless could engage in homosexual activity, sometimes for pay. As the abstract forms he used the nouns Uranismus and Urningtum. The more classical forms, Uranian and Uranism, made their way into English and the Romance languages. Today all these terms are rare, but they represent a valiant effort to find a linguistic form for a thoroughgoing rethinking of the problems.
2) In 1869 the physician Karl Friedrich Otto Westphal introduced the expression die
conträre Sexualempfindung ("contrary sexual feeling"). This enjoyed currency for a time, but eventually died out as too cumbersome.
3) It was a friend of Ulrich, however, a Hungarian-German journalist named Károly Mária Kertbeny (1824-1882) who had the honor to introduce the standard term
homosexual to the public in 1869. The term combines the Greek prefix homo- with the Latin –sexual. Those who engaged in such contact were called Homosexualisten. Kertbeny tended to contrast his new term homosexual with normalsexual. The antonym, heterosexual, which is usual today, appeared a few years later.
4) At the end of the nineteenth century the Berlin physician Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) emerged as the leading authority on same-sex behavior. He favored the expression
sexuelle Zwischenstufen, sexual intermediates, regarding both gay men and lesbians as tending in their physiognomy to a kind of androgyny. In 1910 Hirschfeld invented the term Transvestismus, which spread to other languages. He also the terms Androphilie (attraction to adult men as distinct from youths) and Gerontophilie (attraction to older men), which are useful though unfamiliar
5) In 1924 Karl-Günther Heimsoth (1899-1934) published his Rostock Ph.D. dissertation on "Hetero- und Homophilie." This introduced the term
homophil, which was to enjoy popularity for a time after World War II in the Netherlands and the United States.

The period beginning with German unification (sometimes known as the Second Reich) saw an emphasis on purism, and native equivalents were found for many international words. While this lightened the burden of learning for native speakers of
German, it contributed to the impression that foreigners have that the language is hard to learn.

Around 1900 appeared two novels entitled Anders als die Anderen, other than the others, a title also used in a 1919 film. Also found are der andere Bahnhof, the other train station, and der andere Bahnsteig, the other platform, as well as die andere Feldpostnummer, the other address, von der anderen Konfession, of the other (religious) denomination, von der andere Rheinseite, on the other side of the Rhine, and vom anderen Ufer, on the other shore.

The German gay movement was both an effort for legal reform and a scholarly endeavor, supported by its great periodical, the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen. Since this movement sought to have an international effect, its word coinages generally resisted purism, preferring word forms that would be internationally recognized. Also, many were physicians, a profession with a traditional preference for Greek and Latin. Note, for example, the triad: homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual. As we have seen, homophile came along in the 1920s. Some coinages (as those suggested by the homosexual theorist Kurt Hiller) did not last. In the interest of respectability, slang terms were generally avoided.

Still, novels and other sources document a lively popular current. Street hustlers were called Strichjunge, reflecting an old meaning of Strich, the beat that a prostitute or hawker would follow. The hustler’s client was euphemistically termed the Freier, or suitor. Specific practices are named. The old prefix After-, buttocks, appears in Afterlecker, anilinguist. Blunter are Arschvermieter, one who rents his anus, and Arschficker, buttfucker. Blasen, to blow, has a connotation similar to English.

Certain colors are regarded as gay, especially rosa, pink, and lila, mauve. These have been explained because they are intermediate shades. The Nazis required homosexual inmates of the camps to wear the rosa Winkel or pink triangle. Since World War II the term rosa has been widely adopted by German gays as a positive badge. Occasionally, one finds pink, a borrowing from English.

Some given names were regarded as typical of gay men, especially Detlev and Herbert. Compare Bruce in the US and Emile in France. Some women’s names, including Else, Frida, Lilli, and Trine (a shortened form of Katharina) are applied to effeminate homosexuals.

Bridging the learned and the popular is the main term for lesbian, which reflects international usage: Lesbierin or Lesbi. Tribade proved too learned, but Sapphist has enjoyed considerable circulation. There is also a familiar term for the assertive lesbian or bulldyke, kesser Vater, kickass daddy. An English borrowing Butsch, is sometimes used, especially by those adhering to the controversial butch-fem dichotomy.

The American and English occupation of West Germany, together with the overall prestige of English led to much outright importation of English words. This body of words is sometimes known as Germish or Denglish. Sometimes though they have a restricted sense, as Tip, which means a piece of advice not a gratuity. Popular culture—as seen in rock music and movies—served as a powerful agent of this linguistic invasion. While the term schwul is native, it achieved new prominence in the German gay movement as the equivalent of "gay" or "queer." This promotion of a formerly taboo expression reflects the "detoxing" process found in various liberation movements—the key example being the American term black, formerly avoided for African Americans, but embraced as part of the new forthrightness.

HIV-AIDS has fostered certain terms, notably Positiv and Negativ (designating a person who is infected and one who is not, as in English).

In recent decades somewhat halting efforts were made to link up with the first German gay movement, which had been suppressed by Hitler in 1933. As many of the pre-Nazi coinages had been absorbed into the general language, they persisted. After 1969 (Stonewall) there was a flood of English terms: gay, come out, softie. The verb outen, to out, has currency. An indirect influence from English is the promotion of slang terms, preeminently schwul as has been noted, to standard usage, at least within gay circles.

Commendably, contemporary Germany has engaged in a full reexamination of the Hitler era, including the matter of the arrest and confinement of gays and lesbians in concentration camps. This interest has led to a new study of the euphemisms employed by the Nazis to disguise their terrible activity. In due course perhaps this trend will produce a salutary reexamination of the negative role of bureaucratic and "scientific" language in the formation of sexual, specifically homophobic, attitudes.

Conclusion: As with the other languages surveyed in these profiles, the point of view espoused in the previous paragraphs permits a comparative survey of more than a thousand years of language evolution. To be sure, owing to the disappearance of much potentially relevant evidence the heaviest emphasis must fall on the more recent period. Still it is possible to observe an overall pattern with respect to the similarity and dissimilarity of the vocabularies surveyed. The pattern looks something like this: (1). During the Middle Ages, representing the first major phase of the development, the terminology of same-sex love was similar in the various languages, owing to the intervention of Bible-based Christian concepts. (2) Then there was considerable divergence, characterized by a growing number of popular and slang terms, which are specific to each language. Other things being equal, popular language resists importation of material from abroad, preferring to rework native expressions or invent new ones that sound native. The unsettled nature of Central Europe, especially stemming from the Thirty Years war, produced a number of terms from abroad. (3) The learned, who pride themselves on their cosmopolitanism, take a different stance, welcoming foreign terms and creating new ones out of Greco-Roman materials. This learned intervention began in the second half of the nineteenth century, with the major contribution of German scholarship (from Urning/uranian to Transvestit). (4) A century later, the American gay movement, riding (linguistically) on the coat-tales of the worldwide expansion of English, created a common body of terms in all the major West European languages, even though the degree of receptivity varied. In German, it is has been very marked, contrasting with the earlier tendency to linguistic purism.

REF. Jody Skinner, Bezeichnungen für das Homosexuelle im Deutschen, 2 vols., Essen,1999, an extensive dictionary emphasizing recent German usage.

Gesture and movement

Comparative study shows that, far from being a universal language, gestures vary from one culture to another. They may convey specific meaning, definable in words. Others seem to be "involuntary" markers of some mental state, as when a person is benevolent or lying. Among these are ostensible markers of a homosexual orientation.

That is not all. Recent research suggests that gait–body movement in which stride is the foundation–is personalized, almost as much as fingerprints. Nonetheless generalizations are possible. Popular perception tends to view gait as gendered, so that forceful, even swaggering movements are characteristic of men, while women prefer a graceful, dainty gait. In keeping with the notion of inversion, the gaits of male and female homosexuals are thought to affirm the opposite of those qualities.

A number of terms reflect the mincing gait ascribed to male homosexuals, who (unlike lesbians) are thought to eschew the heavy stomp of macho men. In English there are the nouns swish and flit. The jocular expression light in the loafers suggests a lack of firmness in the tread (as well as stereotypical footwear). In Spanish, pisaflores means "walks on flowers."

The term double-gaited (meaning bisexual) stems from the world of racing, where it originally meant a horse that could perform on both a dry amd a muddy track. In its new context it draws upon the idea of homosexual gait as being mincing. Bisexuals are also said to swing both ways.

Sometimes the attention focuses on the upper limbs. Gay men are said to favor extravagant, theatrical gestures. The hands, insufficiently supported, may dangle: limp wrist. In Spanish the idea is conveyed by the expression mano quebrada.

Lesbian movements, though only in private, are held to be characterized by rubbing and frottage (hence the terms tribade, from ancient Greek, and tortillera, Mexican Spanish). Other lesbian movements are said to facilitate working with machinery, as automotive repair. It is apparently folklore that lesbians prefer to remove the caps to beer cans with their teeth.

Cruising is the seemingly random, but in fact purposive strolling designed to make sexual contact. The term cruising may be used in a more specific sense to designate the eye contact and/or gestures designed to elicit a favorable response. Eye lock occurs when the person being cruised reciprocates with his own fixed gaze. A term for a more aggressive ocularity, eye rape, is not common.

Coming out (of the closet) suggests motion towards others. Conversely, a return to the closet is a form of retreat.

Terms for oral movement include to suck, to give head, to blow (blow job), and to rim. In the performance of oral sex Latin usage distinguished between the caressing movement of the insertee, known as fellatio, and the active thrust of the insertor, irrumatio. Anal contacts are generally envisaged from the point of view of the insertor, penetrating and thrusting. Sometimes the viewpoint is that of the insertee, hence the expression take it up the ass. There is also the saying "if you can’t face it, back into it " (dated US slang). The idea is expressed more forcefully in the Spanish retropulsión.

Fisting is the practice, now fortunately uncommon, of inserting the whole fist into the rectum of one’s partner. There seems to be no term for the receptor role in this practice.

The use of dildoes and other sex toys is a form of movement, either as a prelude to sex or during the main event.

Groping is the harmless, if sometimes disconcerting practice, of placing one’s hand on the genital of another. Hand job is a term for masturbating another.

Travel requires more complex patterns of movement, utilizing various means of transportation, so as to go from one place to another. Statistically, gays and lesbians are much more likely to travel from straights. Sometimes they engage in this activity for purposes of sexual tourism, A special practice is attending circuit parties, gatherings for meeting and possibly sex, which are held in a changing series of venues.

Ghettos, Gay

The term ghetto originated in Renaissance Italy, as the Venetian dialect form derived from Vulgar Latin iectus "foundry." The ghetto was the name of the enclosed area of Venice in which the Jews were not merely required to live, but even had to be after a certain hour in the evening, while conversely Christians were forbidden to enter the Jewish quarter after dark. A major reason for the creation of the ghetto was to prevent sexual intercourse between Jews and Christians. In the nineteenth century the abolition of the ghetto was a significant part of the emancipation of the Jewish communities of Western and Central Europe.

During the 1960s the survival of the word in English usage led to its being applied by analogy to areas in the inner cities of the United Stares in which racial minorities, especially blacks and Latinos, were concentrated by reason of poverty or of the collusion of real-estate interests to prevent them front obtaining homes or apartments outside of designated neighborhoods. It also connoted the exclusion (or self-exclusion) of such minorities from the political and cultural life of the larger society.

As early as 1942, a survey of residential patterns in New York City had found similar clusters of homosexuals in three areas of Manhattan: Greenwich Village, the East Side in the 50s, and the neighborhood around 72nd Street and Broadway. Subsequently, other cities were noted to have sections largely populated by those practicing an evident homosexual lifestyle. Along with the West Village and Chelsea in New York City, Chicago's North Side and San Francisco's Castro Valley have such an ambience. Such concentrations probably stem from the bohemias of the late nineteenth century, in which the sexually unconventional mingled openly with artists, writers, and political radicals, among them advocates of what was then called "free love."

The gay ghettos of recent decades are often districts that have been reclaimed from previous decay, with neatly refurbished apartments and brownstones alongside fashionable boutiques and exotic restaurants, as well as enterprises offering wares or services specifically for a homosexual clientele.

The urban homosexual can be the spearhead of gentrification in that he frequently has considerable discretionary income, no wife or children who would suffer from the initially depressed environment, and a preference for the anonymity of the metropolis over the high social visibility of the upper-middle-class suburb with its basically heterosexual lifestyle. This tendency of gay ghettos to encroach upon former working-class minority neighborhoods as part of the gentrification (and Europeanization) of American cities has at times generated social friction between the two groups.

There is a significant special feature of the gay ghetto. The ghettos in which other minorities find themselves confined are resented as symbols of discrimination and exclusion, the gay ghetto can be a haven of toleration whose denizens enjoy liberties seldom accorded to overt homosexuals residing elsewhere.

By the early twentieth century the term ghetto became dated, as it was recognized that distinctive portions of American cities had become less like the Jewish ghettos of former times, in that with the spread of fair-housing principles there was less and less pressure to live there. As noted above, this pressure was never a major feature of districts populated by gay and lesbian people, who came there by choice. Accordingly, the term gay ghetto has yielded to gay village.


The acronym GLBT (Gay. Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transperson) became common in gay movement circles in the 1990s, when it tended to replace gay. Many preferred it to queer also. Variants are LGBT and GLBTQ (in the latter form the letter q may stand either for "queer" or "questioning.")

The rationale for these complex terms is that they are more inclusive. Gay is often perceived as referring to men only; hence the need for the L component. The new terms also incorporate recognition of bisexuals, transvestites, and transsexuals. However this may be, many find the acronyms clumsy. It may be they represent transitional forms that will disappear when better equivalents are found.

Glory hole

A glory hole is a small aperture in a partition separating public lavatory stalls or video booths permitting the insertion of a penis that is then fellated by the partner on the other side of the partition. While doing so, the fellator may masturbate himself. If the hole is large enough, other body parts, including fingers and the tongue may be inserted.

The term may stem from the mining industry, where the opening to the mineshaft containing the "mother lode" was sometimes termed the glory hole. Alternatively, it could derive from glass blowing. Beginning ca. 1930 there was some use of the expression glory hole to designate the vagina. This shift into the sexual realm may have facilitated the current usage, first documented in print in 1949. Subsequently, there were some scattered attestations of the expression to indicate a gay bar or other meeting place; this was never common.

It has been speculated that openings of this kind were first bored in lavatory walls as peep holes; the sexual use came later. In the US during the second half of the twentieth century glory holes could be found in many public men’s rooms located in adult bookstores, gay bars, department stores, office buildings, jails, bus and train stations, military bases, and parks and highway rest stops.

The authorities are constantly seeking to suppress these arrangements, so that when bathroom stall partitions are replaced they may be of stainless steel. In other instances a crude metal plate covers the aperture.

The main appeal of glory holes is the anonymity they afford. They also foster concentration on particular body parts, in accordance with the principle of focality that some sexologists ascribe to the male sex in general. Resorting to a glory hole is also a way of mitigating perceived shortcomings, such as being overweight, homely, or older.

Glory holes may appeal to some who have not come out sufficiently to seek male-male sexuality in other venues, or even to straight men seeking momentary relief. Because of fear of arrest or assault, it is rare for a man to insert his penis in a glory hole without invitation from the person on the other side of the partition. A common signal is to insert one or more fingers in the hole, often accompanied by a beckoning motion and a sound such as a purr or whistle. Foot tapping may also occur. The risk of being overheard combines with the anonymity principle to discourage any real conversation.

Go-Go Dancer

Go-Go dancers were originally 1960s-era miniskirted women, dancing at clubs such as the Whisky à Gogo on the French Riviera. In this instance the French expression à gogo means "in abundance; free-flowing." Some clubs featured dancers in elevated cages, wearing go-go boots. The performer Timmy Everett (1939-1977), who achieved renown for a single film and stage role (Tommy in "The Music Man",,, attempted a career comeback in 1967 by promoting himself as the first "go-go boy."

For those unfamiliar with the French expression go-go may be interpreted as a reduplicated form of the noun go, one of whose meanings is "power of going, energy, vigor". During the beatnik era, patrons at jazz clubs would encourage musicians by shouting "Go, man, go!"

Many gay clubs featured male go-go dancers (called go-go boys) during the period 1965-1968. After that brief flowering, few gay clubs had go-go dancers until the late eighties, when go-go dancing again became fashionable. Go-Go dancers who perform at night clubs, private parties, circuit parties, or rave dances in colorful bright costumes (which may include battery-operated lights), with fire sticks, or with a snake are sometimes called performance art dancers.

Golden Shower

As a paraphilia, urine may be ingested or accepted as a "shower" on the face or body. This general interest may be termed watersports (which should not be confused with aquatic athletics). The learned term is urolagnia. The golden shower is a specific form. The term golden-shower queen refers to one who habitually acts as the recipient of such lustrations, not the giver. While it is common for the golden-shower adept to receive the liquid directly from the penis or vagina of the donor, some individuals prefer to store the urine in bottles for later use.

Other variations include arousal from wetting or seeing other persons urinate in their pants or underclothes, or wetting the bed. Another aspect of urolagnia may involve a tendency to be sexually aroused by smelling urine-soaked clothing or body parts. In many cases, a strong correlation or conditioning arises between urine smell or sight and the sexual act.

For some individuals the phenomenon may include a diaper fetish and/or arousal from infantilism. Some are stimulated by the sound of either a male or female urinating into a receptacle (either a piss pot, one designed for urination, or not). To many of this persuasion, the louder the noise, the more arousing the effect.

Watersports may occur in a BDSM scene as a form of humiliation, sometimes involving "holding it in" until voiding occurs in desperation. A longing for abjection may take the form of physical humiliation associated with being urinated on or pressured to consume urine. In some cases, an individual achieves arousal by merely staging situations where others can either witness that person wet his or her clothing or smell his or her urine scent.

All of these phenomena may have an ethological (or cross-species) background, as many animal species make us urination as a form of marking territory.

The relevant trope is Abjection.

Gold Star Lesbian

A gold-star lesbian is a lesbian who has never had sex with a man and has no intention of ever doing so. Such women are the equivalent of Kinsey sixes. The expression gold-star lesbian is honorific, and lesbian separatists regard such behavior as especially commendable.

In the field of criminology a gold star is a gold-shield detective. During World War II gold-star mothers were women who had lost their sons through combat.


In some modern French writers, such as Marcel Proust, lesbian behavior is evoked by recourse to a term derived from the second City of the Plain (Genesis 18:20 ff.), making a neat parallel with sodomite. Other writers, displaying less imagination, simply use Gomorrhéen as a synonym for sodomite.

The sense of "lesbian" has been traced back as far as Paracelsus in the sixteenth century, but it appears to have no roots in biblical or classical antiquity where the sins of the other four towns, if they differ from those of the residents of Sodom, go unremarked. In 1907, however, the prolific pornographer Alphonse Momas (writing as "Le Nismois") published a novel, Les villes maudites, ascribing a separate practice to each of the five cities.

Granola Dyke

An affinity for "natural" foods (of which granola is the symbol) tends to be associated with other "healthy" preferences, such as wearing Birkenstocks and wool socks, while eschewing makeup and other conventional allurements. These women are often of the ‘sixties generation, but not necessarily so.

Such persons tend to embrace old-style feminism, and may be perceived by younger, sex-positive dykes as sexually uptight, too "politically correct," and deficient in fashion sense.

A lesbian of this kind may also be known as a crunchy or an extra crunchy.

Greek Culture

This somewhat coy expression has found some favor in the sex ads, where it signifies a preference for anal penetration. One may be either Greek active or Greek passive. The word stems from the fact that the physical enactment of ancient Greek same-sex behavior generally occurred in this fashion. The late Sir Kenneth Dover, at one time the leading expert on ancient Greek homosexuality, at first denied that penetration of the anal cavity was the norm. This error stems from a misinterpretation of the evidence from vase painting.

The expression contrasts with French culture, which means oral sex.

Beginning in 1938 there is attestation in the United States of the use of the word Greek as a noun, apparently without reference to a particular sexual act. This sense may have been reinforced by a stereotype concerning immigrants from Greece.

The expression going Greek is ambiguous. It may mean either joining a fraternity in college or becoming a convert to the pleasures of anal sex.

The relevant trope is Ethnophaulism.

Greek Love

This old (and somewhat euphemistic) term for pederasty has been given renewed life by J. Z. Eglinton’s landmark monograph Greek Love (1964). Compare the eighteenth-century French amour socratique and péché philosophique. In Greece itself, Crete was often singled out as the birthplace of homosexuality (as by Plato in The Laws). There was also an expression "take ship for Massilia [Marseilles]," a Greek colony on the coast of Gaul noted for its special devotion to the practice, perhaps because of its proximity to the ancient Celts, who were celebrated for their enthusiasm for it.

The relevant trope is Ethnophaulism.



Hairpins, Dropping

This expression was current in the mid-twentieth century for a public disclosure of one’s homosexuality. The reference is to a common women’s hairstyle of the time. Dropping hairpins could either be involuntary or a deliberate act of provocation. "Since then … we’ve let our hair down, as the saying goes, and the hairpins flew in all directions" (Gore Vidal, A Thirsty Evil, 1950). One wag dubbed the Stonewall Rebellion of June 1969 "the hairpin drop heard around the world."


This very recent portmanteau word designates a former lesbian, usually one who is now in a heterosexual relationship. This neologism is a play on the phrase has-been, a put-down describing a person who was once important or popular but is now largely forgotten. Given such a less-than-flattering association, it is likely that women who are still lesbians coined this word. A rare synonym for this term is wasbian.

Note also LUG (Lesbian Until Graduation), referring to relatively easy participation in female same-sex arrangements on college campuses--arrangements which may prove harder to sustain in the post-college world.

These terms may incorporate a certain social reality, namely that over one’s lifetime female same-sex behavior is somewhat more variable than its male counterpart. That is, some women begin as lesbian and become straight, others reverse the process. Why this variability should be less common among men remains unexplained; the reasons for the disparity may be either cultural or biological.

Head, Give

This term usually refers to fellatio. It may also refer to cunnilinctus. There are some older evidence of use of "to head" as a verb. In gay usage it is more common to speak of "giving a blow job" or "going down" on someone.


A hundred years ago the English gay theorist Edward Carpenter posited two primordial types of homosexual males. In this polarity the first type is the warrior, as seen in ancient Greece, medieval Japan of the Samurai, and many other cultures. The second is the healer.

The tradition of the shaman has flourished among tribal groups in Siberia and other parts of Asia. Shamans are eccentric individuals with magical powers, among them healing. Some shamans are of indeterminate sexuality; others seem to be gay. A similar distribution of attributes is found among some versions of the North American native berdache or two-spirit person. Since the indigenous peoples of the Americas came from northwest Asia, there may be a prehistoric connection between the shaman and the berdache.

In our own society the profession of male nurse seems to be significantly gay. Doctors seem not to be, though there are gay and lesbian physicians.

The AIDS crisis brought out nurturing capacities in many gay people. Many individuals, male and female, have selflessly volunteered to help those who are ill.

In the standard interpretation of the Rainbow Flag the color orange is identified as "for healing."


This word stems from Hermaphroditos, the Greek name of a minor deity fusing the qualities of Hermes (or Mercury) and Aphrodite (or Venus). The numerous representations of two-sex beings in Hellenistic and Roman frescoes, mosaics, and sculpture are conventionally termed Hermaphrodites, but whether they represent the deity is uncertain. The myth of the origin of the god appears in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (IV, 285-388).

In botany the term designates plants that have the organs of both sexes.

The classical origins of the word lend it prestige. Yet this lineage should not disguise the fact that the term has been used as a cover for some dubious assertions. Repeatedly we hear that a hermaphrodite is a person who has a complete set of male and female sex organs. Medically, this condition rarely, if ever occurs.

During the Renaissance writers such as Aretino and Il Lasca used the term to refer to someone who engages in both active and passive buggery. Some modern writers use the term as a synonym for androgyne. Victorian doctors believed that the gonads were the seat of "true sex," and thus created a system of nomenclature--in the absence of any real knowledge of genetics, endocrinology, or embryology--which categorized people as "male pseudohermaphrodite," "female pseudohermaphrodite," or "true hermaphrodite." Because they are based only upon the gonadal histology, the qualifiers "male" and "female" are very misleading and disturbing for parents and patients. The qualifiers "pseudo" and "true" are likewise harmful, because they imply a sort of authenticity, or lack of it, that carry powerful emotional baggage.

A few writers, especially in Germany (e.g. Alfred Moll and Alfred Adler), have yielded to the temptation to call the male with strong feminine qualities or feelings a "psychic hermaphrodite." In folk speech the distorted forms "morphodite" and "morphadite" were once common designations of an effeminate man perceived as homosexual.

In view of this complex history, the expression hermaphrodite finds little favor in the contemporary intersex world, where it is regarded as stigmatizing and misleading.

The relevant trope is Intermediacy.


Heterosexism is a predisposition in favor of the behavior, norms, and appearance of heterosexual people. Linguistically, it represents an enhancement of sexism (1968) by adding a prefix. In principle sexism is behavior and attitudes that foster stereotypes based on sex and gender. As a political slogan, however, sexism was largely aimed at attitudes found among insensitive, self-aggrandizing men, male chauvinists in part. Unless they allied themselves with these men, women were considered incapable of sexism.

As used in its heyday, sexism implied male (heterosexual) superiority. By contrast, the practice of heterosexism (or so the theory goes) assumes the superiority of both male and female straights.

A variant is heteronormativity. A term related to heterosexism and heteronormativity is sexual prejudice, a negative attitude toward individuals based on their sexual orientation. This bias is not the same as homophobia, a position and set of feelings that are consciously maintained. Instead, heterosexism is a kind of unconscious, unexamined predisposition to believe that "straight" ways are best. In this sense, heterosexism is a kind of default mechanism that functions silently, but effectively in the minds of many people.

The term heterosexism suggests that the basis for this bias is not found in the individual per se but rather has a broader cultural or biological basis that results in weighted attitudes towards heterosexuality over other sexual orientations. If asked to justify their beliefs, heterosexists would reply that this is a simple matter of instinctive response. The heterosexist individual is adhering to an unchallengeable code of human behavior, upheld either by Nature or by God, or by both in concert.

The prevalence of heterosexism can be explained in cultural and, perhaps, evolutionary terms as reflecting the idea that heterosexist individuals are more likely to engage in heterosexual behavior and produce offspring than homosexual individuals. As such, heterosexism may be viewed as an evolutionarily advantageous, a trait which promotes behavior more likely to propagate and ensure the existence of the population in which it exists. However, heterosexism assumes the superiority of heterosexual behaviors and preferences without regard as to whether offspring are produced.

Some prefer to distinguish heterosexism from heterocentrism, an implicit assumption that everyone is heterosexual.


This term emerged in Germany about 1880 as the complement to K.H. Kertbeny’s homosexual of 1869 (Kertbeny himself had preferred normalsexual). This time lag should not be taken to support the contention that the "invention" of heterosexuality occurred after that of homosexuality. Neither the behaviors nor the conceptual contrast originated in the nineteenth century. For example, the myth recounted in Plato’s Symposium clearly sets forth the contrast between same-sex and other-sex orientations.

In today’s popular language heterosexuals are referred to as "straights." As a rule, gays have failed to repay the straight vocabulary of abuse with a comparable range of slurs, though breeder sometimes occurs. In the quasi-secret gay argot of the 1940s, the word jam served to signal the unwelcome presence of straights.

As Sodom is the classic locus of same-sex love, so too did some writers (especially in eighteenth-century France) use the island of Cythera, sacred to Aphrodite, as the toponym for heterosexual behavior.


This short-lived term was preferred by the English social reformer and scholar Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), who disliked homosexual as a macaronic hybrid, yoking a Greek with a Latin root. Homogenic is all Greek. An alternative, similisexual, is all Latin.


This term for the ensemble of words in any language that serve to designate same-sex behavior and feelings was introduced by Wayne R. Dynes in his 1985 book Homolexis: A Historical and Cultural Lexicon of Homosexuality. Dynes formed the word from homo-, the first part of homosexual, and the Greek lexis, meaning speech or word.

A reference book containing such a roster of terms is a homolexicon. The individual items are homolexemes.


This is a modern coinage combining two Greek words. Etymologically, homophile means "loving the same." Homophile is, theoretically at least, broader in scope than homosexual, in that it includes nongenital as well as genital relations, but less broad than homosocial, which comprises all significant relations between members of the same sex.

Although the term had some circulation in Germany during the 1920s (e.g. as Homophilie in the writings of the astrologically inclined Karl-Günther Heimsoth), it was first used systematically in the Dutch homosexual rights movement after World War II. The expression was internationally diffused through the advocacy of the International Committee for Sexual Equality (based in Amsterdam) in the early 1950s.

During the following decade the word homophile was adopted as a self-designation by a number of middle-class organizations in the United States, and it seemed for a time that it might prevail. Homophile had the advantage of clearly including affectional, nonsexual relations as well as sexual ones, thereby de-emphasizing the perceived genital emphasis of the term homosexual.

The new militant trend that arose in the wake of the Stonewall Rebellion rejected the term homophile as a euphemism, preferring gay. Histories of the gay movement sometimes refer to the years 1950-69, when the word was in vogue, as the "homophile period." This phase stands in contrast to the more radical one that ensued.

For many users the meaning of homophile is now somewhat different. The term functions as an antonym of the word "homophobe." Thus a homophile person is one who admires or favors gay or lesbian people, events, and values. The new homophiles are not necessarily gay themselves. Many are "gay-friendly" heterosexuals. The general tendency is called homophilia.


In common usage, homophobia is the fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. It can also mean hatred, hostility, or disapproval of homosexual people, sexual behavior, or cultures. An individual who holds these views and tendencies is a homophobe.

The word homophobic, when used to label someone as prejudiced against homosexual people, can be a pejorative term, and the identification of a group or person as homophobic is nearly always contested.

The word homophobia is formed from the Greek words
homo meaning "the same" and phobos meaning "fear." However, it was used from 1920 to mean "fear of men, or aversion towards the male sex" (Oxford English Dictionary), using the Latin meaning of homo, "man." This meaning is obsolete.

From 1969 it has used with its current denotation, first appearing (in print) in the American Time magazine for October 31. Kenneth Smith first used the term in a professional context in a 1971 article in a psychological periodical. A little later George Weinberg popularized by his book Society and the Healthy Homosexual in 1971. He claims to have conceived the term several years earlier; this claim cannot be verified. At all events, the term is a shortened form of homoerotophobia, coined by Wainwright Churchill in his Homosexual Behavior among Males in 1967.

Some researchers within the field have preferred other terms to homophobia. In 1980 Hudson and Ricketts proposed the term homonegativity, arguing that "homophobia" was unscientific in its presumption of motivation. However, Gregory M. Herek, a well-regarded researcher at the University of California, Davis, has offered the most sustained analysis:

"Critics have observed that homophobia is problematic for at least two reasons.

First, empirical research does not indicate that heterosexuals' antigay attitudes can reasonably be considered a phobia in the clinical sense. Indeed, the limited data available suggest that many heterosexuals who express hostility toward gay men and lesbians do not manifest the physiological reactions to homosexuality that are associated with other phobias.

"Second, using homophobia implies that antigay prejudice is an individual, clinical entity rather than a social phenomenon rooted in cultural ideologies and intergroup relations. Moreover, a phobia is usually experienced as dysfunctional and unpleasant. Antigay prejudice, however, is often highly functional for the heterosexuals who manifest it.

As antigay attitudes have become increasingly central to conservative political and religious ideologies since the 1980s, these limitations have become more problematic. However, heterosexism, with its historic macro-level focus on cultural ideologies rather than individual attitudes, is not a satisfactory replacement for homophobia.

"Scientific analysis of the psychology of antigay attitudes will be facilitated by a new term. Sexual prejudice serves this purpose nicely. Broadly conceived, sexual prejudice refers to all negative attitudes based on sexual orientation, whether the target is homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual. Given the current social organization of sexuality, however, such prejudice is almost always directed at people who engage in homosexual behavior or label themselves gay, lesbian, or bisexual."

It must be noted, however, that Herek’s term sexual prejudice lacks the rhetorical punch of homophobia. Despite the drawbacks noted above, that term will probably continue to thrive.

Internalized homophobia refers to homophobia as a prejudice carried by individuals against homosexual manifestations in themselves and others. It causes severe discomfort with or disapproval of one's own sexual orientation.

Doubtless there are real examples of internalized homophobia, such as the Viennese thinker Otto Weininger, who committed suicide at the age of 23, and Roy Cohn, the lawyer for Senator Joseph McCarthy. Nonetheless, a tendency to overextend the concept has caused blurring, as when those gay citizens who do not adopt a particular political position are judged to be suffering from internalized homophobia. A perception that an individual is guilty of internalized homophobia may serve as a pretext for outing him or her, sometimes with tragic consequences. More generally, as a term of disparagement, the expression may shows a lack of compassion for young people who are still struggling to overcome negative feelings and to affirm their sexual identity.

The concept of internalized homophobia probably stems from the earlier idea of Jewish self-hatred, first analyzed by Theodor Lessing in 1930. This condition occurs when a person of Jewish background denies the fact, or having conceded it, proceeds to air various anti-Semitic stereotypes. Something of the same sort has been found among African Americans, Italian immigrants in northern Europe, and many other groups.


For at least half a century, homosexual has been the dominant formal term to designate same-sex orientation. To be sure, gay has made much progress, especially in English-speaking countries where it originated. Etymologically, homosexual is a hybrid: he first part homo- being the Greek combining form meaning "same"; the second, (late) Latin. The mistaken belief that homo- represents that Latin word for "man" has probably contributed to resistance to the word among lesbians.

Karl Maria Benkert (in Hungarian Károly Mária Kertbeny) introduced homosexual to the world in two anonymous pamphlets of 1869. A littérateur and translator (not a physician, as has been claimed), Benkert contrasted homosexual and normalsexual. His term might have gone unnoticed had not Gustav Jaeger popularized it in the second edition of his Entdeckung der Seele (1880). Thus the new term was not originally as "scientific" as one might suppose, but the creation of a closeted advocate of homosexual rights. In the period of its introduction it had to compete with other German creations, notably K. H. Ulrichs’ Urningtum and Uranismus (later anglicized as uranian) and C. F. O. Westphal’s die konträre Sexualempfindung.

Why did the word homosexual ultimately prevail? Ulrichs’ terms had too much of a baroque and cultish flavor to find acceptance. Westphal’s expression was doubly isolated: it was usable only in German and lacking the matching terms of the other series. By contrast, the set homosexual / bisexual / heterosexual that finally emerged efficiently defined the semantic field. The words Homosexualität / Homosexualismus, which Benkert also devised served to denote the condition. All these forms, being based on Latin sexualis, had no difficulty in gaining international currency.

A word must be said about the error of some Social Constructionists who infer from the date of the introduction of these terms an epochal change in which "homosexuality" was invented for the first time. This is to confuse three things: terminology, behavior, and concepts. From the absence of a specific word, those who argue in this fashion assume that there is no concept. Parallel examples show that this is not so. For example, the word international appeared only in the eighteenth century. Yet the practice of international relations goes back at least four thousand years in the ancient Near East. The study of words is indeed rewarding, but one should not claim more for this study than it can provide.


Introduced as recently as 1968, the term homosociality designates same-sex relationships that are not of sexual nature. Thus a heterosexual male who prefers to socialize with men may be considered a homosocial heterosexual. In fact homosociality implies neither heterosexuality nor homosexuality. A synonym is male bonding.

The all-male world of knightly life in medieval culture was an example of homosociality. So too, until recently were armies and professional corps, such as lawyers and physicians.

Today, women’s groups, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Women’s Caucus for Art, tend to be homosocial, though men may be admitted to some.

It is often thought that there is a continuum between homosexuality and homosociality. To some extent this is so, but one should be wary of the temptation to conflate the two. In practice homosocial arrangements, ranging from the formal bonds of sports teams to Friday-night poker games, tend to exclude overt homosexual dalliance. It is as if a kind of firewall exists to separating the two.


This term is currently popular among young people, especially gay men and straight college students—to designate a sexual arrangement that is more than a one-night stand, but does not require commitment. The expression hook-up originated in the prison subculture where it designates a long- term sexual relationship between two male inmates.


The use of this term to designate a man with large genitals goes back to the seventeenth century. The variant hanged was also occasionally found. At one time common among heterosexuals, the anatomical use of the word hung (or well-hung) is nowadays mainly found among gay men.


The word hustler is a street term for a male prostitute or rentboy (a term common in Britain), with the assumption that the man normally serves other males. From its original meaning of jostle or push, the verb hustle took on the extended meaning of "to aggressively solicit business or money." In the sexual sense, the hustler is an extension of this more general understanding.

In practice, the term hustler is usually limited to men. In street language female prostitutes are known as hookers. Hustlers hustle and hookers hook—the underlying idea is that of aggressively soliciting custom. By contrast, call girls and call boys simply wait by the telephone for business (though sometimes a madam or a "mister" does the solicitation). All the same, the word hustler tends to be used as an umbrella term for all forms of male prostitution.

Some hustlers are heterosexually oriented and would prefer to serve female clients, but they do not receive much traffic of this kind. As the practice is uncommon, there seems to be no comparable term for a woman serving other women for pay.

Other common slang terms for male prostitutes in the English-speaking world include working boys, trade, and punks. Recently, a euphemism, escort, has made some progress. The rentboy name stems either from the fact that the boys were renting themselves out, or that they paid their rent with their earnings. An escort who doesn't identify as gay, but who has sex with male clients, is sometimes called gay for pay or (in former times) rough trade. The latter expression implies the possibility of violence. As a rule, contemporary hustlers or escorts are more reliable in that way.

Clients, especially ones who pick up sex workers on the street or in bars, are called johns or tricks. Prostitutes sometimes refer to their trade as "turning tricks." Men who prostitute themselves with others while in a more stable amorous/sexual relationship are sometimes said to hustle "on the side." Some male clients (especially men who identify as straight) may prefer escorts who are crossdressers or pre-operative transsexuals ("she-males").

Same-sex male prostitution has been found in many cultures. In the ancient world, the practice of "sacred prostitution" (the selling of sexual favors by men or women in sacred shrines) is attested in the Hebrew Bible, where such men were known as kedeshim, or "holy ones." In ancient Greece, prostitutes of both sexes were generally slaves or freedmen. Free citizens selling their services as prostitutes could lose their civic rights. Ancient Greece and Rome both saw the existence of male brothels. Today, sexual tourism focuses on impoverished third-world countries where desirable young partners can be obtained at relatively low prices.

Changing economic and social conditions affect prostitution and the way it is discussed. Today, men advertising for clients in print media or via the Internet are typically known as "escorts," "massage/masseurs," or (in Britain) "rent boys." There are two kinds of escorts: independent (not working for an agency) and agency-based. In recent years the number of street workers (hustlers in the strict sense of the word) has been declining with the advent of Internet-based resources. Many of these, of course, are devoted to hook ups that require no financial outlay.

Beginning at the end of the second millennium Internet prostitution surged in popularity. One possible explanation for the drying up of street prostitution in previously notorious areas (e.g., Polk Street in San Francisco, Forty-second Street in New York City) may be the convenience of meeting sex workers online. Those who are available in cyberspace usually provide physical specifications and a photograph (though there is no guarantee that these are accurate and up to date).

Occasional, infrequent, or one-time escorts tend to find clients through "m4m" (male-for- male) message boards or online chat rooms. They will typically use code phrases like "looking for generous" or "$eeks help."




From the mid-fourth century CE to 1791 (when France became to the first country to decriminalize), homosexuality was against the law in every Euro-American jurisdiction. Some laws were aimed at both sexes. Others (as in England) applied to male homosexuality only. Whatever the coverage, those affected were literally outlaws.

This is not the place to offer a history of the sodomy laws. Several terms may be noted, though. Common until recently in American state sodomy laws is the term of art crime against nature. In English law the term buggery is used. In Germany the specific article in the Penal Code, Paragraph 175, became a byword for homosexuality. Spanish-speaking countries sometimes use euphemisms, such as peligrosidad social, social dangerousness.

Despite centuries of disparagement and discrimination under cover of law, gay men and lesbian do not display any overall tendencies to criminality. As Donald Webster Cory observed fifty years ago they are "law-abiding criminals." In fact homosexual behavior between consenting adults is a victimless crime—which means that in principle it is not a crime at all. Still today sodomy laws survive in many countries of the world. In the United States they were not ended until the early twenty-first century when the United States Supreme Court issued the Lawrence decision striking down the remaining state statutes.

Today in America we see some fascination with the image of crime, if not the reality. Hence current gay black gay slang designates thugz as desirable sexual objects.


Hostile observers chide gay men for remaining perpetual adolescents frolicking in sensual enjoyments, while disdaining the adult responsibilities entailed by forming stable families. Even some gay people have internalized this complaint. A major theme of the gay-conservative movement is that gays must be more mature.

The locus classicus of the idea of homosexual immaturity appears in the influential writings of Sigmund Freud. Starting with an a priori assumption of a natural "procreative instinct," Freud set forth a fanciful theory of psychosexual development in which a male infant passes through narcissistic oral, anal and phallic stages, attaining an Oedipal desire to have sex with his mother. Then fearing castration by his jealous father, the maturing male transfers his love to another woman. In this way the goal, the only acceptable one, is achieved: a glorious heterosexuality.

Men become homosexual, Freud thought, when this progression is inhibited—-he never explains how–and the individual remains fixated at some preliminary stage of
development. In this way the sufferer undergoes one of several fates. He is blocked at a
narcissistic stage, or fails to negotiate the Oedipal phase, or fears castration by a woman’s vagina.

Odd as all this seems, the result was that homosexuals were viewed as psychosexually immature. In his 1933 "New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis" Freud wrote that homosexuals "have failed to accomplish some part of normal sexual development." And in his 1935 "Letter to an American Mother," published in 1951) Freud wrote, "We consider (homosexuality) to be a variation of the sexual function produced by a certain arrest of sexual development."

In simplified form Freud’s ideas migrated to America. In a notorious 1980 essay entitled "The Boys on the Beach," conservative writer Midge Decter explained that for homosexuals there were: "No households of wives and children requiring security; no entailments of school bills, doctor and dentist bills; no lifetime of acquiring the goods needed for family welfare and the goods desired for family entertainment, with a margin left over for that greatest of all heterosexual entailments, the Future: no such households burdened the overwhelmingly vast majority of homosexuals." Male homosexuality, Decter claimed, is a flight from adult responsibility "far more than a wholehearted embrace of men."

Earlier, in January 1948, the writer Anais Nin had emitted similar misgivings. "[W]hat I see in the homosexual is different from what others see. I never see perversion, but rather a childlike quality, a pause in childhood or adolescence when one hesitates to enter the adult world. The relationship based on identification, on twinship, or ‘the double,’ on narcissism, is a choice more facile and less exigent than that between men and women…. There was often a parody, too, of parents or grandparents, an attachment to the past (love of antiques), always a fixation on preadolescence, when our sexual inclinations are not yet crystallized, and always some traumatic event which caused fear of women, hence the hatred of her." Further, "[W]enever I came close to a homosexual, what I found was childishness."

Now these ideas, in their Freudian guise, have been embraced by the magisterium of the Catholic church. The nerve of the 2005 Vatican Instruction in paragraph four reads: "The candidate to the ordained ministry, therefore, must reach affective maturity. Such maturity will allow him to relate correctly to both men and women…" "Affective maturity" is not defined but since "affective" refers to feelings or emotions the term refers to emotional maturity–specifically here sexual emotions.

Then paragraphs 8 and 9 state that "those who … present deep-seated homosexual tendencies … find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women." So although the Instruction avoids saying so explicitly, gay men are barred from priesthood training because they are thought to have immature sexual feelings. It is curious that the ghost of Sigmund Freud should have insinuated itself into Vatican thinking at this late date. Yet that seems to be what has happened.

Either through trickle-down or spontaneous generation some of these ideas have appeared in popular consciousness. It is not unusual for parents, noting the same-sex affinities of their adolescent children to make remarks such as the following; "It’s only a phase." "(S)he will grow out of it." This expectation seems more common with women than men, hence the expressions LUG ("lesbian until graduation"); a college student who will ostensibly settle into regular, heterosexual life) and hasbian. Religious groups seek to "rescue" homosexuals from their supposed self-destructive immaturity, by turning them into ex-gays.

Inadvertently perhaps, some gay men seem to confirm these stereotypes through open displays of frivolity. These range from flamboyant behavior to an obsessive concern with gossip and popular culture. These traits may be accompanied by disorientation, produced by stimulants or an irregular lifestyle: hence the term dizzy queen. For some the word gay e itself ncapsulates these notions. In this censorious view homosexuals lack a tragic sense of life, a deficiency possibly rooted in their tendency to avoid family responsibilities.

Homosexuals are thought to be excessively hedonistic, and preoccupied with sex. It may be that the term homosexual itself serves to foster this stereotype.

Intergenerational sex

Studies of homosexual behavior on a worldwide basis recognize three types: age-differentiated, gender-differentiated, and egalitarian. While homosexuality in American society is predominately egalitarian, elements of age-differention exist. When these become salient in a given society, the result is called intergenerational. In principle the relationship between a forty-year-old man and one of sixty-five years is intergenerational. In practice though the expression usually refers to relationship between an adolescent an adult.

Our society tends to deplore such relationships, and this condemnation leads to some category confusion. There is a common, but inappropriate conflation of pederasty, sexual interest in adolescent youths, with pedophilia in the strict sense, sexual interest in children. This inexactness has contributed to the stereotype that gay men are child molesters. In reality, those gay men who prefer youthful partners usually restrict themselves to adults, males twenty-one years or older.

Historically there are many terms for the love object of the pederast, including catamite (classical), ingle (early modern English), and mignon or minion (early modern, originally French). An unfavorable name for a boy sought out for a pedophile or pederastic relationship is chicken. Men who seek them out are chicken hawks.

Those who pursue such relationships prefer the expression boy-love (sometimes discretely abbreviated as BL). The label BL can also be used for the devotee, the boy-lover.

In French the term pédé, stemming from pédéraste and therefore originally intergenerational, has now become a generic epithet. This semantic evolution demonstrates the unwarranted tendency to confuse adult-boy relations with adult-adult ones.


The popular imagination tends to view male homosexuals as partaking of the feminine, while lesbians are considered to be masculinized. In this way, both categories are relegated to a middle terrain between the two poles of male and female. This notion of a realm in the middle underlies the old term third sex, a concept stemming ultimately from classical antiquity.

This view has led to confusion. Hermaphrodites are individuals who have ambiguous genitals. The old term epicene describes an individual whose gender is hard to interpret. Androgyny is the aspiration or achievement of gender indeterminacy, without regard to sexual orientation.

Bisexuality is another form of intermediacy.

According to most etymologists the origin of the common English adjective "bad" lie in the Old English words baeddel and baedling. The first means "hermaphrodite," while the latter had the connotation of sodomite.

The first major scientific periodical to treat homosexuality was founded by Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin in 1899. It was entitled Zeitschrift für sexuelle Zwischenstufen, or Journal for Sexual Intermediates.

Popular culture gives some play to shemales or chicks with dicks. These are individuals with large male members who have also had breast enlargement and wear feminine apparel. The appeal seems to be largely voyeuristic, though there may be some prostitution involved as well.

Older German texts supply Mannweib. In British Polari lingo a gay man is called omee-palone, or man-woman

In the early twenty-first century the term intersex came to enjoy new life as an umbrella expression for individuals with ambiguous genitals. This reflected the greater willingness of such persons to come out, and also sobering reassessments of the often unfortunate effects of "corrective" surgery that sought to make them more acceptably male of female. The Intersex Society of North America, founded in 1993, distributes information about this concept. Some of these individuals were featured in an HBO television special of December 2005, bearing the title "Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She."


Gay men and lesbians are commonly perceived as defying society’s gender norms. More particularly, it is claimed, they do this through the assumption of the qualities, appearance, and the constitutional determinants of the opposite sex. While the term inversion(e) was only coined to express this concept in Italy in 1878, the underlying idea of gender-role reversal is much older. Those who subscribe to it differ as to whether to attribute the inversion to biology or to culture.

However that may be, lesbians are deemed mannish, while gay men are commonly perceived as effeminate. The former concept inheres in the word dyke, especially as intensified in such variants as bulldyke and bulldagger. Some would regard the tomboy as an incipient lesbian. That not all lesbians adhere to this model is indicated by the butch/fem contrast. In the public perception, though, the butch lesbian is the only type there is. Fems are generally ignored, or considered suitable material for heterosexualization at the hands of a dominant man. Selective perception bolsters the stereotype.

With male homosexuals the stereotype of gender reversal is even more prominent. In fact it may be deemed a basic constituent of homophobia. The flamboyance of some young queens lends support to the stereotype. But it is a product of selective vision, nonetheless. Until recent times use of make-up was considered inappropriate for the male gender role. Exaggerated make-up formerly served as a marker for gay men (slop queens), though only a minority indulged. British and American queens sometimes address each other with feminizing vocatives, as "Well, Mary" and "You go, girl." And of course cross-dressers have long been with us.

Classical antiquity had a number of terms to designate effeminate behavior: kinaidos, pathicus, malakos, and mollis. The latter two mean "soft" in Greek and Latin respectively. In Latin virago meant a mannish woman, though not necessarily a lesbian.

In early modern Europe powerful men affected the company of minions, pretty young men. Whether sexual relations existed or not, gossip attributed a catamite status to these favorites. Of course these types also figured in more plebeian settings, as with the she-men and mollies of Restoration England.

The twentieth century saw a profusion of terms to indicate various aspects of the effeminate-male concept, including swish, flit, and sissy. While the expression derives from a frivolous television skit, Arnold Schwarzenegger has popularized girlie men in a political context, a label that seemingly combines effeminacy with laziness and cowardice.

French tante, auntie (borrowed in German) suggests an older queen. There is also the diminutive tatie. English auntie has probably been invented independently.

Sometimes the feminine aura of a term is no longer obvious. While it has had a long history, the most immediate source of the homosexual meaning of the term gay is the nineteenth-century British usage, "a loose woman; a prostitute." Before being brought into service for homosexual men in the early twentieth century, faggot was a term of disparagement for a slatternly, unattractive woman.

A common ploy is to adduce actual female names such as Mary Ann and Nellie. Pansy is a "two-for," combining a woman’s name with the term for a delicate flower. Italian supplies checca from Francesca. Maricón, the most common name for a male homosexual in the Spanish language, derives from María.

A somewhat different matter is the American expression friend of Dorothy, reflecting the gay men’s adulation of Judy Garland in the seventies and eighties. (Garland’s most famous role was Dorothy in the film version of "The Wizard of Oz.")

The procedure of turning male names into female ones may be applied ad hoc, so that someone named Fred becomes Frieda, while Patrick turns into Patricia. Many of these coinages are ephemeral, indeed unique. One young man, now a distinguished lawyer with the surname Levin, became Lavinia. In Spanish one can alter the masculine ending –o to –a, or simply place the feminine article before the name: la José (although Josefina works also).

Both gay men and lesbians feel the need from time to time to resist the inversion assumption. Male resistance is seen in such terms as butch, macho, clone. Among women, fem, lipstick lesbian.

Italian gay language

Italian is a romance language, with close affinities with Spanish, Portuguese, and (to a lesser degree) with French. Like these languages, it arose on the ruins of the Roman Empire, prolonging and revamping its language, Latin.

Until recently Italy was characterized by sublinguistic pluralism, embodied in a profusion of dialects. In addition to Tuscan, the basis of standard Italian, there are a score of other dialects. Some of them, such as Sicilian and Friulan, have given birth to a substantial deposit of literature.

Unlike, say English or French, Italian has only an attenuated form of slang (gergo). In terms of our subject, which examines (inter alia) the invention of sexual terms at the popular level, this might seem a limitation. However, the lack finds compensation in terms stemming from the dialects, so that arrusu is Sicilian, while finocchio is apparently Tuscan.

For the Italian peninsula the historical record of same-sex behavior is very rich. Prior to the year 1800 it is probably as forthcoming as that of all the nations in Europe combined. Curiously, perhaps, this plethora of evidence regarding conduct is not matched by a comparable profusion of items in the homolexicon. The reason for this is probably the unity of Italian civilization. Unlike Britain, France, and Spain, Italy never acquired a significant colonial empire, a main source of variety in the other languages concerned. As noted, the relative poverty of slang has played a part. Perhaps too, there has been an inherent sense of conservatism and propriety in the peninsula, governed in part by the constant presence of Latin. Even if an Italian speaker does not know Latin—and today most don’t—the continuous awareness of its presence has bequeathed an unconscious sense of adherence to norms. This has served as a brake on linguistic evolution. Only in the years since World War II, when an Anglo-American language invasion occurred, has the dam broken, so to speak.

We turn now to the evidence in chronological sequence. Urbanization survived the wreck of the Roman Empire in Italy better than elsewhere in Western Europe. Hypothetically, same-sex customs survived there as well, together with some of the Latin sexual vocabulary.

Little is known of popular sexuality in Dark Age Italy. Literacy became the monopoly of the church, especially in the monasteries. A ninth-century Latin poem from Verona is a touching document of boy love.

As the mists begin to clear it is evident that homosexuality was chiefly understood through the lenses of Christian disparagement. The most common term was of course sodomia, a creation of medieval Latin reflecting the putative customs of the Sodomites in the book of Genesis. Related are Gomorrita and figlio della pentapoli (son of the [five] Cities of the Plain. Like sodomia and sodomita these go back to the book of Genesis in Hebrew Bible. In what seems to be a unique instance, the name of the city of Sodom was applied as a sobriquet to an artist, the Sienese Renaissance painter known as il Sodoma (Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, 1477-1549).

The New Testament supplied contra natura (Romans 1:26-27). The idea that the vice of same-sex love was literally unmentionable also goes back to Scripture; hence the term nefandita. That the ecclesiastics who railed against the vice might not be exempt themselves is suggested by gioco dei frati, friars’game. The continuing hold of Roman Catholicism in Italy transpires from relatively recent expressions such as dall’altra parocchia and cambiare parocchia ("from the other parish" and to "change one’s parish," in effect, to come out).

As in other parts of Europe sodomy was commonly ascribed to dualist heretics ostensibly coming from Bulgarian, the original buggers. The most common Italian term of this family is buggerone, with soft ‘g.’

For some centuries, ending in the eighteenth, the term bardassa (or bardascia) was current for a young effeminate who allows himself to be penetrated. It stems from an Arabic term for "young slave," itself taken from the Persian. The term reflects the concept that the passive homosexual is without power-—a slave. In older texts it was contrasted with buggerone.

Major Italian writers, such as Dante and Petrarch, were also good Latinists. During the fifteenth century a view sprang up that one should write only in Latin, leaving the vernacular for the common people. Although the use of the Italian as a literary language revived, indeed triumphantly so, this period of uncertainty created a window between Latin and the (Tuscan) vernacular. This communicating membrane, so to speak, permitted the recovery of a number of Latin sexual terms, including catamita, pederasta, and irrumare (a form of fellatio in which the penetrator engages in active thrusts). Cinaedus, a Latin term for a lewd performer or prostitute, became in Italian cinedo, simply a catamite, the younger partner in a pederastic relationship.

Of classical origin are the terms for female homosexuality, saffica (Sapphist) and lesbica (the latter not common until the twentieth century).

The period of preference for Latin yielded such works as the Hermaphroditus (1425), a collection erotic epigrams, heterosexual and homosexual, by il Panormita (Antonio Beccadelli), a Sicilian. Such works provided a channel whereby the sophisticated Latin terminology of antiquity could be reintroduced into Italy. After Panormita came Aretino, Della Casa, and others writing frankly about sexual matters in the vernacular.

Eventually the dead hand of Counterreformation stifled this flowering. Various treatises on the evils of sodomy, whether in Latin or Italian, enjoyed circulation among the learned. A particular branch of this endeavor was forensic medicine, founded by Paolo Zacchia, a physician at the papal court. His Questiones medico-legales (1621-50) deals with the purported physical evidence for submission to anal sodomy.

During the second half of the eighteenth century Enlightenment ideas stemming from France made their way into Italy, especially in Lombardy and the north.. These ideas enlisted several vigorous supporters, notably count Cesare Beccaria. His pioneering treatise on reform of the criminal laws, Dei delitti e delle pene (On crimes and punishments, 1764) was widely read throughout Europe. In this book he advocates abolition of the laws prohibiting homosexual conduct (which he somewhat coyly terms l’attica Venere, Athenian love) as ineffectual.

The nineteenth century proved decisive for the political character of Italy. The country ceased to be a "mere geographical expression" and became a unified nation. This process was protracted and lasted until 1870. First there was a great upheaval caused by Napoleon’s conquests (1799-1815), which redrew the country’s map, but only temporarily as it turned out. Nonetheless, the ideas of the French revolution enjoyed great circulation. For the first time in Europe, France had abolished her sodomy laws through an action of the Constituent Assembly in 1791. This beneficial change was extended to Italy, which ceased to criminalize homosexual conduct. Still it was a long time before fundamental change in attitudes was effected.

Change in the sexual vocabulary occurred from two sources, from below and from above. The first trend took the form of the spread of a number of popular terms, many retaining traditional overtones of disparagement. The second trend was represented by the introduction of new learned terms, bearing the putative authority of medicine and science, and deriving for the most part from across the Alps.

The first aspect is bound up with the dialects and the degree to which they began to mix during the period of unification, in which many traveled from one part of the country to another in order to take part in the struggle. The introduction of railways also played an important part.

According to one account Italy boasted twenty distinct dialects. Indeed, they exist today, though their hold is gradually being loosed, largely through the influence of films, the radio and especially television, all of which tend to espouse standard Italian.

As Giovanni Dall’Orto points out, these terms are not uniformly pejorative, and may contain an element of sympathy, sometimes humorously inflected. In this regard he cites buliccio, frocio, finocchio, puppu, jarrusu, buco, and ricchione.

Some of these terms have continued to enjoy a purely local life, while others have spread widely. An instance of the former is the Sicilian term for a passive homosexual, generally young: garrusu (with its variants arrusu, iarrusu, jarrusu). The scholar Giovanbattista Pellegrini (Gli arabismi nelle lingue neolatine, Brescia 1972), has detected an Arabic source c’arusa (fiancee, young person). Still in use, it has been traced back to a law of the fourteenth century. In Messina garrusu may designate a frisky boy, without a sexual connotation.

In some cases the trope becomes interregional, though not necessarily the word itself. This occurs with the conceit that a passive homosexual is a container or receptacle. Thus Piedmontese cupio, which stems from Latin cupa, little bottle, receptacle. Parallels are vasetto (Naples), lumino (South generally), buco, bucaiolo (Tuscan), and busone (Emilian). More generally diffused, though less explicit are culo/culetto, buttocks, and buio, hole. About 1600 the learned occultist Giordano Bruno offers candelaio, candle-stick. All these expressions apply the principle of pars pro toto, reducing the disparaged passive homosexual to a mere body part.

The term checca, an effeminate homosexual, is interregional (Lazio, Tuscany, Lombardy) without being universal. It is a diminutive of Francesca, following a pattern known in other languages of using women’s names, especially diminutives, for male homosexuals (cf. English nelly, Mary-Ann).

Diffusion has yielded the two most common street words in Italian today: finocchio and frocio. Finocchio, fennel, has been traced to a dictionary of Tuscan usage of 1863. Not only was Tuscan the basis for standard Italian, but its major center Florence was the capital of Italy from 1864 to 1870.

The affinities of frocio (or froscio) were originally south Italian. The etymology of this term is disputed; it may have come from a variant of Spanish flojo, lazy, with the original pronunciation "flosho" rhotacized.

Now we turn to the learned vocabulary. United Italy had heightened educational expectations and a wish to establish Italy in the concert of European scholarly knowledge and achievement. Prestige attached to the universities and learned academies situated on the other side of the Alps.

As indicated French influence goes back to the eighteenth century. An example is terzo sesso, which goes back mainly to the French troisième sexe. Towards the end of the century the expression took on overtones of "scientific" sexual intermediacy, influenced by the theories of the German independent gay scholar Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who spent his last years in Italy.

The term sadisme (after the Marquis de Sade) was invented in French in 1834 to refer to both aspects of sadomasochistic activity. A half-century later Richard von Krafft-Ebing created a new binary system, reserving Sadismus for the active role, while introducing Masochismus for the passive. In due course these terms made their way into Italian, with sadismo (also the adjective sadico) and masochismo; eventually sadomachismo.

Central European origin is transparent in more specific terms, omosessuale and (for a time) urningo and urninga (male and female homosexual, respectively). The first survived and became standard; the latter two (due ultimately to K.H. Ulrichs) did not. The physician Arrigo Tamassia struggled with the cumbersome conträre sexuelle Empfindung (contrary sexual feeling). Eventually he hit on a brilliant solution: inversione (with a corresponding noun of agency, invertito). Tapping into older ideas of gender reversal, inversion enjoyed wide international recognition. Linguistically the difference between omosessuale and inversione is that the former is a direct borrowing (with orthographic adjustment), the latter is "import substitution," what linguists describe as calque.

The most influential Italian figure of international sexology was Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909), a criminologist based in Turin. While Lombroso regarded homosexual behavior as pathological, he does not seem to have introduced any specifically new terminology. He did advance the categories of the uomo delinquente and the donna delinquinte, umbrella terms for criminal deviation under which homosexuality was understood as a matter of course. This period saw the spread of the term degenerazione, fostered by a book Max Nordau had originally written in German, but which was widely read in Italy.

Rising nationalism in nineteenth-century Europe helped revive an older habit of blaming "homosexual perversion" on other nations. The tendency to attribute homosexuality to foreigners is suggested by the expression alla tedesca. (Ironically, from Reformation times onward, Germans ascribed same-sex behavior to Italians.) A rare example of self-accusation, so to speak, stems from Benvenuto Cellini’s Renaissance Autobiography: all’italiana.

Benito Mussolini at first ignored homosexuals, considering the practice mainly a foreign vice, to be tolerated because such visitors brought money. As the regime became more strict in the late thirties, discrimination became common, and Italian gays were sent into internal exile in remote villages and on islands (confino). During the Fascist period, and even somewhat afterwards pederasta remained the standard designation of a group often assumed to be degenerates. The noun referred both to older, "predatory" males and to young effeminates.

The nascent homosexual movements that emerged after World War II in Europe recognized a need to provide honorable substitutes for such disparaging terms. The Dutch gay movement adopted the word "homophile" (loving the same), a term that spread to the United States. Hence the somewhat later Italian omofilo and omofilia. Nonetheless, omosessuale lingered. As in other Western European languages, it lends itself to clipping: omo. After 1970 the shortened form enjoyed popularity as a prefix: baomo-llo (a gay dance), omo-modello (an exemplary gay), omo-parco (a park for cruising). Omofobia came somewhat later, an import of US "homophobia" (introduced there in 1971). In the period after 1970, of course, omosessuale had increasingly to compete with gay, which has become an Italian word.

Such clipped forms as omo are not common. Another, though, is effe (for effeminato), used by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

The verb battere is widely used for cruising; it is also sometimes used of prostitutes in search of customers: hence battone, hustler. "To come out" is dichiararsi, to declare oneself.

During the postwar period Italy fell under a powerful American influence. Journalists, in particular, served as conduits for English-language words and expression. Some are taken over without change, as status-symbol and pop-art. Others follow the pattern of import substitution, as ragazza-squillo, "call girl." From this is formed ragazzo-squilla, call boy. Some neologisms, such as mod (roughly "hippie") and antipittura, are now dated. Sometimes creative variations appeared, as freakeria. All these are examples of the phenomenon of italese or italianglo, Italian with a heavy sprinkling of English words.

In sexual terminology the period saw a shift away from central Europe, which ceased to be creative in this realm, to English-language sources. Thus transvestismo had come from Germany, where it was coined in 1910); transexualismo, copies a term introduced by the American physician David Cauldwell in 1949.

The repercussions of New York’s Stonewall Rebellion spread the American model of gay liberation throughout the world. Among the products were of course gay itself, as well as gay power (ephemeral) and gay pride. The latter is more commonly rendered orgoglio gay. Recently, the word queer has obtained some limited circulation.

Sometimes an English-language expression is abbreviated. Thus la dark stands for a dark room or back room attached to a bar, where sex is practiced.

There has also been some borrowing of acronyms, as BDSM (bondage and domination; sadomasochism) and LGBT. AIDS was originally written SIDA, corresponding to the Italian name; more recently the compound form HIV/AIDS has come into use.

The letter k is rare in Italian. By substituting k for c some writers seek to convey a notion menace (Amerikano, kompagno), provide emphasis (kretino), or attach irony (kollega). A contemporary Roman gay poet and activist, Massimo Consoli, likes to write the word culo, ass, as kulo, suggesting that this organ, normally regarded as passive, has power.

REFS. Giovanni Dall’Orto, "Le Parole per dirlo," Sodoma, 1986 (exemplary in-depth study of eleven key terms; enlarged version now available at www.giovannidallorto.com/cultura/checcabolario). Also accessible at this site is the University of Basel thesis of Jürg Hostettler, Parliamo alla frocia, a helpful historical and conceptual review.




This gay-argot word served in the middle years of the twentieth century to designate a heterosexual, particularly one (or several) who might be inadvertently obstructing gay solidarity in a social setting.

The sense probably evolved from the meanings "dispute, altercation; predicament" ("in a jam"), implying that there could be complications if straights got the full picture. However, the term generally applied to persons, not situations. A secondary association was with the stickiness of jam in the sense of "preserves." The etymology "just a man" is a fanciful backronym.




Ķădĕsh (pl. ķĕdĕshīm) is a Biblical Hebrew word that literally means "holy or consecrated one," and is rendered "sodomite" or more accurately "male cult prostitute" in various translations of the scriptures. It is a key term for understanding the references to homosexuality in the Hebrew Bible. It occurs as a common noun at least six times (Deuteronomy 23:18, I Kings 14:24, 15: 12 and 22:46, II Kings 23:7, Job 36:14). It can also be restored on the basis of textual criticism in II Kings 23:24 (= Septuagint of II Chronicles 35: 19a) and in Hosea 11:12. They all ostensibly designate foreigners (non-lsraelites) who served as sacral prostitutes (hierodules) in the Kingdom of Judah, and specifically within the precincts of the first Temple (ca. 950-622 BCE.).

That these ķĕdĕshīm had sexual relations with other males and not with women is proven by Hosea 4:14, which castigates the males exclusively for "spending their manhood" in drunken orgies with hierodules, while their wives remained at home, alone and unsa- tisfied. Another piece of evidence is the reading of Isaiah 65:3 in the Qumran manuscript: "And they (m. pl.) sucked their phalli upon the stones." Their involvement in the Ishtar-Tammuz cult--an obvious rival of the monotheistic Yahweh religion--is responsible for the Biblical equation of homosexuality with idolatry and paganism and the exclusion of the individual engaging in homosexual activity from the "congregation of Israel," which persists in the fundamentalist condemnation of all homosexual expression to this day.

Recently a school has arisen that claims that the ķădĕsh and his female counterpart the ķědĕshāh did not engage is sexual relations, but simply represented a type of official or bureaucrat. This revisionist interpretation seems unlikely, as modern feminist disapproval rather than a dispassionate study of the texts motivate it.

Kinsey Scale

Alfred C. Kinsey and his associates first set forth the scale in their Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948). Under Kinsey’s guidance, the authors were seeking a way of processing the vast amount of data they had accumulated from the case histories. The classification had to take into account not merely physical expression ("outlets") but psychological response (sometimes in the absence of any kind of overt activity of the kinds noted by incidence or frequency figures). For this reason Kinsey devised his famous Heterosexual-Homosexual Scale from 0 to 6:

0 = entirely heterosexual

1 = largely heterosexual, but with incidental homosexual history 2 = largely heterosexual, but with a distinct homosexual history

3 = equally heterosexual and homosexual

4 = largely homosexual, but with a distinct heterosexual history

5 = largely homosexual, but with incidental heterosexual history

6 = entirely homosexual

As C. A. Tripp has pointed out, "the scale not only takes into account differences in the balance between heterosexual and homosexual actions, but also allows an investigator to consider ‘psychologic reactions’ in arriving at each rating. Thus, two people might be rated ‘6’ for being exclusively homosexual, with one of them living out his or her experiences, while the other might have as little as no overt activity of this kind--for reasons ranging from moral inhibitions to simply a lack of opportunity."

The scale has been interpreted as reflecting Kinsey’s methodological nominalism and his avowed belief that nature presents continuities rather than sharp separations. He did not accept the conventional polarity of heterosexual vs. homosexual, nor the triadic scheme of heterosexual / bisexual / homosexual. For this reason, he devised the seven-stage spectrum as being, in his view, fairer to the facts. Kinsey believed that the terms heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual should never be used as nouns, but only as adjectives. Nonetheless, there is general agreement that categories five and six apply to what is conventionally called homosexuality. All the same, the categorization has the advantage of indicating the difference between those who are exclusively homosexual (the sixes) and those who are not.

The relevant trope is Intermediacy.


This term—from the Greek korē, maiden—has been proposed for the lesbian counterpart to the pederast: an older woman who prefers relationships with teenage girls. By analogy with boy love, it is sometimes termed girl love (though this expression may also be used for a "Lolita" situation, in which an older man is involved with an adolescent girl).

While this behavioral pattern exists, it has unfortunately been little studied. In ancient

Greece, korephilia characterized Sappho’s relations with her favorites, not to mention the love affair set in a girl’s school that is the theme of the famous German film "Mädchen in Uniform" (1911). At one time in America, the young women who were subject to such affections called them smashes or crushes. With the gradual disappearance of same-sex schools, such connections have become less common.

The relevant trope is Youth and Age.




The lambda (Λ, λ) is the eleventh letter of the Greek alphabet. The application of this symbol to the struggle for gay rights has been ascribed to Tom Doerr, a member of New York’s Gay Activists Alliance, in 1970. Doerr had a background in science, and the selection seemed apt because of the association of the letter with energy in chemistry and physics. Various other interpretations have been attached afterwards, including the idea that the symbol stands for "liberation."

In the gay sense the letter is always used in the lower case [λ]. It is a curious fact that the capital [Λ] was used in ancient Greek graffiti meaning "fellate," referring either to the verbs lambdazein or lesbizein. (In antiquity the women of the island of Lesbos were noted for their proficiency in performing heterosexual fellatio.)

At all events the use of the letter to denote the gay movement has spread throughout the world. As early as December 1974 the International Gay Rights Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland, officially declared the lambda the international symbol for gay and lesbian rights.

Latent Homosexuality

In medicine the term latent applies to the incubation period of a disease, before it becomes obvious and detectable. Since homosexual behavior is not a disease, the term is inappropriate, but it still continues to be used. It is also employed to claim that individuals who show no overt signs of homosexuality, may nonetheless harbor such feelings. In this sense the concept may be misused to "out" those who do not qualify for being outed.

Ostensibly, latent homosexuality is an erotic attraction toward members of the same sex, which is not consciously experienced or expressed, in overt action. This may mean a hidden inclination or potential for interest in homosexual relationships, which is either suppressed or not recognized. The posited capacity has not yet been explored; it may never be explored. The expression has been traced to Sigmund Freud’s concept of a latency period.

Some argue that the internalization of a sense of latent homosexuality may be iatrogenic. That is to say, some patients come to feel that "deep down" they are gay, because a psychotherapist suggests this. Others argue that the term "latent" is not truly applicable in the case of homosexual urges, since they are often not in the unconscious or unexpressed category, but rather exist in the conscious mind and are (often violently) repressed on a conscious level.

Some hold that homophobia stems from latent homosexuality. However, some may fear that they harbor homosexual tendencies without this actually being the case. In this situation they are not "latent homosexuals." A1996 study conducted at the University of Georgia by Henry Adams, Lester Wright Jr., and Bethany Lohr claims that homophobic males are more likely to respond to gay pornography that those who are not. However, there remains room for disagreement as to whether the homophobic males were stimulated by genuine latent homosexuality or negative emotions such as anxiety.

Others hold that latent homosexuality is a result of one's environment. Living in a homophobic atmosphere, having no positive role models for homosexuality, and being surrounded by members of both genders may encourage latent homosexuality. Perhaps this state would be more correctly termed repression.

During the 1970s some gay liberationists espoused the slogan "better blatant than latent."


Although some women prefer dyke and others cling to gay, the word lesbian has established itself firmly in place as the term of choice among female homosexuals. Equivalents of the word are found in all major European languages.

The modern sense of the term derives from the ancient Greek poet Sappho and her circle, which flourished on the Aegean island of Lesbos (Mytilene). Formerly the term Sapphist was preferred.

In older English texts lesbian could be used in a nonsexual sense, meaning "free-form, untrammeled, from the lesbian cymation in architecture, or simply "erotic" without reference to sexual orientation. (This last sense reflects in part the ancient Greek usage of the verb lesbizein, meaning "to fellate.") The terms lesbian and lesbianism, referring unambiguously to female homosexuality have not been traced in English prior to 1870. In French, however, lesbienne was used in this sense as early as the seventeenth century. French also invented the rare terms lesbin and lesbien, meaning "passive sodomite."

In our own times, the speculative feminist Mary Daly’s attempt to define "lesbian" as simply a "woman-identified woman," regardless of sexual expression, has not achieved general acceptance. In the 1970s, however, there were groups of essentially heterosexual women who proclaimed themselves "political lesbians," often as a merely symbolic act of solidarity. Conversely, those who proclaimed themselves lesbian separatists wished to live in an all-woman environment. Except at music festivals and other events, this has not generally proved practical.

Paradoxically, one occasionally hears of male lesbians. These may consist of men who identify with women while having sex with them. Otherwise it may reflect a transitional state in a process of sex change.


Some academics and others adopted this portmanteau word in the 1990s as a shortened form of the binomial "lesbian and gay," which was previously de rigueur in those circles. For many, the expression has yielded to LGBT or GLBT, recognizing that there are more than two elements in the compound.

Liberation, Gay

In 1969, almost immediately after the Stonewall Rebellion, the Gay Liberation Front sprang up in New York City. The name reflects the various movements to overthrow foreign domination that had arisen after World War II in Europe’s remaining colonies, beginning with the Algerian Front de Liberation National. Such models became more attractive in the United States because of the opposition to the Vietnam War, where the insurgent Vietcong used the liberation-front rhetoric, and the analogy that was perceived with the situation of blacks and other minorities. In addition, many of those involved in Second Wave feminism began to speak of women’s liberation.

The Gay Liberation Front in New York and its homonymous imitators elsewhere were inspired by the New Left analysis that viewed the plight of minorities as the result of deep, systemic flaws in capitalist society. Ambitiously, the gay-libbers sought to transform fundamental institutions of society such as gender and the family. Techniques such as consciousness raising (CR) and direct action in the form of public demonstrations were deployed in order to achieve the movement’s goals. Talk of revolution was in the air. The gay-liberation trend was also marked by its links with the era’s counterculture and hippie trends.

In the turbulent days of the early seventies the GLF’s faded, in part because of their lack of strong organizational structure, which made them vulnerable to factional strife, opportunism, and FBI infiltration. These organizations yielded to more structured and "respectable" groups, such as the Gay Activist Alliance and the National Gay Task Force. The new groups concentrated on one set of issues, those that pertained to gay and lesbian people, instead of adopting a unified-field approach that sought alliances with other disadvantaged groups.

In the view of some observers, the rise of the militant groups ACT-UP and Queer Nation in the 1980s and 90s signaled a revival of the gay-liberation spirit. If so, however, this effect was only partial and temporary. The precipitous decline of the Left--very marked in America and noticeable throughout the world--deprived the revolutionary impulse of its oxygen. The triumph of the reformist program, at the expense of gay lib, was seen in the widespread support among gays and lesbians for same-sex marriage, an aspiration that indicated a wish to join existing society rather than to subvert it.

Life, In The

This euphemism implicitly incorporates an unspoken adjective. Accordingly, the phrase can be spelled out in full as "in the gay life." An individual who is in the life has come out of the closet enough to socialize with other gay and lesbian people and to find sexual partners to his or her liking.

For some years American Public Television has featured a program called "In the Life," billed as a "Gay and Lesbian Newsmagazine."


In the sense of the typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture, the term lifestyle first appeared in English in 1939. It reflects an adaptation of the expression Lebensstil, introduced by the Austrian Individual psychologist Alfred Adler in the 1920s. Adler employed the term to indicate the fixing of an individual’s basic character as established early in childhood, forming a pattern for his later reactions and behavior. It comes down to a version of the folk wisdom "as the twig is bent." On another level, Adler’s term is an extension of the art-historical (and later musicological and literary historical) discrimination of period and individual styles that set in towards the end of the nineteenth century.

In the America of the sixties, the conformism of the Eisenhower years began to dissolve under the twin solvents of increased prosperity fostering flamboyant consumerism, and social unrest, caused by the civil-rights struggle and opposition to the Vietnam War. The age of conformity yielded to the age of expressiveness. And in so far as there were patterns in this expressiveness, these came to be analyzed under the rubric of lifestyles.

In present-day usage the lifestyle includes patterns of social relations, consumption, entertainment, and dress. A lifestyle typically also reflects an individual's attitudes, values, or worldview. Having a specific lifestyle assumes a selection of patterns of behavior chosen from a large menu of potential choices. The individual adopts one particular constellation of preferences and not another.

The study of premodern societies does not require a concept encompassing subculture or lifestyle, as different ways of living were expressed as entirely different cultures, religions, ethnicities, or by marginalized minority groups. As such, the minority culture was always perceived as alien or other. By contrast, lifestyles constitute more or less legitimate variations flourishing within the majority culture. The acceptance of differentiation within the bounds of a majority culture seems to be a product of modernity and capitalism.

Business has found the lifestyle concept useful as a means of targeting consumers as advertisers and marketers endeavor to match consumer aspirations with product. This approach has become significant as advertisers seek to appeal to an affluent gay audience, especially the sector made up of DINKs (dual income, no kids) who are perceived as having significant discretionary income which they may devote to purchasing luxury products or engaging in travel. Thus one may speak of the pink pound or the pink dollar.

Clearly, there is no one homosexual lifestyle. Not only are there major differences between gay men and lesbians, but each gender embraces several subgroups. Thus one may speak of the bear lifestyle (men) and the power-lesbian lifestyle (women). BDSM activities involve both men and women so that this lifestyle cuts across gender dimorphism.

Some conservative Christians use the term "homosexual lifestyle" as an epithet. The assumption underlying such disparagement is that this way of life is dangerous and demeaning. Curiously, these critics do not speak of the "heterosexual lifestyle." Yet that presumably is what one must join in order to "leave the homosexual lifestyle," a goal they strongly recommend. There are two problems with this view. First, as has just been noted, there is not one homosexual lifestyle but many. Secondly, being gay is usually not a choice, so that one cannot, by the same token, simply choose to leave it.

The relevant trope is Lifestyle.

Lifestyle (trope)

A lifestyle is the typical mode of living of a person, a group, or a culture. In contemporary usage it tends to be used to refer to an option, chosen or unchosen, among several available to a person. The concept embraces patterns of social relations, consumption, entertainment, and dress. A lifestyle typically also reflects an individual’s attitudes, values, and worldview.

The term first appeared in English in 1939. Apparently, it stems from the German term Lebensstil favored by the German individualist psychologist Alfred Adler in the 1920s, though with a somewhat different meaning. In his view the lifestyle is the stable set of attitudes and aspirations that sets in during early childhood, determining one’s thought and action. In this way each person achieves his or her individual "meaning."

Adler’s recourse to "style" reflects the interest among researchers in the humanities (especially art historians and literary scholars) in period styles, such as the Gothic and the Baroque, as well as in "idiolects," individual styles of particular writers and artists.

As used with regard to a social-sexual configuration, the lifestyle idea connects both with individuality and with participation in a group (or subculture). In business and advertising, lifestyles invite niche marketing, which targets consumers as likely purchasers of particular products. Recently, business has become aware of the huge potential of the gay market, and has gone in quest of the pink dollar or pink pound.

In America, the idea came into its own during the counterculture sixties, when young people tuned in to signals encouraging them to experiment, possibly choosing a lifestyle that was diametrically opposed to the one they had been brought up in. These are the so-called alternative lifestyles, of which homosexuality was regarded as one.

Because of the diversity within the so-called gay and lesbian community it may not be appropriate to speak of a single lifestyle. Rather, one may distinguish a number of variants, including the bear, body builder, granola dyke and many other lifestyles. Some predilections, such as a fondness for opera (found among opera queens), and an inclination to travel, are not specific enough to constitute a lifestyle.

Some opponents of homosexuality deploy the term homosexual lifestyle as an epithet, as if it were by definition different from the healthy, coupled heterosexual way of life. Yet what could the latter be, but another lifestyle?

The expression in the life is sometimes used for participating in gaydom as an out person.


It is generally accepted that gays and lesbians are found everywhere. Yet because they are a minority, they tend to congregate in certain places to be with those like them and to cushion, as much as possible, the effects of the prejudice and indifference they so often encounter from the host society.

Hence the phenomena of displacement and relocation. Such shifts of place can be positive (some place where one might like to go) or convey a sense of banishment. A solution favored by those who are uncomfortable with homosexuality. This attitude seeks to portray those kinds of things as "far away," having nothing essentially to do with ones own country or nationality.

Gay Meccas represent the aspect of positive attraction. In classical antiquity the expression take ship for Massilia (Marseilles) meant to turn gay. The reputation of this port may reflect its connection with the Gauls, who were noted for their homosexuality. In ancient times Lesbos was more known for its adventurous heterosexual women than for gay ones. But over the centuries the fame of its daughter, the poet Sappho, gave it this reputation.

Arcadia was a rustic district in ancient Greece celebrated by poets for the simplicity and innocence of its life. Gradually, the name became detached from a specific reference, to become "a place in the mind." Some Victorians, including A.J. Symonds, used Arcadia as a coded reference to homosexuality. Arcadie was the name of a major French gay monthly, founded in 1955.

Sodom was known for several sins, but one of them, as attested by the story in Genesis, was homosexual rape. While it existed it might not have seemed a desirable piece of real estate (the actual site has never been found). But in later times a certain aura of romance invested the legendary city of Sodom, as seen, for example, in the 1930s film "Lot in Sodom." By a curious paradox, sodomy seems no longer practiced in Sodom, wherever its ruins may be found, but almost everywhere else. During the Renaissance a legend emerged that connected its sister city Gomorrah with female homosexuality; hence the modern French term gomorrhéenne.

While homosexuality flourished in a number of Italian cities during the early modern era, Florence (sometimes knows as a modern Sodom) was the most notorious. The city on the Arno even gave rise to a German verb, florenzen, to sodomize.

During the latter part of the twentieth century Amsterdam and San Francisco emerged as the gay capitals of their respective continents. West Hollywood claimed to be the first fully gay city, though it is really a section of greater Los Angeles.

Gay ghettoes are quarters of major cities inhabited mainly by gay men and lesbians and featuring businesses catering to them. A recent portmanteau term is gayborhood. As identifiable districts in big cities these are essentially a creation of the twentieth century. However, the gay ghettoes crystallized from the earlier bohemias, run-down sections which combined marginal and criminal elements with writers, poets, and other creative people, drawn together by cheap rents and their common disdain for "bourgeois" respectability. As they improve, a process that owes much to the interior design skills of gays, they undergo gentrification.

Despite their stamp of modernity, there are indications that these urban conglomerations, with their gay element, may stem from a much earlier period—the Middle Ages. There is suggestive data from London and Cologne.

New York’s Greenwich Village, site of the Stonewall Inn where the 1969 riot took place has become well known. Note the musical group the Village People. More recently, however, the center of gay life in the Gotham has moved northward, to Chelsea. In San Francisco Polk Street was once the center, but then yielded to the Castro district. In Los Angeles the "Swish Alps" (the Silverlake district) preceded West Hollywood as a center.

In Central London the Dilly (the area around Piccadilly Circus) was the cruising ground of the Dilly boys from the mid-twentieth century onwards. In that city Bayswater and Soho have traditionally functioned as more integrated areas for gays and lesbians.

In recent years the Chueca quarter in central Madrid has become noted as a haunt for gays, but one in which straights mingle freely. In Paris it is the Marais. Several German cities boast quarters where gay men and lesbians are concentrated.

The discretionary income of gays and lesbians has helped to create resorts where they predominate, during the summer months at least. In the United States these include Provincetown (MA), Fire Island (NY), Asbury Park (NJ), Rehoboth Beach (DE), South Beach and Key West (FL), Saugatuck (MI), as well as Laguna Beach, Palm Springes, and Russian River (all CA). Many of these owe their popularity to the proximity of large metropolises, such as Boston, New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.

Only very short trips are needed to visit the micro-Meccas to be found in every big city: gay bars and bath houses (saunas)

Amusing names, but not necessarily limited to a particular place, are Queer Street and Vaseline Alley. Oddly enough, the blend Homolulu seems to be limited to Germany. While some of these names were negative in origin, they mostly now indicate sites that have proved to be attractive.

Not all gays flock to cities or resorts, but prefer to live in rural areas. These are sometimes termed RFD gays (from the old post office term, Rural Free Delivery).

While particular places may be favored by gay people (or be reputed to be so favored) gays tend to be more nomadic than heterosexuals. The travel industry relies on them a great deal, sometimes providing gay cruises. Note also the general phenomenon of sexual tourism.

There is another type of place regarded as a zone of banishment, a device by heterosexuals to "send away" these undesirables, at least metaphorically. The idea is to relegate homosexual behavior, at least in origin to some other place. "Our people, who are in essence noble and pure, were originally uncontaminated by this vice." Thus Japanese claim that homosexuality was imported from China or Korea; Koreans regard it as unwelcome import from Japan. The argument as applied to sub-Saharan Africa, thought by Edward Gibbon and others to be "free of the vice. Recently some African nationalists have claimed the whites imposed homosexuality on Africans in order to degrade them. This claim is even made by fundamentalist Muslims, despite the flourishing history of same-sex behavior during the great age of Islam.

These attempted purifications of one’s home territory are part of the more general device of ETHNOPHAULISM (which see).

Some types of "relocation" are more limited in scope. Thus in Italian there is dall’altra sponda, dall’altra parocchia (from the other shore; the other parish). German supplies vom anderen Ufer sein (to be from other shore) In English there is "take a walk on the wild side," though this is not specifically targeted at gayness.

A further type of banishment occurs through a metaphor of elevation, when homosexuality is ascribed chiefly to aristocrats, or conversely to "the lower orders."


In the closing decades of the twentieth century the term lover was a common way of designating one’s significant other in a partnership. Many felt uncomfortable with this term, however, as it seemed to overemphasize the erotic aspect as distinct from the central feature of companionship.

Today, the word partner is preferred. This has the advantage of signaling the equality of the two members of the couple. Partner has also gained some favor among heterosexuals in a long-term committed relationship, whether they are formally married or not.


This acronym stands for "lesbian until graduation." It signifies that a period of female same-sex relationships during one’s college years may not continue afterwards. The reasons for the discontinuation may be various. The LUG woman may be "experimenting," without intending to make a lifetime commitment to lesbianism. Or it may be that circumstances afterwards involving career, family, and so forth may make it expedient to adopt a conventional heterosexual lifestyle. In this case, the cessation may reflect the continuing pressures for conformity stemming from the surrounding host society.

A more general term is hasbian.




With the increase of bilinguilism in the United States, the common Spanish-language term maricón has achieved considerable general recognition. It belongs to a set of terms traceable to marica (milksop), and constituting a lively word family that flourishes throughout the Hispanic world. Documented in the Spanish language as early as 1599, the root word derives from the woman’s name María. Today the older meaning of marica (approximating to sissy) is obsolete: in contemporary peninsular usage it simply means an effeminate homosexual.

The augmentative maricón is ubiquitous in Latin America. Variants are mari and mariquita. The word mariposa, butterfly, also stemming from María, has been assimilated to the same meaning. Americado and amariconado mean "faggy." Marimacho is a lesbian.

The relevant trope is Inversion.

Marriage, Same-sex

Same-sex marriage is a term for a legally, socially, and/or religiously recognized marriage in which two people of the same sex live together as a family. Other terms for this type of relationship include "gay marriage," "gender-neutral marriage," "equal marriage," "lesbian marriage," "homosexual marriage," "single-sex marriage" and "same-gender marriage."

As of early 2007 full marriage is presently available to same-sex couples in five nations. The Netherlands was the first country to allow same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriages are also recognized in Belgium, Canada, South Africa, and Spain. Most would add the US state of Massachusetts, where same-sex marriages became legal on May 17, 2004. While same-sex unions are legal in that state, at present they lack full equality because federal benefits, more than 1000 of them, are not available.

While the movement for same-sex marriage has achieved its main successes abroad, for some years the United States has ranked as the country with the most sustained and developed advocacy—in part because the very obstacles that have arisen as to its enactment.

Looking over a decade or so of the American gay-marriage movement, its contours are coming to form a discernible triadic sequence. In Phase One there was division, with some gay men and lesbians favoring same-sex marriage, while others were indifferent or opposed. In Phase Two the cause triumphed among lesbians and gay men (though not in the society in general). Now we have entered Phase Three, where there is doubt and division again.

During Phase One, which began in the mid-nineties, the issue rose quickly to prominence. In fact, it had been broached twice before, in California at the end of the fifties and then again, from several quarters, in the first phase of high-gear gay liberation, the early seventies. On both occasions, the issue faded away.

This time it didn’t. That same-sex marriage became a major, perhaps the major, issue for gay men and lesbians is due to the forthrightness of a few thoughtful writers, including Evan Wolfson, Andrew Sullivan, and Jonathan Rauch. At first, the mainstream gay movement, represented by such organizations as the Human Rights Campaign and several groups of lawyers, sought to ignore the issue. Some, who were on the left, were scornful of all marriage as an instrument of "bourgeois oppression." A more valid objection is that there were two pieces of unfinished business that needed to take precedence: sodomy-law reform and the policy of excluding gay men and lesbians from military service. Advocates of gay marriage were trying to jump the queue. Fortunately, the US Supreme Court demolished the sodomy laws. Yet the military situation continues to fester.

Yet the doubts and divisions of Phase One quickly morphed into the triumphalism of Phase Two. What caused the change? In my view it was the grass roots–-all sorts of "ordinary" lesbians and gay men who insisted that same-sex marriage was important to them. It was significant not solely for the benefits (indeed a significant concern) but as a matter of symbolism and equality. Why shouldn’t gays get married like everyone else? So the major doubters, many of them at least, seemed to lose their voices. The leadership had to stop dragging its feet. After a first, unsuccessful attempt in Hawaii, the main strategy was to proceed through the courts, following the example of Massachusetts. Those were the heady, though ultimately inconclusive days of Phase Two.

Now Phase Three is upon us. It has been signaled by two developments. In the first those who had thrown themselves into the struggle for gay marriage were compelled to admit that the legal-activist strategy of obtaining results by court order wasn’t working. In my view this was always bad strategy, as it was undemocratic. As we have seen with the civil rights and the women’s movements, the American people will accept major change. If they sense that it is coerced, though, they will rebel. At all events, it is increasingly clear that in a number of states we must settle (at least pro tempore) for civil unions, in the hope of upgrading them later.

The second major development was the appearance in the summer of 2006 of a manifesto, "Beyond Same-Sex Marriage" (BSSM), written and circulated by a group headed by Joseph DeFilippis of New York City. The manifesto complicates the matter by citing a number of side issues. Nonetheless, the main contention, that gay marriage needs to be implemented in tandem with a number of other options—including domestic partnership and civil unions-—seems sound to me. As a general rule, it is better to have several options instead of just one. After all, homosexuality and bisexuality are options that we have struggled for decades to gain recognition as equal in dignity to heterosexuality. By the same token, why should marriage be the only alternative to bachelor status?

The answer given by some who favor same-sex marriage is that the institution of marriage is in deadly peril in the Western world. It must be strengthened. One way of doing this is by adding gays and lesbians to the constituency. In order to achieve this strengthening, homosexual persons must not be allowed to stray towards other options. Such "easy outs" would only compound the erosion of marriage that is rampant. Supporters of this view of same-sex marriage call it a conservative solution. Few heterosexual conservatives agree. Such champions as Andrew Sullivan and Jonathan Rauch have indeed been associated with the gay conservative movement. That label may be unfair, as their views on many matters are more nuanced. They have, however, promoted same-sex marriage as a conservative step, which will help restore the foundations of society. In keeping with this principle, they are Exclusivists, insisting that marriage be the only option for gays and lesbians.

Understandably, members of this group are concerned about the fallout that may result from the Beyond Same-Sex Marriage manifesto. Still, there seems to be some overreaction. At first Jonathan Rauch asserted that the BSSMers were opposed to gay marriage. Yet the manifesto explicitly includes marriage as one of the options.

Then it is said that the signers of the manifesto tend to be on the left. So what? The left has made many important contributions to the gay and lesbian movement, starting with launching it in Southern California in 1950-52. Moreover, if gay conservatives are entitled to promote a particular concept of same-sex marriage that is aligned with their other beliefs, why shouldn’t progressive gays have the same privilege?

Finally, it is asserted that elements of the Christian Right will take advantage of the manifesto to attack gays. To me this is reminiscent of the claim that voting for an antiwar candidate will give aid and comfort to Al Qaeda. Such scare tactics must be resisted.

At all events there has been a major change in climate. The hopeful days of Phase Two are over. Now there is doubt and division, in some ways recalling the atmosphere during Phase One, where many gay and lesbian leaders were indifferent or hostile to same-sex marriage. That may not describe the situation now accurately, but things are complex. The advantage of this complexity is that it calls for thought, and not just endorsing slogans.

The downside is that the timetable for attaining same-sex marriage, as a national policy, will now be further delayed. That is unfortunate. Still, that is often the way social progress occurs in America–it shows many twists and turns. And that is how it should be. Gay marriage will come when enough people have been educated to see that it is right and just. As we move slowly toward that goal we must not allow any particular group to have a monopoly on the terms of the debate. That was the case in Phase Two. We are beyond that now.

Efforts to find historical parallels for same-sex marriage have proven problematic. Precedents that have cited, as in Asia, Africa, and the ancient Mediterranean world, usually involve something more like civil unions, rather than genuine marriage. The late gay historian John Boswell focused on the ritual of adelphopoiesis ("brother making"), which he regarded an early form of religious same-sex marriage. However, these rites do not meet the definition of marriage prevalent at the time.

In nineteenth century New England, there was recognition of the relationship of two women making a long-term commitment to each other and cohabitating, referred to at the time as a Boston Marriage; however, the general public at the time likely assumed that sexual activities were not part of the relationship. At all events such unions did not enjoy the status of legal marriage. The Reverend Troy Perry is credited with performing the first public gay union in the United States in 1969, but it was not legally recognized, and in 1970, his Metropolitan Community Church filed the first-ever lawsuit seeking legal recognition of same-sex marriages. The lawsuit was not successful. These efforts preceded today’s same-sex marriage movement.

In the United States aggressive interventions by gay-marriage advocates have included efforts to achieve gay marriage by judicial fiat. In Massachusetts, thanks to the 2003 decision by the Supreme Judicial Court, these efforts succeeded. Yet they emboldened opponents of gay marriage, who have managed to pass anti-same-sex marriage initiatives in 27 of the 28 states in which this strategy has been tried. This wave of legislation may well be the worst flurry of anti-gay laws since the nineteenth century. At all events, it will be difficult to undo this mischief.


The Mattachine Society (1950ff.) was the earliest stable homosexual-rights organization in the United States. Its founding initiated what has been termed the homophile period in the American gay-rights movement.

The charismatic Harry Hay, along with a small group of friends, founded the organization. Initially very small, the group first met in Los Angeles, on November 11, 1950. Shortly afterwards, several other related organizations appeared in other American cities. The primary goal of the Society was to foster public acceptance of homosexuality--—this at a time when sodomy was against the law in every American state.

Hay chose the term Mattachine from a French medieval and renaissance group he had studied while preparing a course on the history of popular music for a workers' education project. In 1976 he recounted "[o]ne masque group was known as the 'Société Mattachine.' These societies, lifelong secret fraternities of unmarried townsmen who never performed in public unmasked, were dedicated to going out into the countryside and conducting dances and rituals during the Feast of Fools, at the Vernal Equinox. Sometimes these dance rituals, or masques, were peasant protests against oppression — with the maskers, in the people’s name, receiving the brunt of a given lord’s vicious retaliation. So we took the name Mattachine because we felt that we 1950s Gays were also a masked people, unknown and anonymous, who might become engaged in morale building and helping ourselves and others, through struggle, to move toward total redress and change."

The word itself, also spelled matachín or matachine, has an interesting history. In all likelihood it stems from the Arabic mutawajjihīn, the active participle of tawajja, "assume a masque." This derivation suggests that the dance developed in Moorish Spain. Less probably, a derivation from Italian matto, "crazy" has been proposed. Whether there were really organized groups in France, as Hay supposed, or just traveling exhibition dancers, is uncertain.

During the difficult times in which it appeared, the word mattachine had the advantage of being an insider term. Opaque to outsiders, it allowed initiates to communicate without giving anything away. Later organizations, incorporating the words homosexual, gay, and lesbian were more forthright.

The Mattachine Society used so-called harlequin diamonds as their emblem.. The design consisted of four diamonds arranged in a pattern so as to form a larger diamond.

The Society existed as a single national organization headquartered first in Los Angeles and then, beginning ca.1956, in San Francisco. Outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco, chapters were established in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, and other locales. Due to internal in-fighting, the national organization disbanded in 1961. The San Francisco national chapter retained the name "Mattachine Society," while the New York chapter became "Mattachine Society of New York, Inc." (MSNY). The Mattachine Society of New York linked up with other groups to form an ephemeral umbrella organization, ECHO (East Coast Homophile Organizations).

Following the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, the surviving Mattachine groups came increasingly to be seen as stodgy and traditional, shrinking from the confrontational tactics that many held were essential. After a long decline, the Mattachine Society New York disbanded in January of 1987. Sporadic attempts to revive the name have proven unsuccessful.

Mental instability

Not so long ago it was commonly accepted that the field of psychology had two main branches: normal and abnormal. Almost by definition homosexuals fell on the abnormal side of the ledger. Of course the term abnormal can be taken in a purely descriptive sense, in that opera divas and astronauts are abnormal. The usual impression, however, is that abnormality is equivalent to deviance. Impaired functioning is assumed. Such seemingly clinical terms as aberration, degeneration, and perversion are part of this discourse.

This assumption that gay people "have problems" is reinforced by two phenomena. Disproportionately those homosexuals who seek psychiatric intervention will be drawn from a subset of the larger group—from a vastly larger pool, that is, that consists mainly of a large number of people who do not need help. For a long time, though, the psychiatrists who saw these persons who were disturbed, or thought they were, defined the nature of homosexuality. This school, champtioned such supposed experts as Edmund Bergler and Irving Bieber, was prominent in mid-twentieth-century America. Ironically, this professional bias was reinforced by popular fixation on flamboyant queens, who seemed to be "acting out." Quieter, better-integrated gays—most of them remaining in the closet—attracted no attention and did not figure in the equation.

In the nineteenth century, however, some astute observers noticed that many homosexuals, and others who had been psychiatrically stigmatized, seemed to be able to function as well as anyone else. To address this paradox an English physician James Cowell Prichard (1786-1848) advanced the concept of moral insanity. He defined this concept as "madness consisting in a morbid perversion of the natural feelings, affections, inclinations, temper, habits, moral dispositions, and natural impulses, without any remarkable disorder or defect of the intellect or knowing and reasoning faculties, and particularly without any insane illusion or hallucination." Translation: these people are insane—and not insane.

Still Krafft-Ebing and others continued to propagate the concept of psychopathia sexualis. It was left to Evelyn Hooker and other psychologists working in the second half of the twentieth century to show that gays and lesbians were indistinguishable from the rest of the population in terms of functioning.

All the same the stereotype persists that gays are extravagant and mercurial in their behavior—that they are crazy queens. This stereotype finds reinforcement in the behavior of some young people, who feel the need to "let it all hang out," to be flamboyant and attention-grabbing as part of the coming out process. Indulgence in drugs and alcohol may play a role in such extravagance. The media coverage of exhibitionists in the annual gay pride parades in June of each year provides a continuing stream of images that seem to support this stereotype. Some youthful participants in these events have been known to wear teeshirts with the motto: "I can’t even think straight."

Slang terms combine the idea of mental instability with effeminacy: thus French folle (as in the film and musical "La Cage aux Folles") and Spanish loca. While both terms are of the feminine gender, they apply to male homosexuals. In English one may speak of a crazy or dizzy queen. Prior to its recent supposed defanging, queer trenched on this notion. During the 1930s there was some currency of the term bananas to designate an extravagant gay person.

There is a broader tradition associating being in love with insanity. The ancient Romans summed this up in the equation "amantes amentes." Famous exemplars were the medieval Tristan and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. In the twentieth century the Surrealists spoke of "l’amour fou" (crazy love). Still, homosexual madness is conceived of in a less tragic key, being stereotyped as farcical and (perhaps) pretended. It seems that the drama queen enjoys the effect (s)he produces.

Minerals and metals

A standard folk classification is the trichotomy animal/vegetable/mineral. In the context of this study the mineral group is much less productive than the other two.

It is also exceedingly various. Compare two uses of the metal gold. A golden shower is a form of urolagnia in which the subject is peed upon. However, a gold-star lesbian is one who has never had sex with a man.

Iron hoof (rhyming with poof) is Cockney slang for a gay man.

Bimetalism (which originally referred to a monetary policy based on both gold and silver) is an old term for bisexuality.

Diesel dyke refers to that formidable fuel. Bulldagger is another term for a formidable lesbian. In contemporary Spain a lesbian may be referred to as a camionera, or truck owner, because of their ostensible predilection for those vehicles.

Rimming may suggest a metal rim, though of course anilinctus does not take place at that site.

The term hook-up alludes to electrical connections and appliances. Formerly restricted to prison usage (where it describes stable male-male relationships), it now has migrated to college students, where it applies to more casual couplings.

See also RECEPTACLE, below.

Movement, Homosexual/Gay

In modern times organized efforts to achieve homosexual emancipation belong to two distinct historical phases. The Central European development (1897-1933) was extinguished by the Nazis, while its American successor, beginning autonomously in 1950 in Southern California, has (after experiencing some growing pains) succeeded in spreading throughout North America, serving also as the model for the rest of the industrialized Western world.

The start of the first homosexual-rights movement may be fixed at 1897, when Magnus Hirschfeld and three others founded the Wissenschaftlich-humanitäre Komitee ("Scientific-Humanitarian Committee"). Organized originally around the idea of combating Paragraph 175, the anti-homosexual provision of the Imperial German Penal Code, the Committee, the Committee expanded into scholarship, producing the remarkable annual volumes of the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen (1899-1923). Writers viewing the Committee, and the parallel phenomena in Germany during the period, from their own perspective in the 1970s have tended to exaggerate leftist affinities, though there is no doubt that the movement veered in this direction in the 1920s, when admiration for the Soviet Union was at its height.

In any event, the Committee was supplemented and sometimes opposed by several other important figures, who rejected Hirschfeld’s emphasis on the concept of the Third Sex, such as Hans Blüher (the theoretician of the Wandervogel [youth] movement), the scientifically inclined Benedikt Friedlaender, and the lonely John Henry Mackay ("Sagitta"), a spokesman for pederasty.

The German movement had considerable impact in the Netherlands, where a branch of the Committee was founded, and some influence in England. This first movement evoked little interest in Latin Europe, perhaps because these countries generally lacked the criminal sanctions, which served as a goad to action in those countries where it flourished.

The rise of National Socialism and its seizure of power spelled the end of the homosexual movement in Germany. As early as 1929 Nazi harassment had forced Hirschfeld to leave the country. In 1933 the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee had to dissolve, and on May 6 the Institute for Sexual Science was invaded by Nazis who seized the library and files and burned them publicly four days later. Many of the homosexual and lesbian cafes and bars in Berlin were closed; all publishing activity of the organizations ceased for twelve years of National Socialist rule.

In the United States, Henry Gerber, who had served in the American Army of Occupation in the Rhineland, attempted to transplant the ideas and organizational forms of the German movement. In December 1924 the (Chicago) Society for Human Rights received a charter from the state of Illinois; it was officially dedicated to "promote and protect" the interests of those who, because of "mental and physical abnormalities" were hindered in the "pursuit of happiness." It lasted only long enough to publish a few issues of the newspaper Friendship and Freedom, modeled on the German periodical Freundschaft und Freiheit. All four members of the group were arrested without a warrant.

In 1950 Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles. This was the true beginning of the American phase of the gay-rights movement. In 1953 an open struggle developed between the founders and a new set of leaders who challenged their "separatist" ideology, instead stressing the normality of homosexuals as differing from other Americans only in sexual identity. In San Francisco in 1955 Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon founded the lesbian counterpart to Mattachine, the Daughters of Bilitis. Its monthly publication, the Ladder, provided an English-language forum for homosexual women analogous to the Mattachine Review and ONE.

In 1953 a series of sensational trials in England brought the subject of homosexuality to the attention of Parliament. Urged by the Church of England and a number of prominent intellectuals, the Conservative government appointed a Committee on Homosexual Offenses and Prostitution headed by John Wolfenden. After hearing the testimony of witnesses from the British establishment, the Committee voted 12-1 in favor of repeal of the existing laws punishing male homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. Its Report, published in September 1957, proved a major landmark in the evolution of public opinion in the English-speaking world.

The Homosexual Law Reform Society (later known as the Albany Trust) was founded to press for repeal of the criminal laws; it issued brochures and a magazine, the first special- ized periodical in Great Britain. The United States followed in 1961 with the American Bar Association's drafting of a model penal code that omitted homosexual offenses from the roster of punishable acts. Illinois, in 1961, became the first state to enact this recommendation.

The period from 1961 to 1969 saw the evolution of the American homophile movement from a defensive, self-doubting handful of small, struggling groups in California and the Boston-Washington corridor to an assertive, self-confident, nationally organized (if ideologically divided] collection of some three score organizations with substantial allies and a string of major gains for which it could take credit.

In October 1968, Los Angeles witnessed the founding by the Rev. Troy Perry of the first gay church, the Metropolitan Community Church; from the start the MCC and its leaders were heavily involved in the homophile movement and provided major financial and personnel support. Another organizational breakthrough of lasting importance was the establishment of the homophile movement in academia, beginning with the founding of the Student Homophile League at New York's Columbia University by Stephen Donaldson (Robert A. Martin) in October 1966.

Beginning as violent resistance to a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a bar in New York's Greenwich Village, the popular movement found a new expression in the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). The GLF was conceived as uniting homosexuals (without guidance or even participation from sympathetic heterosexuals] around their own identity and grievances against an oppressive American society and as organizing them to force their own liberation from the persecution and powerlessness that was their lot even in the "land of the free." The radicals saw themselves as part of a broad alliance of oppressed groups developing autonomously but in an atmosphere of mutual support. Superficial as was the New Left rhetoric of the Gay Liberation Front, since its analysis of the whole problem began virtually "from scratch," it had the merit of giving its followers a sense of identity as a group inevitably oppressed by the established social structure. The black and feminist movements as well as their homophile predecessors supplied the ideological resources that the growing organization needed to legitimate itself in its own eyes, if not those of the larger society. The new Gay Liberation activists quickly collided with the pre-Stonewall movement leaders, whom they saw as part of an established structure too rigid for the kind of gay guerrilla warfare unleashed by Stonewall.

In the early 1970s a new wave of mass "coming out" led to the formation of hundreds of gay associations with particular identities: political clubs, student groups, religious organizations, professional caucuses, social clubs, and discussion groups in towns and neighborhoods from one end of the country to the other. Far from the margin to which it had been confined until the end of the 1960s, the movement became an institutionalized part of American life. In the two decades that followed the Stonewall uprising, the movement grew to a network of interest groups as diverse in its origins, as multi-faceted in its identities and aspirations as America itself.

The 1980s, with their conservative trend in most major industrial countries, con- fronted the movement with new obstacles and challenges. The spread of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS] in the United States and Western Europe meant that ever larger resources of time and money had to go into lobbying around the issues of research on the causes and cure of AIDS and the financing of health care for victims of the syndrome. Sensation-mongering media eager to profit from public curiosity and fear exploited the stigma that linked homosexuality with a contagious and fatal condition. New organizations such as New York's Gay Men's Health Crisis and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) were formed to deal specifically with this new challenge. In October 1988 AIDS activists from across the country staged a blockade of the Food and Drug Administration in Rockville, Maryland, charging that it was dilatory in making newly developed drugs available to the public. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed first in Washington in 1987 and then in other major cities, providing a public symbol of grief.

Influenced by the American model, gay-rights groups spread through much of the developed world and beyond. Only the Arab countries and sub-Saharan Africa remained apart. However, the new South Africa has a vibrant gay-rights movement.


Men who have sex with men (MSM) is a recent term that serves to characterize men who have sex with men, without regard to whether they self-identify as gay or bisexual. In the public- health field the term serves to reference a particular cohort as a risk-group for HIV, and is considered a behavioral category. As this label can best applied where the sex of individuals is unambiguous, this term may not be suitable for transsexuals, transgendered individuals, and intersexuals.

The term has been in use in public-health circles since 1990 or earlier; the acronym MSM seems to date from 1994. Seeking behavioral categories that would offer better analytical concepts for the study of disease risk than identity-based categories, epidemiologists welcomed the expression. The appeal of the usage was enhanced by the Social Construction criticism of sexual-identity terms that rejects the application of existing labels across different cultural and historical contexts. And in fact the MSM term has been found to be useful in Third World countries where concepts such as homosexual and gay meet resistance as alien imports of reflecting purely Western categorizations.

Among some African Americans in the United States the expression "down low" serves a similar function.


This Victorian euphemism for homosexual accords with the belief that gay men are creatively gifted. Reputedly, in his youth Winston Churchill once had sex with the popular singer Ivor Novello (1893-1951). When asked how it was, the politician replied, "musical."




Based in New York and San Francisco, the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) is an unincorporated organization that opposes the use of age as the criterion for deciding whether minors can legally engage in sexual relations. It advocates both pederasty (attraction to adolescents) and pedophilia (attraction to children). NAMBLA has described itself as a "support group for intergenerational relationships," employing the slogan "sexual freedom for all." According to the group's web site, its aim is to "support the rights of youth as well as adults to choose the partners with whom they wish to share and enjoy their bodies."

NAMBLA emerged in the context of the tumultuous political atmosphere of the 1970s, particularly from the wing of the gay liberation movement that followed the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. However, the issue of intergenerational sex did not inspire immediate attention in those circles. Gay rights-groups immediately following the Stonewall riot were more concerned with issues of police harassment, nondiscrimination in employment, health care, and other issues. Not until a "sex ring" of underage boys brought intense media scrutiny in Boston in the closing weeks of 1977 did the subject of adult-minor sex garner enough attention to prompt the formation of a group like NAMBLA.

By the early 1980s NAMBLA claimed over 300 members, garnering the support of such noted figures as Harry Hay and Allen Ginsberg. It became the largest component in the umbrella group IPCE (formerly "International Pedophile and Child Emancipation").

These early successes, such as they were, came to be reversed as the group received closer scrutiny. By the mid-1980s, NAMBLA was virtually alone in its positions and found itself politically isolated. Gay rights organizations, burdened by accusations of child recruitment and child abuse, became wary. Today almost all gay-rights groups disavow any ties to NAMBLA, voice disapproval of its objectives, and seek to prevent NAMBLA from playing any role in gay- and lesbian-rights events

Since 1995 intense public scrutiny and law enforcement infiltration have heavily impaired the organization. Its national headquarters now consists of little more than a private mail-box service in San Francisco, and inquiries rarely receive a response. Reports indicate that the group no longer has regular national meetings and few local monthly meetings.

The relevant trope is Youth and Age.

Nameless Sin (or Crime)

The designation of homosexuality as "the nameless sin" derived from the belief that it was unfit even to be mentioned in Christian society. In 1769, for example, the influential English jurist Sir William Blackstone described the "crime against nature" as "a subject the very mention of which is a disgrace to human nature. It will be more eligible to imitate in this respect the delicacy of our English law, which treats it in its very indictments, as a crime not fit to be named, peccatum illud honibile, inter Christianos non nominandum." Blackstone alludes not to the statute of 1533, but probably to a single celebrated case, the arraignment of Lord Castlehaven in 1631, where the indictment speaks (in Latin) of "that detestable and abominable sin . . . 'buggery' [in English in the text] not to be named among Christians." (Similar language occurs in a text of Sir Edward Coke, published in 1644.)

Comparable expressions enjoyed the favor of canonists and authors of confessionals on the European continent; in 1700, for example, Ludovico Sinistrari d'Ameno records the terms peccatum mutum ("silent sin"], vitium nefandum ("unspeakable vice"), and vitium innominabile ("unnameable vice"), all designating the crime against nature or sodomy.

In late antiquity, through a false etymology based upon the Greek form of the place name, the word Sodom was interpreted as meaning pecus tacens, "silent herd," a gloss that may have influenced the later formula peccatum mutum. William of Auvergne (ca.

1180-1249) said that it was the "unmentionable vice," noting Gregory the Great's claim that the air itself was corrupted by its mention.

Thus it was against an extensive and varied background of usage that Oscar Wilde was to seek to turn the tables in his eloquent plea during his 1895 trial for the "love that dare not speak its name," taking up a phrase from the poem "Two Loves" by his associate Lord Alfred Douglas (1894). As used by Douglas, the phrase applied allegorically to a pitiful uninvited companion to the true Love, and is called "Shame" by the latter; the poem itself gives little clue as to the nature of this bogus Love. In Wilde's statement under cross-examination, however, the phrase was transformed into "a great affection of an elder for a younger man.. . .It is intellectual.. .when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him."

In the New Testament Paul remarked mysteriously "For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret." (Ephesians 5:12). Although this passage has been taken to refer to homosexuality, there is no conclusive evidence to pinpoint the sin [or sins] in question. Nonetheless, the words show that the notion of a transgression too horrible to be named directly was familiar to the early Christians. The Book of Wisdom (14:17) had spoken of "worshipping of idols not to be named."

Latin pagan usage supplies infandus, "unspeakable, abominable" and nefandus, "impious, heinous," both sometimes used of sexual conduct (cf. the later vitium nefandum; in some Spanish texts sodomites are curtly termed nefandarios). Primitive societies observe taboos on certain words either because the objects they designate are too dangerous or too numinously sacred to be mentioned outright. In early Christian thought, Dionysius the Areopagite (ca. 500) evolved his "negative (or apophatic) theology," which held that God's attributes are too incomprehensible to limited human reason even to be mentioned. Thus by a curious irony, the Christian Trinity and the sodomites are linked in their ineffability/unspeakability.

In ordinary parlance today, this taboo on naming homosexuality sometimes takes the form of deleting any specific word for it, e.g., "Is he. . . ?" "Is she that way?" or "Could he be one?" A raising of the eyebrows or the flopping of a limp wrist typically accompanies such formulae. One can find numerous instances of these coy deletions in twentieth-century fiction, film, and lyrics, where oblique references are left as clues but the clear words are missing. With the widespread publicity accompanying the gay liberation movement in the 1970s, however, the taboo seems to have been finally vanquished, its obituary captured in the apocryphal enhancement: "The love that dared not speak its name . . . now scarcely ever shuts up."

The relevant trope is Unnameable, unspeakable, Unmentionable.

Night Of The Long Knives

On June 28, 1934, Adolf Hitler ordered the murder of his henchman Ernst Röhm, leader of the Brownshirts (SA), together with the latter’s closest associates. This rubout occurred at a Bavarian resort where the Brownshirt contingent had retired after a night of drinking. Although Hitler had known of Röhm’s homosexuality since 1919 taking action for fifteen years, until an intra-Nazi struggle precipitated the mass execution. LuchinoVisconti 1970 film brilliantly retells the event.


This common term among gay men is the equivalent of a trick, that is a casual sex partner. It probably derives from an older heterosexual usage, in which a number is a desirable girl, e.g. "I met an attractive number at the dance last night."

The term takes on a further connotation in gay-male discourse. Heterosexuals are sometimes surprised by the totals some gay men report for sexual partners, which may amount to thousands or even tens of thousands. As most of these couplings are anonymous, the individuals encountered may be thought of as an impersonal, infinitely extendable series. This idea informs John Rechy’s steamy novel Numbers (1969).

The relevant trope is Numbers.


At first glance numeration does not seem appropriate to the conceptualization of sex. Numbers imply separation. All sorts of things—apartments, passports, and lottery tickets—bear specific numbers designed to differentiate them clearly and conclusively from other things in the same class. By contrast, sexual congress seeks the union or blending of two or more bodies, rather than their separation.

This aspiration to make the two into one finds a beautiful reflection in the myth recounted in Plato’s Symposium, which assumes that human beings were originally part of composite entities as follows: male-female (a); male-male; and female-female (both b). Thus the aspiration of both heterosexuals (a) and homosexuals (b) is to regain the primal unity, to fuse the two into one.

ONE is the name of the pioneering gay rights organization, found in 1952 in Los Angeles, where it is still thriving. According to the founders, the name expressed the idea of the unity of mankind.

Needless to say, most of the relevant number tropes do not function on this rarified plane.

Numbers are impersonal. Some enthusiasts think of each sexual partner as a link in a numerical chain. Heterosexuals are sometimes surprised by the totals some gay men report for sexual partners, which may amount to thousands or even tens of thousands. As most of these couplings are anonymous, the individuals encountered may be thought of impersonally–as numbers. This was the idea informing John Rechy’s 1969 novel Numbers. Some sexual athletes keep diaries in which their conquests are carefully recorded in sequence. All the same, it is rare for these partners to be recalled as specific numbers: "317 was unusually hot; 566, a disappointment." In peninsular Spanish the word número refers to a particular way of performing sex, rather than to a partner in a sequence.

Number symbolism may arise from the shapes of letters. In Roman letters V is thought to be a diagrammatic rendering of a human hand. Accordingly, X is two hands. Unrelated to the origins of our zero symbol, 0 is sometimes used for the vagina (though the letter 0 is a more usual interpretation for the form).

The conjunction of two particular numbers provides the clearest example of such direct or transparent symbolism. The interpretation of 69 as two individuals pleasuring one another side by side, head to toe, reflects the shape of the figures. Such an interpretation was theoretically possible as soon as Arabic numbers became common in Europe (perhaps the fifteenth century). However, the trope has not been traced before the middle of the nineteenth century in France. The French expression soixante-neuf was then adopted in other languages (sesenta y nueve, neun-und-sechzig, and so forth.). A hundred years ago some English-speaking travelers and servicemen were evidently unfamiliar with its interpretation; hence the garbled imitation swaffunder. A rare usage is 66 for anal sex.

The number 69 has lent itself to variations, sometimes jocular. For example 68 means "do me and I’ll owe you one." One French glossary lists 4761 (69 squared) as "69 raised to the second power; a 69 that is much more intense and long."
The number 71 is a sixty-nine with digital penetration with two fingers.
The number
40 may represent the anus, while 39 means rimming (anilinctus). A 49er is the man who fucks.

One might think that 50-50 refers to bisexuality, which it may in some cases. However, it is more common to use it to refer to reciprocation of a specific act, as when one one person anally penetrates another, and then allows the same to be done to himself.

Some numbers imply a series. The idea of the third sex goes back to the third century CE in the Roman Empire (tertium genus). In the guise of le troisième sexe, the notion was popular in France during the nineteenth century. Some hold that only male homosexuals form the third sex; lesbians should be called the fourth sex. However, this distinction is not generally observed and, to the extent that the term is used at all nowadays, it refers to both male and female same-sex persons.

In his first Report (1948) Alfred Kinsey introduced his scale of sexual orientation, with 0 indicating a pattern of exclusive involvement with the opposite sex and 6 an exclusive involvement with the same sex. Today it is not uncommon to hear gay men ask: "Are you a Kinsey 6 or a 5?" A similar usage seems to be lacking among heterosexuals, still chary of acknowledging any dalliance with the same sex. Not so, obviously, with bisexuals, whose moniker by the way incorporates a Latin prefix meaning "two."

From the Kinsey Reports (1948; 1953) some have derived quantifying estimates for the incidence of homosexuality, including the well-known ascription of 10%. Such numbers are still a matter of discussion. There is also the rather melancholy calculation (still in dispute) of the numbers of homosexual persons murdered by the Nazis.

Heterosexuals use a scale of 1-10 to designate women; a "perfect ten" is the highest grade. This scale seems to enjoy some popularity among gay men (for other men) and among lesbians (for women).

Some numbers apply only within particular national jurisdictions. Ein-hundert-fünf-und-siebziger (175er) is still widely understood in Germany. This interpretation stems from Article 175 in the Imperial German Penal Code (promulgated in 1872) that prohibited same-sex relations. (It has since been deleted for adults.) There are all sorts of variations. May 17 (17 Mai or 17.5) is thought to be a gay day. Well-healed homosexuals are said to prefer a Mercedes 175.

In Britain Clause 28 was the legal provision enacted in 1988 by Margaret Thatcher’s government that forbade local authorities "to intentionally promote homosexuality" or to "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship." This clause became a symbol of attempts to roll back gay rights. Today a dead letter, it was for a time the focus of the "scrap the clause" movement in Britain.

In much of the world the number 28, specifically June 28, has a very different significance. This date commemorates the first day of the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969, that launched the modern gay liberation movement.

In 1901 in Mexico City a famous police raid took place at a drag ball. Reportedly 41 persons were arrested. The term has survived in Mexico to this day (see the essays in Robert McKee Irwin [ed.], The Famous 41).

Limited to the US military (and now dated) is "123 words," the language defining the policy of the US armed forces from 1981 to 1993, which prohibited gay men and lesbians from serving. This policy has been succeeded by the unfortunate DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell).

A recent US invention is 429 for gay (from the letters on the touch telephone); reversing this, 924, means straight.

A three way or threesome is a sexual encounter involving three persons. Likewise, four way or foursome.

In the US the dated expression "queer as a three-dollar bill" overlaps with the older idea of "queer money" (that is, counterfeit). "Trisexual" is a jocular expression for someone who will "try anything once"–a pansexual, but with limited tolerance for continuing the pattern (or so they claim).

For many years there was a bar in New York’s Greenwich Village called "The Ninth Circle." The somewhat recondite reference is to the circle in Dante’s Inferno where sodomites were confined.



One-night Stand

In its original theatrical context (documented from 1880 on), this expression meant a performance on a single occasion in a particular location. By extension, it came to mean a sexual encounter limited to a single occasion. This restriction is not necessarily a matter of choice, but may be dictated by circumstance.

The oncer is a person who elevates the one-night stand into a matter of principle. These individuals observe a taboo on repeating a sexual experience with the same person.

Opera Queen

Gay men’s fascination with opera is part of a larger involvement with the performing arts, including the theater, ballet, and rock music. These interests probably reflect as sense that undertaking a homosexual career in a disapproving society calls for a certain talent in dissimulation. In former times, and even today, gay people found it expedient to "act straight." Conversely, some might experience the need to be flamboyant, flaunting their orientation by dramatic verbalizing, gestures, and clothing.

Unlike the average opera-goer, opera queens are distinguished by their extensive knowledge of the subject, their tendency to view different productions of the same opera, and by their willingness to travel to other cities in quest of rare performances. All these features are, to be sure, characteristic of some heterosexual operaphiles. Opera queens are further distinguished by their cult of idols, involving devotion to particular divas, such as Maria Callas and Renée Fleming. They are also drawn to lavish productions, an interest overlapping the tendency of gay men to be involved in interior decoration and fashion.

It has been posited that the gay fascination with opera functions as a safety valve, gay men’s search for sources of identification and role models. The opera house provides a kind of refuge from the hurly burly and hostility of the outside world. In a more mundane sense it provides a cruising place for gay men. In countries where repression was severe, as for example the former Soviet Union, the opera house was a place where gay men could safely congregate.

The plots of many popular operas—as those by Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini--are tragedies about true love and forbidden love, topics that many gay men can identify themselves with. Because of this appeal, gays were at first little attracted to baroque opera. Yet this situation has changed, as the elements of stylization and artifice so characteristic of the baroque era began to exercise their spell.

Opera queens tend to find it difficult establishing common ground with their heterosexual counterparts. They claim that heterosexual men are not adept at verbalizing their experiences in the musical theater.

Orientation, Sexual

The expression sexual orientation, which came into general use only in the 1970s, denotes the stable pattern established by an individual of erotic and affectional response to others with respect to gender. Commonly two orientations, heterosexual and homosexual, are recognized; many would add bisexual. Attractions to sectors within the male and female populations with respect to age, race, and the like are not normally regarded as orientations, nor are such paraphilias as eroticization of urine and sadomasochism (S/M). The same goes for zoophilia. In one visualization, heteresexuality and homosexuality are plotted at opposite sides of a compass or circle. The dial can point either close to, or away from the poles. The other object choices just noted do not figure in the orientation chart.

In comparison with older judgmental terms, such as sexual deviation and perversion, sexual orientation has the advantage of value neutrality. At first glance the term sexual preference has a similar meaning, but it is favored by those who believe that sexuality is fluid and incorporates an element of choice, as opposed to those who believe sexuality is fixed early in life. The expression sexual preference tends to be used by those who have unrealistic expectations about the malleability of sexual attraction, and who seek to change its character. By contrast, the term sexual orientation emphasizes that erotic attraction emanates from the deep structure of the personality, and is not a mere choice, taste, or whim which can be easily altered

Sexual identity may serve as a synonym for sexual orientation, but the two are also sometimes distinguished, with identity referring to an individual's conception of him or herself, while orientation comprehends fantasies, attachments and longings, as well as behavior. In addition, sexual identity may be used to describe a person's perception of his or her own sex, rather than sexual orientation.

The trope of orientation suggests the possibility of variety among individuals, rather than the rigid either/or contrast that a strict binarism of heterosexual/homosexual implies. Finally, the concept of sexual orientation conveys something of the complex inter- actions between the individual personality (itself made up of conscious and unconscious components), on the one hand, and the changing scripts and cues being transmitted by the social environment, on the other. One responds to a subtle "landscape of eros" as posited by society, but one does so in keeping with one's individual character and experience.

In the view of some, the expression should be altered to affectional orientation, to indicate a broader concern with the whole person, rather that overtly expressed erotic or genital acts. Restriction to the specifically sexual sphere has also been felt to be a defect of the term homosexual itself, hence the temporary popularity of the word homophile.

In its remote origins, the term orientation stems from the field of architecture, where it signifies the alignment of temples and churches on an east-west axis (from oriens, "east") In psychology it has come to mean awareness of one's position or direction with reference to time, place, or identity of persons; also it denotes a tendency to move toward a source of stimulation or a particular direction, as in tropisms. From this nexus it is but a short step to the concept of sexual orientation. The widespread adoption of the expression is related to the 1970s popularity of such compounds as action-oriented, identity- oriented, and success-oriented. It is possible that the semantic modulation into the erotic sphere was anticipated by the late-nineteenth-century German use, with respect to sex, of the term Richtung, "direction."

The term asexual can be used to describe individuals devoid of sexual interest, or those who have a sex drive, but do not experience sexual attraction. The terms celibacy and and sexual abstinence designate those who are not sexually active. Asexuality and celibacy are not compatible terms, as celibacy implies a deliberate effort to refrain from one's desire for sex. Autosexuality. can be considered an orientation with a sexual focus on oneself. Monosexuality, a sexual orientation to only one sex/gender, is sometimes used to contrast with bisexuality.

In the wake of the 1960s and 1970s sexual revolution in the West, there has been an explosion of discourse on sexuality by sexual minorities.. Since the 1990s, people who find the broad terms "straight", "gay" and "bi" inadequate have devised many new terms. Such terms are commonly found on Internet forums, in personal ads, and in literature written by members of sexual minorities, but are uncommon in the scientific literature.

For example, the term pansexuality can describe an individual's attraction which is not based on gender, and can include attraction to transgender and intersex persons who may not fit clearly into a binary gender system. Other terms include "fluid" (used by those who don't want to be restricted by a more-specific label); "homoflexible" (for people who consider themselves predominantly homosexual but occasionally open to opposite-sex sexuality) or its complement "heteroflexible"; and "sapiosexual" (attraction to someone's mind as much as their body).

Some people use the word queer as an umbrella term to describe any non-normative sexualities and gender expressions, especially homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism and intersexuality, but also sometimes BDSM, fetishism, prostitution, and polyamory.. However, others are less enthusiastic, and the word queer can still be considered a slur.

Sexual orientation is difficult to measure accurately, for several reasons. In many cultures, there is strong social pressure to self-identify as heterosexual, and thus persons who are not exclusively heterosexual may be reluctant to report their sexual orientation accurately. The question of sexual orientation may inspire strong emotions that interfere with accurate reporting. Finally, some people are not (yet) certain of their own sexual orientation, making it more difficult for another person to determine it.

Markers of sexual orientation include self-labeling, actual sexual behavior, sexual fantasy, and a pattern of erotic arousal–a "pattern" being most accurately identified when genital engorgement with blood is measured in response to homoerotic material by means of penile plethysmography or vaginal plethysmography.

From at least the late-nineteenth century in Europe, there was speculation that the range of human sexual orientations looked more like a continuum than two or three discrete categories. In 1896 the Berlin sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld published a scheme that measured the strength of an individual's sexual desire on two independent 10-point scales, A (homosexual) and B (heterosexual). A heterosexual individual may be A0, B5; a bisexual may be A3, B9; An asexual would be A0, B0; and someone with an intense attraction to both sexes (pansexual) would be A9, B9.

Fifty years later, the American sexologist Alfred Kinsey wrote in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948):

"Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories... The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.

"While emphasizing the continuity of the gradations between exclusively heterosexual and exclusively homosexual histories, it has seemed desirable to develop some sort of classification which could be based on the relative amounts of heterosexual and homosexual experience or response in each history... An individual may be assigned a position on this scale, for each period in his life.... A seven-point scale comes nearer to showing the many gradations that actually exist."

The Kinsey scale measures sexual orientation from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual), with an additional category, X, for those with no sexual attraction to either women or men. Unlike Hirschfeld's scale, the Kinsey scale is one-dimensional. As Simon LeVay writes, "it suggests (although Kinsey did not actually believe this) that every person has the same fixed endowment of sexual energy, which he or she then divides up between same-sex and opposite-sex attraction in a ratio indicative of his or her own sexual orientation."

The earliest writers on sexual orientation usually understood it to be intrinsically linked to sex. For example, it was thought that a typical female-bodied person who is attracted to women would have masculine attributes, and vice versa. This understanding was shared by most of the significant theorists of sexual orientation from the mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century, such as Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Magnus Hirschfeld, Henry Havelock Ellis, Carl Gustav Jung, and Sigmund Freud, not to mention many gender variant homosexual people themselves. However, this understanding of homosexuality as sexual inversion did not enjoy universal acceptance, and during the second half of the twentieth century, gender identity came to be increasingly seen as a phenomenon distinct from sexual orientation. Transgender and cisgender persons may be attracted to men, women, or both, although the prevalence of different sexual orientations is quite different in these two populations. An individual homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual person may be masculine, feminine, or androgynous, and in addition, many members and supporters of lesbian and gay communities now see the "gender-conforming heterosexual" and the "gender-nonconforming homosexual" as negative stereotypes..

Because sexual orientation is complex and multi-dimensional, some academics and researchers (especially in the field of queer studies) have argued that sexual orientation is a completely historical and social construction. In 1976 the French historian Michel Foucault argued that homosexuality as a concept did not exist as such before the latter half of the nineteenth century. Formerly people instead spoke of "sodomy" (which involved specific sexual acts regardless of the sex of the actors) as a crime that was often ignored but sometimes punished severely. Despite Foucault’s assertions, there is abundant evidence that people were able to think of same-sex relations prior to the invention of the term "homosexual" in 1869.

During Foucault's time it was commonly thought that all ancient Greek men practiced bisexuality in the institution of pederasty, however more recent scholarship on the subject shows that, indeed, a minority of Greek males never married and continued to have sex exclusively with other men of their own age. And other findings include that during the Middle Ages in Europe (when sodomy was harshly sanctioned) subcultures developed of men who loved other men and often these men identified with each other in a community, something analogous to the modern gay identity.



There is a recurrent human tendency to regard groups palpably different from one’s own kind as alien and threatening. This tendency is deeply rooted in human culture. Anthropologists report that some tribal groups use the same term for "member of the tribe" as for "human being." By implication outsiders are not fully human. The ancient Greeks referred to foreigners as "barbarians," from the expression "barbar," implying a babble that was not coherent speech.

In large, complex modern nations this tendency is played out within the society. For those who have not, or who will not, assimilate by the standards of the host society the perennial question is this. Why can’t they be just like us? To be sure, contemporary multiculturalism has sought to address the problem. Yet it has done so largely by decreeing tolerance, neglecting the task of explaining the tendency of shunning otherness.

To be sure the shunning tends to correlate with visible markers in appearance, dress, and custom. Not every homosexual person has posed this challenge. For a long time the majority of gays and lesbians have "passed," being regarded as heterosexual like everyone else. In this way there has been safety, of a sort, for individuals–the safety of the closet. But the effects on the perception of the group are serious. The prevalence of the closet has left the more striking individuals (the "obvious" ones) to define the whole class. This is a recipe for blatant stereotyping.

Professionals have sought to give a scientific (or pseudoscientific) definition of the otherness of gay people. The discipline of abnormal sychology (which included homosexuals as its subjects among others) dealt with those who were different in a socially disapproved way. Hence the terms abnormal and anomaly. Other terms stemming ostensibly from scientific inquiry are pervert and degenerate.

Ordinary language provides queer, a word whose current popularity in academia remains problematic.

Other languages provide different terms for otherness. In Italian there is dall’altra sponda, dall’altra parocchia (from the other shore; the other parish); in Spanish, del otro lado. German supplies vom anderen Ufer sein (to be from other shore) and Anders als die andern (different from the others). Occasionally in English one finds on the other team.

In French the word spécial is an old code word for homosexual. Recently, in the US conservatives have spoken disparagingly of gay rights as "special rights."


In ordinary English outing refers to an outdoor excursion. Yet in the late twentieth century the term acquired an additional meaning, indicating the public disclosure that someone is gay, lesbian or bisexual. It is usually the case that such publicity unwanted by the their subjects, who would prefer to remain "in the closet." In addition to being outed as gay, persons can be outed as transsexuals. By extension, the term can also signify public disclosure of other personal characteristics, such as political affiliation or religion, that someone wishes to keep secret.

It is hard to pinpoint the first use of outing in the modern sense. In a 1982 issue of Harper’s Magazine, Taylor Branch predicted that "outage" would become a political tactic in which the closeted would find themselves trapped in crossfire. A piece in Time (January 29, 1990) introduced the term "outing" to the general public.

While the term is recent, the practice goes back much further. It may be regarded as an aspect of gossip. In a more formal setting, outing was a common put-down employed by Greek and Roman orators.

In imperial Germany the Harden-Eulenburg scandal of 1907-1909 was the first public outing scandal of the twentieth century. Left-wing journalists opposed to Kaiser Wilhelm II’s policies outed a number of prominent members of his cabinet and inner circle. Other journalists outed Hitler’s' ally Ernst Röhm in the early 1930s.

After the Stonewall Riots of 1969, some activists began to demand that all homosexuals come out, sometimes implying that if they weren't willing to do so, then it was the community's responsibility to do it for them. Such radical measures provoked opposition. Some argued that privacy should prevail, and that moreover it was better for the movement to protect closeted gays, especially in homophobic religious institutions and the military. Despite their best efforts, most gays and lesbians were still unwilling to come out.

During the 1980s the HIV/AIDS epidemic led to the outing of several major public figures, including the actor Rock Hudson and the lawyer Roy Cohn.

OutWeek, which had begun publishing in New York in 1989, was home to activist and outing pioneer Michelangelo Signorile, who stirred the waters when he outed the recently deceased billionaire Malcolm Forbes in March 1990. His column "Gossip Watch" became a hot spot for outing the rich and famous. Now many of Signorile’s tactics are seen as legitimate techniques for uncovering and revealing hypocrisy among those in power who are undermining equality for LGBT Americans. Others, however, hold that the use of outing for political ends can result in a kind of "bidding war" in which one outing leads to another, with the final result not necessarily in accord with the original aim. In fact, as some observers have noted, outing may be likened to McCarthyism..

In the military outing is ostensibly forbidden by the policy of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." However, the practice occurs there as well.

Despite these objections it is evident that, in the era of the Internet, outing will continue to flourish. While one can urge restraint, the activity cannot be repressed.

The term outing is spreading into the general language, following in the wake of the closet. Thus, one can be outed as a closet Republican, as an ecologist who makes lavish use of resources, and so forth.



Panic, Homosexual

The condition known as homosexual panic was first posited by Edward J. Kempf in the book Psychopathology (l920) and hence is sometimes styled Kempf's Disease. In the moralizing language of the period, he defined it as "panic due to the pressure of uncontrollable perverse sexual cravings." He ascribed its importance to the frequency with which it occurred when ever men or women had to be grouped apart from the opposite sex "for prolonged periods, as in army camps, aboard ships, on exploring expeditions, in prisons, monasteries, schools and asylums." According to Kempf, the homosexual cravings threaten to engulf the individual's ego. This erosion triggers a loss of self-control, which has been weakened by fatigue. Other problems are debilitating fevers, loss of love object, misfortunes, homesickness, and the seductive pressure of some superior or companions. The affective homosexual desires induce delusions about situations, objects, and persons that tend to gratify the craving, or even hallucinations of them.

When the erotic hallucination is felt to be an external reality and the subject can find no defense, panic ensues. The erotic affect may be symbolized as visions, voices, electric injections, "drugged" feelings, "poison" and "filth" in the food, seductive and hypnotic influences, irresistible trance states, crucifixion, and the like.

Significantly, the concept of homosexual panic emerged in the United States just after World War I, when for the first time since 1865 large numbers of men were brought together in training camps and military bases with no members of the opposite sex present. While homophobic literature makes much of the alleged tendency of one-sex institutions to foster homosexual behavior, just the opposite reaction can and does occur. The fear of being socially defined as homosexual was in the past so intense that the perception of homosexual desires within oneself could precipitate the symptoms described above, particularly since the popular mind failed to grasp the psychiatric distinction between exclusive homosexuality and homosexual attraction of a sporadic or episodic kind.

The anxiety created by this confusion and by the affective character of the imagined homosexual identity was demoralizing the patient and perplexing for the therapist. The phenomenon of homosexual panic stems in no small part from the internalization of society's futile attempt to stigmatize and prohibit homosexual behavior.

Over time the concept of homosexual panic evolved. Ostensibly, it is no longer be triggered by group situations, but by the encounter of two individuals, typically when one "propositions" the other. The subject of the proposition claims that he was so horrified by the request that he was overcome by rage, leading to violence. Typically such perpetrators deny the presence in themselves of any homosexual tendencies; whether they are correct or not is difficult to determine.

We turn now to the legal aspects. Gay panic defense is a term used to describe a rare but high-profile legal strategy against charges of assault and murder.. A defendant using the gay panic defense maintains that he or she acted in a state of violent temporary insanity because of the ostensibly well-established psychiatric condition called homosexual panic (as discussed above). Resorting to this strategy rarely secures acquittals, but may reduce culpability and achieve mitigation of punishments. In the cases where it does so, the verdict is often regarded as a case of jury nullification rather than being one based upon legal fact or precedent. In the UK it is sometimes familiarly known as the "Guardsman's Defense"

According to the gay panic defense, the defendant claims that he or she was the object of romantic or sexual advances on the part of the victim. The defendant found the propositions so offensive and frightening that they induced a psychotic state characterized by unusual violence.

When it is used, the defense often sparks outrage within the gay community, where it is said to be "blaming the victim." No analogous defense pertaining to heterosexual encounters has been recorded. The strategy is primarily used in the United States, especially in areas where social fear and disapproval of homosexuality is widespread. It is also occasionally employed in cases of violence against transgender or transsexual persons.

Use of the gay panic defense is increasingly rare as homosexuality becomes more accepted. Judges often allow the defense only if used to establish the defendant's honest belief in an imminent sexual assault.

In 1999 the two accused murderers of the Wyoming university student Matthew Shepard claimed in court that the young man's homosexual proposition enraged them to the point of violence. Judge Barton Voigt disallowed this strategy, ruling that it was "in effect, either a temporary-insanity defense or a diminished-capacity defense, such as irresistible impulse, which are not allowed in Wyoming, because they do not fit within the statutory insanity defense construct."


This expression has been current in America and in England since the 1920s (it is surely earlier) with the meaning "an effeminate homosexual." The flamboyant New York transvestite Earl Lind recalls meeting a Pansy Prince about 1895. Dressing up in overelegant fashion has sometimes been called pansying up. There is also the expression pansified (in 1957 Ezra Pound denounced the gradual "pansification of America").

The word is, of course, the name of a flower, and it derives from the French pensée, "thought" It figures as one of a number of botanical labels given to homosexuals, including lily, (shrinking) violet, and fruit. Together with some other flowers, pansy can be a woman’s name, suggesting a connection with gay men’s adoption, as sobriquets, of women’s names.

The relevant trope is Plants.

Paragraph 175

Paragraph 175 (also known as §175 StGB, and as Section 175 in English) was a provision of the German Criminal Code in force from May 15, 1871 to March 10, 1994. The paragraph made homosexual acts between males a crime, and in early revisions the provision also criminalized bestiality..

The statute was amended several times. In 1935 Nazi jurists broadened the law. They increased §175 StGB prosecutions by an order of magnitude. As a result thousands died in concentration camps, regardless of guilt or innocence. The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) reverted to the old version of the law in 1950, limited its scope to sex with youths under 18 in 1968, and abolished it entirely in 1988. The German Federal Republic (West Germany) retained the Nazi-era statute until 1969, when it was limited to "qualified cases." It was further attenuated in 1973 and finally revoked entirely in 1994 after German reunification.

As noted, paragraph 175 was adopted in 1871. Beginning in the 1890s, sexual reformers fought against the "disgraceful paragraph," soon winning the support of August Bebel, head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). But a petition in the Eeichstag to abolish Paragraph 175 foundered in 1898. In 1929 a Reichstag Committee decided to repeal Paragraph 175 with the votes of the Social Democrats, the Communist Party (KPD), and the German Democratic Party (DDP). Unfortunately, the rise of the Nazi Party prevented the implementation of the repeal. Although modified at various times, the paragraph lingered as part of German law until 1994.

The long life of the paragraph gave rise to the German slang term, Hundert-fünf-und-siebziger for a gay person.


The term paraphilia refers to a family of sexual responses and connections that stand, in the general view, outside the mainstream. These connections are conventionally regarded as unusual or peripheral. The term also serves to describe sexual feelings toward otherwise nonsexual objects, such as shoes and cigars. As used in the fields of psychology and sex research, paraphilia is an umbrella term used to cover a wide variety of atypical sexual interests. It does not imply dysfunction or deviance. A paraphilic interest is not normally considered clinically important by clinicians unless it is also causing suffering of some kind, or strongly inhibiting a "normal" sex life, according to the subjective standards of the culture and times.

The word joins two Greek combining forms, para, "alongside," and philia, "love." The term was coined by Austrian sexologist Friedrich Salomon Krauss during the nineteenth century, and then popularized by the psychotherapist Wilhelm Stekel (in his book Sexual Aberrations; English translation 1925). Even in scientific circles, it did not achieve widespread use in English until the 1950s. Unfortunately, the term paraphilia has generally not emerged from the learned precincts where it originated so as to be incorporated in the general language. The term is nonetheless useful in fostering objectivity when discussing taboo behaviors, or those meeting public disapproval.

Seeking to be nonjudgmental, the term paraphila supplants the older expression perversion. In appropriate contexts, it also replaces the judgmental term fetishism. Many sexual activities now considered harmless or even beneficial (such as masturbation) have in the past been stigmatized as perversions or psychosexual disorders.

Owing to the somewhat subjective nature of their definition, the specific acts included under the umbrella term of paraphilia vary from time to time and from place to place. Among the phenomena commonly included are: exhibitionism, the recurrent urge or behavior to expose one's genitals to an unsuspecting person; partialism, an excessive concentration on particular parts of the body; frotteurism, touching or rubbing against a nonconsenting person; voyeurism, seeking to observe an unsuspecting person who is naked, disrobing or engaging in sexual activities; and urolagnia, fascination with urine. Some would also cite such phenomena as pedophilia, S/M, transvestism, and zoophilia, but these inclusions are controversial.

Particular Friendships

In 1724 the French scholar Joseph François Lafitau used the expression amitiés particulières (particular or special friendships), with reference to male-male relationships among native Americans. In 1944 Roger Peyrefitte appropriated the term for the title of his classic novel on schoolboy relationships.

Today the term is in current use with regard to Catholic monasteries, whose professed members are urged to be wary of particular friendships lest they lead to sexual relationships.

Pecker Tracks

The pattern produced by dried or drying ejaculate occurs in the homosexual lifestyle through mutual masturbation or some other practice that causes the sperm to be projected externally projected, rather than absorbed in the vagina or anus. At the final Oscar Wilde trial, maids testified that peculiar stains were found on the sheets used by Wilde and his companions.

There is a more general background equating stain (Latin macula) with moral blemish.


The term pederasty (or paederasty) encompasses a wide range of erotic practices between adult males and adolescent boys. Variously described as spiritual or materialistic, lawful or criminal, loving or commercial, compassionate or abusive, sexual or chaste, pederastic relations have been documented from prehistory to modern times.

Classified as "age-structured homosexuality," pederasty finds its place, along with gender-structured relations and egalitarian relations, in the roster of three great subdivisions of homosexuality proposed by anthropologists. Frequently reviled today, pederasty was central to a vast range of historical cultures, including ancient Greece, medieval Islam, and pre-Meiji Japan, not to mention numerous tribal cultures.

"Pederasty" derives from the combination of paid- (the Greek stem for boy) with erastes (Greek for lover; cf. eros). Late Latin "pæderasta" was borrowed in the sixteenth century directly from Plato’s classical Greek in The Symposium. (Latin transliterates "αί" as "ae.") The word first appeared in the English language during the Renaissance, as "pæderastie" (e.g. in Samuel Purchas' Pilgrimage), in the sense of sexual relations between men and boys.

In modern French the word pédérastie has come to serve in common parlance for all homosexual relations. Occasionally, in older English-language texts a "pederast" is simply a homosexual. For the most part, though, this confusing usage has not been adopted in English.

In ancient Greece (where the term originated), pederasty functioned as an educational institution for the inculcation of moral and cultural values, as well as a sexual diversion. As idealized by the Greeks, pederasty was a relationship and bond--whether sexual or chaste--between an adolescent boy and an adult man outside of his immediate family. While most Greek men engaged in relations with both women and boys, exceptions to the rule were known, some avoiding relations with women, and others rejecting relations with boys. In Rome, relations with boys took a more informal and less civic, sometimes illicit path.

Analogous patterns have been documented among other ancient peoples, such as the Thracians, the Celts and various Germanic peoples such as the Heruli and the Taifali. According to Plutarch, the ancient Persians, too, had long practiced it (though according to Herodotus they learned pederasty from the Greeks).

Opposition to the carnal aspects of pederasty existed concurrently with the practice, both within and outside of the cultures in which it was found. Among the Greeks, a few cities prohibited it, and in others, such as Sparta, some claimed that only the chaste form of pederasty was permitted. Likewise, Plato's writings devalue and finally condemn sexual intercourse with the boys one loved, while glorifying the self-disciplined lover who abstained from consummating the relationship.

Within the bounds of the overall condemnation of homosexuality in many faiths, pederasty in particular has been a target. The early Christian Roman emperors quashed pederasty, and legal codes prescribed harsh penalties for violators.

Sexual expression between adults and adolescents is not well studied and since the 1990s has been often conflated with pedophilia, which should be strictly defined as the love of prepubertal children. Such relationships raise issues of morality and functionality, agency for the youth, and parental authority. They may also raise issues of legality in those cases where the minor is below the age of consent. Though they have been deemed beneficial by, for example, ancient philosophers, Japanese samurai, and modern writers such as Oscar Wilde, today, many disapprove of them and claim that they have a negative effect on the psychological development of the youth.

In the United States today pederasty can be considered a form of child abuse. It remains widely censured, whether legally or illegally expressed. In late 2006, Representative Mark Foley, former co-chair of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, resigned in disgrace after it became public that he had allegedly sent sexually suggestive e-mails and instant messages to young men serving as Congressional pages. A few years earlier, a sex scandal had occurred among American Catholics when some clergy were discovered to have abused altar boys. The publicity surrounding these cases reveals a deep-seated opposition and concern about pederasty. It may be, as pederastic activists allege, that these fears are exaggerated, but they reveal a set of strongly held beliefs.


Pedophilia (also sometimes spelled paedophilia or pædophilia) is sexual attraction primarily or exclusively to prepubescent or peripubescent children. A person with this attraction is called a pedophile. Strictly speaking, pedophilia should be distinguished from pederasty, attraction to adolescent boys above the age of puberty, and from ephebophilia, attraction to males in their late teens and early twenties. In popular usage all three tend to be conflated under the label of pedophilia. This confusion has unfortunate judgmental consequences, since the widespread disapproval of pedophilia need not attach to pederasty and ephebophilia.

The word is a modern coinage, incorporating the Greek roots paid-, "child," and philia, "love, friendship." The term paedophilia erotica was coined in 1886 by the German psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his influential monograph Psychopathia Sexualis

The actual boundaries between childhood and adolescence may vary in individual cases and are difficult to define in specific terms of age. The World Health Organization, for example, defines adolescence as the period of life between 10 and 19 years of age,[though it is most often defined as the period of life between the ages of 13 and 18.

Because it is generally taboo, the incidence of pedophilia is not known with any certainty. Some studies have concluded that at least a quarter of all adult men may have some feelings of sexual arousal in connection with children. This figure is probably overstated.

The terms boylove(r), girllove(r) and childlove(r) are used by pedophile activists, who seek to challenge the various stigmas and medical concepts attached to pedophilia The NAMBLA advocacy group has sought to promote the term man/boy love. Nepiophilia, also called infantophilia, is the attraction to toddlers and infants (usually ages 0–3). Some researchers have suggested a distinction between pedophilia and nepiophilia, especially for same-sex pedophilia.


Perversion is a common term describing those types of human behavior that are perceived to be a departure from what is considered to be normal or orthodox.. In psychiatric usage the meaning goes back to the noted German sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902). This writer distinguished two categories of perverse Handlungen, perverse (i.e. nonreproductive) sexual acts: 1) those motivated by Perversität (viciousness, depravity) and 2) manifestations of Perversion (a qualitative, pathological variation of the character of the sexual drive). Thus heterosexual fellatio would be the result of Perversität, while much homosexual activity would stem from Perversion. These distinctions have not been generally accepted, and much confusion surrounds the term perversion. Today, together with the word pervert, it functions mainly as an epithet.

The older meaning was nonsexual, implying a "deviation from the original meaning or doctrine," literally a "turning aside" from the norm. In Northern Europe in early modern times a "pervert" generally signified a heretic (as a Protestant who converted to Catholicism), the opposite of convert. Catholics returned the favor, referring to those who chose Protestantism as perverts.

Some psychologists have sought to achieve greater precision by speaking of deviant behavior. Unfortunately, the terms deviant and deviation have themselves acquired a tincture of disparagement.

The definition and usage of the concept shifts under the influence of such variables as period, person, religion, and culture. What some would describe as perversion, others might say is simply a variant form of human sexuality. In some cultures homosexuality once ranked a perversion, and indeed still is in several; it is nevertheless widely seen in the western world today as a natural sexual variation.

Pink Elephants

"Seeing pink elephants" is a euphemism for drunken hallucination caused by delirium tremens. The novelist Jack London, describing one sort of alcoholic in the autobiographical John Barleycorn (1913), writes that he "is the man whom we all know, stupid, unimaginative, whose brain is bitten numbly by numb maggots; who walks generously with wide-spread, tentative legs, falls frequently in the gutter, and who sees, in the extremity of his ecstasy, blue mice and pink elephants. He is the type that gives rise to the jokes in the funny papers."

Since then pink elephants have been featured in films and on television, and in various musical contexts. The expression has also had some currency as a slang term for LSD. "Pink elephant" may serve as a variation on "the elephant in the room--something that everyone is aware of but refrains from mentioning.

In the political realm "pink elephant" signifies a member of the Log Cabin Republicans (gay Republicans). The symbol of the US Republican Party is the elephant, and pink implies homosexuality (as in the pink triangle). The hue is also a stereotypically effeminate version of the color red, used to signify the Party since 2000. Pink elephants may also be closeted Republican staffers on Capitol Hill.

Pink Pound

This is a current UK term designating the spending power of gay men and lesbians, who often have considerable discretionary income. In recent years such consumers have been targeted by niche marketing.

In the United States, the expression pink dollar sometimes occurs.

Pink Triangle

In the extermination camps the Nazis required known homosexual men to wear a pink triangle (rosa Winkel) affixed to their clothing as a distinctive mark of identification. In addition to the Jewish star, there were triangles in various colors: red for political prisoners, blue for émigrés; green for convicts; and so forth.

In recent years some gay men and lesbians have voluntarily adopted the pink triangle—often in the form of a button—as a mark of pride and a reminder of the still insufficiently known homosexual Holocaust carried out by the Nazis.

The relevant trope is Color Symbolism.


From time immemorial human beings have distinguished plants that are useful–for food, medicine, or ornamental purposes–from those that are noxious, as toxic mushrooms and poison ivy. Although homosexuals are regarded as dangerous, it seems that no noxious plants have ever been utilized to symbolize them. Perhaps this would attribute too much power to a disparaged minority. Matters are otherwise with the useful plants.

Whether still attached to the soil or severed from it through plucking or harvesting, plants connote defenselessness, together with the capacity to serve those who avail themselves of them. Edible plants may be regarded as the ultimate symbol of passivity and sexual availability, as seen in tomato, a now-dated US heterosexual expression for a woman as a sex object. Tomatoes are red, soft, and easily ingested, whether eaten raw or cooked.

In the same-sex realm several edible plants have come to the fore, as Spanish apio, celery, and coliflor, cauliflower. Maize flour is used for making tortillas in Mexico; hence tortillera, a lesbian. In Italian finocchio, fennel, is the most common current term for a gay man.

In American English the word fruit enjoys wide currency. Briefly, in the 1930s, bananas was used for a gay man perceived as loopy. A staple of Asian cuisine figures in rice queen, one of a number of food terms used for ethnic preferences (e.g., taco queen) In Britain a potato queen is attracted to Irish men; a tandoori queen to South Asians. A spag-fag (from spaghetti) goes for Italians.

The term faggot, common in American English, ultimately derives from plants (sticks of wood). In their natural state faggots are not edible. However, in Britain, where the American meaning of the term has until recently been little known, a faggot is a food item consisting of pork viscera, chopped, seasoned with herbs, shaped into a ball or stick, and fried or baked.

Some individuals are reputed to use vegetables as masturbation aids. The insertor chooses, say, an eggplant or a yam, making an appropriate indentation. Such acts are neither homosexual nor heterosexual, but (possibly) phytosexual.

When all is said and done, though, it is flowers that have proved most apt in this family of tropes. During classical antiquity the theme of picking flowers stood for enjoyment of life’s pleasures, which must be gathered before they fade: the carpe diem motif. For many cultures the budding of plant life in spring represents nature’s perennial, though transitory self-renewal. Ancient pederasts wrote poignantly of the anthos, or bloom, of the adolescent sex object, destined to fade all too soon.

The idea that flowers have specific meanings, that there is a "language of flowers," is more recent. This concept has been traced to eighteenth-century Ottoman practice, when flowers provided a secret code for love messages in the harem. The concept of the selam, a flower code able to express a range of meanings, spread to Western Europe, so that by 1820 the French poet Victor Hugo spoke of "sweet messages whereby love speaks with flowers." In 1884 Kate Greenaway summed up Victorian lore on the subject in her book The Language of Flowers. One dialect she omitted was the homosexual one, which was then known to a very small group.

In 1894 Robert Hichens’ novel, The Green Carnation, popularized the dyed flower as the distinguishing mark of the aesthete, though the Oscar Wilde scandals in the following year led quickly to the abandonment of that popular badge. Other writers of the period created a kind of personal flower symbolism. In 1895 the homosexual aesthete and sexologist Marc-André Raffalovitch published a volume of poems entitled Tuberose and Meadowsweet. Inspired by Walt Whitman a group of late nineteenth-century British poets styled themselves the Calamites, from the calamus plant. In 1911 the Uranian poet John Gambril Nicholson published a volume of pederastic poems called Ladslove.

Flowers figured prominently in the interior-decoration schemes of the Arts and Crafts movement, and they were central to the fin-de-siècle imagery of the Art Nouveau in architecture and the minor arts. In fact Art Nouveau floral designs came under attack as dangerously erotic, though no one could adequately articulate this objection. More recently some have detected lesbian content in the flower paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe, though the artist herself denied this assocation.

The association of pansies with male homosexuals is documented in America as early as 1903. Dressing up in an overelegant fashion may be termed pansying up, while an effeminate boy may be called pansified. Robert Scully’s A Scarlet Pansy, a witty novel of gay life of the era, appeared in 1933. Other flowers that have been associated with male homosexuals are lilies and daffodils. The use of violets as a gift between women in Edouard Bourdet’s play "The Captive," a major event of the 1926 Broadway season, engendered an association of this flower with lesbianism that lasted several decades.

The slang term for the act of several persons having sexual intercourse with each other simultaneously is a daisy chain. While such a gathering might be heterosexual, the usual interpretation is that it is a gay orgy, with a queue of partners each penetrating the next anally (except for the foremost man).

In continental Europe the color pink-—rosa or rose—is associated with homosexuality. These words derive from the beautiful flower, the rose, which has been erotically charged at least since the time of the thirteenth-century romance, Le Roman de la Rose. Traditional Japanese culture associated the chrysanthemum with the anus, so that a "chrysanthemum tryst" could symbolize a gay anal encounter.

In recent American usage wallflower refers to a usually younger individual, who is gay and readily perceived as such by others. Yet because of their naivety and inexperience such persons remain "unaware" or have not yet accepted thier orientation in their own mind.

The reasons for the popularity of floral symbolism are various. Botanically, flowers have both male and female organs of reproduction. During the early nineteenth century the study of this phenomenon led to the creation of the term bisexuality, though it is doubtful whether this recognition had much direct impact on the popular imagination. Flowers assume complex shapes and colors as a means of passive sexual attraction, since must lure insects that will bear their pollen to their floral partners. Then too, they often have a scent, something to which homosexuals are allegedly addicted.

In Greek mythology the death of young heroes could give rise to flowers and other plants, ostensibly springing from their blood. Especially touching is the story of the lovers Calamus and Carpus. When the latter drowned accidentally, Calamus, inconsolable in his grief, found solace in being changed to a reed. It was this plant, the calamus, which inspired a series of poems by Walt Whitman on same-sex love. Hyacinth, the lover of Apollo, was killed in a discus-throwing accident. The beautiful Narcissus, having spurned the love of a nymph, was caused by the goddess Aphrodite to feel unquenchable love for himself. At length he gained relief by being turned into the flower that bears his name.

In our society flowers, because of their delicacy and beauty, are most commonly given by a man to a woman. Flower names, such as Blossom, Camille, Daisy, Lily, and Petunia, are reserved for women—-though at one time they were assumed by a few gay men as "camp names." The adjective florid means ornate and excessive; it can also describe the advanced stage of a disease. Finally, flowers can be raised in hothouses to assume striking, even bizarre shapes. These artificial creations represent the triumph of culture over nature, of artifice in short–a principle that also serves to buttress our society’s stereotype of the homosexual as unnatural.


Pomo Homos

This rhyming term from the end of the twentieth century is short for "postmodern homosexuals." In practice it tends to be used for sophisticated black gay men, in effect "pomo Afro homos."

Poof, Poofter

This word is one of the most common disparaging terms for a homosexual male in Australia. It is widely recognized in Britain as well.

The derivations that have been suggested, from pouf, a small ottoman, or from patapouf, "a pudgy man" (French) are unlikely. Possibly this word onomatopoetic, being somehow felt to capture the flighty quality attributed to the "swishy" homosexual, or even to a suggestion that such individuals might waft away (poof!).

The Australian novelist Patrick White records the augmentative poofteroo (a blend with "kangaroo"), while English Cockney slang provides iron hoof (= poof), showing—in addition to the rhyming cover—another aspect of concealment through the invocation of a misleading "opposite" characterization.


This somewhat murky expression connotes a sense that gay people, having advanced so far towards achieving their goals, may now relax their concern about their identity. What it does not mean is ex-gay, that is, that one has renounced one’s homosexuality. Nor does it signify a retreat to the closet.

The term reflects a questioning of the sense, for long assumed to be simply a given, that sexual orientation belongs to the very core of our being. To some, this feeling represents a welcome return to sanity and balance. Others, however, hold that to downplay the role of sexual orientation and sexuality in one’s life masks a kind of denial, rooted in a covert return to puritanism. Moreover, the gay-rights battle is scarcely finished, witness the long struggle that lies ahead over same-sex marriage and the matter of gays in the military.

The first analysis of the idea stems from the distinguished novelist Edmund White (as quoted by Fritz Lanham ("Beginnings of Liberation," The Houston Chronicle, November 27, 1994.) Approaching the matter from a literary standpoint, White points out that earlier writers like Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams were openly gay, but they rarely wrote directly about homosexuality in their novels. After Stonewall (1969ff.) to be a gay writer meant to make the subject central to one’s work. White goes on to say, "[n]ow you have writers like Alan Gurganus, who published the first gay story in the New Yorker in 1974 and was always very clear about being gay. But (his novel) The Oldest Living Confederate Widow has virtually no gay theme in it. I call it sort of post-gay. People aren't in the closet, they're frank about their sexuality, but they don't feel limited to gay subject matter. They feel they can write about anything."

Perhaps a larger pattern is occurring. In a piece in The New Republic in 2005 Andrew Sullivan put the matter this way: "Slowly but unmistakably, gay culture is ending. You see it beyond the poignant transformation of P-town: on the streets of the big cities, on university campuses, in the suburbs where gay couples have settled, and in the entrails of the Internet. In fact, it is beginning to dawn on many that the very concept of gay culture may one day disappear altogether. By that, I do not mean that homosexual men and lesbians will not exist--or that they won't create a community of sorts and a culture that sets them in some ways apart. I mean simply that what encompasses gay culture itself will expand into such a diverse set of subcultures that "gayness" alone will cease to tell you very much about any individual. The distinction between gay and straight culture will become so blurred, so fractured, and so intermingled that it may become more helpful not to examine them separately at all."

This view seems overstated. After all, many ethnic minorities, including Irish, Jews, and many others, have integrated into American society. Their culture is flourishing vigorously. We don’t use the expressions "post-Hibernian" or "post-Judaic."

Power Lesbian

A term for a successful, well-connected lesbian, popular especially in Southern California. It is equivalent to an A-list lesbian.


An abbreviation signifying "positive" for HIV/AIDS, this term has largely supplanted the older PWA (people with AIDS).

Pride (trope)

The word pride has two basic meanings. The first is inordinate self-esteem or conceit. "Pride goes before a fall," we are told. (The phrase is an adaptation of Proverbs 16:18). As Superbia, it ranks among the Seven Deadly Sins.

The second meaning of pride is positive. It is the awareness of one’s own basic dignity and inner strength, freely avowing this confidence in word and deed. The sense of self-respect incarnated in the concept entails a refusal to be humiliated--to conform to oppressive norms. It also connotes joy in oneself as a person, group, nation, or situation.

For centuries conventional wisdom disparaged pride as a manifestation of arrogance and narcissism. Today, however, we rightly speak of a person taking pride in acquiring a college degree, receiving an award, or in some other accomplishment.

What is the source of these two opposed meanings? Our modern word "pride" derives from the Old English prud , which meant pride in the positive sense. In the course of the centuries this word took on the negative connotations of superbia. Hence the confusion.

During the twentieth century, minority groups realized that the needed to combat theharm inflicted by centuries of discrimination and disparagement by cultivating a sense of group pride. Affirming that ideal was one of the early goals of the Zionist movement. Among other things Zionists were determined to show that , stereotypes notwithstanding, Jews could perform the entire range of roles needed to found and conduct a modern society.

The origins of the black pride movement that sprang up in the sixties are probably separate, but the intent is similar. It is from this development that gay pride took its cue. In his book "Gay Power" (2006) David Eisenbach asserts that the term "gay pride" was introduced by Robert A. Martin and his friends at Columbia's Student Homophile League in 1968, one year before Stonewall. Martin (later known as Stephen Donaldson) was also riffing off the expression "pride of Lions," referring to campus pride in athletic prowess (the Columbia teams were known as "the Lions," hence the annexation of the collective term "pride). L. Craig Schoonaker, founder of a gay student organization at NY City College in early 1969 (a group that evolved into a small NYC organization known as Homosexuals Intransigent!), claims to have originated the slogan "gay pride" at the time of Stonewall.

However that may be, the next stage seems to have been as follows. Lesbian activist Brenda Howard was one of the organizers of the first Christopher Street Day March in Manhattan (June 28, 1970). For a time, the expression "Christopher Street" was purloined, even in cities like Los Angeles (they used the expression "Christopher Street West March," quite a long street, it seems). At any rate, Howard recognized that the expression Christopher Street was too limiting, even though it correctly pinpointed the origin of all the events at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. She invented the idea of Pride Day, which quickly morphed into Gay Pride Week.

As far as we can now determine, Robert A. Martin, L. Craig Schoonamker, and Brenda Howard, all New York City residents, are responsible for this terminology. Other cities, in the US and abroad, fell into step later.

In terms of the gay and lesbian movement, the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion marked the beginning of a major quantitative and qualitative change. This phase was known at the time as Gay Liberation. It is in this setting that the expression "gay pride" began to be used. As noted, it is modeled on "black pride." (Compare also the contemporary slogan "gay power," which is an adaptation of "black power.")

The gay pride or simply pride campaign seeks to affirm three main points. First, people should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Second, sexual diversity is not a burden or stigma, but a gift. And finally, sexual orientation and gender identity are stable elements of the core personality that are not amenable to alteration by outsiders. Marches celebrating Pride are celebrated worldwide. Symbols of gay pride include the rainbow flag, the lambda symbol. Another symbol is the pink triangle, reclaimed from past use as a badge of oppression.

Implicit in the movement for gay pride is a recognition that for many centuries gay and lesbian people have internalized the stereotypes that have been foisted on them by the host society. During those times it was not gay pride, but gay shame that prevailed. A few courageous individuals, such as Oscar Wilde, and later Quentin Crisp and Harry Hay, stood out.

Nowadays major universities and many colleges have a club or society for students who identify as LGBT. These groups often change their names, due to the rapid evolution of political correctness, and a wish to appear inclusive. One backronym that is currently in common usage is PRIDE as "People Rejoicing In Diversity Everywhere." To be sure, this is a false etymology.

With the onset of the AIDS-HIV crisis in 1981 the concept was needed more than ever. Sometimes the American expression is taken over as such into other languages, but it is usually translated, as in the Spanish orgullo, gay.

Today Gay Pride Month is observed in the month of June, as it commemorates the Stonewall Uprising which occurred at the end of that month in 1969.

Some might say that if we accept as axiomatic the fact that gay sex, like all sex, is a very natural thing, there is no need to express pride in it, any more than one might feel the need to proclaim "gourmet pride" or "cat-loving pride." The answer is that those attachments are not attended by a lingering aura of disapproval, as gay sex still is. Perhaps one day we will evolve to a time when gay pride is not longer necessary; that time does not seem to be now.




This vernacular term denotes an effeminate homosexual, typically one who is inclined to put on airs and is easily offended. Queens are known to harbor a tendency to camp, effeminacy, and bitchiness. The leader of a group of queens is a queen bee.

Until recent decades, the term was in wide use as a self-descriptor. The sense that this use embodied a degree of self-derogation—internalized homophobia—accounts for the current decline in usage. Still, the word has not disappeared.

Historically, the term results from the rejoining of the divergent paths followed by two related Old English words, cwen and cwene, rooted in the common Indo-European base gwen, "woman." One form ensconced itself at the top of the social scale, producing "queen" as "consort of a king, woman having sovereign rule." The sibling word quean experienced downward mobility so that it came to mean "impudent woman, jade, hussy."

It is this latter usage which led to its derisive application to homosexuals. An early at- testation of this semantic development may lie in the Latin hexameter alluding to James I of England: "Rex fuit Elisabeth, nunc est regina Jacobus." (Elizabeth was a king, now James is a queen/quean).

Over the years, the compound formula noun + queen has enjoyed a run of popularity, yielding such compounds as "drag queen" (a homosexual who wears feminine attire), "tearoom queen" (one who cruises toilets), "seafood queen" (one who pursues sailors), "rice queen" (one who prefers Asian partners), and so forth.

The word queen has parallels in Spanish (reina) and Italian (regina), but these are minor items in the homosexual argot of those languages, probably largely sustained in popularity by contamination from English-language usage. .


In twentieth-century America this epithet has been probably the most popular vernacular term of abuse for homosexuals. It was also common in England, producing Cockney rhyming phrases such as "ginger beer" and "King Lear." Even today some older English homosexuals prefer the term queer, even sometimes affecting to believe that it is value-free.

The current slang meaning is probably rooted in the use of "queer" for counterfeit (coin or banknote) in the mid-eighteenth century, with an antonym "straight"; hence an expression popular in the recent past, "queer as a three-dollar bill." As a verb, "to queer" means "to spoil, to foul up." At one time the adjective could be used unselfconsciously to mean "queasy" ("This muggy weather makes me feel ever so queer."). The word can also be used in a less pejorative sense with the meaning "fond of, keen on." e.g., "he's queer for exotic cuisine."

As used for homosexuals, the term queer has long connoted strangeness and "otherness," rooted in the sense that gay people were marginal to society's mainstream. It has also conveyed the sense of fear and aversion that many heterosexuals felt for emotions that they could not share and acts that they could not understand. The term served to express (and reinforce) a kind of heterosexual ethnocentrism that branded difference as per se alien and unacceptable. The ignorance in which the establishment media kept the general public reinforced all these anxieties.

Until the late 1980s, the word queer seemed to be in decline. Then it was spectacularly revived by a group of enthusiasts who believed that it could be "reclaimed" as a positive term. In the view of these proponents, it had the advantage of brevity, eliminating the need for more cumbersome expressions, such as "gay and lesbian." It also served to include such groups as bisexuals and transpeople.

Many older gay persons cringed in horror as the vogue of queer spread in gay circles (and even in some straight ones) during the eighties and nineties. Middle-aged and elderly people retained painful memories of how the q-word had been hurled against them in acts of public shaming.

The recuperation of queer has been sold as part of a larger campaign of detoxification of negative terms. Ostensibly, "black" is the model. Yet the term black never bore the negative charge of queer. In fact there are sharp limits to the validity of the detox principle. There have never been any attempts to sanitize such terms as "k*ke" and "c*nt" for such purposes.

In its heyday, the closing years of the twentieth century, no such problems attended queer—or so its enthusiasts claimed. As noted above it was touted as inclusive. It also served to bring into the fold transsexuals and transvestites, who did not necessarily regard themselves as homosexual. And other eccentrics of various kinds could find shelter under the Big Queer Tent. Needless to say, gun-toting survivalists and Holy Roller evangelists were not welcome—though they too, by the lights of mainstream American society, are also queer.

Cobbled together from bits of Michel Foucault and American Social Constructionism, there was even supposed to be something termed Queer Theory, which gained a tenuous foothold in universities. On some campuses Gay Studies, formerly folded into Gender Studies, has now morphed into Queer Studies. A silence that speaks loudly, though, is the absence of departments of "N*gger Studies" and "K*ke Studies," even though Black Studies and Jewish Studies are flourishing disciplines on American campuses. Why this insistence on a term that, contrary to assurances, has not shed its negativity? It looks as if this is a matter of abjection, the embrace of disparagement. And that embrace looks very much like internalized homophobia. At all events, the term was mainly popular among academics and some movement types. Chapters of the organization Queer Nation, never very robust, seem all to have expired. The q-word never enjoyed much popularity among the gay and lesbian masses, for whom recourse to queer seemed, well, "queer."

The subtext of the promotion of queer was a kind of PC disapproval of assimilationism, the tendency of many younger gay men and lesbians to adopt coupled, suburban lifestyles, little different from those of their heterosexual neighbors. As a proponent of free choice I welcome this development. By the same token, though it should not involve a historical and cultural falsification that denies the camp exuberance and nonconformism that gay men and lesbians have evolved over the generations as coping strategies. In that sense some element of queerness will always remain. What is objectionable, though, is the pars-pro-toto strategy that identifies this strand of gay tradition with the whole.

The touting of queer was a powerful instance of groupthink. Faced with the vogue of such a term, it was probably vain to oppose it. Eventually the expression will collapse of the weight of its own contradictions, not to mention changing fashions. Fading will probably also afflict the cumbersome alphabet soup of GLBT, LGBTQ and the like. In a wide-ranging survey, the Amsterdam scholar Gert Hekma observes that the word queer has come to seem dated. The journalist Paul Varnell expresses the hope that 2007 will see the demise of queer. Maybe it will take a little longer, though, for this welcome retirement to be effected.

It looks as if we are coming full circle. The term of choice fifty years ago, gay is back in style. In fact, it never left.

Queer Theory

Queer theory is an aspect of postmodernism that seeks to reexamine and to deconstruct conventional ideas of gender and sexuality. The two words "queer" and "theory" were first joined by the film historian Teresa de Lauretis during a working conference on theorizing lesbian and gay sexualities that was held at the University of California, Santa Cruz in February 1990.

The beginning debates tended to focus on the polarity of social constuctionist vs. essentialist approaches. That is, are the categories of sexuality socially contrived, created through discourse, or are they natural givens, outside of our control to make or change? This binary may itself be a false dichotomy, as discourse shapes our understanding of what is natural and what is natural shapes discourse-- but it still is a useful starting point for exploring these debates.

Constructionists hold that the appeal to norms in nature is a chimera: all meaning is constructed through discourse.

Queer theorists have also addressed problems in the conventional dichotomy that classifies every individual as either "male" or "female," even on a strictly biological basis. As constructionists they reject that gender is a fixed category existing in reality. In their view, gender is defined through shared meaning making in history.

Much of queer theory developed out of a response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, which promoted a renewal of radical activism, and the growing homophobia brought about by public responses to AIDS. In this view, queer theory and AIDS are interconnected because each is articulated through a postmodernist understanding of the death of the subject and both understand identity as an ambivalent site

Arguably, the material effects of AIDS challenged many cultural assumptions about identity, justice, desire, and knowledge. However, some scholars went too far, claiming that the entire system of Western thought was crumbling.

After the initial flurry of interest in the closing years of the twentieth century, Queer Theory seems to have reached a plateau, and has perhaps entered on a decline. At all events, it clearly has not delivered the rich harvest of insights that the original enthusiasts promised.



Rainbow Flag

The Rainbow Flag has become accepted internationally as a gay and lesbian emblem. Designed by the artist Gilbert Baker, it was first flown in the 1978 San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. Originally the flag had eight horizontal stripes: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit. For practical reasons the stripes were subsequently reduced to six. The pink and turquoise stripes disappeared, and blue replaced indigo.

From San Francisco the flag spread to other US cities and abroad. Nowadays, gay businesses and households ubiquitously display the Rainbow Flag during June, Gay Pride Month. Not surprisingly the design has been adapted for use in such saleable items as jewelry, candles, and tee shirts. The decoration of the Montreal subway station Beaudry, in the gay quarter, incorporates a permanent version of the design.

While Baker may have invented his design independently, the concept is not new. In 1925 the International Cooperative Movement adopted a rainbow flag as its emblem. The seven horizontal stripes are red, orange, yellow, green, sky blue, dark blue, and violet. According to Charles Gide, the flag’s inventor, collectively the hues represent unity in diversity, as well as the power of light, enlightenment, and progress. In Peru this design of the rainbow flag has been adopted as a symbol of the Andean province of Cusco, and of the Inca people generally.

Rights, Gay

The ultimate origins of the gay-rights movement have been traced to the founding of the Scientific-humanitarian Committee in Berlin in 1897. A central role of the Committee was the abolition of the antigay legislation known as Paragraph 175 in the Imperial German Penal Code. Legal reform has always been an issue of central importance to the gay and lesbian movement.

The United States is a country in which the concept of rights has special significance, as seen in the Bill of Rights attached to the US Constitution. During the 1950s the civil rights movement arose, primarily as a means of freeing African Americans from discrimination. This struggle helped to spark the second wave of feminism. (The first had started in 1848, making it arguably our first rights movement.)

All these tendencies had their effect on the emergence of the modern gay movement in 1950-51 in Los Angeles. For a time, the rights approach was overshadowed by the more radical aims of the gay-liberation trend that began in 1969 with the Stonewall Rebellion. In due course it was realized that it was more practical to work within the system, rather than to try to overthrow it.

In June 2003, with the Lawrence decision of the US Supreme Court, a prime desideratum of the gay-rights movement was achieved. Reform in the military, which would require overturning the "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, remains elusive.

During the nineties, the achievement of same-sex marriage became a prime goal of the gay-rights effort. Reaching this goal has proved more complex than was initially expected.

The struggle for gay rights has engendered a backlash among some opponents who allege that gay and lesbian people want "special rights." To this claim, gay and lesbian spokespeople have replied that they are only seeking to secure the same rights as are guaranteed to everyone else.

Renter, Rent Boy

Renter is a British term for a male prostitute. Unlike the renter in the ordinary sense of an apartment dweller, a gay renter is the person offering the rental, not the one who is making use of the property for a specified period.

The relevant trope is Commerce.


Rimming (and rim-job) are street terms for anal-oral contact, also referred to as anal-oral sex, anilinctus, and Anilinctus (from anus and lingua, tongue)." This form of sexual activity is performed by achieving contact between the mouth of one person and the anus and/or perineum of another. The term butt munch is an insult, not a descriptive term.

Some adepts find that the act fosters a special sense of intimacy between the two partners. By placing his tongue and mouth against a portion of the body of his partner that is conventionally regarded as "dirty," the rimmer signifies his complete acceptance of the other person. In addition, there is an element of hierarchy symbolism. Rimming is rarely reciprocal, so that the rimmer acknowledges that the other is the dominant partner. Ironically perhaps, the individual whose bottom is involved is in fact the top.

A dual sequence is anal sex followed by fellatio on the previously-inserted penis. In the porno industry this goes by the name of ass-to-mouth. Stars who practice this act commonly take an enema before their scenes to cleanse themselves and reduce the risk of disease

From a health standpoint, anal-oral contact may carry serious risks because of the presence of bacteria, viruses, or parasites in or on the anus or rectum. Unprotected rimming has been seriously implicated in cases of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Applying the mouth to the genitals immediately after applying it to the anus can inadvertently introduce a microorganism, the bacterium Escherichia coli ("E. coli") into the urethra, causing a urinary tract infection.. Unprotected anal-oral contact also involves the risk of contracting such sexually transmitted diseases as genital herpes and intestinal parasites.

Thoroughly washing the area and inside the anus can help reduce the risk of diseases. A better way to protect against health risks is by placing a sheet of plastic wrap (or a dental dam) over the anal area. This membrane allows the passive partner to receive stimulation while protecting the active partner from bacterial infection.



Sadomasochism (S/M)

This term is conventionally defined as the giving or receiving of pain for erotic gratification (algolagnia). In terms of contemporary practice, this is an unwarranted stereotype. Nonphysical elements, such as verbal abuse and humiliation, often play a large role. Bondage (restraint) is also common. A more comprehensive definition situates physical and nonphysical aspects in a larger framework of dominance and submission that engages the fantasy life of the participants. S/M differs from mere cruelty in that it is--expressly or implicitly--consensual: the partners define limits that must not be transgressed. The activities found in S/M are not radically different from the "horseplay" that sometimes occurs in ordinary lovemaking: teasing, biting, pinching, and wrestling. But in the S/M scene there is superimposed on these ordinary behaviors, a range of specific S/M activities in a continuum ranging from harmless play to the most elaborate ritual "torture."

The first element of the compound sadomasochism derives from the Marquis D. A. F. de Sade (1740-1814), whose writings depict the inflicting of pain for the erotic enjoyment of the active partner. The complementary term masochism stems from the works of the German Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch (1836-18951, which concentrate on the element of humiliation experienced by the passive partner, notably the novel Venus im Pelz (Venus in Furs), in which Wanda and Gregor are the active and passive participants in flagellation. From clinical evidence nineteenth-century psychiatrists--above all Richard von Krafft-Ebin, author of Psychopathia Sexualis(1886)--created an analysis of sadism and masochism as pathology. Modern S/M practitioners hold that what they do has very little in common with the compulsive patterns analyzed by psychiatrists. Instead, they employ their techniques as symbolic interpersonal play that deals in intensities that approach the actual pain threshold and may surpass it, but generally avoid crossing the level of tolerance. In modem street parlance the two complementary aspects are described as "top" and "bottom" or "S" and "M." In keeping with the dichotomy cherished by abnormal psychology, sadism and masochism are often regarded as diametrically opposed capacities, yet this dichotomy is belied in practice by the fact that individuals can exchange roles. Many S's actually began their involvement as M's, for this is often the best way for a novice to learn.

Culturally, the practice of S/M is a commentary on the dominance-submission pattern inculcated by thegender roles of advanced industrial society. Hence it is not surprising that women willing to take the role of dominatrix should be in demand, for reversal of the "normal" roles of dominance and submission offers not only a temporary relief from expectations imposed by patriarchal social traditions, but constitutes a kind of symbolic restitution. In like fashion, gay and lesbian S/M practices incorporate culturally defined ideas of active and passive. Here, however, there is a paradox, for S/M adepts will often insist that the M, who in theory is completely subservient, actually controls the pace, direction, intensity of the experience by communicating his or her needs and limits. In such a dynamic, the S is often "on trial" to demonstrate true competence and sensitivity. From this criss-cross effect many participants derive stimulation and, they believe, insights into human relationships in general.

In S/M circles a preference for leather garments, together with chains and other accoutrements is common. Hence, the expressions "leather culture," "leather person," and "leather bar," which are generally assumed to refer to the world of S/M. Private spaces for the enactment of S/M scenes are commonly called dungeons.

This is not the place to offer an inventory of S/M practices, which vary almost endlessly according to the taste of the participants. They may include abusive language, flagellation, "watersports" (urinary practices), diapering, fisting, and restraint or bondage. Indeed, restraint is so common in these scenes that some prefer a composite term BDSM.

A long-term S/M arrangement is sometimes called a master-slave relationship.


Named after the Greek poet Sappho who lived on the island of Lesbos and wrote love poems to women, this term has been in use since at least the eighteenth century with the connotation of woman who loves women. In 1773 a London magazine described sex between women as "Sapphic passion."

Still used in English, the words sapphic and sapphist have a learned, sometimes ironic connotation. In the latter term, the –ist suffix conveys a sense (not necessarily appropriate) that the individual so labeled is a kind of "professional lesbian," one who is almost completely, perhaps fanatically involved in the theory and practice of female same-sex love. In principle it could mean a university scholar whose specialty is female-female love, but it does not.

Scientific-Humanitarian Committee

The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK) was founded in Berlin on May 14 or 15, 1897, to campaign for social recognition of homosexual and transgender men and women, and oppose their legal persecution. Ranking as the first such organization in history, it is generally held to mark the beginning of the gay-rights movement in the broad sense.

Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, an energetic gay sexologist, was the leader of the WhK and for many years its animating spirit. The other founders were the publisher Max Spohr, the lawyer Eduard Oberg, and the writer Max von Bülow. The Committees chief aim was to mobilize influential circles to work for the abolition of Paragraph 175 of the Imperial Penal Code, which criminalized "coitus-like" acts between males. To this end the WhK assisted defendants in criminal trials, conducted public lectures, and gathered high-profile signatures on a petition for the repeal of the law. Petitions were submitted to the German parliament, in 1898, 1922, and 1925, but failed to gain support, and the law continued to criminalize all male-male sexual acts until 1969. It was not finally removed until 1994.

The WhK was closely linked with Hirschfeld’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft. The Institute upheld a series of scientific theories that derived from the proposition that, as the "third sex," homosexuals constituted a biological intergrade between men and women. During the period of the Weimar Republic (1918-33) this conceptualization began to lose its appeal. Those who sought to retain the approach had the advantage of showing the futility of legally proscribing homosexuality because it was innate.

Almost from the beginning, however, Hirschfeld’s biological approach had encountered opposition within the WhK. These disputes finally came to a head in 1929, when Richard Linsert, a member of the German Communist Party, succeeded in engineering Hirschfeld’s ouster as head of the group. Under Otto Juliusberger, the new leadership sought to reorient the WhK. In the new concept biology yielded to psychology and sociology. Time was insufficient for this restructuring because the Committee collapsed in 1933 when the Nazis destroyed the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin where the WhK was based.

At its peak the WhK had about 500 active members, and branches in approximately 25 cities in Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. Despite its ultimate failure, the WhK ranks as a milestone in the movement to achieve gay emancipation.

After the Nazi defeat in World War II, there were several efforts to revive the WhK. In 1949 Hans Giese and Hermann Weber attempted to refound the Committee in Kronberg. As there were difficulties in registering the new group, Giese quickly dissolved it, replacing it with the Gesellschaft für Reform des Sexualstrafrechts, which lasted until 1960.

In 1962 Kurt Hiller, a leader of the original group who had survived the war in England and continued to fight against anti-homosexual repression, tried to reestablish the WhK in Hamburg. The times were unpropitious and his effort failed.

In 1998 a new group was founded under the name of the wissenschaftlich-humanitäres komitee (whk). The Committee publishes a journal entitled Gigi--Zeitschrift für sexuelle Emanzipation. Assuming a leftist stance, the new group sought to make common cause with other groups in a critique of bourgeois society, viewed as oppressive.


Scythian is the general name given by ancient authors to the whole area extending from the Danube to the frontiers of China. The term had some minor currency ca. 1890-1930 to refer to a homosexual, particularly if effeminate or cross-dressing. Some Victorian writers use the term Scythian disease to refer to the atrophy of the sexual organs.

What links the Scythians with homosexuality is the long debate over the meaning of a Greek passage in Herodotus' Histories which, brief as it is, seems to provide evidence for a sexual culture that was widespread in antiquity, though unknown among the Greeks themselves. Herodotus (I, 105) reports the dire consequences of the fact that some stragglers from the Scythian army violated the temple of Aphrodite Urania at Ascalon, on the coast of Palestine. "On such of the Scythians as plundered the temple at Ascalon, and on their posterity for succeeding generations, the goddess inflicted the theleia nusos ("feminine disease"). And the Scythians say themselves it is for this cause they suffer the sickness, and moreover that any who visit the Scythian country may see among them what is the condition of those whom the Scythians call enarees." Elsewhere (IV, 67) Herodotus credits the enarees--he translates the term as androgynoi, "men-women"--with a special method of divination which they have from Aphrodite.

The German scholar Julius Rosenbaum, in an omnium gatherum of texts and comments on the sexual life of the ancients entitled Geschichte der Lustseuche im Altertume (History of the Plague of Lust in Antiquity; 1839), argued that the "feminine disease" meant a proclivity to pederasty. In our own day, the French gay scholar Georges Dumézil analyzed an Ossetian legend in which the hero Hamyc offends the god of the sea Don Bettyr and is punished by having to endure pregnancy and childbirth. He concluded that Herodotus had confounded two phenomena, a genuine Scythian tradition from the northern coast of the Black Sea and a piece of folk belief associated with the shrine at Ascalon. This city on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean remained pagan (Canaanite) even after the interior of Palestine had been conquered by the invading Israelites, who because they had no navy could not blockade the port and compel its surrender.

The two elements in this tangle of legends deserve closer analysis. The Scythian element is the variety of shamanism with symbolic change of sex, including the wearing of women's clothing, a custom associated with the practice of divination among the peoples of the far north of the Eurasian continent and one that reputedly serves to enhance the magical powers of the shaman. In modern times the practice of gender change was studied among the Chukchees of eastern Siberia by the anthropologist Waldemar Bogoras, who emphasized that no physical hermaphroditism was involved, but rather the adoption in full of the clothing, speech, manners and even marital status of a woman.

These customs are believed to be remnants of a once-vast Eurasian cultural realm, which may well have embraced the Scythians. Turning to the Canaanite element identified with Ascalon, this would lie in the indigenous religion of the country, more specifically in the practices forbid- den in Deuteronomy 22:5 and 23:18. The latter form part of the profession of the kadesh and the kelebh, men who donned women's clothing and prostituted themselves to male worshippers at the temples of Ishtar/Astarte, of which the oldest, as Herodotus specifically mentions, was the one at Ascalon.

[This article reproduces some material originally advanced by Warren Johansson in the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, 1990.]


Because of discrimination and outright persecution, homosexuals have traditionally found it expedient to conceal their nature. This type of prudence is sometimes termed the closet. The fact that most gays, contrary to popular stereotypes, do not "look gay" facilitates this option. The reverse of secrecy is the transparency of being out. There is a continuing controversy as to whether closet rights, the status of continuing to "pass," must be respected, or whether some individuals deserve to lose their cover by being outed.

A certain vein of heterosexual paranoia holds that gays form a secret conspiracy, a kind of freemasonry. This analogy goes back to nineteenth-century France. Superficially at least, there are some similarities. Masons recognize one another by special signs; homosexuals use gaydar.

The first major gay-rights organization in the US, the Mattachine Society, was founded in emulation of a legendary French Renaissance group, whose members wore masks. A number of the early gay-rights figures in America adopted pseudonyms as a form of self-protection. These include Lisa Ben, W. Dorr Legg, and Donald Webster Cory.

Secrecy is commonly viewed as self-chosen. Yet in some cases there may be little or no choice. This may occur after one’s death. Some historic figures are subject to degaying on the part of straights, who are reluctant to admit the homosexuality of such revered figures as Whitman and Lincoln. (The latter’s status is assured; not so Lincoln’s)

Semiotics, Gay

In general usage semiotics denotes a scholarly discipline concerned with the interpretation of signs. Although the roots of the field go back at least to the time of John Locke (1632-1704), semiotics first drew notice from a larger public with the spread of the structuralist vogue in the 1960s and 1970s.

The expression gay semiotics has been proposed with the more limited sense of the repertoire of symbols and artifacts displayed on the person to signal one's membership in the homosexual community or some sector of it-in short, tokens of sexual preference or allegiance. Typically, these attributes of nonverbal communication have been chosen so that the meaning is evident to initiates but obscure to outsiders. In this respect gay semiotics recalls the symbolism of freemasonry, with the important difference that it is not decreed or regulated from above by some central authority, but disseminated by piecemeal invention from below.

Absolute secrecy is not a necessity: in the case of the lambda pendant and the pink tri- angle button, for the wearer may seek to elicit questions from the curious, which then give the gay person a cue to present his or her explanatory "rap." Among sadomasochists, or those flirting with the idea, keys are sometimes worn externally on the right or left to indicate the S or M respectively (though in some circles the laterality may be reversed). A red handkerchief protruding from the right or left back pocket serves a similar function.

Urban folklore--assisted by commercially produced cards--maintain that there is a whole range of different hanky colors identifying different preferences, but the suggested guidelines do not seem to be followed very closely. As the key and handkerchief codes have spread to outsiders--a common feature of the diffusion of mass culture--the meaning has become blurred.

In the early 1980s some gay men took to carrying a small teddy bear in their back pocket to indicate their fondness for gentle personalized sex as distinct from what they perceived as the mechanical, unloving, sometimes brutal encounters of the time. Eventually this practice faded, as it opened the path for a confusion with the Bear Subculture.

In the late 1980s the immense quilt sponsored by the Names Project and carried out by scores of local projects, all commemorating thousands who died of AIDS, revealed a fascinating array of visual iconography. The images of the individual panels were chosen and sewn by surviving friends and relatives. Some panels show emblems of favorite places where the person memorialized had lived; another shows an image--of Moscow-- that the deceased had wished to visit; still others carry the insignia of the schools from which the deceased had received degrees. Passionate avocations, such as music and dance, are represented by appropriate symbols, such as a clef, a piano keyboard, or the outline of a tap-dancer. The use of sequins and bright, glittering colors reflects characteristic aspects of the gay image. Some quilt panels have quotations alluding to the interests or the character of the individual commemorated. In terms of the world history of funerary iconography, the symbols are usually "retrospective"--referring to joys and accomplishments during life-rather than "prospective"--directed toward a future life.


In the refined circles of late nineteenth-century "Uranian" poets of England, the word shame had some currency as a veiled allusion to male same-sex love. In 1894, for example, Oscar Wilde’s protégé Lord Alfred Douglas proclaimed "[o]f all sweet passions Shame is loveliest." Possibly this curious usage was influenced by the sense of the word shame to connote the sexual parts. More likely, though, it reflects the traditions of medieval allegorical literature; in the fourteenth-century Roman de la Rose Shame (Honte), the daughter of Reason, seeks to counsel the hero against yielding to (hetersosexal) Love. In any event, the vogue of the word shame in late Victorian England attests to centuries of religiously-fostered guilt. Its use by homosexual writers, though, may count as an early example of the "detoxification" of a pejorative word—heralding queer and many others. In this instance the attempted detoxification was, over time, unsuccessful.

From an entirely different standpoint, the gay shame trend was an ephemeral development of the early-twenty-first century gay left. The name reflects a reaction to what some observers believe are distortions that have crept into the Gay Pride celebrations in June. The larger target of the gay-shame critique is the perceived the perceived commercialization and consumerism of much of the gay world. In several cities "gay shame awards" were given to those who, it is claimed, have departed from the true revolutionary goals of the post-Stonewall gay movement. Not surprisingly, San Francisco is one of the main bastions of the movement, but it has developed some purchase in other North American cities and in a few in Europe.


Sissy (sometimes just Sis) is a relationship nickname derived from sister, given to girls to indicate their role in the family, being deemed especially appropriate for the oldest female sibling. It can also be applied to girls as a term of affection from friends who are not family members.

Because of its origins in a feminine nickname, sissy also serves as a disparaging epithet for a boy or man. As a "sister" he is labeled as weak and effeminate, failing to behave according to the perceived norms of the male gender role. Generally, it implies a lack of the courage and steadfastness regarded as essential to being a "real man."

In earlier times in America sissihood was held to be a kind of boy’s developmental error, resulting from mollycoddling—indulgence in the child’s whims by women. These boys were sometimes termed sissified. Such mistakes in training could in many cases be corrected (it was perceived) by strict discipline and exercise in such manly pursuits as sports, hunting, and military life. The great exemplar of the redeemed sissy turned he-man was Theodore Roosevelt, the rough rider and brandisher of the big stick. It is interesting that the word tomboy, seemingly the female counterpart, was not comparably negative, as emulation of the male on the part of the young female was considered essentially harmless and transitional. "She’ll grow out of it," was the common phrase.

While the word may be relatively recent, the sissy concept has affinities with older attacks on luxury and lifestyle self-indulgence as solvents of manly virtue. Like the dandy before him, the sissy was not necessarily homosexual, but this status was often implied—particularly in the first half of the twentieth century when the word was a favorite stand-in for the harsher terms queer and fairy. In its heyday, Hollywood made considerable use of the sissy image, as seen in such actors as Franklin Pangborn and Clifton Webb. A comics parallel was the character Casper Milquetoast.

Recently the term wimp has become common, though the connotation is not necessarily sexual.

Several variations, such as "sissy boy" and "sissy baby," exist. In fact almost any term can become pejorative or insulting if preceded by "sissy" and applied to a boy or a man. The term "weak sister" is also found.

In former decades many gay men internalized the pejorative connotations of the term sissy, and were embarrassed to be so labeled. Today, at least in certain circles, some men have sought to reclaim the term for themselves. One young man styled himself Luke Sissyfag, an identification he later renounced.

Popularized by the title of a book by Tim Bergling, sissyphobia refers to the fear or hatred of effeminate men. The term is modeled on homophobia. Bergling maintains that sissyphobia is common among American gay men, who often celebrate male femininity in some contexts (drag performance, for example) but who rarely consider it an attractive characteristic. In support of his thesis Bergling points towards tropes now common in personal ads, including "straight appearing/acting," now a common in gay newspapers.

The continuing gay-male disapproval of effeminate behavior in their colleagues is troubling to some "progressive" gays, who ascribe the negativity to an aspiration to assimilate and to the prevalence of sexism. Since these progressive gay men see effeminacy as an important cultural reference point, and because many are feminists, it troubles them that gay (and indeed lesbian) culture now place such a high premium on masculinity

Situational Homosexuality

Situational sexual behavior is sexual comportment of a kind that is different from what is usual for that person (or from what that person normally exhibits) due to a social environment that permits, encourages, or compels those acts. For example, some individuals who travel overseas choose to have sex with prostitutes, but do not do so at home where the activity is illegal and stigmatized. By contrast, for those whose primary sexual identification is pedophilia, visiting foreign countries where sex with minors can be easily practiced is not situational sexual behavior. Both are aspects of sexual tourism, however,

Other occurrences affect persons in prison, the military, single-sex boarding schools, and other sex-segregated communities, where members of those communities often engage in homosexual behaviors but identify as heterosexual otherwise. "Jailhouse gay" is a common slang term for such a situation. Some individuals who engage in this behavior vehemently deny that they are gay or homosexual.

Some people change their sexual behavior depending on the stage of life in which they find themselves. For example, men and women in colleges and universities may practice bisexuality only in that environment. Experimentation of this sort is more common among adolescents, both male and female. Common terms for this trend include "heterosflexible," "BUG" (Bisexual Until Graduation), or "LUG" (Lesbian Until Graduation.

Some observers object to the term situational homosexuality, because of the implicit suggestion that sexual orientation may be casually altered according to circumstance. In reality, it is fixed after childhood. It is not the homosexuality that is situational, but the occasions on which a person chooses to enact it or not.


This now generally accepted diagrammatic metaphor for mutual oral gratification was once taboo, and thus rendered in French as soixante-neuf. Hence the corrupted expressions, found in the British Navy, swaffonder and swassonder.

The sixty-nine position is ostensibly favored because its mutuality and egalitarianism. In reality, however, many practitioners find the position distracting. Perhaps in the end, many do not seek perfect equality in sexual relations, relishing instead the enactment of a contrast of domination and subordination, even though this may be only temporary

Social Constructionism

Social constructionism or social constructivism is an umbrella term for a cluster of sociological ideas maintaining that social and environmental factors (rather than biological or constitutional ones) are primarily responsible for significant patterns of human behavior. Socially constructed reality is seen as an ongoing, dynamic process, reality is reproduced by people acting on their interpretations and their knowledge of it.

The expression has been traced to Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s 1966 book, The Social Construction of Reality. However, the roots of the idea are much older.

Social constructionists tend to cast their approach as dialectically opposed to essentialism, the belief that there are defining transhistorical essences independent of conscious beings that determine the categorical structure of reality. However, many opponents of social constructionism are not essentialists in this sense. Social constructionism can be seen as a source of the postmodern trend, and has been influential in the academic field of cultural studies.

While social constructionism contains a diverse array of theories and beliefs, it can generally be divided into two camps: weak social constructionism and strong social constructionism. The two differ mainly in degree. While weak social constructionists tend to acknowledge some underlying objective factual elements as constituent of reality, strong social constructionists prefer to regard everything as, in some way, a social construction. In this way the latter show some affinities with classical idealism.

Beginning in the 1980s a number of influential gay and lesbian historians, such as Jeffrey Weeks and Carol Vance, came forward as social constructionists. They viewed previous approaches to the history of same-sex behavior as monolithic, positing a single "gay" identity. Following Michel Foucault they held, in particular, that a distinctive type, the "modern homosexual," had appeared in Western Europe and North America. This new social formation owed very little to earlier ways of thinking about same-sex behavior and consciousness.

Today it is recognized that the gay and lesbian social constructionists were reacting against an exaggerated uniformity. In doing so, however, they probably overstated the varieties of sexual identity and expression. Today the controversy has largely blown over, and most researchers prefer to follow the paths that seem to be indicated by their data themselves.

Social status

All advanced societies show differences in social status, with the appropriate descriptors. In gay and lesbian life these descriptors are sometimes annexed as analogies. Some, of course, would like to think of gay relationships as egalitarian. Usually they are not, reflecting a complex mix of power relations.

There is an additional issue. A few gays, possibly through the effects of internalized homophobia, view all homosexuals as inherently inferior to heterosexuals. The nagging suspicion that this might be so leads to defensive attitudes, including posturing derived from the realm of social inequality.

The commonest term deriving from the social hierarchy is of course queen. In the gay sense most queens are quite democratic, though they may pretend otherwise. (Some hold that a more convincing etymology is from the old word quean, a hussy.)

A step above queen is the rank of emperor, as in the ephemeral phenomenon of the imperial courts in San Francisco. A princess is an ingenue, with "queen potential." Contemporary Spain offers a whole range of such terms, including condesa, duqesa, faraona, princesa, and reina, not to forget diva and diosa. A reina’s closest friend is a prima dama.

In the UK a group of gay men who associate together may be called a monarchy.

Some words allude to the lower rungs of the social ladder. Thus the term berdache (borrowed from French bardache) originally meant a "young slave" (Arabic, which in turn derived it from Persian).

Master and slave (or top and bottom) represent a major element in the dynamic of S/M. In prisons there is the contrast of pitchers and catchers.

The prince-and-pauper syndrome (a term proposed by Timothy d’Arch Smith ) occurs when an older, often well-to-do gay man finds sexual partners among the working class. Some perceive this link as a matter of exploitation. Yet A. J. Symonds and Walt Whitman saw it as a democratizing element, bringing the classes together.

The targets of envy by the less fortunate are A-list gays; similarly, the power lesbian.

See also FAMILY, above.


As an overarching term for sexual deviation, the word sodomy today has an archaic, somewhat obsolescent ring, though it still figures in some legal discourse ("the sodomy laws"). Sodomite, having shrunk to one syllable in early modem British slang ("sod"), has faded further, so that it is little more than a jocular term of mild abuse. Historically, however, the concept of sodomy has been of immense importance. Moreover, it had several nuances of meaning, which it is essential to distinguish in order to interpret older written evidence.

Sodom is the name of a city in the ancient Levant, notorious in the Bible for the sins of its citizens. According to Genesis 19, Sodom had been destroyed because of the sexual depravity of its male population, which had attempted a gang rape on the two angels who came to deliver Lot and his family from the impending destruction. Originally, a sodomite was simply a citizen of that city. However, the understanding of this family of words shifted dramatically with the introduction of the Latin word sodomia, which had a specifically sexual connotation.

Although the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is at least as old as the book of Genesis, the sense of sodomia as a form of sexual sin seems to have arisen in the eleventh century, when (as Mark Jordan maintains) it was probably coined by the Italian ascetic St. Peter Damian (ca. 1007-1072).

In time the expressions peccatum sodomitae or crimen sodomitae came to be used to designate a variety of "unnatural" sexual acts. Only in Latin Christianity did the new derivative sodomia take hold and become a theological and legal concept; it remained alien to Byzantine Greek and Medieval Hebrew. From Latin the term passed into the modem languages of Western and Central Europe as the technical expression for the crime which was punishable by death everywhere until the second half of the eighteenth century, when the Enlightenment began to attack this sacral offense as a relic of the medieval superstition that divine retribution would overtake any community that tolerated sodomy in its midst.

The terms sodomy and sodomite thus spread until they embraced a far larger semantic sphere and a higher pitch of affectivity than the later terms (sexual) inversion and homosexuality, and in reading a medieval or later legal text one must not immediately assume that homosexual behavior is meant thereby. Most prosecutions, it is true, were for either male homosexuality or bestiality; criminal proceedings against lesbians and heterosexuals guilty of fellatio or anal intercourse were rare at all times, though an occasional case figures in the (admittedly fragmentary) reports from the pre-modern era.

The legal definition of the term--what constituted an "indictable offense"--has also differed from country to country and from century to century down to our own time. As a practical definition one may say that a "sodomite" was one whose aberrant sexual activity had become known to the Christian community and its authorities. The word should not be confounded with the later psychiatric notion of "homoexua1" which stems from a different conceptual scheme strongly influenced by the writings of the homophile apologists Ulrichs and Kertbeny in the 1860s. However, the lay public on learning the new term then superimposed it upon the semantic field occupied by the familiar expression "sodomite," so that the afterglow of the older set of associations has never been fully dispelled.

The verb to sodomize, which was rare in European languages until the last third of the nineteenth century, usually has the meaning of anal penetration, whether homosexual or heterosexual. In England it is a more learned variant of the common verb to bugger.

Sotadic Zone

In an attempt to sketch the geography of the prevalence of homosexual relations, Sir Richard Burton introduced the expression "sotadic zone" in the famous "Terminal Essay" appended to his translation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (commonly known as the "Arabian Nights"; 1885-88). Somewhat arbitrarily, Burton took his term from Sotades, an Alexandrian poet of the third century BCE who wrote seemingly innocuous verses that became obscene if read backwards.

In Burton's words, "There exists what I shall call a ‘Sotadic Zone,' bounded westwards by the northern shore of the Mediterranean (N. lat. 43) and by the southern (N. lat. 30), including meridional France, the Iberian Peninsula, Italy and Greece, with the coast-regions of Africa from Morocco to Egypt. Running eastward the Sotadic zone narrows, embracing Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Chaldea, Afghanistan, the Sind, the Punjab and Kashmir. In Indo-China, the belt begins to broaden, enfolding China, Japan and Turkistan. It then embraces the South Sea Islands and the New World. . . . Within the Sotadic Zone, the [pederastic] Vice is popular and endemic, held at worst to be a mere peccadillo, whilst the races to the North and South of the limits here defined, practice it only sporadically amid the opprobrium of their fellows who, as a rule, are physically incapable of performing the operation."

Possibly Burton's exclusion of sub-Saharan Africa contributed to the erroneous modern belief that black people were originally innocent of the "vice," having been corrupted to it by their slave masters. Burton's theory was an attempt to give a theoretical framework to his own observations of sexual mores in various parts of the far-flung British Empire to which he was posted as a diplomat. He did not, however, come up with a plausible theory as to the factors responsible for this Sotadic Zone. The explanation for much of Burton's zone, at least, probably lies in the persistence of ancient Mediterranean pederasty and its diffusion eastwards by Islam. Yet this factor does not account for China, Japan, Indo-China, the South Sea Islands and the pre-Columbian New World. This further extension may indeed lend some credence to Burton's theory if one looks for climatological factors prevalent in his zone. Northern Europeans, seeking to explain the differences between their own sexual mores and those of the southern Europeans, often pointed to the temperature difference between the two areas and ascribed sexual excitement to the warm climate of the South. Terms such as "sultry" and "torrid" have a primary meaning of "hot" but acquired the secondary sense of "passionate," the German terms "schwul/schwül" associate hot-humid conditions with homosexuality directly. As yet, there has been little or no scientific investigation of such notions, which remain largely in the realm of folklore.

Spanish gay language

[As in other profiles of this type, note that the citations in this account are very selective. Consult the references at the end for more terms and analysis.]

As a romance language, Spanish inherited much of the lexical storehouse of classical Latin. This heritage also entailed a special inclination to revive Latin words that had died out and to coin new ones on a Latin base. In some instances doublets appear, e.g. vaína, sheath, is the inherited form (with the disappearance of intervocalic ‘g’), while vagina, vagina, is the revived form. In some instances, new coinages employ Greek roots, but here again Latin had paved the way.

Latin origins also fostered links with two other major daughter languages, Italian and French. During the Renaissance borrowings from Italian were significant, andd these continued in the realms of music and art. Beginning with the eighteenth-century enlightenment the French language came to exercise an important influence.

The Latin heritage bequeathed a significant morphological feature to its Spanish offspring: masculine agents typically display the ending –o, while feminine ones have the ending –a. This contrast sometimes lends itself to foregrounding gender ambiguity, an ambiguity that overlaps with sexual diversity. Thus puta is a common word for prostitute. Altered to puto it means male prostitute, and by extension, "fairy," a feminized man perceived as sexually promiscuous or available. Conversely, maricón, fairy, yields maricona, lesbian. In contemporary peninsular Spanish the feminizing suffix -triz is common: bailatriz, danseuse, directriz, funcionariatriz, vendetriz. Sometimes no variation of the ending is needed, as the speaker effects the change by switching the gender of the definite article preceding the noun, e.g. la general, the feminine or gay general.

To return to general themes, Spanish civilization participated in the intellectual currents dominant in Western Europe. During the Middle Ages this meant primarily Christian theology and the Bible, both of which provided abundant homophobic motifs. Later, the prestige of science brought a number of terms from German (including homosexual), though other languages (especially French) usually mediated these. More recently a veritable invasion has come from English, with the Internet as its latest vehicle.

These similarities are significant and far-reaching. Yet Spanish also shows distinctive features. First, Spanish has undergone substantial incursions from non-European languages. During the Middle Ages Arabic was important, as for a long time the Moors occupied much of the peninsula. The widespread, though often unacknowledged familiarity with the jargon known as Caló (see below) has served as a portal for a number of words from the Roma or Gypsy language. Colonization of the New World brought in words of Amerindian derivation.

Spanish is spoken not only in Spain but also in a score of independent states in the New World. These other countries tend to develop regional variations, as Mexican, Caribbean and Andean. Within these units particular Amerindian influences are significant, as Aztec and Maya in Mexico and Quechua and Aymara in the Andes. Most of these terms lend local color or serve to designate native plants and animals not found elsewhere. In other cases the regional variants have simply evolved differently.

In Mexico and the Caribbean proximity to English produced special effects. These are even more pronounced in the Spanish of the US southwest. Recently the concept of Spanglish has gained some currency. This term is confusing, though, as it puts together a tendency to language mixture (a form of "code switching") as found in the American southwest, southern Florida, and the New York City area, with a more diffuse tendency by all Spanish speakers to incorporate English-language loan words.

As with other languages Spanish has welcomed ephemeral slang words. These items are known collectively as jerga or germanía. While not recognized as part of standard Spanish, these words flourish within the general grammatical structure of the language. In the view of linguistic prescriptivists such terms are parasites inhabiting what would otherwise be "pure" Spanish.

Yet there are two parasitic phenomena of this kind that are more pervasive. The River Plate region has created a more elaborate and stable special vocabulary called Lunfardo, which flourishes especially in Buenos Aires. In Argentina Lunfardo enjoys an honored status, along with the tango, as a national symbol.

This is not true of an even more significant rival. Throughout the Spanish-speaking world one finds evidence of a tenacious jargon called Caló. As its existence violates normative expectations of language purists, some prescriptivists even deny that it exists. Some words in the Caló register display a transfer of meaning from that expected in ordinary Spanish, as aduana, thieves hangout (originally "customs house"), and larga, highway (originally the adjective "long"). Other terms sometimes classed as Caló are simply normal Spanish words for body parts and functions regarded as taboo. There is also a formidable external input, as many words derive from the Roma or gypsy language. For example, the Caló term for man is romá, derived from term employed by gypsies for a man of their own group; note also bulo, fraud, and dai, mother. In Western Europe the closest parallel seems to be the jargon known as Gaunersprache in German-speaking lands. In England Polari is somewhat comparable, though its vocabulary and scope are much narrower.

Its very extensive vocabulary estimated at 5000-plus words–covering all sorts of ordinary ideas and experiences–allows Caló to serve as a secret code, occulting the meaning. In this way those in the know can communicate perfectly, while outsiders are perplexed. This feature has allowed Caló to thrive in the underground of society—-among thieves, con-artists, prostitutes, and in general those judged deviant. For better or worse, historically sexual minorities have mingled with these marginal elements.

The Iberian Peninsula came under Roman control during the second century BCE. Except for the Basque country, which resisted, though in a constantly shrinking territory, Latin swamped the existing languages. It is likely, however, that a majority of the indigenous peoples spoke some version of Celtic. Since Celtic warriors were proverbial in antiquity for their homosexual proclivities, one might expect some linguistic residue. Up to now, though, no terms of Celtic derivation have been found in Ibero-Romance for homosexual persons or acts. Further research may reveal something.

The Latin vocabulary for same-sex acts consisted mainly of learned words derived from Greek. In the more educationally restricted circumstances of the early Middle Ages, these did not survive, though a few were revived in the Renaissance.

During the early fifth century the Visigoths, a Germanic group occupied much of Spain. A Visigothic law code of ca. 650 stipulated castration for homosexual offenses, actually a mitigation of the Justinianic death penalty. At all events the Visigoths left relatively few linguistic traces, and Muslim invaders, beginning in 711 overwhelmed them.

Islamic Spain had a sophisticated homosexual culture, though the Christians generally rejected this. There are many Arabic words in Spanish, but again, according to present knowledge, few pertain to same-sex acts. The word bardaje (originally bardaxe, with an ’sh’ sound), meaning a catamite, is Arabic, though deriving originally from a Persian word for slave. While it may have come to Spanish directly from Arabic, it would have been reinforced by variants in French (bardache) and Italian (bardassa).

The dominant form of Spanish, Castilian, was originally confined to a small sector of the northern fringe of the peninsula, in Cantabria. Gradually, the Castilian standard spread southward, replacing Mozarabic Spanish, while morphing into an important variant in the extreme south, Andalusian. Castilian retains its traditional prestige (so that the language itself, especially in its "correct" forms is often simply termed castellano). Yet Andalusian is significant as the major source of New World Spanish. One must always bear in mind that Castilian is one of four distinct languages that flourish in the Iberian peninsula today, the others being Portuguese, Catalan, and Basque. Of the two companion romance languages their is much interface between Catalan and Castilian, and much less with Portuguese and Castilian. Whether in the mother country or in Brazil, the Portuguese gay vocabulary is entirely different from that of Castilian.

All these varieties conform to the general pattern of romance languages with respect to vocabulary, syntax, and word formation. One device that is characteristic of Spanish is dvanda formations (compounds joining two elements). A good example is marimacho, lesbian, combining mari for woman and macho, male.

In pre-modern Castilian the terms–at least those that are known, because much slang has presumably vanished—reflect the influence of the church. Sodomía (first attested in 1490) and sodomita (1495) derive from an interpretation of the notorious incident recorded in the book of Genesis. An ethnonym (a term derived from a whole people) is bujarrón (1526), cognate with English bugger. This word reflecting the notion that the Bulgarians, as dualist heretics, were particularly given to same-sex practices. It is unlikely that medieval Spaniards had any deep acquaintance with Bulgaria, but they did know the south French Cathar or Albigensian heretics, sometimes known as bougres in French, who were ostensibly addicted to same-sex relations.

As the association with heresy suggests, sodomites were often the object of search-and-destroy campaigns on the part of the Inquisition. Typically, the documents term this behavior the pecado nefando (from the Latin peccatum nefandum), the "silent sin," which is not to be named directly. Hence the agent term nefandario.

Later Hispanic sexual ideology insists on the difference between the stereotypical effeminate passives and the rarer aggressive types, who take advantage, as it were, of the former. As the contracted adjective somético (ostensibly derived from sometir, to submit) suggests, the sodomita plays the receptive role. Like the counterparts in other languages (bougeron, buggerone, Puserant), the bujarrón is conceived as the active penetrator. In Caribbean Spanish today the alternative form bugarrón predominates. Whatever the form preferred, this is a hardy perennial-—though the sexual meaning is not universally understood.

As in other parts of Europe, the new learning of Humanism meant a revival of terms from classical antiquity. During the siglo de oro, the great age of Spanish literature, many of these terms, cultismos, were introduced. However, this did not occur very often with sexual terms. It was safer to introduce the pagan gods (as fictions, of course) than the practices of the ancients, for in this realm the Church was very vigilant. Thus Hermafrodito was known as a god from the late fifteenth century, but as a physiological type only from the early eighteenth century (hermafrodita). Ganimedes, Jupiter’s minion, was fairly explicit, at least to the educated public. From classical civilization stems ninfa, nymph, yielding a male counterpart, ninfo, dandy or flamboyant fairy. More recent are such learned expressions as amor griego, amor sáfico, and amor socrático. In keeping with international practice, lesbiana has been widely adopted.

From the sixteenth century onwards we have evidence of a special Spanish jargon termed Germanía, Picardía, or Jácara. This argot or jargon circulated among vagabonds, tricksters, and thieves—all those who had need to conceal their business by drawing a veil of language. Accordingly, it consisted both of "new" terms, not part of the officially recognized vocabulary, and special senses of ordinary words. In time this language became confused with Caló, much of which stems from the special language of Gypsies (Roma and Sinti). Lunfardo is an argot developed in Argentina, with some words reversed, as in French Verlan. For a long time language purists ignored all these variants of Spanish, sometimes even denying that they exist. For this reason it is hard to date the first appearance of any given terms.

There is evidence that Caló had spread to most regions of Latin America before 1810, when the independence movements began. For this reason, this understudied phenomenon must date from at least as early as the eighteenth century if not before. Some Caló terms stem from familiar patterns of gender manipulation, so that ruminé, fairy, derives from rumi, woman. Culebro is a masculine counterpart of the familiar culebra, snake, suggesting slithery motion. Jaña, girl, yields jaño, fairy. Madrina is a dimunitive of madre. Other terms resist explanation: caneo, coatatón, pajiro, pajubique, taralaila.

The Spanish conquest and settlement of much of the New World laid the foundations for regional particularisms. Oftentimes, though, words regarded as distinctive of, say, Mexico or Argentina, have peninsular origins. Occasional incursions from Indian languages are for the most part regional in scope, so that a Nahuatl (Aztec) term may recognizable in Mexico, but not a Quechua one, which would be limited to the Andean region. In Central Mexico the Nahuatl cuiloni (faggot) and cuilonyotl (homosexuality) enjoyed currency through the sixteenth century. Still sometimes found is chilintzín, a pasivo. The term mayate (originally a beetle–now meaning a flashy straight man, a "player" who may service effeminate gays–stems from Nahuatl mayatl. In Ecuador the term guallmico, comes from Quechua huarmi, a woman. Caucho, rubber; hence a pliable pasivo, comes from another Andean language.

As noted above, terms for homosexual men are characterized by a strong binarism that sharply distinguishes between activos and pasivos. The pasivos are the "true" homosexuals, often stereotyped as effeminates, possibly crazy queens, while activos are, or seek to pass as bisexual. Since any ascription of homosexuality may be stigmatizing, some even claim to be heterosexual.

At one time this polarity was much more widespread. It is found in classical antiquity, in Old Scandinavian documents, and today in southern Italy. In the US it flourishes in the major enclaves of jails, prisons, and reformatories, where a distinction between catchers (passives) and pitchers (actives) is mandatory. The latter do not regard themselves as gay, and indeed generally resume a heterosexual lifestyle on release.

Pasivos or afeminados are assumed to be in some sense women, or at least simulating that gender. Hence the widespread tendency of the Spanish language to indicate (effeminate) homosexuality switch by switching endings and articles, thus Carla for Carlos; la René; la soldada. Occasionally it goes the other way, as in puto, from puta, whore, and jaño (from jaña, girl in Caló). Diminutives may have a concurrent effect in lowering status: Carlita, mariquita, and Josefino ("nelly Joe," modifying Josefina).

It is not surprising that Spanish the terms for the pasivos are much more numerous. Far and away the leading one is the set of terms stemming from marica (milksop), a lively word family that flourishes throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Marica(documented as early as 1599) derives from the woman’s name María. Today the older meaning (approximating to sissy) is obsolete: in general usage in the peninsula it simply means an effeminate homosexual. The augmentative Maricón is ubiquitous in Latin America. Variants are mari, mariquita. The word mariposa, butterfly, also stemming from María, has been assimilated to the same meaning. Americado and amariconado mean "faggy." Marimacho is a lesbian.

Terms derived from animals are found in some frequency, either small, defenseless creatures, conveying the pasivo’s vulnerability–mariposa, pájaro (bird) and pato (duck)–or offensive creatures that may serve to stigmatize either (cabrón, goat, and cangrejo, crab. The term cabrón is often, perhaps most frequently, applied to a lusty pursuer of women. Yet the fact that it can be heterosexual or homosexual points up a widespread sexual mythology–comforting to macho practitioners who fear being labeled as fairies–that they are imbued with a kind of universal randiness. Stephen O. Murray has termed this notion the blind-phallus fantasy. That this is indeed a venerable sentiment appears in an offhand comment by the Roman poet Horace, who says that either a girl or a boy will do for sexual purposes.

The rare term jibiona may derive from jibia, cuttlefish. Delicate or edible vegetables may also do service: coliflor, cauliflower, and its Caló derivative colifunto.

As modern medicine and psychiatry diffused through Spanish-speaking countries—Buenos Aires became a major center—it helped to spread such terms as homosexual, homosexualidad, and (less commonly) invertido. The first two terms stem originally from German sources, the last from Italian.

Since sexual versatility (able to play both the active and passive roles) has tended to be viewed as anomalous, there are a variety of expressions to describe it. Among these are sol y sombra (reflecting the choice of shady or sunny seats at the bullfight), ida y vuelta (a round-trip ticket), que contesta dos teléfonos (now rare), and estéreofonico (because stereo receivers produce sound from two speakers). Other terms are versátil and (amusingly) disco, a phonograph record (because it can be played on both sides). At first the loan-word gay was restricted to this international type; now it is used more generally. The new type is also called universal and redondo, round.

Discretion remains the order of the day among more educated persons. Generally understood is ambiente (ambience, milieu), used narrowly to designate a quarter frequented by homosexuals, and more generally with the sense of "in the life," that is, the homosexual lifestyle and social milieu. De ambiente is a discrete way of indicating gayness. A somewhat similar code word is the verb entendido (in the know). Those who are ignorant of gaydom and its ways are desentendidos.

The following paragraphs record terms widely understood in the peninsula today. Among lesbians the metaphor of preparing baked goods produces bollera (cf. Mexican tortillera), also simply bollo, a bread roll, or bolli (familiar). A butch lesbian may be termed a camión, truck (with various brand names for subvarieties).

In Spain a general term for acting gay or going on the prowl is cancanear, from the French dance, the cancan. The world of gaydom, especially in its more extravagant aspects, is encompassed by gremio, the guild. A fling, a sexual liaison of brief duration, is a lío or rollo. An aventura is quite brief, possibly a one-night stand. Novio, fiancé (or novia) means a partner in a more stable relationship. Polvo describes any sexual act.

Spanish effeminates are thought to cherish imaginary feathers, or plumas. And reinas, or queens, must not be without their symbolic coronas, crowns, and tronos, thrones. Discord in the queen’s circle is defined as trouble in the palacio real. A person with a venomous tongue is a víbora or viperina (viper), a term reflecting ageism. For commercial relations chapero (from chapa, a trick) is a well-established term for a hustler. Chulo, originally a young guy or kid, now redefined as an aggressive heterosexual man who preys on homosexuals. A person much longed for, but seldom found is the príncipe Azul, Prince Charming or Mr. Right.

As in most advanced industrial nations, Spanish gays are much preoccupied by age, typically gravitating to younger partners. For some the ideal is an efebo, an adolescent or youngish person, cute, muscular, and attractive. A synonym is querubín, cherub, an "angelic" type. Departing from the usual meaning of the word, an eunuco, is a young person who has not decided to come out and therefore lacking in sexual experience. Turning to the other side of the age divide, a carroza, carriage, is a person of forty or more years, who nonetheless seeks to keep up appearances. A harsher term for such a person is morcillona (from morcilla, blood sausage). Certainly older is a papi, someone who seeks to befriend a younger protégé; also known as maduro. An histórica (or mari histórica) is definitely over the hill. The final stage is momia, mummy.

Depending on the region, many of these expressions would be understood outside Spain as well. We now turn to the world of Hispano-America. While there are some terms there that have only a narrow circulation, Latin American particularism is more a matter of degree than absolute differentiation. Here we will focus on only a few areas.

Let us start with Mexico. A polite designation is otro, other, or more fully del otro lado, from the other side (of the street). Sometimes izquierdo, left, has a similar sense. Ironic references to animals are león and leopardo. Culebra, snake, has a perceived association with culo, buttocks. Swishy types are identificable from the mano caída, limp wrist. As elsewhere in Latin America the pasivo is said to have a propensity to backward motion: marcha atrás. Joto is the word for the jack in cards. An edible vegetable is coliflor, cauliflower. A culinary reference appears in charro con sartén, a cowboy with a skillet, where sarten has the secondary meaning of vulva. A lesbian is a tortillera, tortilla-maker, with reference to the slapping motion supposedly shared by the two activities. Other lesbian terms include marimacho and manflora

As might be expected, Central American usage is similar to Mexican, but with a few local forms. In Nicaragua the pasivo is termed colchón, a mattress.

In the Andean region, the goat family is evoked, as in chivo, billy goat, and chivato, properly tattletale; also cabritillo, kid. A sports allusion appears in del otro equipo, someone who plays on the other team. The mano quebrada is a limp-wristed fag. A propensity for active anal activity emerges in cacorra, from a child’s word for feces, and culista. The pasivo complement is said to have retropulsión, he backs into it; or he is classified as a mostacero, mustard pot. In Ecuador meco stems from meca, a prostitute. The activo-pasivo contrast is still observed, but terms exist for those who, in this sense, swing both ways: ida y vuelta, round-trip ticket, reversible, a raincoat that can be turned inside out, and viricambio, a changeable man. These are not terms for bisexuals, as North Americans might assume, but describe one who can play either the active or passive role in same-sex activity. For lesbians the equivalent of Mexican tortillera is arepera, a maker of a round cornbread known as arepa. Also found are machona and maricona.

In the modern Spanish-speaking world some terms are imported from foreign languages. Travestí and garzón stem from French, traditionally the prestige language among Hispanic intellectuals.

Yet for some decades English has been by far the leading donor to Spanish gay vocabulary. Throughout the Spanish-speaking world the joint influence of the gay movement and the overall prestige of English in commerce and communications have fostered a massive invasion of English. The word gay has long been around, but is now used more generically to designate a newfangled North American type of person who rejects gender polarization. Terms like heterosexismo and homofobia have made easy progress, owing to their common Greek roots. Calque is a linguistic practice in which a term from another language migrates, not by borrowing, but by substitution: native elements replace foreign ones, but according to the foreign pattern. The procedure is also termed loan-translation. This practice appears in armario, closet (actually an upright chest where clothing is kept). Note also the expression salir del armario, where salir is a calque of "to come out."

Some expressions have a dual existence, so that in contemporary Spain one can say either gay pride or orgullo gay, and ghetto or (with Spanish spelling) guetto. Sometimes the subculture is imported along with the term, as in the oso or bear identity, fostered by the movimiento ursino. While these terms are translated, various borrowings using English bear are current.

Spanglish is a voguish umbrella term for a phenomenon perhaps best seen in the borderlands of the US Southwest, in Puerto Rico, in South Florida, and in the Niuyorican parlance of New York City. At its complex best this form of language exhibits virtuoso code-switching from Spanish to English and back again, sometimes in the same sentence. Loan words proliferate from English: bisi, corna, chopin (shopping), estoque (stuck). As regards homosexuality, though, the old standby maricón seems to suffice for the most part. However, in Puerto Rican street language a bucha is a butch lesbian.

A different matter is the Chicano slang sometimes termed Caló (even though it has little to do with the historical Caló discussed above). While there are some loan words from English (e.g. toque, a marijuana hit), this patois is essentially a variant of Spanish. Examples are bolas, testicles (a shift of meaning influenced by English "balls") and mecos, semen. The basic meaning of the term chavala is young woman, "chick." Applied to a male, it means "sissy, cry baby." Terms for lesbians include rara, a strange one (also used for gay males), cachapera, seemingly referring to the use of the dildo to "open" the partner, and jota, the feminine form of joto (see above). By contrast the term loca, crazy queen, has a different connotation in some contexts, where it means a young "with-it" woman, the counterpart of the male loco.

At the southern end of the Latin American continuum, Argentina has developed a particularly rich jargon, termed Lunfardo. This repertoire is an elaborate creation of the immigrant groups, utilizing some traditional argot and some imported words and meanings. However, the main principle seems to be reinterpretation of existing Spanish words, as ciego, blind, which means "broke" in Lunfardo, and vento, wind, signifying "money." Words for homosexual conduct are mainly drawn from the larger Hispanic pool: thus manflora and marcha atrás.

REFS. Wayne R. Dynes and Stephen O. Murray, "Hispanic Homosexuals: A Spanish Lexicon," in S. O. Murray, ed., Latin American Male Homosexualities, Albuquerque, 1995, pp. 180-91; Victor León, Diccionario de argot español, second ed., Madrid, 1992; Ferran Pereda, El Cancaneo: diccionario petardo de argot gay, lesbi y trans, Barcelona, 2004; Hernán Rodriguez Castelo, Léxico sexual ecuatoriano y latinoamericano, Quito, 1979; Jay B. Rosensweig, Calo’: Gutter Spanish, New York, 1973.


The following strikes many as a truism: homosexuals differ from heterosexuals in that the former perform sterile sexual acts while the latter engage in procreation. One has to amend the last point to "may do so," as modern contraceptive devices make the link between heterosexual intercourse and procreation elective. Yet there is a further problem with the simple dichotomy of sterility vs. fertility, for it assumes that all gays and lesbians are Kinsey sixes—that is, that they never have sexual relations with the opposite gender. That is clearly not so. Also, some heterosexuals are biologically sterile for one reason or another. Finally, gays and lesbians can have children through artificial insemination.

Still the sterility aspersion persists. In its crudest form this notion draws a bright line between same-sex behavior, which cannot lead to procreation, and heterosexual conduct, which can and does. The argument goes back to a late text of Plato. In Book VIII of "The Laws" (ca. 380 BCE) the Greek thinker makes this distinction, comparing homosexual emission to the "sowing of seed on rocks and stones where it can never take root and produce new individuals." Four centuries later the Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria echoed these ideas.

The medieval scholastic critique of usury (lending money at interest) found an analogy with the sin of sodomy. Just as money joined with money cannot create offspring, so too the conjunction of two men or two women is unproductive. Both types of behavior are "sins against nature." The term bougre did service to affirm the putative connection between usury and sodomy. Originally referring to an Albigensian heretic, the expression came to encompass both the usurer and the sodomite. In the end the latter meaning prevailed.

Here is a recent instance of sterility rhetoric. In his autobiographical memoir Tristes Tropiques (1955, 1973), the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss opines that Fire Island is one of the two weirdest places he has ever seen (the other is in Brazil). In a few swift strokes he lays out his version of the notion: "Cherry Grove is chiefly inhabited by male couples, attracted no doubt by the general pattern of inversion. Since nothing grows on the sand, apart from broad patches of poisonous ivy, provisions are collected once a day from the one and only shop, at the end of the landing stage. In the tiny streets, on higher ground more stable than the dunes, the sterile couples can be seen returning to their chalets pushing prams … containing little but the weekend bottles of milk that no baby will consume."

Lévi-Strauss fails to mention that Cherry Grove is scarcely a typical version of gay life.

Stone Butch

A stone butch is a female-bodied person who is strongly masculine in character and dress, who tops her partners sexually (and sometimes emotionally), and who does not wish to be touched genitally. Not all stone butches identify in female terms; some are known to utilize male pronouns, and some stone butches do not identify themselves as lesbian or regard themselves as belonging to the lesbian community.

A common partner for a stone butch is a stone femme, a femme who bottoms sexually or who wishes not to touch the genitals of her stone butch partner

The relevant trope is Minerals and Metals.

Stonewall Riots

The Stonewall riots were a series of violent conflicts between New York City police officers and groups of angry gay and transgendered people that began on June 28, 1969, lasting for several days. Also called the Stonewall Rebellion or simply Stonewall, the clash was a watershed for the worldwide gay-rights movement, as gay and transgendered people had never before acted together in such large numbers to forcibly resist police harassment directed towards their community.

Widely reported in the media, the events are generally thought to mark the shift from the more cautious homophile era in the struggle for gay rights to a more militant activism. Stonewall marked the beginning of the gay-liberation phase. In this light, the "Stonewall effect" served as a massive recruiting device for gay and lesbian groups throughout the country.

Over the years two contrary myths have circulated regarding the Stonewall riots and their aftermath. The first is that there was no gay movement in America prior to this event. This is clearly untrue, as the American gay and lesbian movement began in Los Angeles in 1950-51. Stonewall occurred almost two decades after this foundation.

The second, contrasting myth is that Stonewall was not very important. It was only the media attention that made it seem so. Those who hold this view point out that there were many previous bar raids in various cities of North America, some of which engendered resistance. This is true. However, the significance of Stonewall was not the resistance of the patrons who had been inside and were being arrested, but the massive riot that developed afterwards. Most of the participants in the riot had probably never entered the Stonewall Inn. They were protesting against a general pattern of repression and discrimination. They were saying "enough!" not just to bar raids, but to a whole noxious culture of repression and homophobia.

The consequences of the Stonewall riots were massive. By the end of July the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was formed in New York. The name proved contagious, so that by the end of the year the GLFs could be found in cities and universities around the country. Similar organizations were soon created around the world including Canada, France, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand.

The following year, in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots, the GLF organized a march northwards in Manhattan from Greenwich Village to Central Park. Between 5,000 and 10,000 men and women attended the march.

In due course, the trend put down roots in many places. Today New York City, Boston, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle, Minneapolis, and Columbus, together with many other cities in North America and abroad, hold Gay Pride Marches on the last Sunday of June, in honor of Stonewall.


Commonly accepted in gay argot to mean "heterosexual," them rather than us, the term straight may cause some confusion since in the drug subculture it means "not under the influence of drugs; clean." In Britain the antonym bent is used for "homosexual." The overarching trope is that crookedness is a deviation, while straightness is conventional and normal.

Recent American usage has created the expression "straight edge," which means living a sober lifestyle without alcohol or drugs.

The relevant trope is Directionality.


This term for a virile man obviously highlights the attributes of sexual potency and prowess. A stud may also be a butch lesbian. The adjective is studly.

The older meaning of the word was a place where horses were bred, or a set of horse, usually mares, kept for breeding. (The common Germanic root yields Modern German Stute, "mare"). The ultimate well of meaning may perhaps be defined as "equine fecundity."

In contemporary college slang a stud muffin is an attractive young man, presumably also sexually potent.

The term butch, which as applied to men now has a somewhat quaint air, sometimes carried an implication among gay men of sexual availability—of being trade, as the expression went. Compare the older, somewhat jocular term he-man, and the current macho. Of course the latter term was given an ironic twist in the song "Macho man," by the gay singing group, the Village People.

Substance abuse

There are three main reasons why rates of substance abuse are higher in the gay and lesbian community than in the general population. The first is historical: as a stigmatized group homosexuals have found themselves cast among other marginal types, including criminals, prostitutes, and junkies. The second reflects the general tendency of groups that have been discriminated against to seek self-medication through such means. The third element is the prominent role (until very recent years) of the gay bar, where drinking–and sometimes hard drugs as well–foster loosening of inhibitions and making contact for sex.

For a long time, alcohol was the drug of choice among gay people. In addition to obtaining it in bars and social gatherings, some drink it in solitary seclusion. Today alcohol remains a problem, and there are gay chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous. The twelve-step model of that group has generally been adopted as a way of combating these problems. However, others reject the disease model of alcoholism, advocating programs to achieve resocialization in the interest of moderate use.

As with many dissident groups, beginning in the sixties the use of marijuana (pot) has been common. It was widely available in the gay bathhouses. Almost entirely restricted to gays was an inhalant, amyl nitrate (poppers). Falsely implicated in the spread of AIDS/HIV, it has largely disappeared.

Today, the greatest scourge of gay men is crystal meth—though this drug has also found favor among heterosexual rural groups in the Midwest and elsewhere. Colloquially, this drug is known among gays as Tina.

Over time best solution to these problems will be found a growing sense of self-confidence and self-worth among gay and lesbian people—gay pride, in short.


Documented in print in the US from 1940 onwards, the term swish connotes an effeminate homosexual, especially one characterized by a mincing or "nelly" gait, limp wrist, and other stereotypical gestures. In some cases, the person who is a swish may be oblivious to the effect he is achieving, or seemingly so. In other cases, the behavior is adopted (or exaggerated) as a provocation. The word may also function as a verb: "to swish."

The rarer term flit is similar, but also different, implying a more nervous, less assured deportment.

In principle the study of gait proposed by the emerging discipline of kinesics should provide more a precise analysis of the semiotic function of gait among ethnic minorities and sexual groups. One could also make a collection of older texts. For example, among the characteristics ascribed to the cinaedus (effeminate man) in the Pseudo-Aristotelian Physiognomics (perhaps third century BCE) is "the gait double, as it were, one leg being crossed over the other in walking."




In the original sense, tearooms were a fashion that began in Britain in the late nineteenth century in Britain as high-toned places where respectable women could go without fear of harassment or suspicion of immorality. Today the term is common in the United States for a toilet visited by gay men for sexual purposes. The activity is often conducted at two adjacent urinals, but this may be offensive to other patrons and has attracted the attention of the authorities. More frequently contact takes place in two adjacent stalls, though apertures ("glory holes") bored by adepts for the purpose. Two men may even share the same stall; sometimes one stands in a shopping bag to as to give the appearance of only one occupant in the stall.

The shift of meaning may have been assisted by French tasse, which means both "cup" and "urinal." Or the link may be simply the tea-like coloring of urine. At all events, the term was popularized by the controversial study by the sociologist Laud Humphries, Tearoom Trade (2d ed., Chicago, 1975).

Third Sex

The terms third sex and third gender describe individuals who are considered to be neither women nor men, as well as the social category present in those societies who may be inclined to recognize three or more genders. Ways of thinking about this matter vary. A third sex or gender may represent an intermediate state between men and women, a state of being both (such as "the spirit of a man in the body of a woman"), the state of being neither (neuter), the ability to cross gender barriers or to change gender, or another category altogether independent of male and female. This last definition is favored by those who argue for a strict interpretation of the "third gender" concept.

The term has been used to describe Hijras of India and Pakistan, Fa'afafine of Polynesia, and Sworn Virgins of the Balkans, among others. At various times in the Western world, lesbian, gay, transgender and intersex people have been described as belonging to a third sex or gender. Needless to say, many have objected to this characterization.

The term "third" is usually understood to mean "other." Is there only one alternative to the standard male-female dichotomy? Some anthropologists and sociologists have described fourth, fifth, and many, genders.

A cultural construct, the idea of a third (or third gender) should not simply be accepted as a given. The concept is a distinctively Western artifact.

In the myth discussed in Plato’s Symposium the androgynous beings are described as a "third race," the irony being that these are presented as the archetypes of heterosexuals (as we would now term them). Later the third-century CE Roman emperor Alexander Severus spoke slightingly of eunuchs as the tertium genus hominum (third class of men). The idea is modeled on Latin grammar, which recognizes three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter.

Some scholars hold that a third gender emerged around 1700 CE in England: the male sodomite. According to these writers, this development was marked by the emergence of a subculture of effeminate males and meeting places (molly houses). As these manifestations became better known there was a marked increase in the general society in hostility towards effeminate and/or homosexual males. The expression third sex was not common then, however. It first became common in early nineteenth-century France (le troisième sexe), an expression used by outsiders to describe "exotic" creatures. About 1860 Europe saw the rise of individuals who adopted the expression third sex for themselves with the writings of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, and continuing in the late nineteenth century with Magnus Hirschfeld, John Addington Symonds, Edward Carpenter, Aimée Duc, and others. These authors described themselves and those like them as being of an "inverted" or "intermediate" sex and experiencing homosexual desire. Their writings argued for social acceptance of such sexual intermediates.

As biological explanations for sexual orientation declined, however, the idea came to seem old-fashioned. The rise of the gay-liberation trend in the 1970s saw a growing separation of the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result of these developments, the term fell out of favor among LGBT communities. For the general public, it survived mainly in the titles of sensational novels and films.

All the same, in modified form the idea of the third sex continued to have sway in certain specialized quarters. Beginning in the 1970s, anthropologists have sought to describe gender categories in some cultures, which they could not adequately explain using a two-gender framework. At the same time, feminists began to draw a distinction between (biological) sex and (social/psychological) gender. Some contemporary gender theorists argue that that a two-gender system is neither innate nor universal. These theorists reject the traditional sex/gender system that retains a straightforward equation between genitals and gender, stigmatizing it as "heteronormativity."

With the renewed exploration of gender that feminism, the modern transgender movement, and queer theory have fostered, some in the contemporary West have begun to describe themselves as a third sex again. One well-known social movement of male-bodied people that identify as neither men nor women is the Radical Faeries. Other modern identities that cover similar ground comprise pangender, bigender, genderqueer, androgyne, "other gender," and "differently gendered".

Also very much associated with multiple genders are the indigenous cultures of North America, which often reveal social gender categories that are collectively known as "berdache" or Two-Spirit. Specialists have debated the nature of such categories, as well as the definition of the term "third gender." Different researchers may characterize the berdache in terms of gender-crosser, a mixed gender, an intermediate gender, or distinct third and fourth genders that are not dependent on male and female as primary categories.


In gay slang this term (now somewhat dated) designates individuals who have recently turned to homosexual behavior ("newbies") or who refuse to be identified as such and therefore only reluctantly trade their sexual favors for money or other inducements. The homosexual slang use depends on the dictionary definition of trade as the "process of buying, selling, or exchanging commodities," but it differs in them in denoting primarily persons rather than activities.

Clearly in many cases adopting the trade label for oneself serves as a bridge to a reconstituted identity as a self-defining homosexual; hence the saying "this year’s trade is tomorrow’s competition." In other instances trade is essentially to be equated with hustling, and may be a temporary behavior pattern.

The existence of trade offers a continuing reservoir of sexual partners for those who do not want to trick with "obvious" gays, and who may even cherish the belief that they have sex only with straights.

Rough trade refers to potentially dangerous individuals, sometimes eroticized for that very reason.


Transgender, from trans- ("across," Latin) and gender (English) is an umbrella term that became popular in the closing years of the twentieth century. It is commonly applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies that diverge from the normative gender role (woman and man) conventionally assigned at birth. According to one definition, transgender status occurs when one's "gender identity" (self-identification as male, female, both or neither) is not in accord with one's "assigned gender" (identification by others as male or female based on physical/genetic sex). As such, transgender status does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation, for transgender persons may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, queer (or genderqueer), pansexual, or asexual. In many ways, the field is an arena for discussion, and the precise definition for transgender remains in flux.

The American Virginia Prince coined the term transgender in the 1970s. In contrast with the word "transsexual," she employed the term to refer to persons who do not desire surgical intervention to achieve a sex change. These individuals may believe that they fall "between" genders, not identifying fully, or strictly, as either male or female.

In older writings (generally before 1990), but more rarely today, the term transgender has been used to refer to those who live as the gender not assigned to them at birth, without medical or surgical intervention. In The Netherlands, the term is often applied to this specific group, .This group is also sometimes known as "transgenderists" or "non-op transsexual people".

More recently, this term has been used in a broad sense to describe any persons who do not strictly adhere to the gender norms of their peers, whether in terms of physiology or choice of fashion. This would include anyone, male or female, who chooses to wear clothing normally worn by the opposite sex. These people are known more specifically as cross-dressers or transvestites.

The extent to which intersex people (those with genitalia or other physical sexual characteristics that are not strictly either male or female) are included in the transgender category is often debated. Not all intersex people reject their assigned gender. Those who do may self-identify or be identified as transgender. Although some transgender people have had medical intervention for sex reassignment, others have not, being quite content living as they are. In other words, not all transgender people are transsexual, but all transsexual people are transgender.

Given the general confusion over and misuse of the term transgender, some individuals who move across the gender divide have begun to label themselves as "ambigendered" as they are comfortable with expressing their identity in either gender

The term transman refers to a female-to-male ("FTM") transgender person, and transwoman refers to a male-to-female ("MTF") transgender person, even though some transgender people identify only slightly with the sex not assigned to them. There is a developing school of thought according to which terms such as "FTM" and "MTF" are oppressive terms, in that they reinforce the stereotype of gender as a binary system. "Genderqueer" is a recent self-concept that seeks to capture attempts to signify gendered experiences that do not fit into binary concepts.

The term cisgender is sometimes used to refer to non-transgender persons, and refers to those individuals who identify themselves with the gender associated with their birth sex. The terms gender dysphoria and gender identity disorder are used in the psychiatric and medical community to explain these tendencies as a psychological condition and the reaction to its social consequences. In some clinical circles, gender dysphoria and gender identity disorder are classified as mental illnesses. In view of the extensive historical records of such behavior, however, there is good reason to doubt that they should actually be considered a mental illness. Most transgender people reject the stigma, regarding their being transgender as a simple variation of human behavior. Some have argued in favor of the idea of "gender giftedness."


Transsexuals are individuals who desire to have, or have achieved, a different physical sex from their original physical sex. One typical (though oversimplified) explanation is of a "woman trapped in a man's body" or vice versa. Many transsexual women state that they were in fact always female gender, despite physically being male; transmen feel exactly the opposite.

The process of physical transition for transsexual people generally requires hormone replacement therapy and may also include sex-reassignment surgery. Having a strong wish for surgery does not have to be present to meet the requirement for the diagnosis, as a number of transwomen do not feel uncomfortable with the male appendage. For transwomen, electrolysis for hair removal is often desired, while many transmen have breast-reduction surgery as early as possible.

Some spell the term transexual with one s in order to reduce the association of their identity with the clinical aura cast by psychiatry and medicine. Reference to "pre-operative" ("pre-op"), "post-operative" ("post-op") and "non-operative" ("non-op") transsexuals indicates whether they have had, or are planning to have sex-reassignment surgery. This from of categorization can be misleading, because there are a number of different types of surgery that may be undertaken, and the terms are rarely employed with precision. Some suggest that the term "non-op transsexual" is an oxymoron, as many erroneously believe the definition of transsexual should include at least a strong wish for such surgery.

Surgery is often desired when individuals experience discomfort with respect to their appearance. However, those having no such dysphoria usually elect not to have surgery. Further confusing the term is that the individuals concerned have various motivations, ranging from dissatisfaction with medical options available (particularly evident among transmen) to the perception that one's genitals have little bearing upon identity.


A key feature of the emergence of the artistic avant-gardes in Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century was the practice of "épater le bourgeois," to challenge or shock respectable middle-class society by outrageous acts and creations. This tendency has persisted in later movements in art and literature.

In the days of the closet few gays dared to challenge the host society. But there were exceptional instances, in the provocative behavior known as "camping up a storm." Private activities could be transgressional, and at one time anal and oral sex (as distinct from mutual masturbation) would have been viewed as such.

During the post-Stonewall era overt extravagance became much more noticeable among gay men. The gay pride events in June offer many examples of "outrageous" behavior, much of it deplored by the more established gays, while others applaud it as creative and entertaining. The slogan "We’re here, we’re queer; get used to it!" pretty much captures the ethos.


The word transvestite, designating an individual who chooses to wear dress that society has deemed appropriate for the opposite sex, was apparently introduced in 1910 by the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld. Today, many prefer the simpler term cross-dresser.

Among men, present-day sociologists distinguish between heterosexual transvestites, who derive erotic Excitement from the touch of women’s clothing (especially underwear), and homosexual transvestites, who may seek to be taken as women and possibly to attract the attention of "real men." Some cross-dressers, however, do not seek to create a plausible simulation of the opposite sex, but rather to "send up" gender categories as such. Some of these individuals (whether effective at simulation or not), especially those drawn to exhibitionism and the performing arts, are known as drag queens and drag kings.

Transvestitite fetishism is a narrower term used in the medical community to refer to one who ostensibly has a fetish for wearing the clothing of the opposite gender. This is considered a derogatory term by some, as it implies a hierarchy of value in which the sexual element of transgender behavior is of low social value. Many reject the term "transvestite" for this reason, preferring "cross-dresser". It is often difficult to distinguish between fetishism that happens to have female clothing as an object and transgender behavior that includes sexual play.


Tribadism, sometimes colloquially known as tribbing, is female-to-female genital sex. It is a form of frottage, stimulating another person by rubbing. In tribadism two women rub their vulvas together, possibly to stimulate each other's clitoris to orgasm. The word comes from the French word tribade, which in turn stems from the Latin tribas, a transliteration of Greek τριβάς, from Greek τρίβειν, "to rub." The term tribadism is not attested in Ancient Greek.

The earliest usages of the English word tribade cited by Oxford English Dictionary do not specifically and explicitly refer to either the use of a dildo or direct vulva-to-vulva stimulation. The meaning of the word may have been, at that point, merely "homosexual woman," corresponding to the modern meaning of the word lesbian. The earliest use of the English word tribadism cited by Oxford English Dictionary is a document from the U.S. Surgeon-General's office from 1811. The first usage of the word to refer clearly and specifically to vulva-to-vulva stimulation is from 1965.

It appears that because the English word tribade originally referred to any homosexual woman, tribadism was originally essential a synonym for lesbianism. According to the OED, this is still its primary meaning, although the examples make it clear that from 1965 on, the term is used specifically to describe vulva-to-vulva stimulation.. This specific usage was probably influenced by a reinterpretation of the literal meaning of tribade. The term is thought to ultimately derive from the ancient Greek word "to rub" tribein τρίβειν. The English verb to trib derives from an abbreviation of tribadism.

Tribadism is known by many colloquialisms such as "bumping donuts," "bumping fur," "scissoring," "clit-clatting," "clam-jousting," "gash mashing," "prawn wrestling," "happy slapping," "french connection," "rug rubbing," "ditch twitching," and so on. Some Latin American countries, as well as Spain, dub the act "making tortillas" since the physical act is reminiscent of the hand motions used for hand-flattening tortillas. Sometimes lesbians are called "tortilleras" (tortilla makers). And there is the element of the physical resemblance in some minds of the female genitalia to a taco, which is derived from tortillas. In Venezuela, where tortillas are not part of the diet, the analogous slang word is "Cachaperas" (Cachapa makers). Cachapa is a Venezuelan flat-shaped dish made of fresh sweet corn. In Brazil and Portugal, the term "Velcro" is used colloquially in reference to tribadism and the lesbian sexuality.


This slang term for a casual sex partner stems from the phrase "turn a trick." Its popularity reflects the high visibility of the "promiscuous" lifestyle among gay men. The verb "to trick" is often used for "to have sexual intercourse with" or "to make" in the sense of attaining a sexual conquest.

A single sexual encounter, unlikely to be repeated, is termed a one-night stand.

Twilight Men

In Kenilworth Bruce’s 1933 novel, Goldie, the hero joins a prototypical (and fictional) gay-rights organization, The Twilight League. This allusion may reflect the title of André Tellier’s popular homosexual novel Twilight Men (1931). It is doubtful whether the term enjoyed much real currency, but images of shadows and darkness were common in the fiction of the period—and, given the obligatory tragic ending, all too appropriate. Note also J. D. Mercer’s muddled scholarly effort They Walk in Shadow (New York, 1959).

In the nineteenth century the adjective crepuscular enjoyed some vogue in designating a declining civilization, because of the trope of civilization following a quasi-solar course of ascent, zenith, afternoon fullness, and then descent into twilight—in other words, decadence. Crepuscular also trenches with fin-de-siècle. Richard Wagner’s 1874 opera Die Götterdämmerung (The Twilight of the Gods) was also popular in this period.


This gay slang term designates an attractive young gay male (usually 18-22) with an outgoing personality, slender build, and with little or no body hair. The term alludes to the Twinkie pastry.which is golden (blond) on the outside with cream on the inside, and is pleasantly sweet but offers little nutritional value. The variant "twinkle" suggests another connection. There is a fanciful backronym positing that twink stands for "teenaged, white, into no kink"—a somewhat limited characterization. Given their age grade, twinks appeal particularly to ephebophiles, but their cheerful insouciance attracts a more general clientele.

Originally, the term referred exclusively to blonds, but among gay people the category increasingly comprises other young men whose features are those principally described above, but are not necessarily blond or even Caucasian. The term can be used in a disparaging manner, implying shallowness and lack of intellect. Twinks include the subsets of skateboarders and surfers; they contrast with jocks and bears.

Unlike the historical terms catamite and minion, there is no necessary suggestion of the twink’s being kept by a single patron. However, he may serve as a kind of collective mascot to a particular clique or social circle.

Two Spirit

This term has recently come into use as a synonym, or possibly replacement for berdache.

"Two-spirit" originated in Winnepeg, Canada in 1990 during the third annual intertribal Native American/First Nations gay and lesbian conference. It stems from the Ojibwa expression niizh manidoowag (two-spirits). It was chosen to distance Native/First Nations people from non-Natives, as well as from the words "berdache" and "gay."

These individuals are often viewed as having two spirits occupying one body. Their dress is usually a mixture of traditionally male and traditionally female articles. They have distinct gender and social roles in their tribes.



U-haul Lesbian

U-Haul is a commercial firm renting "move yourself" trucks and equipment.

In US lesbian culture the term is slang for a relationship that progresses very quickly. Ostensibly, it begins by one woman moving in to live with another after only a short period of time--a pattern stereotypically ascribed to relationships between two women. The comedian Lea DeLaria is thought to have originated the expression in the early 1980s with the following joke: Q: What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A: A U-Haul.

A staple in lesbian humor, the joke has also achieved a wry recognition among gay men, who acknowledge the contrast between the reputed volatility of their relationships and the stability of lesbian ones.

Unnameable, unspeakable, and unmentionable

In 1769 the English jurist William Blackstone described the "crime against nature" as a "subject the very mention of which is a disgrace to human nature. It will be more eligible to imitate in this respect the delicacy of our English law, which treats it in its very indictments, as a crime not fit to be named, peccatum illud horribile, inter Christianos non nominandum,"

Similar themes of excoriation had circulated for some time on the European continent. In 1700 Lodovico Sinistrari summed up this trope in the following terms: peccatum mutum (silent sin), vitium nefandum (unspeakable vice) and vitium innominabile (unnamable vice), all designating the crime against nature or sodomy.

These aspersions were sometimes glossed by adducing a speculative etymology of the Hebrew word Sodom, interpreted as "pecus tacens" or silent herd.

The taboo on naming has a religious background. This shows a curious convergence of the holy (e.g. the name of Yahweh was not to pronounced) and the taboo (thus the substitution of "expose the nakedness of" for to have sex). In the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible "anathema" means both consecrated and accursed.

Hoping to turn the tables on his accusers Oscar Wilde drew upon this tradition when he spoke at his trial of the "love that dare not speak its name." He was quoting from an 1894 poem by Lord Alfred Douglas, "Two Loves."

In Germany in 1906 the activist John Henry McKay held that, as there were no suitable terms for same-sex behavior, it would have to be termed die Namenlose, the nameless.

Everyday usage in modern languages provide various equivalents for such euphemisms as that way or one of those. In French one may speak of en être and comme ça. The expression ces messieurs dates from the eighteenth century. With its so, German is very economical In Italian we find così and uno di quelli or with somewhat greater clarity quel peccato, quel vizio. Such expressions can connote either strong distaste for such practices, or a wish to avoid embarrassment (sometimes both). The ultimate in erasure occurs when one merely makes dismissive movements, e.g. displaying a limp wrist for a gay male or performing a stomping gate to indicate a lesbian.

Such devices are usually adopted by outsiders. However gay people themselves sometimes use codewords that reflect a form of delicacy, usually combined with a desire to keep heterosexuals "out of the loop." One expression that has gained currency is in the life.

Degaying is a recent term for the tendency to limit or ignore the gay elements in a person’s life (as formerly with Walt Whitman, and recently with the early work of the artist Robert Smithson).

In 2004 a popular program appeared on American cable TV entitled "The L-Word." In this case everyone knows that the "suppressed" word is lesbian.

Interesting in this connection is the designation MSM (Men who have sex with men). This euphemism (if it is that) is said to derive from HIV-prevention groups to reach men who do not regard themselves as having homosexual identities, but who nonetheless engage in same-sex relations. Some of these men may be closeted, others bisexual. The expression on the down low performs a somewhat similar function for some African-Americans.


Why is the claim that homosexuality is unnatural so persistent?

According to this view, faith and the cosmic order concur in proscribing homosexual behavior. What might seem to clinch the matter is the fact that this idea stems from the most venerable sources of Western civilization. The concept of nature, rooted in the very fabric of Greek thought, was extended to sexual politics by no less a figure than the philosopher Plato. Many will recall the lyrical exaltation of homosexual love found in his "Phaedrus" and "Symposium." However, by the time he wrote his last work, "The Laws" (ca. 380 BCE) he reversed himself, taking a negative view. In that text he condemned all sexual acts between gay men/lesbians as against nature (para physin), because they are nonprocreative.

During the Hellenistic period after the conquests of Alexander the Great, this idea found its way into Jewish thought, as seen in the "Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs" and into the apologetic writings of Philo Judaeus, who equated the Mosaic Law with the "law of nature." Then it appeared in the New Testament with the portentous words of the apostle Paul in Romans 1:26-27, which speaks of changing "the natural use to that which is unnatural." This language–which in the Pauline text cited sets the stage for a condemnation of male homosexuality–proved fertile, entering into other contexts, including that of jurisprudence. In Latin texts the condemnation takes the concise form of contra naturam, a formula that found its way into all the major Western European languages. The most recent prominent example is a major gay novel in Spanish by Álvaro Pombo, entitled Contra Natura (2005).

The path for the spread of this notion was made smoothed by the earlier Roman acceptance of the concept of "natural law," defined by Cicero as "right reason in agreement with nature." Cicero ascribed this law to God, hence giving legal standing to Biblical injunctions in the eyes of Christian interpreters, and went on to insist that "it is a sin to try to alter this law."

In medieval Europe the semantically iridescent concept of natura was perpetuated and even given some new twists and images by moralists (Peter Damian), literary figures (Bernard Silvestre, Alan of Lille,