glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features Forum Index
about glbtq

   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet? 


  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy

Index      FAQ       Member List       Report Abuse        Guidelines    

 Topic: The use of the word "gay"

Reply to topic   Post new topic
Author Message

Joined: 30 Dec 2004
Posts: 1

Posted: 30 Dec 2004, 4:41 am    Post subject: The use of the word "gay" Reply with quote

Any references to where I can research about the use of the word "gay" ?

Since when it has been associated woth homosexuality, etc.....
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 25 May 2005
Posts: 5
Interests: Reading
Physical Location: Palmer Alaska

Posted: 25 May 2005, 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it started out to mean happy, then it was pertained to homosexual men. Now it means anything that is "Stupid."
"What to queer's do in bed?"
"We sleep, watch tv, and sometimes read!"
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 18 Jul 2005
Posts: 3

Posted: 31 Jul 2005, 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Assuming there is still any interest in this topic at this date, here goes.

Gay has always had somewhat of a checkered career. In the 1890's and before - gay also referred to prostitutes (gay ladies of the evening). Back in the 1970's, I was told by guys who grew up in the 1930's, that "gay" was being used as a "password" by homosexuals or sometimes inverts (not yet called gays) to find each other. Gay continued to have this underground usage for many more years after that - along with its more above ground usage of jovial. (As an aside, there are LOTS of words that have undergone vast changes in meaning and connotation over the years and some people would be stunned to find that what they, today, consider to be accepatable were not too long ago (historically) considered to be crude, vulgar, and fightin' words. Any good dictionary or etymology book will show some.)

Red ties were apparently also a passcode in the 30's to figure out who was who in the great dating dance of the time. During the 70's, after Stonewall, there weren't a lot of polite words to describe those who preferred their own gender for sex. (We had choices of fag, queer, homo, pervert, etc.) Gay became the accepted designation. Most considered homosexual too clinical and too limiting in that it designated just what one did in bed and not the way one looked at the world. Later, many of the women decided they preferred to go with lesbian rather than gay.

Today, many younger gays have come to accept "queer" as the preferred designation for themselves. A way of pointing a weapon back at the enemy and redefining it to suit one's own needs instead.

"Gay" is again changing its meaning. Whether it continues to change and stays with that meaning is still up in the air. As mentioned above, the younger kids are using "gay" to mean stupid, ignorant, totally out of it, etc. Most, when called on it, have no idea that it could possibly be considered offensive to any particular person any more than most adults would ever realize that saying someone welches on a bet at one time implied that people from Wales couldn't be trusted to keep their word.

So to sum up -- gay goes back in forth in meaning. So do a lot of words in the English languare. It's why we no longer speak Old English or Middle English and it's why a few hundred years from now, they will be speaking something a bit different than we are today.

Don't believe me? Just think what someone in 1890 would have pictured if you'd suddenly screamed, "Check out the stock cars!" They'd have glanced around looking for a train with cattle instead of race cars running a track. :-)
"To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today." Isaac Asimov
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 22 Feb 2008
Posts: 2
Interests: Gay history, English Romanticism, AIDS criticism, classical music.
Physical Location: Dorchester, MA

Posted: 22 Feb 2008, 10:03 pm    Post subject: Re: The use of the word "gay" Reply with quote

tabogo wrote:
Any references to where I can research about the use of the word "gay" ?

Since when it has been associated woth homosexuality, etc.....

Check out The Myth of the Modern Homosexual by Rictor Norton. He makes the case that "gay" and "lesbian" were used as underground code words -- in their current, homoerotic senses -- as far back as the late 18th century.

I joined the New York Gay Liberation Front in July 1969, two weeks after it was founded, and have been partial to "gay" ever since. It is *our* word, and for us it has always been positive. Incidentally, we always used "gay" as adjective to include the bisexual category. That is to say, a bisexual man is gay -- gay because he is erotically attracted to other males and accepts this. The negative term, *straight*, means not gay -- "not one of us".

"Straight" is a once-underground word in the criminal subculture meaning "law-abiding". For crooks it also means "not one of us". And of course, until quite recently, all practising gay men in the United States were criminals.

John Lauritsen, Independent Scholar.
Author: *The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein* (2007).
- *A Freethinker's Primer of Male Love* (1998).
Co-author: *The Early Homosexual Rights Movement (1864-1935)* (1974/1995).
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message Send email
Display posts from previous:   
Reply to topic   Post new topic    

Page 1 of 1


Discussion Boards by phpBB © 2006 phpBB Group is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607
glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.