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''Gay'' is a term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual. The term originally meant 'carefree', 'cheerful', or 'bright and showy'. While scant usage referring to
male homosexuality Human male sexuality encompasses a wide variety of feelings and behaviors. men, Men's feelings of Sexual attraction, attraction may be caused by various physical and social traits of their potential partner. Men's sexual behavior can be affected ...
dates to the late 19th century, that meaning became increasingly common by the mid-20th century. In modern
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
, ''gay'' has come to be used as an
adjective In linguistics, an adjective (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word that grammatical modifier, modifies a noun or noun phrase or describes its referent. Its Semantics, semantic role is to change information given by the noun. ...
, and as a
noun A noun () is a word that functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Organism, Living creatures (including people, alive, de ...
, referring to the
community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as norms, religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, wor ...
, practices and
cultures Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differ ...
associated with homosexuality. In the 1960s, ''gay'' became the word favored by
homosexual men Gay men are male homosexuals Homosexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction Sexual attraction is attraction on the basis of sexual desire or the quality of arousing such interest. Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal is an ...
to describe their
sexual orientation Sexual orientation is an enduring pattern of Romance (love), romantic or sexual attraction (or a combination of these) to persons of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or to both sexes or more than one gender. These attractions a ...
. By the end of the 20th century, the word ''gay'' was recommended by major
LGBT ' is an initialism An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguist ...

LGBT
groups and
style guide A style guide or manual of style is a set of standards for the writing, formatting, and design of documents A document is a writing, written, drawing, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of n ...
s to describe people attracted to members of the same sex, (Reprinted fro
American Psychologist, Vol 46(9), Sep 1991, 973-974
)
although it is more commonly used to refer specifically to men. At about the same time, a new,
pejorative A pejorative or slur is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In ...
use became prevalent in some parts of the world. Among younger speakers, the word has a meaning ranging from derision (e.g., equivalent to 'rubbish' or 'stupid') to a light-hearted mockery or ridicule (e.g., equivalent to 'weak', 'unmanly', or '
lame LAME is a software encoder that converts a digitized WAV audio file into the MP3 audio coding file format. LAME is a free software Free software (or libre software) is computer software Software is a collection of Instruction (com ...
'). The extent to which these usages still retain connotations of homosexuality has been debated and harshly criticized.


History


Overview

The word ''gay'' arrived in English during the 12th century from
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spok ...
''gai'', most likely deriving ultimately from a
Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples and tribes * Germanic languages :* Proto-Germanic language, a reconstructed proto-language of ...

Germanic
source. In English, the word's primary meaning was "joyful", "carefree", "bright and showy", and the word was very commonly used with this meaning in speech and literature. For example, the
optimistic Optimism is an attitude reflecting a belief or hope that the outcome of some specific endeavor, or outcomes in general, will be positive, favorable, and desirable. A common idiom An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a fig ...

optimistic
1890s are still often referred to as the ''
Gay Nineties The Gay Nineties is an American nostalgic term and a periodization of the history of the United States referring to the decade of the 1890s. It is known in the United Kingdom as the Naughty Nineties, and refers there to the decade of supposedly d ...
''. The title of the 1938 French
ballet Ballet () is a type of performance dance that originated during the Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth century and later developed into a concert dance form in France and Russia. It has since become a widespread and highly technical form of ...
''
Gaîté Parisienne ''Gaîté Parisienne'' (literally, "Parisian Gaiety") is a ballet choreographed by Léonide Massine to music by Jacques Offenbach Jacques Offenbach (, also , , ; 20 June 18195 October 1880) was a German-born French composer, cellist and impres ...
'' ("Parisian Gaiety"), which became the 1941
Warner Brothers Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (commonly known as Warner Bros. and abbreviated as WB) is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment Conglomerate (company), conglomerate headquartered at the Warner Bros. Studios, Burbank, ...
movie, ''
The Gay Parisian ''The Gay Parisian'' is an American short film produced in 1941 by Warner Bros. and directed by Jean Negulesco. The film is a screen adaptation, in Technicolor, of the 1938 ballet ''Gaîté Parisienne'', choreographed by Léonide Massine to music ...
'', also illustrates this connotation. It was apparently not until the 20th century that the word began to be used to mean specifically "homosexual", although it had earlier acquired sexual connotations. The derived abstract noun '' gaiety'' remains largely free of sexual connotations and has, in the past, been used in the names of places of entertainment; for example heard
Oscar Wilde Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (16 October 185430 November 1900) was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, the early 1890s saw him become one of the most popular playwrights in London. He is ...

Oscar Wilde
lecture at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin.


Sexualization

The word may have started to acquire associations of
immorality Immorality is the violation of morality, moral laws, Norm (social), norms or standards. It refers to an agent doing or thinking something they know or believe to be wrong. Immorality is normally applied to people or actions, or in a broader sense, ...
as early as the 14th century, but had certainly acquired them by the 17th. By the late 17th century, it had acquired the specific meaning of "addicted to pleasures and dissipations", an extension of its primary meaning of "carefree" implying "uninhibited by moral constraints". A ''gay woman'' was a
prostitute Prostitution is the business or practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for payment. Prostitution is sometimes described as sexual services, commercial sex or, colloquially, hooking. It is sometimes referred to euphemistically ...
, a ''gay man'' a
womanizer Womanizer may refer to: * "Womanizer", a term for a Promiscuity#Male promiscuity, promiscuous heterosexual man * Womanizer (song), "Womanizer" (song), a 2008 song by Britney Spears * "Womanizer", a 1977 song by Blood, Sweat & Tears from ''Brand New ...
, and a ''gay house'' a
brothel Image:Pascha Köln.jpg, 250px, The former Pascha (brothel), Pascha brothel in Cologne, Germany was the largest brothel in Europe.Mary Jeffries that had been written by a girl while slaved to a French brothel: The use of ''gay'' to mean "homosexual" was often an extension of its application to prostitution: a ''gay boy'' was a young man or boy serving male clients. Similarly, a ''gay cat'' was a young male apprenticed to an older
hobo A hobo is a migrant worker A migrant worker is a person who either Human migration, migrates within their home country or outside it to pursue work. Migrant workers usually do not have the intention to stay permanently in the country or regio ...

hobo
and commonly exchanging sex and other services for protection and tutelage. The application to homosexuality was also an extension of the word's sexualized connotation of "carefree and uninhibited", which implied a willingness to disregard conventional or respectable sexual mores. Such usage, documented as early as the 1920s, was likely present before the 20th century, although it was initially more commonly used to imply heterosexually unconstrained lifestyles, as in the once-common phrase " gay Lothario", or in the title of the book and film ''The Gay Falcon'' (1941), which concerns a womanizing detective whose first name is "Gay". Similarly,
Fred GilbertFrederick Younge Gilbert (2 March 1850 — 12 April 1903) was an English theatrical agent and writer of music hall songs. Born in London, the son of a comedian also named Fred Gilbert, he appeared in theatres as a singer before joining the offi ...
and
G. H. MacDermott Gilbert Hastings MacDermott (born John Farrell, 27 February 1845 – 8 May 1901) was an English lion comique, who was one of the biggest stars of the Victorian era, Victorian English music hall. He performed under the name of The Great MacDermott, ...
's
music hall Music hall is a type of British theatrical entertainment that was popular from the early Victorian era, beginning around 1850. It faded away after 1918 as the halls Rebranding, rebranded their entertainment as Variety show, variety. Perception ...

music hall
song of the 1880s, "Charlie Dilke Upset the Milk" – "Master Dilke upset the milk, when taking it home to Chelsea; the papers say that Charlie's gay, rather a wilful wag!" – referred to Sir
Charles Dilke Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, 2nd Baronet, PC (4 September 1843 – 26 January 1911) was an English Liberal and Radical politician. A republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of government th ...
's alleged heterosexual impropriety. Giving testimony in court in 1889, the prostitute
John Saul John Saul (born February 25, 1942) is an American author of suspense and Horror fiction, horror novels. Most of his books have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List, ''New York Times'' Best Seller List. . Biography Born in Pasadena, Ca ...
stated: "I occasionally do odd-jobs for different gay people." Well into the mid 20th century a middle-aged bachelor could be described as "gay", indicating that he was unattached and therefore free, without any implication of homosexuality. This usage could apply to women too. The British comic strip '' Jane'', first published in the 1930s, described the adventures of ''Jane Gay''. Far from implying homosexuality, it referred to her free-wheeling lifestyle with plenty of boyfriends (while also punning on
Lady Jane Grey Lady Jane Grey ( – 12 February 1554), also known as Lady Jane Dudley (after her marriage) and as the "Nine Days' Queen", was an English noblewoman and de facto In law and government, ''de facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exi ...

Lady Jane Grey
). A passage from
Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein (February 3, 1874 – July 27, 1946) was an American novelist, poet, playwright, and art collector. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Pittsburgh ( ) is a city in the state of Pennsylvania in the United States and the coun ...

Gertrude Stein
's ''Miss Furr & Miss Skeene'' (1922) is possibly the first traceable published use of the word to refer to a homosexual relationship. According to Linda Wagner-Martin (''Favored Strangers: Gertrude Stein and her Family'', 1995) the portrait "featured the sly repetition of the word gay, used with sexual intent for one of the first times in linguistic history," and
Edmund Wilson Edmund Wilson (May 8, 1895 – June 12, 1972) was an American writer and literary critic who explored Sigmund Freud, Freudian and Karl Marx, Marxist themes. He influenced many American authors, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose unfinished work ...

Edmund Wilson
(1951, quoted by James Mellow in ''Charmed Circle'', 1974) agreed. For example: The word continued to be used with the dominant meaning of "carefree", as evidenced by the title of ''
The Gay Divorcee ''The Gay Divorcee'' is a 1934 American musical film Musical film is a film genre in which songs by the Character (arts), characters are interwoven into the narrative, sometimes accompanied by dancing. The songs usually advance the plot or deve ...
'' (1934), a musical film about a heterosexual couple. ''
Bringing Up Baby ''Bringing Up Baby'' is a 1938 American screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks Howard Winchester Hawks (May 30, 1896December 26, 1977) was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of the Classical Hollywood cinema, cl ...
'' (1938) was the first film to use the word ''gay'' in an apparent reference to homosexuality. In a scene in which
Cary Grant Cary Grant (born Archibald Alec Leach; January 18, 1904November 29, 1986) was an English-American actor. Known for his transatlantic accent, debonair demeanor, light-hearted approach to acting, and sense of comic timing, he was one of clas ...
's character's clothes have been sent to the cleaners, he is forced to wear a woman's feather-trimmed robe. When another character asks about his robe, he responds, "Because I just went ''gay'' all of a sudden!" Since this was a mainstream film at a time, when the use of the word to refer to
cross-dressing Cross-dressing is the act of wearing items of clothing not commonly associated with one's sex. Cross-dressing has been used for purposes of disguise, comfort, comedy, and self-expression in modern times and throughout history. Almost every human ...
(and, by extension, homosexuality) would still be unfamiliar to most film-goers, the line can also be interpreted to mean, "I just decided to do something frivolous." In 1950, the earliest reference found to date for the word gay as a self-described name for homosexuals came from Alfred A. Gross, executive secretary for the George W. Henry Foundation, who said in the June 1950 issue of SIR magazine: "I have yet to meet a happy homosexual. They have a way of describing themselves as gay but the term is a misnomer. Those who are habitues of the bars frequented by others of the kind, are about the saddest people I’ve ever seen."


Shift to specifically ''homosexual''

By the mid-20th century, ''gay'' was well established in reference to hedonistic and uninhibited lifestyles and its antonym ''straight'', which had long had connotations of seriousness, respectability, and conventionality, had now acquired specific connotations of heterosexuality. In the case of ''gay'', other connotations of frivolousness and showiness in dress ("gay apparel") led to association with
camp Camp may refer to: Outdoor accommodation and recreation * Campsite or campground, a recreational outdoor sleeping and eating site * a temporary settlement for nomads * Camp, a term used in New England, Northern Ontario and New Brunswick to describ ...
and
effeminacy Effeminacy is the manifestation of traits in a boy or man that are more often associated with feminine Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls. ...
. This association no doubt helped the gradual narrowing in scope of the term towards its current dominant meaning, which was at first confined to subcultures. ''Gay'' was the preferred term since other terms, such as ''
queer ''Queer'' is an umbrella term for sexual and gender Minority group, minorities who are not heterosexual or are not cisgender. Originally meaning "strange" or "peculiar", ''queer'' came to be used pejoratively against those with same-sex desire ...

queer
'', were felt to be derogatory. ''
Homosexual Homosexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction Sexual attraction is attraction on the basis of sexual desire or the quality of arousing such interest. Sexual attractiveness or sex appeal is an individual's ability to attract t ...

Homosexual
'' is perceived as excessively clinical, since the sexual orientation now commonly referred to as "homosexuality" was at that time a
mental illness A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant distress or impairment of personal functioning. Such features may be persistent, relapsing In internal medicin ...
diagnosis Diagnosis is the identification of the nature and cause of a certain phenomenon. Diagnosis is used in many different disciplines, with variations in the use of logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, la ...
in the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders The ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders'' (DSM; latest edition: DSM-5 The ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition'' (DSM-5) is the 2013 update to the ''Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Me ...
(DSM). In mid-20th century Britain, where male homosexuality was illegal until the
Sexual Offences Act 1967 The Sexual Offences Act 1967 is an Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom (citation 1967 c. 60). It legalized homosexual acts in England and Wales, on the condition that they were consensual, in private a ...
, to openly identify someone as homosexual was considered very offensive and an accusation of serious criminal activity. Additionally, none of the words describing any aspect of homosexuality were considered suitable for polite society. Consequently, a number of
euphemism A euphemism () is an innocuous word or expression used in place of one that is deemed offensive or suggests something unpleasant. Some euphemisms are intended to amuse, while others use bland, inoffensive terms for concepts that the user wishes to ...
s were used to hint at suspected homosexuality. Examples include "sporty" girls and "artistic" boys, all with the stress deliberately on the otherwise completely innocent adjective. The 1960s marked the transition in the predominant meaning of the word ''gay'' from that of "carefree" to the current "homosexual". In the British comedy-drama film '' Light Up the Sky!'' (1960), directed by
Lewis Gilbert Lewis Gilbert (6 March 1920 – 23 February 2018) was an English film director, producer and screenwriter, who directed more than 40 films during six decades; among them such varied titles as ''Reach for the Sky'' (1956), ''Sink the Bismarck!'' ...
, about the antics of a British Army searchlight squad during World War II, there is a scene in the mess hut where the character played by
Benny Hill Alfred Hawthorne "Benny" Hill (21 January 1924 – 20 April 1992) was an English comedian, actor, singer and writer, best remembered for his television programme ''The Benny Hill Show ''The Benny Hill Show'' is a British comedy televis ...

Benny Hill
proposes an after-dinner toast. He begins, "I'd like to propose..." at which point a fellow diner, played by Sidney Tafler, interjects "Who to?", suggesting a proposal of marriage. The Benny Hill character responds, "Not to you for start, you ain't my type". He then adds in mock doubt, "Oh, I don't know, you're rather gay on the quiet." By 1963, a new sense of the word ''gay'' was known well enough to be used by
Albert Ellis Albert Ellis (September 27, 1913 – July 24, 2007) was an American psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by experimenting ...
in his book ''The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Man-Hunting''. Similarly,
Hubert Selby, Jr. Hubert "Cubby" Selby Jr. (July 23, 1928 – April 26, 2004) was an American writer. His best-known novels are '' Last Exit to Brooklyn'' (1964) and ''Requiem for a Dream ''Requiem for a Dream'' is a 2000 American psychological drama, psychologi ...
in his 1964 novel ''
Last Exit to Brooklyn ''Last Exit to Brooklyn'' is a 1964 novel A novel is a relatively long work of narrative A narrative, story or tale is any account of a series of related events or experiences, whether nonfictional ( memoir, biography, news report, doc ...
'', could write that a character "took pride in being a homosexual by feeling intellectually and esthetically superior to those (especially women) who weren't gay...." Later examples of the original meaning of the word being used in popular culture include the theme song to the 1960–1966 animated TV series ''
The Flintstones ''The Flintstones'' is an American animated sitcom produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions. The series takes place in a romanticized Stone Age setting and follows the activities of the title family, the Flintstones, and their next-door neighbor ...

The Flintstones
'', whereby viewers are assured that they will "have a gay old time." Similarly, the 1966
Herman's Hermits Herman's Hermits are an English beat rock and Pop music, pop group formed in 1964 in Manchester, originally called Herman and His Hermits and featuring lead singer Peter Noone. Produced by Mickie Most, they charted with number ones in the UK ...

Herman's Hermits
song " No Milk Today", which became a Top 10 hit in the UK and a
Top 40 In the music industry, the top 40 is the current, 40 most-popular songs in a particular genre. It is the best-selling or most frequently broadcast popular music. Record charts have traditionally consisted of a total of 40 songs. "Top 40" or "contem ...
hit in the U.S., included the lyric "No milk today, it was not always so; ''The company was gay'', we'd turn night into day." In June 1967, the headline of the review of the Beatles' '' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band'' album in the British daily newspaper ''
The Times ''The Times'' is a British Newspaper#Daily, daily Newspaper#National, national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title ''The Daily Universal Register'', adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. ''The Times'' and its si ...
'' stated, "The Beatles revive hopes of progress in pop music with their gay new LP". Yet in the same year,
The Kinks The Kinks were an English rock music, rock band formed in Muswell Hill, north London, in 1963 by brothers Ray Davies, Ray and Dave Davies. They are regarded as one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s. The band emerged during the he ...
recorded " David Watts". Ostensibly about schoolboy envy, the song also operated as an in-joke, as related in
Jon Savage Jon Savage (born Jonathan Malcolm Sage; 2 September 1953 in Paddington, London) is an English writer, broadcaster and music journalist, best known for his history of the Sex Pistols and Punk rock, punk music, ''England's Dreaming'', published i ...
's "The Kinks: The Official Biography", because the song took its name from a homosexual promoter they had encountered who had romantic desires for songwriter
Ray Davies Sir Raymond Douglas Davies, ( ; born 21 June 1944) is an English singer, songwriter and musician. He was the lead singer, rhythm guitarist and main songwriter for the Kinks, which he led with his younger brother, Dave Davies, Dave. He has als ...

Ray Davies
' teenage brother; and the lines "he is so gay and fancy-free" attest to the ambiguity of the word's meaning at that time, with the second meaning evident only for those in the know. As late as 1970, the first episode of ''
The Mary Tyler Moore Show ''The Mary Tyler Moore Show'' (also known simply as ''Mary Tyler Moore'') is an American television sitcom A sitcom, Clipping (morphology), clipping for situational comedy (situation comedy in the U.S.), is a genre of comedy centered on a fix ...
'' has the demonstrably straight
Mary Richards Mary Richards, portrayed by Mary Tyler Moore Mary Tyler Moore (December 29, 1936 – January 25, 2017) was an American actress, producer, and social advocate. She was widely known for her prominent television sitcom A sitcom, Clipping ( ...
' downstairs neighbor, Phyllis, breezily declaiming that Mary is, at age 30, still "young and gay."


Homosexuality


Sexual orientation, identity, behavior

The
American Psychological Association The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologist A psychologist is a person who studies normal and abnormal mental states, perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and social proce ...
defines ''
sexual orientation Sexual orientation is an enduring pattern of Romance (love), romantic or sexual attraction (or a combination of these) to persons of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or to both sexes or more than one gender. These attractions a ...
'' as "an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes," ranging "along a continuum, from exclusive attraction to the other sex to exclusive attraction to the same sex." Sexual orientation can also be "discussed in terms of three categories: heterosexual (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to members of the other sex), gay/lesbian (having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to members of one's own sex), and
bisexual Image:Bisexual Pride Flag.svg, A bisexual pride flag Bisexuality is Romance (love), romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or Human sexual activity, sexual behavior toward both males and females, or to more than one sex or gender. It may al ...
(having emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to both men and women)." According to Rosario, Schrimshaw, Hunter, Braun (2006), "the development of a lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) sexual identity is a complex and often difficult process. Unlike members of other
minority group A minority group, by its original definition, refers to a group of people whose practices, race, religion, ethnicity, or other characteristics are fewer in numbers than the main groups of those classifications. However, in present-day sociology, a ...
s (e.g., ethnic and racial minorities), most LGB individuals are not raised in a community of similar others from whom they learn about their identity and who reinforce and support that identity. Rather, LGB individuals are often raised in communities that are either ignorant of or openly hostile toward homosexuality." The British
gay rights Rights affecting lesbian A lesbian is a Homosexuality, homosexual woman.Zimmerman, p. 453. The word ''lesbian'' is also used for women in relation to their sexual identity or sexual behavior, regardless of sexual orientation, or as a ...
activist
Peter Tatchell Peter Gary Tatchell (born 25 January 1952) is a British human rights campaigner, originally from Australia, best known for his work with LGBT social movements. Tatchell was selected as the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party's Parliament of the Uni ...

Peter Tatchell
has argued that the term ''gay'' is merely a cultural expression which reflects the current status of homosexuality within a given society, and claiming that "Queer, gay, homosexual ... in the long view, they are all just temporary identities. One day, we will not need them at all." If a person engages in sexual activity with a partner of the same sex but does not self-identify as gay, terms such as ' closeted', 'discreet', or '
bi-curious Bi-curious is a term for a person, usually someone who is a heterosexual Heterosexuality is romantic attraction, sexual attraction Sexual attraction is attraction on the basis of sexual desire or the quality of arousing such interest. S ...
' may apply. Conversely, a person may identify as gay without having had sex with a same-sex partner. Possible choices include identifying as gay socially, while choosing to be
celibate Celibacy (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...

celibate
, or while anticipating a first homosexual experience. Further, a bisexual person might also identify as "gay" but others may consider ''gay'' and ''bisexual'' to be
mutually exclusive In logic and probability theory, two events (or propositions) are mutually exclusive or disjoint if they cannot both occur at the same time. A clear example is the set of outcomes of a single coin toss, which can result in either heads or tails, ...
. There are some who are drawn to the same sex but neither engage in sexual activity nor identify as gay; these could have the term '' asexual'' applied, even though ''asexual'' generally can mean no attraction, or involve heterosexual attraction but no sexual activity.


Terminology

Some reject the term ''homosexual'' as an identity-label because they find it too clinical-sounding; they believe it is too focused on physical acts rather than romance or attraction, or too reminiscent of the era when homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Conversely, some reject the term ''gay'' as an identity-label because they perceive the cultural connotations to be undesirable or because of the negative connotations of the slang usage of the word. Style guides, like the following from the
Associated Press The Associated Press (AP) is an American non-profit A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and operated for a collective, publ ...
, call for ''gay'' over ''homosexual'': There are those who reject the gay label for reasons other than shame or negative connotations. Writer
Alan Bennett Alan Bennett (born 9 May 1934) is an English actor, author, playwright, and screenwriter. He was born in Leeds Leeds is the largest city in the Ceremonial counties of England, county of West Yorkshire, England and the most populous in ...
and fashion icon
André Leon Talley André Leon Talley (born October 16, 1948) is an American fashion journalist, and the former creative director and American editor-at-large of ''Vogue (magazine), Vogue'' magazine. He was the magazine's fashion news director from 1983 to 1987 and ...
are out and open
gay men Gay men are male homosexuals, or men whose sexual identity or sexual behavior is predominantly directed toward other men. Some bisexual men, bisexual and homoromantic men may also dually identify as gay, and a number of young gay men today also ...
who reject being labeled gay, believing the gay label confines them.


Gay community vs. LGBT community

Starting in the mid-1980s in the United States, a conscious effort was underway within what was then commonly called the ''gay community'', to add the term ''lesbian'' to the name of organizations that involved both male and female homosexuals, and to use the terminology of ''gay and lesbian'', ''lesbian/gay'', or a similar phrase when referring to that community. Accordingly, organizations such as the National Gay Task Force became the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force The National LGBTQ Task Force is an United States, American social justice advocacy Non-profit organization, non-profit Community organizing, organizing the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community ...
. For many feminist lesbians, it was also important that ''lesbian'' be named first, to avoid the implication that women were secondary to men, or an afterthought. In the 1990s, this was followed by a similar effort to include terminology specifically including bisexual,
transgender Transgender people have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people who desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another identify as transsexual.R ...

transgender
,
intersex Intersex people are individuals born with any of several Sexual characteristics, sex characteristics including chromosome patterns, gonads, or genitals that, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, "d ...
, and other people, reflecting the intra-community debate about the inclusion of these other sexual minorities as part of the same movement. Consequently, the portmanteau ''les/bi/gay'' has sometimes been used, and
initialisms An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In many la ...
such as ''
LGBT ' is an initialism An acronym is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguist ...

LGBT
'', ''LGBTQ'', ''LGBTQI'', and others have come into common use by such organizations, and most news organizations have formally adopted some such variation.


Descriptor

The term ''gay'' can also be used as an adjective to describe things related to homosexual men, or things which are part of the said culture. For example, the term "gay bar" describes the bar which either caters primarily to a homosexual male clientele or is otherwise part of homosexual male culture. Using it to describe an object, such as an item of clothing, suggests that it is particularly flamboyant, often on the verge of being gaudy and garish. This usage predates the association of the term with homosexuality but has acquired different connotations since the modern usage developed.


Use as a noun

The label ''gay'' was originally used purely as an
adjective In linguistics, an adjective (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word that grammatical modifier, modifies a noun or noun phrase or describes its referent. Its Semantics, semantic role is to change information given by the noun. ...
("he is a gay man" or "he is gay"). The term has also been in use as a
noun A noun () is a word that functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Organism, Living creatures (including people, alive, de ...

noun
with the meaning "homosexual man" since the 1970s, most commonly in the plural for an unspecified group, as in "gays are opposed to that policy." This usage is somewhat common in the names of organizations such as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and Children of Lesbians And Gays Everywhere (COLAGE). It is sometimes used to refer to individuals, as in "he is a gay" or "two gays were there too," although this may be perceived as derogatory. It was also used for comedic effect by the ''
Little Britain ''Little Britain'' is a British sketch comedy Sketch comedy comprises a series of short scenes or vignettes, called "sketches", commonly between one and ten minutes long. Such sketches are performed by a group of comic actors or comedians, eith ...

Little Britain
'' character Dafydd Thomas.


Generalized pejorative use

When used with a derisive attitude (e.g., "that was so gay"), the word ''gay'' is
pejorative A pejorative or slur is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning (linguistics), meaning. In ...
. While retaining its other meanings, its use among young people as a general term of disparagement is common. This pejorative usage has its origins in the late 1970s, with the word gaining a pejorative sense by association with the previous meaning: homosexuality was seen as inferior or undesirable. Beginning in the 1980s, and especially in the late 1990s, the usage as a generic insult became common among young people. This usage of the word has been criticized as
homophobic Homophobia encompasses a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian A lesbian is a Homosexuality, homosexual woman.Zimmerman, p. 453. The word ''lesbian'' i ...

homophobic
. A 2006
BBC The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a public service broadcaster, headquartered at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of ...

BBC
ruling by the
Board of Governors A board of directors is a group of people who jointly supervise the activities of an organization, which can be either a for-profit or a nonprofit organization such as a business, nonprofit organization, or a government agency. The powers, dut ...
over the use of the word in this context by
Chris Moyles Christopher David Moyles (born 22 February 1974) is an English radio and television presenter, author and presenter of '' The Chris Moyles Show'' on Radio X. Previously he has presented '' The Chris Moyles Show'' on BBC Radio 1 BBC Radio ...
on his show, ''"I do not want that one, it's gay,"'' advises "caution on its use" for this reason: The BBC's ruling was heavily criticized by the Minister for Children, Kevin Brennan, who stated in response that "the casual use of homophobic language by mainstream radio DJs" is: Shortly after the Moyles incident, a campaign against homophobia was launched in Britain under the slogan "homophobia is gay", playing on the double meaning of the word "gay" in youth culture, as well as the popular perception that vocal homophobia is common among closeted homosexuals. In a 2013 article published in the ''
Journal of Interpersonal Violence The ''Journal of Interpersonal Violence'' is a Peer review, peer-reviewed, academic journal that publishes papers in the field of interpersonal violence, and focuses on the study of victims and perpetrators of interpersonal violence. The journal's e ...
'',
University of Michigan The University of Michigan (UM, U-M, U of M, UMich, or Michigan) is a public university, public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Founded in 1817 in Detroit, as the ''Catholepistemiad'', or the ''University of Michigania'', 20 years b ...

University of Michigan
researchers Michael Woodford, Alex Kulick and Perry Silverschanz, alongside
Appalachian State University Appalachian State University (; Appalachian, App State, App, or ASU) is a public university in Boone, North Carolina. It was founded as a teachers college in 1899 by brothers B.B. and D.D. Dougherty and D.D.’s wife, Lillie Shull Dougherty. The ...
professor Michael L. Howell, argued that the pejorative use of the word "gay" was a
microaggression Microaggression is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative attitudes toward stigmatized or culturally margi ...
. Their research found that college-age men were more likely to repeat the word pejoratively if their friends said it, while they were less likely to say it if they had lesbian, gay or bisexual peers.


Parallels in other languages

* The concept of a "gay identity" and the use of the term ''gay'' may not be used or understood the same way in non-Westernised cultures, since modes of sexuality may differ from those prevalent in the West. For example, the term " two spirit" is not interchangeable with "LGBT Native American" or "gay Indian". This term differs from most western, mainstream definitions of
sexuality Human sexuality is the way people experience and express themselves Human sexual activity, sexually. This involves biological, erotic, Physical intimacy, physical, Emotional intimacy, emotional, social, or Spirituality, spiritual feelings and b ...
and
gender identity Gender identity is the personal sense of one's own gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, femininity and masculinity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological ...
in that it is not a self-chosen term of personal sexual or gender "
identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression and affiliation * Cultural identity, a person's self-affiliation (or categorization by others ...
"; rather, it is a sacred, spiritual and ceremonial role that is recognized and confirmed by the Elders of the two spirit's ceremonial community. * The
German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language The German la ...

German
equivalent for "gay", " schwul", which is
etymologically Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) – p. 633 "Etymology /ˌɛtɪˈmɒlədʒi/ the study of the class in words and the way their meanings have changed throughout time". is the study of the history of words. By extension, t ...
derived from "schwül" (hot, humid), also acquired the pejorative meaning within youth culture.Robert Sedlaczek, Roberta Baron: ''leet & leiwand. Das Lexikon der Jugendsprache'', Echomedia, 2006,


See also

* Anti-LGBT slogans *
Deviance (sociology) Deviance or the sociology of deviance explores the actions and/ or behaviors that violate social norms across formally enacted rules (e.g., crime) as well as informal violations of social norms (e.g., rejecting folkways and mores). Although dev ...
*
Gay bashing Gay bashing and gay bullying is an attack, abuse Abuse is the improper usage or treatment of a thing, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. Abuse can come in many forms, such as: physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault ...
* Gay gene ( Xq28) *
Gay men Gay men are male homosexuals. Some bisexual men, bisexual and homoromantic men may also dually identify as gay, and a number of young gay men today also identify as queer. Historically, gay men have been referred to by a number of different term ...
*
Gay sexual practices Gay sexual practices are Human sexual activity, sexual activities involving men who have sex with men (MSM), regardless of their sexual orientation or sexual identity. Evidence shows that sex between men is significantly underreported in surveys d ...
*
Gender identity Gender identity is the personal sense of one's own gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, femininity and masculinity. Depending on the context, these characteristics may include biological ...
*
Hate speech Hate speech is defined by the '' Cambridge Dictionary'' as "public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation". Hate speech is "usually thought ...
*
Heteronormativity Heteronormativity is the belief that heterosexuality is the default, preferred, or normal mode of sexual orientation. It assumes the gender binary (i.e., that there are only two distinct, opposite genders) and that sexual and marital relation ...
*
Heterosexism Heterosexism is a system of Attitude (psychology), attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of female–male Human sexuality, sexuality and relationships. It can include the presumption that other people are Heterosexuality, heterosexual or th ...
*
Human female sexuality Human female sexuality encompasses a broad range of behaviors and processes, including female sexual identity and sexual behavior, the physiological Physiology (; ) is the scientific study of functions and mechanisms in a living system. As ...
*
Human male sexuality Human male sexuality encompasses a wide variety of feelings and behaviors. Men's feelings of attraction may be caused by various physical and social traits of their potential partner. Men's sexual behavior can be affected by many factors, inclu ...
*
Human Rights Campaign The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is the largest LGBTQ ' or ' is an initialism that stands for lesbian A lesbian is a Homosexuality, homosexual woman.Zimmerman, p. 453. The word ''lesbian'' is also used for women in relation to their s ...
*
Labeling theory Labeling theory posits that self-identity and the behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. It is associated with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotype, stereotyping. L ...
*
Lesbian sexual practices Lesbian sexual practices are sexual activities involving women who have sex with women, regardless of their sexual orientation. A woman who has sex with another woman may identify as a lesbian A lesbian is a Homosexuality, homosexual ...
*
LGBT rights opposition LGBT rights opposition is the opposition to legal rights, proposed or enacted, for lesbian A lesbian is a Homosexuality, homosexual woman.Zimmerman, p. 453. The word ''lesbian'' is also used for women in relation to their sexual identity o ...
*
LGBT themes in mythology LGBT themes in mythology occur in mythologies and religious Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, worldviews, religious text, texts, shrine ...
* List of gay, lesbian or bisexual people *
List of LGBT events . Lesbian and Gay City Festival, a street-fair in Berlin The following is a calendar of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) events. This mainly comprises gay pride parade, pride parades but also includes other kinds of events such ...
*
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force The National LGBTQ Task Force is an United States, American social justice advocacy Non-profit organization, non-profit Community organizing, organizing the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community ...
*
Religion and sexuality The views of religions and religious believers range widely, from giving sex and sexuality a rather negative connotation to believing that sex is the highest expression of the divine. Some religions distinguish between sexual activities that are p ...
*
Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures Sexuality and gender identity-based cultures are subcultures and communities composed of people who have shared experiences, backgrounds, or interests due to common sexual or gender identities. Among the first to argue that members of sexual ...
*
Social stigma Social stigma is the disapproval of, or discrimination against, an individual or group based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society. Social stigmas are commonly related to culture, gen ...
*
Tu'er Shen Tu'er Shen (, The Leveret Spirit) or Tu Shen (, The Rabbit God), is a Chinese deity who manages love and sex between homosexual people. His name literally means "rabbit Rabbits are small mammal Mammals (from Latin language, Latin , 'b ...
*
Men who have sex with men Men who have sex with men (MSM), also known as males who have sex with males, are male persons who engage in sexual activity with members of the same sex, regardless of how they sexual identity, identify themselves. They may identify as gay, Homo ...


References


Further reading

* *


External links

* * * * {{Authority control 1920s neologisms LGBT terminology Same-sex sexuality Homosexuality Pejorative terms for people
English wordsArticles that are about English language words, as opposed to being about the things described. English words and phrases, Words Words {{CatAutoTOC ...