Word of the Gay

*Straight talk on Gay language, one word at-a-time.

#31 “realness”

Exhibiting “realness” in the drag world commonly refers to the ability to “blend” or “pass” as the opposite sex, or as heterosexual.  Because for some, it’s got to be real.

To be able to blend, that’s what realness is… the idea of realness is to look as much like your straight counter-part as possible.” – Dorian Corey, “Paris Is Burning”.

Others have, of course, used this particular phrase over the years, but none as fabulous as Dorian.  What her quote, and interview in this documentary, focuses on is the theme of emulating specific traits or qualities of the opposite sex, gender, or sexual identity.  Gay men exhibiting ultra-masculinity and toughness to “pass” as straight; or, men wearing the latest couture-inspired fashion to seem as feminine and glamorous as possible.

[reel-ness]

1. verb: to perform or exhibit the quality of being either of the opposite sex, or gender, or heterosexual – if one is homosexual.

2. noun: the quality one might possess if he, or she, can successfully convince others that they are off the opposite sex, or gender; or to be heterosexual if they are homosexual.

Ex: “She was giving us some fierce realness tonight!  She could’ve convinced anyone he was a girl.”

[Origin: United States, probably ca. 1970s.  Related words: “passing”, “blending”, ]

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2 Comments»

  Culturebot | Considering Alastair, Questioning Realness wrote @

[…] term “realness“, of course, comes from the gay world of the 1970′s, drag balls and so forth. It is […]

[…] stealing a lot of slang terms from drag queens lately. From “throwing shade,” to “serving realness,” we ladies love our gay slang, apparently. It makes sense: when something starts to get […]


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