Thursday, October 2, 2008

LGBT HISTORY: Identities

Yea! Semi-original content!

In this blog, we're going to be covering the various terms people use to delineate their sexual and gender idenities and maybe some historical context. Most of the information is gleaned from various sources, including the urban dictionary and wikipedia.

"Alphabet Soup"
There are so many, that I wanted to just put this first and out there because you will hear me use these terms. The CDC, in all its wisdom, put together a rubric to describe sexual behaviors independent of identity in order to better gauge homosexual behavior. "M" means man, "W" means woman, and "S" mean "who has sex with." So, easy ones: MSM (man who has sex with men), WSW (woman who has sex with women), MSW (man who has sex with women), and WSM (woman who has sex with men). But there are more that have popped up too: MSMNGI (man who has sex with men, not gay identified), MSMPC (men who have sex with men in particular circumstances), and BMSR (black man at sexual risk) are the three that come to mind. Then, of course, you have the craiglist alphabet soup: m4m (men for men), m4w (men for women), w4m (women for men), w4w (women for women), mw4m (man/woman for men), etc. There's lots of letters. You will primarily hear me say MSM if ever I use any of these.

Someone who has no sexual attraction to any sex. There's a great blog blogrolled here called Asexual Explorations.

A bear is a stocky, mostly hairy, gay man. Think Al Borland (from Home Improvement) and you have the penultimate bear. There's a whole culture, which is sometimes tied in with leather culture, including magazines, porn labels, contests, "bear runs" (festivals/mini-prides), etc. etc. etc. I once thought I was a bear cub. The reason for the name? Some sort of theoretical similarity in body type -- fat but powerful, and hairy. Yup, that's about it. Oh, and the ideal is the stereotypical, blue-collar American boy. Always a lot of boots, and cowboy hats. A lot of "woof"ing happens at bear events, too, which doesn't make any sense to me because bears don't woof. There's lot of subdivisions too:

  • admirer -- someone who likes bears (sometimes called a chaser)
    cub -- young or younger looking bear
    goldilocks -- the fag hag of a bear (as seen on TV with Kathy Griffin!)
    otter -- man with hair, but generally leaner or more muscular
    panda bear -- Asian bear, often not hairy
    polar bear -- white haired bear
    wolf -- lean, muscular guy who is often found in the company of bears

Receiver in anal intercourse (primarily, though can be used in conjunction with other terms like "WS bottom" or "BDSM" bottom to demarcate the "receiver" or "passive" position). Like the term top, this is listed here because it is often used to elaborate on someone's gender expression in conjunction with other terms -- "femme bottom" or "butch bottom." The bottom is often viewed as the "gay" position, as "receiving" cannot be construed as something a "straight-identified" person would do.

Opposite the vulture (or the pederast, or the chicken hawk), a young boy looking to be, looking like he could be, or being "snatched up" by an older gay man.

There are lots and lots of famous writers who write about this -- but the predominate one is J.L. King who wrote the book On the Down Low. It also gained popular appeal when Oprah talked about it. This describes black and Hispanic men (primarily) who have sex with other men but identify as straight and do not talk about their male sexual partners at all. It is identified as an HIV-risk. Humourously, by identifying as "downlow," you are no longer on "the down low" because, by definition, you are now talking about it. Duh. I think this is a racist and homophobic term, ultimately, because it creates sexual predators out of black men and turns homosexuality into an evil. Moreso, when white guys do this -- and they do, quite a bit -- we think it's funny and call them three beer queers. Term has roots back to the 1930s, gained mass market appeal in the 2003-2006 era.

Two predominate uses: drag queen (male who dresses as a female) and drag king (female who dresses as a male). Overwhelmingly, the term "drag queen" and "drag king" are used for performance dress in the popular lexicon. A transvestite, then, is not a drag queen, while John Travolta in Hairspray would be considered a man in drag (though not, I might add, a drag queen). There is some that say this term is Shakespearean, others who say that it originates from the 1920s. The term comes from the abbreviation of the phrase "dressed as girl;" there is another phrase, drab from "dressed as boy," but "drab king" doesn't sound all that fun.

Very obscure reference, like faggot, but all seem to agree that its a shortened version of bulldyke, which has had a variety of meanings throughout history. It, like the term "queer" is becoming increasing popular.

Someone who has gone through the process of "coming out of homosexuality" by various reparative therapies. Mostly debunked in mainstream psychology, though it has grown in terms of numbers and mainstream interest. Generally accepted as false and psychologically damaging. Several prominent political figures think it's nifty though. Just because you suppress something doesn't mean you aren't.

Someone who went through reparative therapy and then realized what a crock of shit it was and came back. There is an excellent blog that I hope will become reactive called Chronicles of an Ex-Ex-Gay. And he's really cute.

Fag Hag
Preferred term: fruit fly. A straight woman who prefers the company of gay men. There's a lot of jokes and psychology that can go into this one, but I'm not going to talk about it too much. The girls in the club are fabulous and keep their boys in line. Though, all too often, they get left when we have our tricks :-).

Fag Stag
A straight man who prefers the company of gay men. Yea, we can all make the jokes.

Pejorative for a gay man. There seem to be a few possible sources:

  1. "Faggot" from the British meaning "a bundle of sticks" -- a reference to a burning at the stake.
  2. "Faggot" from the British meaning an "old or unpleasant woman." Ms. Chanak, um, what? LOL
  3. "Faygele" from the Yiddish meaning "little bird."
  4. Obscure British reference referring to a man brought into military service basically as a place holder.

Obscure history, but the first literary documentations go back to 1914.

Friend of Dorothy
Old-ish term that is "code" for gay. Dorothy, as in from the Wizard of Oz, was Judy Garland who was seen as a gay icon. Her death may have been one of the many sparks that began the Stonewall Rebellion. No, really. So, now, thanks to dear Judy, we are all friends of Dorothy.

Primarily, a male who has sex with other men who identifies with the "gay community." In recent years, it has become more salient to use this describe people who are identifiably gay, that is, they call themselves as such. The separation of terms of "gay as men who have sex with men" and "gay as people who are part of the gay community" is relatively recent and represents a move away from centralized gay community. Sometimes, though far less commonly, used as "gay woman." It is likely the term arises from the word "gay" meaning carefree, which became construed as "without moral constraints" which ultimately was sexualized.

Until the gay rights movement began, this was considered the proper term for both the identity and the behavior of same-sex behavior. It fell out of vogue in the 1960s and 1970s as an identifier because it was seen as too clinical. "Gay" and "lesbian" replaced it as a means of claiming the identity. Now it is used primarily to describe behavior -- sex with a person of the same sex.

The original alternative to homosexual, coined by a German (those Germans and the sex thing!!!!) and chosen, originally, because the -phile ending gives preference of love over sex. A lot of original LGBT organizations referred to themselves as homophiliac throughout the 1950s and 1960s. If someone called you a homophile these days, you're likely to think that you're being called a fag. Wikipedia reports that this is being used by hate and anti-gay groups, these days, to linke homosexuality and pedophilia. Oh, you crazy anti-gay's.

Contemporary term for the medical condition known as hermaphroditism, used in modern rhetoric as an identity that some people take on to represent a new point on the gender/sexuality spectrum.

A woman who has sex with women -- but not necessarily exclusively. In my experience, this is used by women who identify as having a primary attraction to women, or who are in a current relationship with women. In that way, it describes behavior. It also attaches them to their female-centered relationship needs. Originates from the Greek island of Lesbos.

esbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans. Sometimes modified to be GLBT, or LGBTQ (Q=queer or questioning), or LGBTS (S=straight), or LGBTQS, or LGBTTTQS (T=transgendered, transvestite, and transsexual), LGBTTs (Ts=two spirit), LGBTU (U=unsure), or LGBTQI (I=intersex)... then you could sometimes throw an "A" on there for "allies." For simplicity, this blog uses LGBT. Used to replace "gay community" starting in the 1990s because the latter term was not felt to be inclusive enough. Began as "lesbian and gay," then "LGB," became "LGBT," and is starting to become "LGBTQ" as the term "queer" is becoming more acceptable. Yea, I know, there's a lot, but there's two other fun ones as reported by Wikipedia (the source of all information in the known universe):

  • MSGI = minority sexual and gender identities
    FABGLITTER = (fetish, allies, bisexual, gay, lesbian, intersexed, transsexual, transgendered engendering revolution)

An older man who "guides" a younger man into the coming of age, from the Greek paiderastia. It was a very popular Greek form of socialization, and it did involve sexual favors. The term "pederasty" pops up occasionally in European and American law throughout history, especially in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. We also call these men "vultures" or "sugar daddies."

An effeminant gay man or a gay man who has a specialized quality (i.e., "rice queen" is a gay man who prefers Asians; "bean queen" is a gay man who prefers Hispanics; "piss queen" is a gay man who prefers WS). Also used in conjunction with "drag."

You're about to get a whole post on this one, so, just wait...

Same-Sex Loving
This is a relatively new term and one that caught me off guard when I first heard -- also interchangeable with "same-gender loving." I think it's a creation of the black community's unwillingness to accept the term gay which has racial and classist connotations. It's a new take on the idea.

Term originating from the Greek poet Sappho, who wrote beautiful love stories that were sexually explicit towards other women who stayed on her island of ... get this ... Lesbos. Term used to describe lesbians, though rarely. More commonly used as an adjective, "Sapphic."

From the Biblical town of Sodom, which some claim was destroyed by God due to their homosexual and unnatural sexual acts (that's not true, actually, but whatever). Until recently "sodomy laws" were common in America (all of them struck down in 2003 as an unnatural invasion of privacy in Lawrence and Garner v. Texas) and covered, universally, homosexual acts but also included oral sex between heterosexual partners. Very common use of the term dating back to the BC times.

Inserter in anal intercourse (primarily, can sometimes be used in relation to other things, like "WS top," or "BDSM top" in which case it demarcates the "giver" or the "dominate" position). It is listed here because top and bottom (see above) are often used in context with other words, like "femme" or "butch" to elaborate on their gender expression. Often viewed as the more "masculine" of positions. Moreso, like pre-gay rights days, the top can sometimes be construed as the "not gay" person as they are not receiving.

Someone who feels that they are a different gender than their sex represents.

Someone who undergoes the surgery to alter their sex to align with their proper gender.

A person who dresses in the alternate sex for the purpose of personal enjoyment or pleasure. Most of these are straight men -- the stereotypical "husband in the wife's panties" situation. This is not, necessarily, a drag queen.

Old, old, old term used for lesbians from the term tribadism, which is the act of female-to-female intercourse where the two women would rub their vulvae together via a scissor position of the legs. I have never heard this used in a modern context.

Imagine my shock when I found this term actually comes from the junk food twinkie. This is probably the funniest and most enlightening Wikipedia entry I have ever read:

The term's namesake is the "golden-colored phallic-shaped snack cake" Hostess Twinkie, commonly regarded as the quintessential junk food: "little nutritional value, sweet to the taste and creme-filled."[10][11][12] The Twinkie was invented in 1930 and originally contained a banana cream filling, but this was replaced with a vanilla cream filling during a banana shortage caused by World War II.[13][14][12] By the 1950s, "Twinkies had become a school lunchbox staple".[12] The original flavor was re-introduced as an alternative flavor in 2007.[15] A twink is "memorable for his outer packaging", not his "inner depth".[11] The golden-color also referred to those who are tanned from too much time in the sun.[16] The junk food reference has a number of connotations, including a perceived lack of intelligence and being ideal only for a short term, but not having lasting qualities or being very healthy.[16] Most of these concerns no longer apply, as the definition of twink has broadened, and qualifiers (such as muscle or femme) narrow the meaning to a more specific type of twink.[16]
Although the term originated from the American snack food, both the cake and twink have found international use, with Hostess selling "more than half a billion Twinkies" yearly.[10][17][15]

If you ignore that they are talking about the Twinkie, and are talking about a Twink... you understand perfectly what they are talking about. LOL -- "banana cream filling." (also reports that it's a backronym meaning "teenage, white, into no kink.")

A German term from the 19th century, originally used to describe the "third sex" of men who have a female psyche (and, thus, have sex with men). Later used to describe women who have sex with women. I have never heard this used in a modern context. HAHA, but I think it's funny that the term, broken down, means "relating to Uranus" (say it outloud).

Other cultural specific terms: poof (British), hijra (Arabic), two-spirit (American Indian). All of them mean gay. :-)

I think I'm mostly done with this. I got most of the big ones out of the way, and some of the little ones. If you need me to tell you what "bi-curious" means (and the crock of shit it may or may not be), well, then, you can always wiki it!


Anonymous said...

Hey, Mich and I discovered the term 'cis-' yesterday, in the context of 'cisgendered' (ie, one who 'identifies' their gender and biological sex as aligned, such as you and me--well, most days...). It's a Latin prefix, but I don't think it's gained currency in American vernacular until recently. Ever heard it's use before?

-XX Jazmine

Unknown said...

honestly, i'm shocked you wasted your time reading this whole thing.

i did it and was like "oh, i just produced nothing of value." :-)

Michi said...

Jazmine beat me to the punch: cissexual/cisgendered/cisexism indeed.

Jere Keys said...

Jazmine and Michi - I'm glad I'm not the only one championing the use of cis- nowadays. I'm also very conscientious about saying "ally" instead of "straight ally" or "heterosexual ally" because transgender people may be straight, but they are not who we are usually talking about when we say "ally"