LGBT slang, LGBT speak, queer slang, or gay slang is a set of English slang lexicon used predominantly among LGBTQ+ people. It has been used in various languages since the early 20th century as a means by which members of the LGBTQ+ community identify themselves and speak in code with brevity and speed to others.[1][2] The acronym LGBT was popularized in the 1990s and stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender.[3] It may refer to anyone who is non-heterosexual or non-cisgender, instead of exclusively to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. To recognize this inclusion, a popular variant, LGBTQ, adds the letter Q for those who identify as queer or are questioning their sexual or gender identity.[4]

LGBT slang has played an integral part in LGBTQ+ culture for decades. Slang language initially emerged as a way for queer people to communicate with one another while avoiding detection by mainstream society.[5] Queer people have always existed,[6] but historically, they have had to be discreet about their identities and lives, particularly when being LGBTQ+ was illegal and or socially condemned.

LGBT slang is used as a way to signal one's identity and build solidarity within the community. When queer people use these certain words and phrases, they demonstrate to others that they are part of the LGBTQ+ community and share a common experience. This connection can create a sense of belonging for those historically rejected and isolated by mainstream society.[7]

LGBT slang is also used by the community as a means of reclaiming language and deconstructing oppressive norms. Queer slang often includes playful references to sexual acts, which can serve as an assertion of sexual agency and a rejection of shame.[8]

History and context

Because of sodomy laws and threat of prosecution due to the criminalization of homosexuality, LGBT slang has served as an argot or cant, a secret language and a way for the LGBT community to communicate with each other publicly without revealing their sexual orientation to others.[2][9][10] Since the advent of queer studies in universities, LGBT slang and argot has become a subject of academic research among linguistic anthropology scholars.[11]

The Butch and Femme society

During the first seven decades of the 20th century, a specific form of Polari was developed by gay men and lesbians in urban centres of the United Kingdom within established LGBT communities. Polari was featured on the BBC radio programme Round the Horne in 1964, exposing the wider public to the secret language.[12][13] Although there are differences, contemporary British gay slang has adopted many Polari words.[1][14] The 1964 legislative report Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida contains an extensive appendix documenting and defining the homosexual slang in the United States at that time.[15][16] SCRUFF launched a gay-slang dictionary app in 2014, which includes commonly used slang in the United States from the gay community.[17] Specialized dictionaries that record LGBT slang have been found to revolve heavily around sexual matters.[18]

Slang is ephemeral; terms used in one generation may pass out of usage in another. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s, the terms "cottage" (chiefly British) and "tearoom" (chiefly American) were used to denote public toilets used for sex. By 1999, this terminology had fallen out of use to the point of being greatly unrecognizable by members of the LGBT community at large.[19]

Many terms that originated as gay slang have become part of the popular lexicon. For example, the word drag was popularized by Hubert Selby Jr. in his book Last Exit to Brooklyn. Drag has been traced back by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to the late 19th Century. Conversely, words such as "banjee", while well-established in a subset of gay society, have never made the transition to popular use. Conversations between gay men have been found to use more slang and fewer commonly known terms about sexual behavior than conversations between straight men.[20]

In the Philippines, many LGBT people speak with Swardspeak, or "gay lingo", which is a more extensive use of slang as a form of dialect or way of speaking. Other argots are spoken in southern Africa (Gayle language and IsiNgqumo) and Indonesia (Bahasa Binan). More specifically, in a country like Thailand, LGBT slang was always present in their history due to their religious, behavioral, and social nature. However, before the term LGBT was introduced, the Thai community would use the terms Kathoey and Tom. The term Kathoey was used to describe transgender women who dress, act, or partake in surgery to become female, and the term Tom as well as "handsome girls" in Thai was used to describe women who liked women. Homosexuality and transgenderism has always existed throughout their history, as their behavioral nature did not align with heterosexual ideals.[21]

General slang terms

Terms describing gay men

Bears at the 2009 Marcha Gay in Mexico City

Slurs

Terms describing lesbians

A member of the Dykes on Bikes motorcycle club

Terms describing bisexual or pansexual people

Terms describing androgynous or intersex people

Terms describing transgender and non-binary people

Further information: Attraction to transgender people § Alternative terms

Slurs

Terms related to transgender and non-binary people

Terms describing cisgender or heterosexual people

Terms describing asexuality or aromanticity

LGBT subgroups

Bears marching in San Francisco's pride parade in 2004

The following slang terms have been used to represent various types of people within the LGBT community:

See also

References

Citations

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Works cited

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Further reading