Word of the Gay

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

#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.]

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#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”]

#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”, ]

#30 “tucknology”

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]

#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.]

#28 “green queen”

Not only does this phrase rhyme (something I love to do), but it describes yours truly. Modern life revolves around the concept of “going green”, and almost every industry is capitalizing off of climate change. From the hybrid car to the bio-degradable multi-surface cleaner, we buy-in to our culture’s immediate response to an enormous problem. And we all experience climate change and the effects of the petrol-chemical industries each day – from hormones, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals that remain in our drinking water, to the incremental changes in temperature across the globe.

The average person will not necessarily be aware of these facts as they go about their daily routine. Because even though there is a lot of noise about climate change, and of devastation and irreversible damage to our natural resources, only certain folks seem to be hearing it. I like to refer to a gay man who is conscious of his day-to-day impact on the environment as a Green Queen.

1. noun: an environmentally-conscious homosexual/gay man.

Ex: “I saw the cutest Green Queen recycling his batteries and cell phone charger at Whole Foods the other day.”

[Origin: Yours truly. Not to be confused with one of many women’s websites that focus one the environmentally-conscious woman’s point of view; see here, here, here, and even here.]