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Thread: Whatever happened to the word GAY?

  1. #1
    Complex Lolita...
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    Sep 2006

    Whatever happened to the word GAY?

    [SIZE="2"]“I’ve never been GAY a day in my life, and I’m sure as hell not part of any movement.” (William S. Burroughs)
    “Are you GAY, debonair and witty, or are you the quiet, shy, unconscious type?” (Groucho Marx, to a bachelor contestant on You Bet Your Life, c.1950 )

    Carrying on from the thread about “a problem” being gay, and inspired by the two passages quoted above, I’m interested in how the word GAY ever became a synonym for homosexual. Also, why are MtF crossdressers automatically assumed to be gay, when many of us are staunchly heterosexual? Even so, we are gay, somewhere along the way, if you remember the recent past, and if we understand the obsolete definitions of this misused word…

    I’m old enough to remember a time when you could say the word “gay” in mixed company (in it’s original context) and not hear someone snicker. Yes, back in 1950, Groucho Marx could ask a man on national TV if he was gay. Of course, he meant animate, blithe, carefree, convivial, happy, pleasure-seeking, lively, vivacious, and so forth. If he happens to be a bachelor, he IS gay, meaning unconstrained, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What is the opposite of being gay? Invariably, you will tend to be sad, depressed, unhappy, upset, or worried, correct? Based on the choices available, isn’t it better to be gay and enjoy life? OK, I know it’s not 1950 anymore, but what happened? According to Wiki, sometime in the 20th century the word “gay” gained a new pejorative in some parts of the world:

    “In the Anglosphere, this connotation [for gay], among younger speakers, has a derisive meaning equivalent to rubbish or stupid (as in "That's so gay."). In this use, the word does not mean "homosexual", so it can be used, for example, to refer to an inanimate object or abstract concept of which one disapproves. This usage can also refer to weakness or unmanliness. When used in this way, the extent to which it still retains connotations of homosexuality has been debated. Well into the mid 20th century a middle-aged bachelor could be described as "gay", indicating that he was unattached and therefore free, without any implication of homosexuality.”

    [SIZE="2"]So, gay began to stand for weakness (and eventually immorality), in the eyes of society, and the old definitions of the word gradually faded away. We are left with the tragic consequences, and crossdressing is considered to be an immoral activity (a perversion), via association, by those individuals or groups who insist on making distinctions – in this way of thinking we are assumed to be gay, or aligned with a world that is at odds with expected behavior. But I think we ARE gay, if we hearken back to the antiquated uses for this hapless word. I mean, we, as crossdressers, leave our drab male clothes behind to be more bright, or flashy, or showy, or flamboyant, maybe even garish or gaudy. I don’t go that far, but when crossdressing veers towards drag you may begin to see my point. Again, what is the opposite of gay? It is being dull, lifeless, plain, and uncolorful – I think this describes the male clothes we left behind rather eloquently, don’t you think? Here’s a little more history:[/SIZE]

    “By the mid-20th century, gay was well-established in reference to hedonistic and uninhibited lifestyles and its antonym straight, which had long had connotations of seriousness, respectability, and conventionality, had now acquired specific connotations of heterosexuality. In the case of gay, other connotations of frivolousness and showiness in dress ("gay apparel") led to association with camp and effeminacy.”

    [SIZE="2"]Yes, no doubt about it, I’m GAY as all get-out. I’m engaged in a hedonistic and uninhibited lifestyle, I’m not married (a gay bachelor), and my effeminacy is there for all to see. On the other hand, my dress is not at all showy, unless you compare it to what passes for my male (drab) “wardrobe.” I’m fairly moral (believe me), yet I reject any notions of camp, along with all ideas of seriousness and respectability. I do worry a lot, but I’m not depressed, sad, or upset about things. I am a fun-loving pleasure-seeker, therefore I am witty and debonair, not to mention GAY…

    In response to Mr. Burrough’s iconoclastic quote above, I find it very odd that the word “gay” has become a synonym for homosexual, but these things happen. Words evolve like everything else, and I get the feeling that it’s just too difficult for some people to use more definitive or specific language. The next time someone asks you if you’re gay, just say YES, and think about the days when the word GAY meant something else entirely. In other words, fight accepted words with better, more informed words – they won’t know what hit them! You are light-hearted, alert, ebullient, dynamic, genial, and keen aren’t you? Just asking! Carry on, you GAY fool…

  2. #2
    Silver Member darla_g's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    terrapin station, you need to guess a little bit
    interesting points.

    i just want to know when the rainbow became "appropriated" ? now if you had a rainbow sticker or a flag it seems to mean something

  3. #3
    The 100th sheep GaleWarning's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Living in the present
    I read Noddy and Big Ears when I was small. They were gay (happy) and used to sleep together in the same bed (quite innocently).
    Gollywogs had black faces and were popular dolls.
    Who got excited about these things and turned them into socially unacceptable norms?

  4. #4
    The best of both worlds Kathi Lake's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Right there. To your left. No, your LEFT! Yes, that's it. Hi.
    Etymology never fails to amuse me. It's amazing how much power there can be in a simple, three-letter word. The power to cut, the power to kill. I guess the real question would be why we both allow ourselves to imbue words with such power, and allow words to define us and others. Sad, really.


  5. #5
    Silver Member Jilmac's Avatar
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    Sep 2007
    Somewhere around the Milwaukee area
    I believe it's society's twist by labeling anything and everything that can't or won't be defined as normal.
    Luv and Jill

    Straight, into Fantasy Land

  6. #6
    Full-Time Duality NathalieX66's Avatar
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    Feb 2009
    Northeast U.S.A
    Quote Originally Posted by darla_g View Post
    i just want to know when the rainbow became "appropriated" ? now if you had a rainbow sticker or a flag it seems to mean something
    Rainbow is the spectrum of all colors = diversity. Like for instance LGBT is nowadays something like LGBTIQ.

    Frederique wrote
    Whatever happened to the word GAY?
    it is a euphemism, meaning homosexual men as being a bit too happy, perhaps a bit light in the loafers. I'm thinking inhaling laughing gas could get the same effect. The literal definition means joyous and happy. I think it's a fitting and decent euphemism.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Susanville, California
    My mother always told of a fun event by saying, "We had a gay time."

  8. #8
    the happy camper
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    When I was at boy scout camp in 1974-ish, we sang a campfire song that had the line in it: "and we'll all be happy and gay." The adult who was leading the sing-a-long changed the line to "and we'll all be happy today," because some of the guys snickered at it. That's when I first discovered that the word had some other meaning.

    I think it must have been somewhere between 1965 and 1975 that the "homosexual" connotation of the word became pervasive. Here, though, is one much earlier example from popular culture where it seems to be used to mean homosexual (although there is the usual confusion between crossdresser and homosexual). That movie was filmed in 1938. Four years earlier, we had The Gay Divorcée, in which 'gay' definitely means happy and carefree.

  9. #9
    Aspiring Member
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    Sep 2009
    It seems to me that there was a time when using the opposite word to describe some was popular and it may be where "gay" got misappropriated. I too find it irritating that I can no longer use some words . Your example does indicate the backwards use. Bad is another word that gets misused, and means good in the modern context. perhaps it is just to be contrary that the " uneducated youth" have taken over some of these words.

  10. #10
    Platinum Member Eryn's Avatar
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    Jan 2011
    I'm not sure that misappropriated is a correct word to describe the addition of new meanings to an existing word. That's what language does as a natural part of its evolution.

    I remember a big furor a few years back when teens started to use the phrase "That's so gay!" to indicate something that is not desirable. Of course, the GLBT community objected, but the fact is that the teens had simply done the same thing as the GLBT community did, only in a direction the community didn't like. They might as well try to stop the tide with a broom

  11. #11
    Member AnnaCalliope's Avatar
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    Nov 2010
    Portland, Oregon
    As to the question why most people assume crossdressers are gay, many lines of logic exist:

    1)A crossdresser like to dress up as a woman, means Crossdresser wants to be a woman; a woman has sex with men, thus the crossdresser wants to have sex with men = GAY.

    2)When the uneducated public thinks of a man dressed as a woman, they think Drag Queen. 90% of Drag Queens are GAY men.

    3)Being GAY is included with all types of sexual deviancy in the uneducated mind; in some cases, these people believe if you have one deviancy, you have them all. I.E. Being a crossdresser makes you a pedophile, a rapist and GAY.

    Yes, the world out there is really that dumb.

  12. #12
    One Perky Goth Gurl Pythos's Avatar
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    Jul 2010
    SF Bay Area
    Well here is another thing. I personally love to be a happy, care free, spirited, cheery, perky...if you will, GOTH. It is outright fun to have that juxtaposition. But have you noticed how in much of society "manly" men are depected as being Gruff, depressed, angry, and so on.

    I prefer being the devious little ******* I can be and bring pleasure to someones life from an most unlikely source.

    But honestly can I without being mistaken as homosexual.

    (sorry my thoughts are scattered, got some interesting and GOOD news concerning the GG and myself, more at 10, LOL)

    But really haven't you all noticed how men in general cannot act lively, cheery, fun loving and so on without some depressed moron calling them a disparaging name, or determine their sexual orientation. It's just stupid and really depressing at times.
    "I am not altogether on anyone's side as no one is all together on my side"
    Tree beard. Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers.

  13. #13
    Gold Member NicoleScott's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Why are crossdressers assumed to be gay? It's that Yuletide carol "Deck the Halls". ......don we now our gay apparel......fa la la la la la la la la.....

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