Word of the Gay

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

Archive for Unisex

#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

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#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.]

#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.]

#27 “m4m/w4w”

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