What does “gay” mean?

zaroon asks: What are gays?

Hi zaroon –

“Gay” is a fairly new term for people (the term usually means men, but sometimes means both men and women) who are sexually attracted to people of their own sex.  The more long-standing term is “homosexual,” which means the same thing.

The word “gay” used to mean something very different, a carefree sort of happy.  The decade of the 1890s was referred to as “The Gay Nineties,” due to its partying atmosphere and bright music, for example.  As the word’s usage as a term for homosexuality has risen, we’ve pretty much lost the old meaning, which is too bad, since there’s no other word that means the exact same thing as it did.

As humans tend to do, many will tell you other answers to your question.  They’ll tell you that gays are weak, effeminate men.  Or that gays are men who wear bright colors, or even dress up as women.  They’ll tell you that gays are attracted to children, or are always thinking about sex, or that they’re all fans of musical theater.  These are no truer than the idea that all dogs are vicious, or friendly, or great swimmers.  There are very ‘macho’ gays; there are very strong, forceful ones in positions of leadership; there are gays who dress very plainly, and who absolutely hate musicals!  And there is certainly no correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia (interest in children).

What I’m getting to, zaroon, is that the only thing gays ‘are’ is men who are attracted to other men (or men and women who are attracted to their own sex).  Any other definition of what they are is based in a prejudice.




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