Wednesday, March 13, 2013

More Gay and Queer Slang

Queer Gay Slang.
The following is a list of more interesting and colorful slang terms that I have come across in my readings and research. They didn’t quite fit into a previous post: Queer Definitions, Gay Labels, and Homosexual Context.

As I said before, the following is not a definitive list of terms, and I don’t claim that the definitions are perfect. The majority of the words on this list come from books I have read as well as from various online content and an occasional film or play I’ve seen. Most of the definitions and histories I mention come from Wikipedia.

Batty boy: A Caribbean/British derogatory slang term for a gay person derived from bottom and buttocks. Jamaican migrants brought it to Britain. Jamaica has a strong tradition of music, particularly reggae and dancehall. As a consequence performers are high profile, both influencing popular opinion and reflecting it. Artists such as Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Vybz Kartel, Mavado, Elephant Man, Sizzla, Capleton, T.O.K. and Shabba Ranks, write and perform songs that advocate attacking or killing of gays and lesbians. “Stop Murder Music” is an international campaign to oppose the homophobic work of these Jamaican musicians.

Bent, bender: British slang for homosexual. Someone who is bent is not straight. Dates back to the 1920s. “Bent” is also a 1979 play by Martin Sherman. It revolves around the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany. The play was the first time that popular culture acknowledged the fact that gay men were victims of the Holocaust. It was made into a movie in 1997.

Boston Marriage: A polite term to describe two women living in a household and sharing expenses, whether in a Platonic or lesbian relationship. “Boston Marriage” is also 1999 play by playwright David Mamet.

Buggery: The British English term buggery is very close in meaning to the terms sodomy and anal sex. In English law, "buggery" is common law offence, encompassing both sodomy and bestiality. It was first used in the Buggery Act 1533. The Section 61 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, entitled "Sodomy and Bestiality," defined punishments for "the abominable Crime of Buggery, committed either with Mankind or with any Animal." The definition of "buggery" was not specified in these or any statute, but rather established by judicial precedent. Over the years the courts have defined buggery as including either: anal intercourse by a man with a man or woman, or vaginal intercourse by either a man or a woman with an animal. In the UK the punishment for buggery was reduced from hanging to life imprisonment by the Offences against the Person Act 1861. As with the crime of rape, buggery required that penetration must have occurred, but ejaculation is not necessary. The most famous man to be convicted of this offence was the playwright Oscar Wilde.

Confirmed Bachelor: Polite euphemism for a gay man from Victorian times, on the premise that such a man will never marry. 

Down Low, on the DL: The phrase has its origins in African American slang, where it refers to black men who have sex with other men, as well as with women, but who do not identify as gay or bisexual. It was originally used to describe "any kind of slick, secretive behavior, including infidelity in heterosexual relationships.” The term was popularized in the late 1990s and after by a series of mainstream media reports emphasizing the danger of such men transmitting HIV to their unsuspecting female partners. Recent popular literature includes J.L. King’s first book, On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of Straight Black Men Who Sleep with Men which appeared on The New York Times best seller list for more than 30 weeks and E. Lynn Harris’ successful series of novels of African American men who were on the down-low and closeted.

Harry Hay
Fairy: A male who acts slightly feminine but may not necessarily mean that he is gay. It was a common derogatory term during much of the twentieth century. The “Radical Faeries” is a movement that started in the US among gay men during the 1970s sexual and counterculture revolution. Faeries represent the first spiritual movement to be both "gay centered and gay engendered", where gayness is central to the idea, rather than in addition to, or incidental to a pre-existing spiritual tradition. The Radical Faerie exploration of the "gay spirit" is central, and that it is itself the source of spirituality, wisdom, and initiation. Harry Hay was one of the founders of the Radical Faeries. Previously he co-found the LA chapter of the Gay Liberation Front in 1969. Before that, he founded the Mattachine Society in 1950, the first sustained gay rights group in the United States.

Faygeleh: Yiddish word for male homosexual. Originally it meant little bird or small child. It comes from the German word "vogel" for bird.

Finocchio: Italian slang for homosexual. It also refers to the fennel plant. Some sources say in medieval times when people were accused of witchcraft, they were burned at the stake that was covered with fennel leaves to mask the smell of burning flesh.  
“Finocchio's” was also the name of a world-famous SF nightclub where female impersonators strutted their campy stuff for tourists and straights.

Friend(s) of Dorothy (FOD): A slang term used within the gay community of the 1950’s. Judy Garland was one of the first celebrities to embrace her gay fans and the Wizard of Oz was viewed as a “gay” fairy tale for many queer Americans at the time. The phrase was often used as the password to enter gay establishments. Some claim that Friend of Dorothy may have roots as “Friend of Dorothy Parker” (an American critic, satirical poet, and short-story writer) before becoming a slang term for the L. Frank Baum’s Oz character, Dorothy.

Gunsel: A catamite or young gay boy kept as a sexual companion, perhaps a modification of Yiddish “gendzl” or gosling. Another non-sexual meaning, "young hoodlum," is traceable to Dashiell Hammett. He sneaked it into the book and movie "The Maltese Falcon" while warring with his editor over the book's racy language and evidently with the Motion Picture Production Code censors.
"Another thing," Spade repeated, glaring at the boy: "Keep that gunsel away from me while you're making up your mind. I'll kill him."
In the movie, Humphrey Bogart, playing Sam Spade, threatens Casper Gutman (Sydney Greenstreet) about his young effeminate underling, Wilmer, played by Elisha Cook, Jr. The sexual relationship between Gutman and his young hit-man companion is obviously clear. 

In The Life: Homosexual term dating back to the 1920s. It was most common with the black community. It was also the name of a PBS news magazine that exposed social injustice by chronicling LGBT life. It ran from 1992 to 2012.

Kinsey Six: A person who is completely homosexual with no bisexual inclinations. Sex researcher Alfred Kinsey developed a scale from 0 to 6 to indicate a subject's sexual orientation. A person with no homosexual feelings was ranked a zero. Someone exclusively homosexual was a six. It was first published in Kinsey’s “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” (1948). The “Kinsey Sicks” are a vocal group that bills themselves as "America's Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet." Don’t miss the when they come to your city.

Lavender Marriage: A type of male-female marriage of convenience in which the couple are not both heterosexual and conceal the homosexual or bisexual orientation of one or both spouses. In gay slang, the spouse whose presence conceals the other's sexual orientation is referred to as a "beard."

Light in the Loafers: A male who is perceived to be a homosexual. Specifically, a man that has fashion sense and appears to be effeminate. Loafers refer to shoes, and it is implied that the individual is about to fly away like a fairy. Dates from the 1950s US slang.

Luvvie: British slang for an actor, actress, or other artistically minded person who is effusive, affected, or camp.

Maricón: Spanish term for gay man, mostly derogatory, but occasionally used affectionately between gay men. Homophobia in male professional sports has always been part of the game. Gay epithets are so pervasive among players that they are unaware of the weight and meaning of the terms. Today individuals making homophobic slurs are being confronted. In 2012, Major League Baseball had a new twist that appears to signal a change. Toronto Blue Jays player Yunel Escobar took the field with "Tu Ere Maricon" ("You are a faggot") painted in his eye black strips. He was given a three game suspension and had to donate his lost salary to anti-defamation group GLAAD, and You Can Play, an organization dedicated to combating homophobia in sports. He also underwent sensitivity training.

MOTSS: An acronym used as a term to refer to "Member(s) Of The Same Sex" or describe gay or bisexual encounters or relationships. It is possibly derived from the 1970 U.S. Census forms for counting households with Member Of The Same Sex. The acronym was popularized in the early years of Usenet (which is similar to today’s web forums). In 1983, "net.motss" was chosen as a name for one of the first LGBT newsgroups as an inside term to avoid having a highly visible, gay-related newsgroup name. It changed to “soc.motss” in 1987.

Nancy Boy, Nance: A post WWII term for an effeminate, homosexual male. “Nancy Boy” is also an artisanal bath, body and home store in San Francisco. I can vouch that they make excellent soaps, shampoos and personal care items. Visit them at 347 Hayes Street in San Francisco or on the web.

Polari: A secret gay language used in England during the 1950s and 60s. British linguist Paul Baker describes Polari: “In a world where homosexuality was stigmatized through the institutions of law, medicine and religion, [gay] men needed a way to express themselves without getting caught. Consisting of sixty or so core words, Polari described types of people, their body parts and clothing and evaluated them in terms of their attractiveness and sexual availability. So dropping the odd Polari word into a conversation with a new, handsome acquaintance was one way of working out if they might be interested.”
It was derived from a variety of sources, such as Italian words, rhyming slang, and back slang, which was saying a word as if it were spelled backwards. Actors, sailors, prostitutes and the gay subculture contributed various words. There were about 500 terms. They included words for types of people, occupations, body parts, clothing, and sexual acts.
A few examples of Polari: bona-good, ajax-nearby, eek-face, cod-vile, naff-awful/dull/hetro, lattie-room/flat, nanti-not/no/none, omi-man, palone-woman, riah-hair, zhoosh-style hair/tart up/mince, trade-sex or sex partner, and vada-to see.

Poof, Poofter: British/Aussie slang for homosexual, widely used in the 60's. Some claim that word comes from name for a large footstool or ottoman, - “pouffe”. In the Edwardian era, a pouffe was usually covered in leather and would make a flatulence noise when sat upon. It could also be a corruption of “puff.”

Pansy: An American term for an effeminate man, dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. It was one of a number of flower names used in this manner. Others include Daisy, Lilac, Daffodil (British), Buttercup (US). “Lily-White Boys” refers to cowardly men, and “Daisy Chain” refers to a gay orgy. “Pansy Division” is also punk rock band from San Francisco. Formed in 1991, it features primarily gay musicians and focuses mostly on gay-related themes.

Rough trade: A casual partner of gay man that might be “gay for pay” or of a lower class or education or might be considered tough, rough, dangerous, or thuggish. Dates back to the 1930s. The term was also used as a name of a British record label, a record store chain, and a new-wave Canadian band.

Shirt-lifter: British and Australian urban slang for a male homosexual. It references an often-effeminate man who lifts his shirt to enable sexual access, usually for anal intercourse.

Temperamental: A euphemism for homosexual. Earliest usage is from the 1920s. “The Temperamentals” is a 2009 play by Jon Marans. It chronicles the founding of the Mattachine Society, the first sustained LGBT rights organization in the United States. Harry Hay, a leading gay activist, along with seven other gay men, formed it in 1950.


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