Recently when speaking to a close friend of mine, I referred to her cat as being completely ‘Poz/Wired/Masc’, on account of this cat’s feline batshit-crazy antics.Cue the confused look on my friends face, whose questions of her not being cool anymore due to her crossing the Great Over Thirty Barrier meant I had to explain a few things to her. Or more likely illuminate her to the tight little corner of Gay Terminology that comes naturally [pun intended im sure] to all of us Gays, whether we are Neg, Bear Bttm Top Vers et al; yet can be somewhat confusing and undecipherable for our sad hetero friends to follow.
Just a quick disclaimer. Any views expressed here in this post are mine and mine alone. Now that’s over with, lets carry on, shall we?
In short, I decided to create this much, much MUCH abridged
Guide to Gay Slang For Straight People.
Background on Gay Terminology.
Gay lexicon and slang has been something that has been around for as long as there have been gays and lesbians. I’m sure in Ancient Rome there were words to describe a hot Pompeiian’s package, or in the Middle Ages a phrase or term that best described a hirsute bearded rugged Saxon fellow.
More recently, up until the late 20th century, regional slang and lexicon began appearing with the intention of young gay and lesbians to use their own crafted and invented terms and jargon in order to communicate openly to each other, without the wider world [read: Heterosexual] knowing what they were in fact speaking about. Which was, no doubt, of course about the size of someone’s penis or physical attributes. Because, undoubtedly, that’s all us Gay Men speak about. Of course.
At this point I do hope you’re following my rather smug self-affected sarcastic tone. I feel like sarcasm in literature and writing deserves it’s own special signifier, maybe something like ¶ or ∞. Again, I’m spiralling off on a tangent that needs reining in.
The culmination of these pseudo-languages came in the form of a hybrid Gay-only language named Polari, which originated in the UK, and dated back a number of centuries. In short, Polari, [which stemmed from the Italian word Parlare, to ‘talk’], which was a bastardised mongrel soup of words from a variety of sources, including Italian, Russian, Yiddish, London Slang and Cockney Back-Rhyming.
The language became a method in which Gay men could converse without anyone who didn’t know it having a clue as to what was being spoken about. So one could talk about a fellow a meter away without them fathoming at all what was said. I absolutely love the sound and character of Polari, with some golden nuggets as: ‘Varda the naff clobber on that palone’ or: ‘Look at the ugly clothes she’s wearing’. Polari became popular with the Gay community, mostly in the UK well into the 20th century, but as attitudes and mores towards LGBT culture changed, so did our needs and requirements. As Polari came about due to the illegality of Homosexuality up until the late 1960’s in most Western countries, after that point it was no longer was it necessary to have an extensive and sophisticated yet still so hilariously camp and charming language to convey and express dialogue; we could just go ahead and say it out loud without as much of a care. There was a scene in one of my favourite movies, The Velvet Goldmine, which was set from the 1960’s onwards and is a loose allegorical biography of David Bowie’s Glam Rock phase, where two wildly over the top and camp gay men are talking about a young man in a dimly lit club. I absolutely love the sound and naughtiness of Polari, go on YouTube and look it up.
Sadly, Polari died a slow and undignified death as the 1970’s somewhat tragically wore on and the shiny new 80’s dawned. As more and more social conventions changed, so did the status and condition of the gay man. The younger generations of Gay men and women no longer needed touchstones or communicative devices such as Polari to communicate between them selves, or reduce themselves to wearing signifiers that indicated one as a homosexual, like a proto-Grindr. For example: the wearing of a red tie, or a ring on one’s pinky finger. LGBT community had become a cohesive, visual, vibrant and energetic that began to produce output that would have an amazing impact on the world. Things had changed for the better, with LGBT culture and issues coming to the fore, and so had the language around Gay men changed accordingly. So we reach today, and with the rise of Gay Dating apps and a world that has become so thoroughly interconnected, information and new slang spreads at an all-time high. This has caused a new language of signal cues to come to the fore in this world, most if not all of which revolve around three things: Appearance, Sexual preferences and Gender roles. Most of the following terms can be found in Gay men’s profiles on things like Grindr, Sruff Gaydar amongst others, and are short brief terms to describe or categorise oneself or others. Almost like a self-advertisement, many of these terms are used to quickly and concisely put an individual into a group, whether it be physically, or sexual preferences or simply taste.
So without further ado, here is my Guide to Gay Slang For Straight People.
Bear: A ‘Bear’, in short is a Gay man who is generally hairy, stocky, has a beard, and usually has a preference for associating with other Bears, or Bear-like Gay men. They can usually be found near a ‘Bear Pride’ flag, with which they use to find other Bears. Take Fair Day for instance. All the Bears congregate under a large Bear Pride flag in the shade of a tree. They enjoy wearing singlets and aviator sunglasses. Bears are a large sub-culture in the Gay community, and have enjoyed a resurgence in the last few years due to the rise of beards. There are also sub-categories in this community, see Otter, Panda Bear, Cub.
Bottom: A ‘Bottom’ is a gay who takes the receiving role sexually. Can also be used as a derogatory term as Bottoming can be seen as being less manly or masculine in some way. Those Gays sure like to dish it out. As per example: ‘With an arse like that he MUST be a Bottom’ Also see, Top.
Breeder: A derogatory and offensive term for straight people. A response to the myriad of derogatory terms hurled at LGBT people.
Beat: Anyplace where Gay men will meet discreetly for sex. Usually a park or shopping centre toilets.
NSA: ‘No Strings Attached’. Quite self-explanatory, ‘NSA’ refers to someone who is just plain old after a bit of fun.
Wired/Wird/Wyrd: Someone who enjoys the taking of drugs in life and is quite happy to share that tidbit with the world.
Masc: Short for ‘Masculine’, Masc has become a by-word for all that I feel is wrong with the Gay world at the moment. Worthy of another blog-post for another time, my problem with the term ‘Masc’ runs quite deep. Many Gays will attempt to identify themselves as ‘Masc’, by adorning themselves essentially as straight men who like other men. Someone who is ‘masc’ will typically try to act, speak and look straight, as being effeminate is viewed as a negative trait by many Gay men. Stupidly.
Twink: A Gay man who is quite young [18-25] and will be fresh-faced [until the partying catches up and life smacks them down], usually thin with little to no body hair and parties far too much, won’t hold a job for more than 3 months because he keeps showing up to work hungover, and will have sex with anyone anywhere at any time. Also twinks love colourful clothing and terrible underwear. Have been known to evolve like a Pokemon into a Bear or Cub once they’re youthful looks fade.
Poz: A Gay man who is HIV +.
Vers: The Holy Grail of the Gays, ‘Vers’ refers to ‘Versaile’, someone who enjoys both sexual roles.
Rice Queen: A tongue in cheek term for a Gay man who has a predilection and attraction to ethnic Asian men. Also, similar terms for men who have a certain attraction to one nationality or ethnicity include Pasta Queen, Felafel Queen, Borscht Queen, Pastizzi Queen and Bangers And Mash Queen.
Cub: A younger, Bearish looking Gay man who may one day also evolve into the more stocky and bullyish Bear. Usually slightly less stocky than a Bear.
Otter: A hairy, bearded Gay man who is thinner than a Bear. Something I get called by other Gays, and probably what I would identify myself as. Also, a Wolf is a more muscular hybrid version.
Beard: Not what you think, this one. A ‘Beard’ refers to a closeted Gay man’s pretend girlfriend that he will simulate a relationship with in order to make the world think he is straight. Apparently this is quite common with high-profile closeted Gay men like actors or singers. I assume this is still something common in that world.
Camp: Camp refers to attitude, a cutting sense of humour and impeccable timing. Also mix in some mincing and some effeminate attributes and you get what is ‘camp’. Someone who is camp or acts camp will stereotypically have a high-pitched voice, be dramatic and have mannerisms that would be best described as effeminate. A great example is Albert from The Birdcage played by Nathan Lane: he’s a true drama queen yet is inherently intelligent,sensitive, thoughtful as well as stylish. Camp for me is something I think every Gay man is, and that it is something that shouldn’t be repressed or looked down upon, even though many Gay men do not like to associate with anyone too ‘camp’.
Fluro/Rainbow Gay: A term used by some [yes, I have used it too, bring on the abuse], to describe a gay man who is, how do I put this, a little over enthusiastic about being Gay and LGBT culture. They’ll be at every Gay or Gay-related event, including Foam Parties, Gay Cruises in the Mediterranean, as well Trannie Bingo at the local Gay pub and this will all be in a single week.
Bedecked often in skimpy, tight and terrifically colourful clothing, the Fluro and Rainbow Gay will be the first to up and dance on a platform/podium/anywhere with space, as well as most certainly be at the Mardi Gras after party. Then go home to shower and go to a day party the morning after while I’m at home eating my weight in BBQ Shapes and misery. Even then, they’ll be the first to dispose of their shirts and/or trousers to show off their Andrew Christian/Aussiebum underwear. To their defence, they can be some of the fiercest defenders of Gay culture, to which I do doff my cap, but I’ll stick with being an unfortunate wallfower with most of my rather drab-coloured clothes on.
Muscle Mary: A Gay who spends far too much time at the gym/ concerned with going to the gym/ how he looks in one of those singlets that us Gay men love that amount to two threads of cotton, as well as amassing an equally impressive collection of Grindr photos and an equally impressive horde of Instagram followers. I’ll be in forever awe of the Muscle Mary as a part of me would love to experience what it would be like to be a mountain of muscle but alas, my love for carbs denies this as a possibility.
So there we have it, my rather skewed take on Gay parlance and terminology. It sometimes scares me just how much we as people tend to categorise, regardless of community, subculture or society. I feel that we love to put everything in a box, even if it doesn’t fit 100% correctly. I also feel that most people fit into numerous ‘boxes’, in which a part of them is something, but also something else. I love that I’m part of a culture that has given, and continues to give so much to this world in so many ways, all this despite the many hurdles that are faced even now daily by LGBT communities in many countries where LGBT individuals are persecuted. Is it right in a world where so many of us are still suffering, that we can be so flippantly judgemental through our diction? Or is it more a light-hearted, non-serious mechanism for keeping a sense of community?