Word of the Gay

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

Archive for Noun

#41: “PLWHA”

-acronym
1. “People Living With HIV/AIDS”. This is often abbreviated as “PLWHA”, “PLWA”, “PLHIV”, or “People Living Positively” has also been used.

Related: “positive”, HIV+, HIV positive

Ex: “The number of PLWHA in the United States has increased at lower rates than in other parts of the world.”

[Origin: American, but used widely. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV-positive_people%5D

#40: “homosensual”

Minorities and oppressed peoples often reappropriate words and phrases that are used to disparage them as a means of empowerment. Pejoratives like ‘queer’, and ‘faggot’ have long been used to hurt gay people, but over the years have been reclaimed and even used by the general populace as well.

And in some cases, this reappropriation is so successful as to turn a previously disparaging word into the preferred term: for example, ‘gay’, previously an insult, is now strongly preferred to ‘homosexual’, both as an adjective and a noun. [wiki: reappropriation] ‘Gay’ may be used over ‘homosexual’ so as not to identify solely on the basis of sexuality.

‘Homosensual’ is a new and creative portmanteau (a combination of two words and a favorite of Word of the Gay) being used by comedians Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson on their weekly podcast, “Throwing Shade.”

-adjective or noun, portmanteau

1. the combination of the terms ‘homosexual’ and ‘sensual’.

2. adjective: of or pertaining to the homosexual senses or physical sensation; sensory.

3. adjective: pertaining to, inclined to, or preoccupied with the gratification of the senses or homosexual appetites; carnal; fleshly.

4. adjective: arousing or exciting the senses or appetites of a gay person.

5. noun: a sensual gay person, in most instances a gay man.

6. see also: “Double Headed Disco” party by the same name.

Related: homo, gay, homosexual, sensual

Ex: “God, he’s so homosensual.”

Ex: “Hi, I’m homosensual Bryan Safi.”

[Origin: American. Used by Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson in the opening of the weekly podcast, “Throwing Shade”.  Root: ‘Sensual’: 1400-50 late Middle English, from Latin ‘sensus’ sense.]

#36 “pronoun dance”

Avoiding a subject that you are confused by, or uncomfortable with, is something that most people deal with at some point in their life.  However, when dealing with sexual orientation, and/or gender identity and expression, some people find it so difficult that they are unable to use the proper pronouns to describe or refer to someone else.  And unfortunately, far too many individuals (in my opinion) use this “pronoun dance” to avoid speaking about someone else’s sexual orientation or gender identity, or to speak about their own open and honestly.

When someone transitions from one gender to another, their family and friends, and extended network of acquaintances, colleagues, etc. can find it confusing and difficult to discuss that person in conversation.  For some, discussing someone else’s  new identity who has transitioned from one gender to another can be difficult , especially when they were so familiar with their old identity.  Remembering to keep names and pronouns straight is a very important thing to be able to do for someone who is trans.  However, it’s only a fraction of the trans experience and the complexity of their experience.  Due to this, it is not uncommon for some to mistakenly refer to someone using their former identity (either by name or by pronoun); in a worst-case scenario, the use of gender-neutral pronouns are used to avoid the subject.

In other cases, there may be times when someone disguises their sexual orientation through the use of gender-neutral pronouns – in order to keep their sexual orientation private.  For instance, for members of the U.S. Armed Forces that are either gay, lesbian, or bisexual, they are forced to keep their personal hidden on a daily basis.  That is because the military’s current ban on openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – a.k.a. DADT) has forced them to keep their sexual orientation and relationships secret.  Therefore, many will refer to their partners by first name only if they have a gender-neutral name (i.e. “Chris”, “Pat”, or “Jay”), may even invent a boyfriend/girlfriend or  husband/wife, and will avoid the use of “her”, “him”, “he”, or “she” altogether.

[pro-nown danse]

-noun
1. in conversation, the process used to avoid the use of gender-specific pronouns; commonly related to anxiety surrounding a third party’s sexual orientation or gender identity

-verb
1. using gender-neutral pronouns when describing another person, based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity

Related: pronoun dancing

Ex: “Joe led Mary in the pronoun dance when the subject of his sister Julia’s transitioning process came up.”

Ex: “Sgt. Jones used the pronoun dance to avoid talking about his boyfriend with other members of his Army unit.”

[Origin: Most likely American, mid-20th Century.]

#35 “walker”

Throughout history, gay men and straight women have gone together like peanut butter & jelly, peas & carrots, or Cagney & Lacey.  The level of intimacy that can be reached between these two individuals can rival even that of the most star-crossed of lovers.  Now, couple the needs of an older woman who is either single or in a loveless marriage and has vast resources – with that of a younger, attractive man who’s looking to advance his social standing – and you’ve got sheer magic.

“Walker” describes the man in this equation; a young gay man that provides company for older women for the purposes of keeping her company, giving her advice, and escorting her to social events – in lieu of a husband or boyfriend.  A walker will usually accompany a widow or unmarried woman, and act as both company and a sort of handler or aide.  Since the woman is usually “of a certain age” the term also has a double-meaning, which refers to a walker, which is a device used to assist with standing and/or walking.

This term should not be confused either “beard” or “frock,” which both describe individuals (bread-female, frock-male) who are romantically linked to either a gay man (beard) or a lesbian (frock) in order to keep their sexual orientation hidden.  Walkers are not necessarily in (or out of) the closet.

1. noun: A man (usually younger and gay) who is in a non-sexual relationship with an older woman (usually single or widowed), and serves as her social escort, muse, best friend, artistic expert, or confidante.

Ex: “Isn’t that Ms. Weintraub?  I haven’t seen her since her husband passed away last year.  It looks like that walker of hers is going to be out with her even more now.”

Ex: “Well, I saw Doris at two different events with her walker, Lawrence, again this week.”

[Origin: Most likely American or European, and used almost exclusively in high society circles.]

[Related: “beard” (female who acts as a closeted gay man’s companion in public); “frock” (male who acts as a closeted lesbian’s companion).  Examples: George “Gould” Strong & Edith Bouvier Beale; Jack McFarland & Karen Walker.]

#34 “swish”

Throughout history, words have been used to discriminate, pigeon-hole, or otherwise keep groups of people “in their place” in society.  To that end, groups that have been the target of vicious name-calling often reclaim insulting language as a way to self-identify and empower themselves as an individual, or as a member of a larger community.

Reclamatory language, as it is referred to, is language with pejorative connotations that people with marginalized identities use to identify themselves. Language which has been used as an insult, and which is still used as an insult today, can be reclaimed through the use of reclamatory language.  However, there are some words, like the “n”, “f”, and “c” words, for instance, that many people believe to be too far beyond reclaiming for anyone to use in an empowering manner.

“Swish” is an example of this phenomenon; and of how a group of like-minded individuals were determined to build a positive movement to further the rights of LGBT people through reclaiming an often insulting slang word used to describe “effeminate” men.  The small group of friends has evolved into a large, diverse community comprising people of every background, shoe size, hair color, and sexual identity. With more than 1,000 members in 32 states and 4 countries, “Swish” creates volunteer, advocacy, and educational opportunities for the gay and straight communities to learn from each other and work together toward full, unwavering equality for LGBT people.

plural -ers. adjective -y [swish]

1. adjective (swishy, swishing): A pejorative word used to describe flamboyant characteristics, personality traits, or physical attributes of a homosexual person; usually a gay man.

2a. noun: An American gay-straight alliance, founded in 2003 (originally an acronym for Straight Women In Support of Homos), that provides opportunities for straight women and men to contribute their time, energy, and talents to furthering the LGBT rights movement.

2b: noun (Swisher): A member of “Swish”, who embodies the mission and vision of the organization – to further the LGBT rights movement.

3a. verb: To fight for equal rights for the LGBT community using one’s talents, smarts, and sense of style.

3b. verb: To make activism uplifting, rewarding, and fun.  To “swish” is the emancipation from what was once a pejorative to an ability to envision and create a world in which equality, freedom, and love for all LGBT people is valued and celebrated.

Ex: “Oh my, would you just look at that guy swishing down the street!”

Ex: “I love being a Swisher!  Each year at NYC Pride, I am able to set a positive example for straight allies in the LGBT movement and beyond!”

[Origin: Most likely American or European, used in pre-Stonewall (i.e. 1969 A.D.) gay male communities.]

#33 “salad”

As a pubescent teenage boy in 1990s America, I certainly had my fill of sexually-charged imagery to fixate upon – Madonna’s “Truth or Dare” documentary (but mainly her male back-up dancers) and those hot, black-and-white Calvin Klein underwear ads.  But the main object of my affection in those days, and still continues to be, of course, one “Marky Mark” Mark Wahlberg.

Wahlberg’s body certainly defines the term, “Salad” – which describes a man with a well-defined, muscular physique.  You know the type; the guys who aren’t the least bit afraid to take off their shirt or drop their drawers.  Basically, we’re talking mainly about underwear models, body-builders, dancers,  and athletes.  Others might describe those of us who are infatuated with this bodytype as  “muscle Queens” or being into “muscle worship”.  And why not!  These guys are just fucking hot.

[sal-ad] – Definitions, in part, courtesy of the “Salad” Facebook profile.

1. noun: a sexually attractive man with a well-developed physique; well-proportioned and imposing appearance suggestive of health and strength; otherwise good-looking.

2. noun: either of two fleshy protuberances forming the lower and back part of the trunk; buttock; ass.

Ex 1: “Gurl, there was so much salad at The Abbey I didn’t know what to do with myself!

Ex 2: “His salad was like two perfectly tanned mounds of man-flesh.”

[Origin:  United States, ca. 1990s.  Attributed to “P. Farace”, New York City’s West Village; courtesy Facebook profile for “Salad”]

#32 “trade”

It goes without saying that there are a great many words and phrases that relate to casual sexual encounters.  “Trade” is one such word.  The word originates from Polari (post #22), the now almost entirely defunct gay “slanguage” from The United Kingdom.

“Trade” originally referred to a straight male who was the sexual partner of another man, either gay or bisexual, and quickly came to describe any pair of male sexual partners.  Over time, the term has also been commonly attributed to younger or economically-disadvataged man who becomes the sexual partner of another older, or considerably more affluent, man.

Some specific examples of its use relate to men who seek out overtly masculine sexual partners.  For instance, some men will seek out service members of the armed forces, who exemplify for them a very masculine example of manhood.  These men are referred to as “military trade“, and may or may not be gay.

Currently, and in most cases, the word is used casually to refer to any male sexual partner of another man.

Ex: “I was at my favorite bar again last night, trying to pick up some trade.”, or “Did you see Chris and his trade come out of the club when it closed last night!”

-noun

1. the male sexual partner of another man; depending upon the circumstance may identify as straight, bisexual, or gay; individual may also receive payment after sexual acts are performed

[Related: “hook up”, “MSM” (men who have sex with men), “one night stand”, “rough trade”, “trick”]