Word of the Gay

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

Archive for Popular Culture

#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.]

#38 “hide the candy”

Drag Queens are possibly the most notorious illusionists that have ever walked this Great Green Earth.  For centuries, men have delighted audiences appearing as women, wearing all types of “female” clothing, wigs, make-up and offering many types of entertainment.  These range from singing, dancing and lip-syncing to even fire-eating, acrobatics and so on.  Quite obviously, the most important way in which to maintain the illusion is to make sure their male genitalia is hidden from view.  So in lies the secret to their crotch maintenance… to “hide the candy,” as “candy” referring to their “cock n’ balls” or penis and testicles for those academic types.

As a guest judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race“, actor and singer Vanessa Williams was amazed at this remarkable method, and remarked on “Lopez Tonight” at just how amazing these Queens maintain their crotches.  The program pits 12 (or 13 as was the case in its 3rd Season) drag queens against one another in the battle to become the “Next Drag Superstar,” and has been an instant hit and will be in its fourth season in 2012.  The drag queens make reference to tucking and hiding their candy quite often, and it has been a subject of many highlighted conversations throughout the series’ run.

-verb

1. the act of a drag queen to conceal the bulge in the crotch before a performance with a durable tape, usually gaff or ducked tape.

Related: tucking, tucknology

Ex: “I can’t go on stage until I hide the candy.”

Ex: “She needs to learn how to hide her candy properly, I can see everything she’s packin’.”

[Origin: Most likely American, and used by drag queens all over the world.]

#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.]

#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”, ]

#29 “gayby”

“Gayby” is yet another portmanteau word (one that combines two words into one) of the words “gay” and “baby” and refers to the little tykes that are adopted or conceived by a gay, lesbian or LGBT couple.

While this word might not yet have caught on in wider circles, there are already “gaybys” being featured on primetime television, as on the ABC sitcom, “Modern Family“.

1. noun: a child that is adopted into a gay, lesbian or LGBT family or home.

Ex: “Chuck… Larry!  Your little Fuschia is just the cutest little gayby I have ever seen!”

[Origin: Most likely American.  Related words: “gaydar”, “gaysian”, “gayborhood”, etc.]

#22 “Polari”

Throughout history, gay people have been forced-out of mainstream society and have had to create for themselves a sort of counter-culture, a secret code of ethics, language and activities.  One manifestation of this phenomena occurred, and flourished, in Great Britain during the mid-Twentieth century.

“Polari” is described as a “secret language” used by gay people during the twentieth century (mainly in England), that was based on slang used by societal outcasts – namely, criminals, prostitutes, sailors and tramps.  It incorporated English rhyme with other languages and slang, such as: Yiddish, Italian and French.  As gay slang and culture moved more into the mainstream toward the end of the twentieth century, Polari began to lose its footing and was used less and less.  Some of its phrases and slang are still used today, but in far less frequency.  Most people who use these “Polari” phrases are most likely unaware of their origins.

EXAMPLES of POLARI phrases and words:

AC/DC: 1. noun: a couple.  2. adjective: bisexual.

joshed up: adjective: looking your best. (root: zhoosh-Yiddish)

on the team: adjective: gay.

polari, polare, parlare, parlaree: 1. noun: gay language.  2. verb: to talk. (possible root: palare-Italian) 

[For more information on Polari, the lost language of “the gays”, pick up “Fantabulosa: A History of Polari and Gay Slang” by Paul Baker, published by continuum Books.]

#21 “cruise”

The term “cruise” refers to the act of seeking a sexual partner – either the act of moving from one place to another, or the interaction between two individuals.  More recently, “eye-fucking” has also been introduced into the vernacular as a more vulgar, colloquial term to use.

Gay men recognize “cruising” as more than just eye contact, but as a sort of sport – to see who can get eyed, or “checked-out” more times while walking through a gay district.  Some popular areas for cruising include, but are certainly not limited to: parks, beaches, supermarkets, shopping centers, gyms, bars an restaurants.

– verb

1. to move around in order to look for a possible sexual partner 

2. provocative, direct eye contact with possible sexual partners; meant to casually attract a person as you are walking down the street, or are driving in secluded areas

Related: cruised, cruising, cruisy

One movie is tentatively related to this term:  The 1980 cult film, “Cruising” featured Al Pacino as an undercover police officer sent into the beat of the “sleazy” underworld of gay S&M and leather culture in New York City during a rash of serial killings.  Pacino is sent into the scene as a decoy for the murderer, and the film chronicles his encounters with leather daddies, johns, and ultimately the killer.  This film didn’t win any Oscars, and it certainly wouldn’t win any glaad Media Awards either. 

[Origin: The terms was coined in the 16th – 17th Centuries when referring to ships at sea, then given to individuals.  The gay meaning is most likely derived from mid-Twentieth century North America, when the popularity of the automobile, the full development of the highway system and gay culture combined – resulting in “cruising” spots from Mexico to Canada.]