It wasn’t until perhaps the late sixties when the word “gay” meaning homosexual came into vogue in my world. One didn’t say a group of macho men had a gay time when they were having fun. It certainly was said about women and children. So for a long time I just considered the word as pejorative as any other word for homosexual. Implication? Not being real men.

Lesbians, Bisexuals, and Transgendered are all “scientific” words that are impossible to imply insult with.

We don’t talk about the HLBT community.

Why are homosexuals so comfortable with the word?

Because they’re happy with themselves as they are? Not a snark.

Beats me. Somebody picked it for me. It’s not my favorite word, but I guess it’s better than queer or fag or homo.

Gay has been tainted though. We should probably start looking for a new word, preferably one-syllable.

In fact, in an act of turnabout, from henceforth I propose gay should replaced by cool. “Wow, that guy is totally cool.” “Oh, man, that shirt you’re wearing is totally cool.” “You two guys seem awfully close, you’re not cool are you?”

Probably because they coined the usage, themselves, and it only became pejorative when people outside that group began to use it with the understanding that homosexuality was shameful or easily mocked.

From the O.E.D.:

ETA: Legman’s cited work was The fake revolt, published in 1967.

“Bisexual” and “transgendered” could be considered scientific (as could “homosexual”), but “lesbian” basically just means “having the same sexual orientation as a particular famous inhabitant of the isle of Lesbos”.

And if by “HLBT”, you mean “Homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered”, the term would never catch on because of its redundancy. Gay men and lesbian women are both homosexual, so you’d just say “HBT”.

The absolute best answer to the “homosexual”/“gay” question (in terms of terminology) that I’ve ever seen was produced by Dan Kirk, consultant in Sacramento, gay advocate, and sometime author of fiction, in a story called “Doing It Right.” The scenario is that the viewpoint character, Davey, is the son of the incumbent Senator from California running for reelection. He is also gay and in a committed relationship with Brian, and has recently been publicly outed by his father’s political opponents. The family is being interviewed by Barbara Walters in this excerpt:

Cecil answers the question

You might be surprised. “Lesbian” certainly is used to imply insult, e.g. “What’s the matter sweet cheeks, are you a LESBIAN or something?”

In addition to the reasons already given, “gay” is a lot shorter and less clinical sounding than “homosexual”. In ordinary conversation “bisexual” is often shortened to “bi” for similar reasons.

Takes too long to say, plus homo has been picked up as a general slur.

My very proper Irish mother-in-law once commented that the word gay had, regrettably, been lost to general usage, as in ‘we had a gay time at the picnic’, by it’s newer association with homosexuality.

I commented that while that may be true, we didn’t have to have ‘Sodomite Pride Day’, so it was probably worth it.

It’s partially a generational thing. I’m of the generation that came out roughly in the '60s to '70s, the “Stonewall” generation. The older generation, most of whom never came out at all, used the word “gay” as a sort of secret code, as in “Oh, Mary was so gay at the party, going on and on about her escapades on the Rivierra, with that adorable sailor from North Africa.” Think Noel Coward.

There was an unmistakable homosexuality about the word, but it also had the original connotation as something light-hearted and not to be taken too seriously. When my generation took the word and publicly politicized it, turned it into something *to be taken seriously, *the older generation had a lot of difficulty making the transition. They mourned the loss of that word as a “wink-wink” code word, and considered our usage as airing of dirty laundry. It made them very uncomfortable.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, when young people started using the word “queer.” People in my generation were slow to embrace it (we eventually did), since for us it had such negative connotations. Which is exactly why the kids loved to use it as a very political in-your-face label.

But I don’t see “queer” or even “LGBT” replacing “gay” any time soon. It’s become too mainstream.

As far as “homosexual” is concerned, I consider it an adjective, rather than a noun.

Why are “urban” blacks comfortable calling each other “nigga”? To use a much less extreme example, why do us technophiles proudly wear our nerd/geek badge? It’s reclaimed language, it gives a sense of “mastery.” The most surefire way to get rid of bullies in middle school is to not care when they make fun of you, you can take this a step further by agreeing with them. If you extend this to society “oh, yeah, I AM gay, you’re SO right.” By accepting it as a descriptor and not getting offended the word loses its power to act in its intended purpose (offense), so they now have POWER over the word, and the more they use it in a nonchalant, non-offensive, descriptive manner the less ways people have to hurt them, and on occasion the more accepted the things it’s describing can become.

Well, that’s true for “queer,” but not “gay,” which never had a negative connotation until recently.

A quote from my then 11-year-old honorary grandson, about a party he did not have a good time at…

“And the girls wanted to play kissing games! Kissing girls is so gay!!!”


(I managed not to crack up untl I was out of his earshot. His mother was trying hard to keep a straight face.)

That’s cute. Kids get big credit.