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History of Gay and Other Queer Words

Queer Terminology: LGBTQ Histories and the Semantics of Sexuality

 

LGBTQ Slang
 

Many slang words and expressions in general usage in the LGBTQ community are derived from the drag subculture, the black gay subculture, the gay bar scene, the gay dating scene, and the online chat texting community.

 

 

Gold Star Lesbian - Lesbian who has never had sex with a man.

 

Platinum Gay - Gay man who has never had sex with a woman.

 

Lipstick Lesbian - Lesbian who prefers to wear makeup and looks conventionally feminine.

 

In The Life - Occupied or engaged in some specialized and usually socially despised way of living, such as the homosexual subculture. In black gay circles, the term is used to refer to participants in a gay lifestyle.

 

Friend of Dorothy - Gay man. Reference to Wizard of Oz.

 

Beard / Fag Hag / Fruit Fly -  Straight woman who hangs out almost exclusively with gay men.

 

Fag Stag - Straight man drawn to the company of gay men.

 

Beefcake - Attractive, masculine gay man with well-developed muscles. Compare this term with the older, now outdated, equivalent term for women, “cheesecake.”

 

Masc - Shorthand for “masculine.” Term used in online chats and personal ads when exchanging one's physical statistics.

 

Stromosexual - Straight acting homosexual male.

 

SAG - Straight acting gay.

 

Read - To lecture someone with mockery or a sharply worded barrage of painful truths about him or herself, especially in front of a crowd or audience.

 

Shade - Negative or disparaging remarks made to or about someone. Subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone.

 

Tea (or T) - Hidden truth. Gossip.

 

On Fleek - On point, complete, flawlessly styled, well groomed, looking great, fashion perfection. Combination of "fly" and "sleek" Usage: “Her outfit was totally on fleek” or “Her eyebrows were on fleek”

 

Kiki - Party. Get togerther.

 

Werk - Kudos. Well done.

 

Gaydar - Method of detecting the presence and location of gay and lesbian individuals.

 

Gayborhood - Neighborhood with a high concentration of same-sex individuals and couples.

 

Unicorn - Bisexual woman who wants to be a part of a threesome. The conventional wisdom is that, much like a mythical creature, this person does not exist.

 

Mary - Substitution for a gay man's real or given name. Used with affection or familiarity by another gay man.

 

Twink - Attractive, boyish-looking gay young man. Slender with little to no body hair. Blonde bimbo. Not particularly intelligent.

 

Pitcher - Giver in a gay relationship. Top.

 

Catcher - Receiver in a gay relationship. Bottom.

 

Rice Queen - Gay man who has an interest in or attraction to Asian men.

 

Salsa Queen - Gay man who has an interest in or attraction to Mexican men.

 

Wikipedia: Sexual Orientation Terminology

We Are Family: Glossary of LGBTQ Terms

Video: Old Gays Trying Out New Gay Slang

Wikipedia: LGBTQ Slang

Info: Unicorn

UC Davis: LGBTQ Glossary of Terms

Cheesecake and Beefcake

Scarleteen: Glossary of Sexual Terms

Gay Slang From the 70s

Big Book of Filth: Slang Phrases and Euphemisms

 

 

Bear Terminology

Bear - Hairy gay man
Grizzly - Heavy set and hairy gay man (big outdoors type)
Otter - Lean and hairy gay man
Panda Bear - Hairy or heavy set Asian gay man
Black Bear - Hairy African American gay man
Brown Bear - Hairy Hispanic gay man
Polar Bear - Silver, white or gray haired gay man
Ginger Bear - Hairy red haired gay man
Berenstein Bear - Hairy Jewish gay man

Honey Badger - Hairy blonde gay man, typically not muscular or heavy

Koala Bear - Hairy Australian gay man
Cub - Young hairy gay man
Goldilocks - Heterosexual female in the company of bears (fag hag)

 

Gay Dictionary

Encyclopedia of Homosexuality

Gay Slang with Mitch and Avi

Info: LGBTQ Symbols

Thought Catalog: Gay Slang Phrases

Wikipedia: Terminology of Homosexuality

Morgan McMichaels Video: Drag Slang on Hollywood Blvd

History of Gay and Other Queer Words

Queer Terminology: LGBTQ Histories and the Semantics of Sexuality

Info: Offensive Language

 

 

Read

 

"Read" means to tell someone about him or herself. Knowing exactly where another person is “coming from'” and telling the person about it, especially in front of a crowd or audience (RuPaul’s Drag Race). The truth behind what someone is saying. To understand (Do you read me?). An attack on one’s credibility. To lecture someone with mockery or a sharply worded barrage of painful truths about him or herself. Popularized by New York City drag queens in the documentary movie Paris is Burning.

 

"That was a read, honey!"

"Don't do it honey, I will read your ass."

“He was upset because I was reading him.”

 

Possible origins:

 

"Read between the lines" – To look for subtle or hidden subtext

"Read the meter" – To make sure everything's alright

"Read him the riot act" - To reprimand or scold someone

“Read him like a book” – To foretell or easily discern or understand someone

 

Wikipedia: Sexual Orientation Terminology

We Are Family: Glossary of LGBTQ Terms

Info: Archaic Language

Wikipedia: LGBTQ Slang

UC Davis: LGBTQ Glossary of Terms

Scarleteen: Glossary of Sexual Terms

Info: Unicorn

Gay Slang From the 70s

Big Book of Filth: Slang Phrases and Euphemisms

 

Throwing Shade

 

You don't have to watch RuPaul's Drag Race to have heard the expression “throw shade,” “throwing shade,” or sometimes just “shade.”

 

“Shade” refers to negative or disparaging remarks made to or about someone. “Shade” is a subtle, sneering expression of contempt for or disgust with someone.

 

The first recorded use of “shade” to refer to an insult is from the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning, which chronicles the drag scene in mid-1980s Manhattan as seen through the eyes of young Latino and black drag queens.

 

According to E. Patrick Johnson, a professor of African-American studies at Northwestern University who has written on insults within the gay and black communities, “shade” is something that has been a part of the American black experience since slavery, when a direct insult could result in death. "African-Americans developed these covert ways of communication, which, over time, have morphed into the traditional ways that they interact with one another."

 

Thanks in part to Paris Is Burning, “shade” began to enter the mainstream in the early 1990s, first appearing in places like the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Los Angeles Times. It even appeared in a jokey headline about an eclipse: "Uppity Earth Throws Shade.”

 

 

Spilling the Tea

 

Like “shade” and “read,” “tea” originated in drag culture, and specifically black drag culture. When it was first popularized in general print, it could be spelled “T” or “tea” and it didn't refer to the drink. One of the early print uses of “T” comes from John Berendt's nonfiction best seller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. In it, he is interviewing Lady Chablis, a prominent drag performer in Savannah, about her dating life, and she notes that she avoids certain men because they're prone to violence when they "find out her T.”

 

"What’s my T? Yeah, my T. My thing, my business, what's going on in my life."

-Lady Chablis

 

Chablis' interviews in Berendt's book gave the world a peek into the vocabulary of black drag culture. “T” is short for “truth,” and her truth is that she's transgender. (It's worth noting that Chablis herself uses the letter “T” instead of the word “tea” in her 1997 autobiography, and glosses it as "my truth.")

 

It appears that “T,” also rendered as “tea,” has a double-edged meaning in black drag culture. It could refer to a hidden truth, as Chablis uses it, and it could also refer to someone else's hidden truth, that is, gossip.

 

The phrase "spill the tea," used as an encouragement to gossip, has been used in everything from Harlequin romance novels to RuPaul's Drag Race.

 

Comedian Larry Wilmore used "weak tea" regularly on his 2015-16 Comedy Central show in response to people who weren't telling the absolute truth.

 

As drag culture (and particularly black drag culture) gained prominence, so too did this dual meaning use of “tea.” It has spread far beyond black drag culture at this point.  

 

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