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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.]
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.
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”, ]
The term “tucknology” refers to the methods and processes that drag performers (a.k.a. “drag queens”) use to create the illusion of the female form, “down there”.
Being friends with more than a few drag queens, I have grown accustomed to assisting them with their hair, their make-up, and overall look. But there is always a point in the process of getting ready when they excuse themselves, go into the bathroom with a roll of tape and a few layers of undergarments, and come out a changed – woman.
A performer’s tucknology is as unique as their wig, so no two people will necessarily have the same approach. Many implement a “tuck and fold” technique, while others manage to wear very tight underwear and tape down the remaining, offending, buldges. There are more than a few online resources available, for the more adventurous readers out there to peruse… here, here, or even here.
plural -gies. [tuk-nol-uh-gee]
1. noun: the study of tucking and/or binding male genitalia, for the purposes of making them appear to be female.
2. noun: the practice (techniques and processes) that deal with tucking male genetalia.
Ex: “Gurl, whatever techniques you are using down there – your tucknology is workin’ for you!”
[Origin: Joshua Tjaden, 2006]
Gay men and women will oftentimes resort to uncommon practices in the attempt to find love, or in some cases, a quick fuck. The internet has provided many people with a fast and efficient tool in finding one or the other, and in the process, a new language has been born.
Shortening words and phrases to simply a few letters is an easy way to get your point across in a short amount of time. To learn this new short-hand, all you need to do is visit a site like craigslist.org or manhunt.net, and you will be fluent in a matter of days.
1. verb: man for man / woman for woman; used in the search for a sexual partner online
In most cases, I am not a particular fan of the words “fag” or “dyke.” But for today’s post, I am bending my own rules to introduce a pair of really interesting terms. Today we are getting two words for the price of one! I think of them as like a yin and yang of transsexual terms. I recently came across “transfag” and “tryke” while doing some internet research for today’s post. It seems as if there are as many ways to classify a person’s sexuality – as there are people. I am constantly intrigued by the ways in which people refer to themselves and others when it relates to sex.
transfag – 1. noun: a person who is both both gay and female-to-male (f-t-m) transsexual. [Related: FTG (female-to-gay). See tryke.]
tryke – 1. noun: a person who is a male-to-female (m-t-f) transsexual and is also a lesbian. [Related: transdyke, female lesbian. See transfag.]
“Gaydar” is a portmanteau word (one that combines two words into one) of the words “gay” and “radar” and refers to the ability of someone to decipher if someone is either homosexual (“gay”) or heterosexual (“straight”) through the use of perception, intuition and past experiences, i.e. their own personal “radar.”
Having the ability to pick up on one’s sexuality is a talent that many boast, but few actually possess. It seems the more time one spends within the gay community, or with gay men and lesbians, the more attuned this ability can actually become. Some gay men and lesbians pride themselves on having a refined gaydar, and use it to their advantage in social interactions.
1. noun: the ability to decipher one’s sexuality (as being gay or lesbian as opposed to heterosexual), through the recognition of either overt or subtle clues in mannerisms, patterns of speech, dress style, etc.
Ex: “My gaydar was going into overdrive when he walked into the room. Who does he think he’s fooling?!”
The term has been made widely popular over the last two decades in North America and Europe, and has mass exposure in popular culture, having been used in countless television programs, short films, full-length features films and on the internet. Check out the WikiGayDar post for more references to “gaydar” in popular culture. In the United Kingdom, www.gaydar.co.uk is a widely popular and trafficked social-networking and dating website devoted to gay men.