Is there a proper term for a male homosexual?

OK, female homosexuals have their own proper name, lesbians. Is there a proper name for male homosexuals?

And you can’t say it’s “gay” because the word could mean either male or female homosexual, its not sex specific.

Actually, both the word gay and the word homosexual, itself, are, in current usage, most commonly used only for males. (Note the number of organizations that include the phrase “gay and lesbian” in their titles.) There is another thread on nomenclature currently on the board that notes that homosexual, while indicating any same-sex relationship, is rarely used in common parlance to indicate a a lesbian one.

And the thread in question is (as of this posting) the very next in line:

Are lesbians considered “homosexual”?

I’ve often heard lesbians refered to as “gay”. The term is not sex specific.

And I’ve also heard lesbians refered to as homosexual. Lesbians are female homosexuals, but is there a specific term for a male homosexual?


No, just kidding. I have no idea. Sorry.


I don’t understand why the word gay is used for homosexual. That was once a perfectly wonderful word, used by everyone, to mean joyous. Many homosexuals are not joyous, as of course many who are not homosexual. But why mess up such a word.

Homosexual perfectly fits those people, male and female. Heterosexual fits those people and Bisexual fits those people.

Why mess up “Gay”. A person can’t sing some of those wonderful old songs without criticism.


Good Golly! Maybe a quick read of the BBQ Pit threads from the last week would be beneficial for you Purple Person.

In any case the use of the epithet ‘gay’ for a person of same sex or both sex sexual orientation dates further back than you are aware. You would have to address your grievance with generations that are mostly gone, to not say altogether gone. Cecil dates the term to the 1930s in this column.

As for the OP this could be of help:

If you want my take on the whole issue I’d say the proper way to address a person who happens to be homosexual would be by first name or last name, depending on how polite the company is. If you must refer to anyone with their sexual orientation you might want to find out if they identify with the epithet you choose and if they feel comfortable being referred to as their sexual orientation. You should also note that how ‘out’ a person is usually relative to the company and situation. To take a simple example; I am ‘out’ here at SDMB, but I am not with my grandmother. Hence referring to someone as gay, lesbian or bi at the wrong moment can have rather, should I say ‘complex’ social consequences, due to the heavy prejudices that linger in society.

Furthermore it’s all rather hairy since gender identity and sexual orientation isn’t as fixed as people want to think. Hence you’re immediately in an area where even homosexual and bisexual people can’t quite agree amongst themselves what is what and where the line is drawn between for instance gay and bi. Some people take pride in the epithet and prefer to be called gay to anything else due to the struggle for gay rights. By and large the American Heritage and sensitivity to peoples integrity should serve you well as a guideline.


I do not take issue with a person’s sexual orientation. To me thay are first name, last name. I don’t care what they do sexually. I have friends of all orientations. It is nobody’s business unless the person chooses to make it someone’s business.

However, 1930 is not very far back, on the grand scheme of things. In the 1600’s and until your 1930, gay meant joyous. A 1996 dictionary created officially a new meaning. That is my fuss.

It didn’t mean just joyous. It was also used to mean frivolous or sexually promiscuous, as Cecil’s column notes. Victorian prostitutes were often called “gay girls” and “gay boys”. The progression to gay = homosexual is obvious, if not flattering. The word was used to describe homosexuals long before it was considered a neutral way to describe homosexuals; that didn’t happen until sometime in the 1970s IIRC. It’s been more than a century since “gay” was a perfectly innocent word, and the heterosexuals had more to do with turning it into a synonym for “homosexual” than the homosexuals did.

Read Cecil’s column.

Merriam Webster entered the noun ‘gay’ as in homosexual in 1953.


This has drifted away from the OP, but I think the term “gay” became popular since “queer” was offensive. When I was younger, homosexuals were referred to as “queers” or “fags” (here in America), both terms then being offensive. I understand that homosexuals refer to themselves as “queer” now.

As far as homo-, bi-, or hetero- sexuality goes, there are no lines of demarcations. Human sexuality is a continuum from 1 to 10 (“1” being totally hetero- and “10” being totally homo-) and different persons fall into different numbers.

I’m just the messenger mind you but, I’ve heard names like; Pitcher, Catcher, Mary Jane, Rumbus Wrangler, Shit shack Sheriff, Colon Cowboy, etc.

I realize that these couldn’t possibly be used on the panel with Leno and Letterman but, I guess you’re right, there really is no acceptable name to describe a Gay Male exclusively.

Shall we put our heads to together and think of one?

Not your responsibility. The fact that people are searching for a word to describe male homosexuals implies that they are uncomfortable–not necessarily philosophically, but semantically–with the currently available terms.

Some older dopers might remember people being unsure of what to call people of African descent: Negroes, coloreds, or any number of less desirable names similar in disposition to those that Omni listed. And still, some people are unsure of what to “call” African-Americans.

As male homosexuals become more accepted in our society, a name they are comfortable with will emerge. Until then, try to avoid the sort of generalized sentences which call for epithets. My advice is to not use any terms you would not be comfortable using if a homosexual male was standing right next to you. “Homosexual” will never fail to be precise, but it can come off as clinical. “Gay” is almost universally accepted and, without context altering it, is generally unoffensive. I would limit myself to those for now.

But it’s still a gender bias that female homosexuals have a specific identifying name but male homesexuals don’t. It’s only right that male homosexuals are afforded the same respect that their female counter-parts are. Or, should we perpectuate the stereotype giving more respect to the female over the male even in the gay community?

Here in good old central VA, we use “gay” to describe homosexual males, and “lesbian” to describe homosexual females.

“Queer” is non-sex specific here… for example, our University homosexual organization is the QSU, or Queer Student Union.

In Richmond we referred to ourselves as fags, but not so much in Charlottesville I’ve noticed.

It is to laugh. The only reason why we still have a commonly used term that specifically means “female homosexual” is because virtually every other term meaning “homosexual” tends to evoke the image of a male homosexual. Even the clinical and technically gender-neutral “homosexual” is associated more with men than women; there’s a current thread where scott evil expressed doubt as to whether the term applied to women at all. Lesbians have long had the problem of being the “invisible homosexuals”, and general acceptance of a special term to describe them is just about the only concession society has made to the very existence of the female homosexual.

But if you really must have a nice casual term for male homosexuals there’s always “gay”. While usage of the term has shifted from always masculine to somewhat gender-neutral over the past couple of decades it is still often used in a way that excludes women from the definition. If you have any doubts as to the truth of this, you need only look and see how frequently the term is used with “and lesbian”. If “gay” always meant both male and female homosexuals the “and lesbian” would be redundant.

There used to be a great word, “bad,” that meant “not good.” Then people, as people do, changed that meaning in certain contexts so that “bad” meant “good” (“That’s ba-a-ad!”). Sorry, Purple, but language isn’t static. However, “gay” still means “joyous,” as well as its other meanings, so you can hold your head high when you sing “and we’ll all feel gay when Johnny comes marching home” (not to mention “the ladies they will all come out”). Snickering? Perhaps. “Criticism”? I doubt it. :slight_smile:

I suspect the root of “lesbian” is related to (what is it; the isle of, and why…?) Lesbos? “Gay”? no real idea. “Queer” seems to fit both cases.

Except that, despite efforts to take back the word queer, the word still has negative connotations. You should be careful when using it. Some of us are still bothered by the word depending on who uses it and the context.

This is how it is my area. Here homosexuals consider “queer” a very derogatory term. Personally, I don’t think it should be anything else: if you think about it, what did it originally mean? Abnormal? Weird? Freak? I’m not quite sure why homosexuals would wish themselves to be positively associated with that term.