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16 September 2008, 3:15 pm 63 Comments

Gay Adjectives vs. Lesbian Nouns


Today, the words gay man and lesbian are the most recommended words to use to describe people attracted to members of the same sex.

The above quote from Wikipedia’s page describing the word “gayepitomizes something that I’ve been wondering about for a while. Why is it that men can be, among other things, gay, but when a woman likes other women, she’s no longer a woman: She’s a lesbian? Why is it that in our language, among many others, the primary indicator for a man’s sexuality is an adjective, but for a woman it’s a noun?

This convention is codified by our friends over at GLAAD, who instruct members of the media on how to tell the stories of LGBT people “with fairness, integrity and respect” in their Media Reference Guide. In the section “Offensive Terminology to Avoid” the guide’s authors make the case for “gay” and “lesbian” over the overly clinical and presumed offensive term homosexual:

Offensive: “homosexual” (n. or adj.)
Preferred: “gay” (adj.); “gay man” or “lesbian” (n.)

Please use “lesbian” or “gay man” to describe people attracted to members of the same sex….

In the strictest interpretation of the convention, gay is an adjective you use to describe one of the many aspects of a man. He can be tall. He can be blond. He can be gay. But he’s still a man. Queer men are rarely referred to as “the gays“, and when they are it’s either reflecting a negative opinion about us gays or a straight person’s inability to communicate with queer people.

However, with that same strict interpretation, when a woman comes out of the closet, she turns into a different thing entirely, a lesbian. A les-being. Lesbian is often used as an adjective, but only to refer to gay-lady types of things, like “her lesbian relationships” or “that lesbian training camp.”

No one is assuming that “woman” and “lesbian” are mutually exclusive. Someone can be a woman and a lesbian. She can also be a professional basketball player or a brain surgeon. But why can’t we simply modify the words “woman” or “lady” with an adjective?

Why all the fuss? It’s my belief that, on some level, the noun “lesbian” displaces the notion of “woman” in people’s brains. (And replaces it with a notion that nearly rhymes with “alien.”) I imagine that when someone hears or reads the concept of a “gay man”, the idea of “man” fills a spot, and hanging off of it is a modifier “gay.” The modifier isn’t as strong as the noun, and can be ignored, forgotten or otherwise deemphasized. However, using the noun “lesbian” puts far too much focus on the sexual orientation of the person. It puts the carpet munching right up there in your face. And in my opinion, it prevents the beholder from separating the person (the body) from the sexual orientation.

This is similar to how I tell people that “I am vegetarian” and not that “I am a vegetarian.” I don’t want people to subconsciously portray me as some PETA-trained, guerilla, anti-meat activist who’s going to rip them a new asshole for having had bacon for breakfast. (The bacon will do that on its own, eventually.) My vegetarianism is only one aspect of my life, and I prefer to use adjectives to describe those aspects.

TNG Stephanie does a great job of making up lots of new terms for queer women that always crack me up: lady gay, lesbot, homa, etc. But all of them are still nouns. And all of them separate the “homas” from the “homos” by using different words for queers of different genders. (Actually, “homa” and “homo” doesn’t, and I think it’s pretty awesome.)

Lately, I’ve been using the word “queer” almost exclusively. It’s an adjective and can be applied to people, parties, music, sex, etc. It’s quite versatile that way. It’s also a good catch-all for those who don’t identify as straight but have a hard time carrying either the “gay male” or “lesbian” banners. And it unites all us non-straight-identified folks under one five-letter word that’s actually pronounceable, versus the alphabet soup that is LGBTQIXYZ…

What are your thoughts on the matter? Is “queer” the way to go? Are gay men and lesbians so different that we should have different terms? Are you wondering why a man is so interested in what lesbians are called? Your thoughts are always welcome.

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  • Alex said:

    I agree with the general sentiment against the use of nouns in relation to queerness.

    Personally, I’ve always felt that “lesbian” had more, and more specific, philosophical/political implications than suggested by “gay wowman”. I don’t know, this may just be my exposure to queer academia talking. (I similarly feel that “queer” carries a lot of philosophical/political implication – it’s more than merely “not straight”. I don’t mind using “queer” as a noun.)

    I thought, historically (and I could be wrong), that “lesbian” as a separate term was consciously added to “gay” (i.e. to make it “Gay and lesbian”, and now “LGBT”, and then…) to promote female visibility. Which doesn’t really explain why it’s a noun, but it would explain the different term.

    I have similar issues with trans related vocabulary. I really hate “transsexual” and “transgender” as nouns (the latter just sounds stupid, to me). I also dislike “transsexual” in general because of the female visibility point I made above – besides being coined to pathologise us, “transsexual” originally meant MtF, and I think that the word automatically conjures up “man in a dress” for 99% of the population. FtMs don’t need any help being invisible.

  • Alex said:

    < /wall of text>

    Sorry… procrastinating at work promotes rambling. Heh.

  • Philip said:

    Ugh. Can we send ‘queer’ back where it came from? Not only is it used in the phrase “queer theory”–relatively simple ideas about sexuality couched in impenetrable language to make its practitioners sound academically respectable–but it has for decades been a pejorative term. I’ve never bought the “we’re reclaiming the word from our attackers” argument that has been bandied about in relation to “queer,” “faggot,” “nigger,” and a host of other offensive words.

    My vote: homophile. It’s an old-school gay liberation movement term. “Homo” bring in the same-sex idea, “phile” uses a root word related to love. It doesn’t entirely incorporate the idea of being transgendered, since it relates to sexuality rather than gender. That would be the only non-PC drawback.

  • Jamie said:

    I am a gay woman and not a fan at all of the term lesbian. Sounds weird, but it just doesn’t feel like me. Maybe it is that I have a negative association with the word or something. I wish we could get rid of it completely. I’m all for the general “gay man” and “gay woman” thing.

    Thanks for bringing up what I always wondered about – why we have to be referred to differently. Nice post!

  • Anonymous said:


    You don’t like “queer” as a reclaimed word, but endorse something that gets shortened back down to “homo”?

  • Jack said:

    @Philip: Thank you. I hate queer as a generic denominator of homosexuality for two reasons. Firstly, the base definition of the term in most dictionaries results in homosexuality being the 4th, 5th, or 6th definition after things like:

    # Deviating from the expected or normal; strange: a queer situation.
    # Odd or unconventional, as in behavior; eccentric. See Synonyms at strange.
    # Of a questionable nature or character; suspicious.
    # Slang Fake; counterfeit.
    # Feeling slightly ill; queasy.

    Secondly, my experience has been that there is a subset of the LGBTQQ community that chooses queer as a descriptor to specifically not ascribe any particular sexual paradigm to themselves.

    As for lesbian, to be honest I’ve never considered the word to be a specific noun, but as an adjective that is always modifying the same word “woman.” I think that it became more common usage because saying “lesbian woman” was seen as redundant.

    And I’m fairly certain that Alex is right about the historical addition to the movement of the L to bring greater female visibility.

  • Philip said:

    So don’t shorten it. The word is “homophile.” If idiots choose to shorten it to “homo,” I’m not going to concern myself with them.

    Simple solutions to complex problems!

  • Michael said:

    @ Philip

    I think “homophile” sounds too much like “pedophile” or “hemophilia”. While those of us with brains know the difference, the rest of america will just think of us as having some sort of mental affectation or disease.

  • Philip said:

    Thank you, Jack. Great comment. Yes, Alex is correct about the increased use of “lesbian.” As in Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon’s book “Lesbian/Woman,”the term should be seen in connection to womanhood, as a descriptive adjective. It is a case of a word that is an adjective being “nouned.”

    I can’t answer why “lesbian” has come to almost always be used as a noun, except that it is shorter to say “lesbian” than “lesbian woman” all the time.

  • Alex said:


    “Reclaimed word” drama aside, I think the strength of “queer” is that it’s not “a generic denominator of homosexuality”. Because it’s not just all about the homosexuals. It’s cool not to have to spit out half the alphabet to be inclusive, and it’s cool to be able to communicate the jist of my orientation without feeling like I’m implying something that’s inaccurate (like “gay” and “bi” both do).

    I’m curious – what’s your issue with people who don’t want to “ascribe any particular sexual paradigm”?

  • Philip said:

    Once again, morons need not apply.

    However! As I am always one to look at the practical situation rather than the pie-in-the-sky, in-an-ideal-world solution, you’re right, Michael. The term is close in its sound to those other terms, which could cause problems.

    But if we’re only using the term to refer to ourselves, as a way to lessen our annoyance at “gay man” vs. “a lesbian,” at adjectives versus nouns, then why not “homophile”? Outsiders who don’t like us are going to call us “fags” or “queers.” Most of the rest of America has been conditioned to refer to us as “gays” and “lesbians.” As far as I’m concerned, we can choose whatever terms we want to refer to ourselves.

    I like “homophile.” But the initial poll, as indicated in the responses to your post, says that, while I’ve run the idea up the flagpole, there’s no one else saluting it. C’est la vie.

  • Stephanie said:

    great post – i h8 the word lesbian. it sounds like alien.

    i prefer to simply say that i am a person who has the gay.

  • Jack said:

    @Alex: I don’t have a problem with people who choose to use the term for the specific purpose of not ascribing to one particular sexual paradigm. I do have a problem with using that term for myself and by extension having people suggest using this term to describe me. Basically, my point which I was trying to make quickly is that the OP was suggesting using a term which already has started accumulating it’s own connotations (as well as strict definition associations), and that would be problematic.

    I do agree with the OP that the alphabet soup for the movement is getting a bit out of hand, but the solution isn’t to rename the individual members of that group but to re-brand the movement. And to some extents you are seeing that nowadays where things are no longer being named “Gay and Lesbian…” but instead “Equality…”

  • adam isn't here said:

    i’m never really one to get upset about language, but i, like michael, am a big proponent of queer. i wouldn’t generally describe myself that way, i’d be much more likely to describe myself as a fag than queer. but queer is really broad and i like that.

    regarding “reclaiming language”, i support that too. i say fag all the time. i’m not shy about saying dyke either. truly, one of the greatest insights i ever reached was when i realized that being called a fag didn’t hurt my feelings because i AM a fag.

  • adam isn't here said:

    i’m never really one to get upset about language, but i, like michael, am a big proponent of queer. i wouldn’t generally describe myself that way, i’d be much more likely to describe myself as a fag than queer. but queer is really broad and i like that.

    regarding “reclaiming language”, i support that too. i say fag all the time. i’m not shy about saying dyke either. truly, one of the greatest insights i ever reached was when i realized that being called a fag didn’t hurt my feelings because i AM a fag.

  • adam isn't here said:

    i’m never really one to get upset about language, but i, like michael, am a big proponent of queer. i wouldn’t generally describe myself that way, i’d be much more likely to describe myself as a fag than queer. but queer is really broad and i like that.

    regarding “reclaiming language”, i support that too. i say fag all the time. i’m not shy about saying dyke either. truly, one of the greatest insights i ever reached was when i realized that being called a fag didn’t hurt my feelings because i AM a fag.

  • adam isn't here said:

    oh and philip, if you’re going for the old school, why not similisexual?

  • adam isn't here said:

    oh and philip, if you’re going for the old school, why not similisexual?

  • adam isn't here said:

    oh and philip, if you’re going for the old school, why not similisexual?

  • Ms. Cavanaugh said:

    I see more and more people using queer, but it just isn’t the right word for me. I shy away from labels in the first place, though I guess I would be technically bisexual, considering I’ve slept with about equal numbers of men and women.

    And I like the word lesbian. Anything that aligns me with Sappho isn’t such a bad deal.

  • Alex said:

    I’ve heard the “lesbian” vs “lesbian woman” debate before and do try to use “lesbian” as an adjective whenever I remember but, unfortunately, I don’t always catch it.

    On the “queer” front, I wrote a couple of articles on my blog about it – basically arguing that using LGBT creates divisions within our community. Queer is a word I’ve come to accept but an alternative would not opposed (I disliked queer at first).


    x x

  • Philip said:

    Adam: Funny you should bring that up! I just got myself a copy (after years of trying) of “The Intersexes: A Study of Similisexualism as Problem in Social Life”(1908) by “Xavier Mayne”/Edward Iraneaus Prime-Stevenson. So actually, I’d be down with “similisexual” as a substitute term.

    Would we rather go with an old-school term that emphasizes sex or love? Does my preference for “homophile” over “similisexual” indicate a basic reticence to emphasize sex? Does this mean I’m repressed? A romantic?

    Oh well, back to work. Once again, the 9-to-5 (7-to-3?) is keeping me from getting the truly burning questions answered.

  • adam isn't here said:

    probably means you’re repressed, yeah. i will rue the day that the advocate/logo/hrc/glaad folks finally succeed in taking the sex out of homosexuality.

  • adam isn't here said:

    probably means you’re repressed, yeah. i will rue the day that the advocate/logo/hrc/glaad folks finally succeed in taking the sex out of homosexuality.

  • adam isn't here said:

    probably means you’re repressed, yeah. i will rue the day that the advocate/logo/hrc/glaad folks finally succeed in taking the sex out of homosexuality.

  • Philip said:

    Ooh, now y’all have gone and gotten me worked up. I’m just going to have to write a Hidden History about this: I can call it, “When is a Queer Not a Queer?”

    Yep, that’s it, Adam. It must mean I’m repressed. That’s why I spend my time writing about incestuous lesbians, because I have sexual hang-ups.

  • Steve said:

    What about “yakoo?” I think that would be a good word for all of us.

  • Meaghan said:

    I feel like we’re all standing on the precipice of something profound. You know, something that says:

    “To my feminist eye, this is incredibly influenced by patriarchal standards wherein men retain facets of their identity as generic descriptors and women simply become their identity because they are nothing more.”

    But nah. Let’s talk about how much people hate the word “queer” instead.

  • Philip said:

    Hey, Meaghan — who are you quoting?

  • Meaghan said:

    Philip – myself. Well, not quoting. It’s just something I made up and would’ve signaled with airquotes. Like air guitar, but snobbier.

  • Philip said:

    Cool — but go further! If we’re only on the precipice, push us over the edge. (I, for one, love going over the edge.) Expand, give more examples, write a whole separate post and make us publish it.

  • Ben43 said:

    What’s wrong with “homosexual”? Like “heterosexual” it is a very simple word that describes sexual orientation only.

    If we can reclaim “queer” and “fag”, fine words I use all the time, why not “homosexual”?

    Personally I prefer to use a term that describes sexual orientation only, a term that does not invoke an affected cultural identity that is imposed on me relentlessly.

  • Margaret said:

    I use lesbian or queer to refer to myself, dyke to refer to things that others have labeled as “dyke” (like dyke night), and I don’t feel comfortable at all using “fag.” It’s a very loaded word for me, and it’s not one that is mine to reclaim.

    I prefer the word “queer” as a antonym for “straight,” in sexual orientation and gender identity. I like that it’s a catch-all to bring all of us different people under the same umbrella without alphabet soup or preferring orientation over identity, which LGBT does, and while also having the potential to refer to variations in identity that are not at the extremes of being transsexual.

    Plus, the Lesbiennes want their name back. http://www.advocate.com/news_detail_ektid53716.asp

  • Doug said:

    I have to agree with Ben43. Sure, there are times when I’m gay, and times when I’m queer, and times when I’m a fag (oh, there’s a noun for the male homosexual- does “fag” do for men what “lesbian” does for women?); however, I’m always a homosexual. I just get the impression that all the other words say more about someone than just whom they like to get naked with. It’s fine to use other words if that’s what you mean, but “homosexual” is the best, most basic word. And hey, as a bonus, it’s gender-neutral.

    That said, as I have no problem going retro, what about “Uranian?” It associates us with a god, and makes a fine pair with “lesbian.” Now there’s a term we can all get behind.

    Although I could also get used to “has the gay.”

  • Philip said:

    Gotta leave “Uranian” behind, Doug, sorry. Michael was worried about my adoption of “homophile” sounding too much like “pedophile.” The Uranians were a group of late Victorian and Edwardian gay male poets who all advocated boy-love in their poetry. Probably the most famous among them at this point is Ralph Chubb. (Cue the collective “who???”)

  • clearlyhere said:

    Yeah, Uranian has that bad association with man-boy love (I was reading Strangers: Homo… and I got sick of the word). Also, sounds too much like Iranian.

    Queer is one of those words that reminds me of High School torment, so I abhore it. Homosexual is what I was when I was in the closet. Gay is what I am now, how I have claimed my lifestyle as my own.

    I often wish there was a noun that indicated gay man. I think lesbians have it easier not having to write Lesbian woman all the time.

  • rachel said:

    This is such an interesting debate. I am doing a series of oral histories of women in small Midwest town, and i have struggled and struggled with the wording in my appeals. While “queer” is the most comfortable way for me to describe myself, my mentor pointed out that it is certainly generational. She said she would never use the word and most women her age (50s and 60s) wouldn’t either.

    Interestingly, part of her objection was that as a dyke (her word), she doesn’t feel connected to gay men. The fact that i do feel that connection, as well as my desire to question gender categories in general, is precisely why i like using “queer” so much.

  • Allison said:

    How about this:

    Instead of words for US (the gays, the lezzies, the LGBTBQIIIZZQQEEs) versus THEM (the straights), how about a series of words that describe only who we love/have sex with, regardless of what gender we are:

    Homophile – latin for one who loves men
    Feminaphile – latin for one who loves women
    Omniphile -latin for one who loves both/all/etc.

    Yea, they’re still nouns, not adjectives, but they’re not gender specific (ie: a straight woman is a homophile, but then again, so is a gay man).

    Take away the US vs. THEM.

  • Alex said:


    It’s been done, although more etymologically consistently (since “phile” and “phobia” are Greek, not Latin) with gynophile/gynosexual and androphile/androsexual.

    While certainly they may have their appeal (and I have used “androphile” in the past to try to describe my attraction to “men+butch women”), there are two big issues with them.

    Firstly, I think that it exacerbates the association of gender with sexuality – that gay men are effeminate and gay women masculine. (And, since you’re putting these forward as eliminating the “us vs them, you don’t get to use Philip’s “for gay/non-moron use only”. =)

    Secondly, there is a very good reason to maintain the dichotomy – queer isn’t just our identity, it’s our dating pool. (Yes, people don’t like “queer”, but it’s general, so take this as I mean it =P)

  • Tyrone said:

    I have never noticed the use of “gay man” vs “lesbian.” One possibility is that sometimes the word “gay” is used to describe both same-sex/gender loving men and women. On the other hand, “lesbian” is only used to describe women. I have been moving away from calling same-sex/gender loving women “gay” as I see it along the lines of the using the word “man” for all humanity or calling a group of people guys even if there are women in the group. Could “gay man” be a move away from the the general use of “gay” to describe all homosexuals??

  • Keigh said:

    I’ve also heard “homophile” adapted by straight allies to mean “One Who Loves the Homos (and I don’t mean sapiens.)”

  • Ben said:

    An old gay man that has been a mentor to me for over a decade (native american spiritualist and a Jungian) uses the term “Homosexual” all the time, and does so with a voice reminiscent of James Earl Jones. I once winced when he used it in conversation, but as I’ve aged I’ve come to interpret the word with a sense of honor and history. I think its a good label that should be relieved of its applied shame. That being said, queer is growing on me too. I’ve always felt different/outside the norm, so why not use a word used to define it.

  • Margaret said:

    While I have no new suggestions on replacement words (though I’m a fan of “feminaphila”), I have an idea of why there’s a distinction between “gay man” and “lesbian”.

    “Gay girl” is a 19th century term for prostitute, and “gay” came to refer to the sodomites as well, who were frequently lumped in with the prostitutes as being of an un-hetero, un-saved orientation. The dichotomy between hetero/homo as a type of person didn’t really exist until the mid-to-late 19th century. At this time, men, mostly, were legally prosecuted for being homosexuals–that is for being a person who is sexual with those of the same sex–rather than for being a sodomite–that is the concept of a man who commits sexual acts with another man. (There was no legal word or concept for women who commit sexual acts with other women. Except perhaps frigid.)

    As time wore on, and persecution of the homosexuals made it into an orientation unto itself , the word “gay” stuck with those men, but the use of the term “gay girl” for prostitute was dropped from popular usage, as slang often is. However, a new term was needed for gay women, since “gay” female had different implications than gay men and so these sly nouns developed to mean a homosexual woman that has nothing to do with the implication of prostitution.

    And, like any good student of history, I must name my sources:

    The etymology of the term “gay girl” can be found here

    The idea of the concept of homosexuality developing in 19th-century European culture came from Michel Foucault in his History of Sexuality, vol. 1, and was used by Ruth Mazo Karras in Sexuality in Medieval Europe: Doing Unto Others. Karras, for those familiar with ancient gay history, was a student of John Boswell, who wrote Same-Sex Unions In Premodern Europe.

  • Rebel said:

    I’m a gay woman and I DESPISE the word “lesbian”. I don’t want to be called that. I also don’t like the word “dyke” either, although oddly enough I am perfectly fine with words like “homo”, “fag”, and “faggot”. I would rather be called a “fag” than be called a “lesbian” or a “dyke”, but since “fag” is pretty much exclusively used with men, I guess that won’t happen. I like “fag”, “faggot”, and “homo” because to me they sound almost lighthearted or humorous (at least if they are being used by a gay person or a straight person who isn’t anti-gay). Those words seem to say, “Hey, I’m not taking myself too seriously.” But “lesbian” and “dyke” don’t say that at all–to me, they have all these negative political and social connotations that I don’t want to be associated with. Ideally I’d like to be described as “gay”, “homo”, “queer” or even “homosexual”. The clinical-ness of “homosexual” makes it amusing to me.

    The fact that nouns are used to describe women whereas adjectives are used for men isn’t just something that happens when talking about sexuality. Take hair color for example. Women are described as “blondes”, “brunettes”, or “redheads” all the time, but how often do you hear someone calling a guy a “blonde”, “brunette”, or “redhead”? Almost never. It’s like society is saying that a woman can be entirely encompassed and defined by her hair color, but a man can’t.

    Incidentally, it seems to me that, at least in films and TV shows, we seem to be moving away from using “lesbian” for women characters–maybe it’s just me, but it seems that “gay” is used more often. I’m so happy about this. I hope society-at-large picks up on this and we can leave words like “lesbian” and “dyke” behind.

  • Rain said:

    Call yourself whatever you like.

    We’re all still ‘mos in the end.

  • kel said:

    I’m a queer woman, and while I don’t dislike the term lesbian, I don’t particularly love it either. I would much rather refer to myself as gay or queer. I wish I could embrace the terms dyke and lesbian, but those words have always irked me. It’s a really interesting point that women are always referred to as nouns where men get adjectives, not just with lesbian but in the terms brunette, blonde and redhead as Rebel points out above. It’s something I had noticed and I think definitely what has always bothered me about those words, but I had never exactly pinpointed it.

    Queer is my most preferred word. I like that it’s inclusive of women and men, gay people and bi people, etc.

  • selena said:

    Here’s my preferred lexicon:

    homo: all the gays
    halfmo: bis
    nomo: straights
    idontknowmo: questioning
    fauxmo: europeans/hipsters
    downlowmo: closeted

  • Louisa said:

    Hrm, interesting term. I’m a gay woman, but I don’t like calling myself lesbian, for two reasons.

    1. Lesbian conjures up the idea of those ghastly Fake Lesbians (stupid emo idiots who tried to rub their supposed homosexuality in people’s faces to get a response, thus making me and other LGBT people look like they were faking it for attention. Emos did the same thing for depression – they made it look stupid and put on, as if it were something people did just to get attention, or to shock.) Also “lesbian” brings to mind lesbian porn, and stereotypes of butch and femme. I am not butch or femme, and I’m not fond of porn personally.

    2. I am a woman. I call myself a woman. But I do not feel 100% like a woman. I do not feel properly male, nor female. I wouldn’t call myself trans or “queer” (I do not have gender dysphoria). I actually feel like someone who is stuck somewhere between genders, like a blueprint for a human being with no gender description. I’d call myself “gender neutral.” As such, the term “lesbian” is too rooted in ideas of being female for my taste.

    I don’t like the term queer, because, essentially it means weird, or off, or sort of..wrong. It’s like if you were to call gay people “peculiar” or “retarded” or “wrong.” I definitely wouldn’t call myself genderqueer as a result.
    Usually I use the shorthand “LGBT” to cover all bases. I know that excludes intersex, and “queer”, but like I said I don’t think queer is a good term at all (much like how I hate the word fag.) I sometimes refer to myself as homosexual, but not usually.

  • Louisa said:

    Anyway, lesbian is a bit of a silly term. I mean, how would you feel if you were a male from the island of Lesbos? Or even a heterosexual woman from Lesbos? I guess you’d just be forced to say “I’m Greek, from Lesbos.”
    I think that the term “gay” has a much more logical etymology.
    Also, when coming out, it’s a lot easier to say “I’m gay” quickly (before you chicken out) than say “I’m a lesbian.” I just prefer phrasing it like that.

    I also think that when lesbians are delineated as lesbians, it separates us from other LGBTS. For instance, that stupid stereotype that gay men hate gay women. That doesn’t make sense, unless you are thinking in a stereotypical term; of all gay men being ridiculous flaming queens and all gay women being irritating political leather dykes. But I just think LGBT men and women both have the experiences of having a non heterosexual orientation in common, and thus they understand each other far better than, say, a heterosexual woman would understand the issues of being a homosexual man (despite what stupid girly movies would have you think.)
    My friend has a male friend who is very much ridiculously, stalkerishly in love with him. This stalkerly friend hates women. He asked about me, and my friend said that I was gay. Stalkerly man said “She’s not GAY, she’s a LESBIAN.” So what..I can’t be gay? I have to be something else, just because I’m a woman, and I can’t POSSIBLY even begin to understand your motivations and experiences? Gah…annoying.

  • Jackson Goff said:

    Perhaps we could do it according to what we intend. A uniform set of terms that one must choose to express one’s ideas or else be set upon by the political corrections officers. Naturally the final arbiters would be the gay mafia.

    @adam isn’t here: “one of the greatest insights i ever reached was when i realized that being called a fag didn’t hurt my feelings because i AM a fag.”

    Fag Being an old British term, as gay is, lends it dignity. And for those who feel they deserve to be called fag, it assists in denigration. The same for either gender since personal identity is subsumed by wholesale rejection of otherness.
    Homosexualist Gore Vidal argues that homosexual describes acts, not people. His suggestion is supplied here for discussion because we can do better. Personally I’m partial to Sexsimilarist* because my favorite, Sexpert, is too generic. Besides wouldn’t Tim Curry sound great pronouncing it. *From the Latin Sexualis similaris.
    Niggardly A word meaning petty or stingy, which is in no way pejorative. Let’s reclaim it from hysterical illiterates and donate it to the gay mafia’s bookkeeper.
    Sapphist and Platonite Recast your sexual direction as admiration of enduring ancient authors. Choose who’s poetry you enjoy most. Sappho, of course, lived on Lesbos, which is probably why she caught the gay. And Plato was a big old homo anywhere, recruited by Aristotle. [NB: The parallel term, Platonist, is already in use].
    BONUS Familiar figures from current literature give us terms for heteros: Dicks and Janes [or non-Dicks] [or wo-dicks?].
    Str8 Don’t consent to be called bent if heteros get to be straight. That’s just arbitrary, like never letting black go first on a chess board. I love to call heteros breeders out of respect for their millennia of passing on gay DNA—thanks folks, never could have done it without you. Once they get used to the new name, we’ll take over straight, but to avoid that bent association, we’ll update it to str8. At least it’s easier to pronounce than g0y

    @Doug: Uranian?

    Bulgarian Really, Doug? I hear the snickers now. Maybe you pronounce Uranus correctly, accenting the first syllable, but most school kids don’t. So here’s to the charming and equally obscure Bulgarian.

  • Sean said:

    “fag”, “faggot” and “gay” in the derogatory sense are everyday words where I live (Ireland), much more so than I have noticed anywhere else. I despise these words but could literally not conceivably avoid them in any way. It is extremely hypocritical when people say they are pro-gay, but continue to use these terms everyday. For me, growing up with this vocabulary made it very difficult to come to terms with my own sexuality, and especially with associating myself with the word ‘gay’.

    Also, out of curiosity, what would be an acceptable male equivalent to “lesbian”?
    Is there a masculine “Lesbian”?

  • chase said:

    personally, i despise fag and faggot. Why? Because it was a term to describe gay men that would be used as firewood when no firewood was availiable to burn ‘witches’ at the stake. So yeah, not an appealing word to me

  • A said:

    I can’t really take part in the main topic of this discussion, I wouldn’t be qualified to give an opinion of what homosexual people would like to be called. I should only note that right now, if I want to try and not offend anybody, but just give some factual input, I cannot really do that unless I become almost an “expert” in the topic of this discussion, not with a 100% certainty anyway. Thus I used the clinical term, since modern science is supposed to, unlike its predecessor, be completely non-discriminatory and rely only on scientifically proven or conceptualized fact.

    @Jackson Goff
    I would like to point out that Bulgaria is a country in Eastern Europe (not that obscure actually). Any kid who has been taught which are the members of the EU (not exactly apocryphal knowledge) will know the name. Incidentally, the folk who live in Bulgaria are known as Bulgarian (and have been known as such for .. since the country’s name first appeared in the English language, I should think). It would definitely be very confusing :) .

    Also, Mr. Goff, on a side-note: I believe that You have a little problem if, even in a joking manner, think of or refer to heterosexual people as “breeders”. Firstly, when You tell it to a heterosexual person, they will probably not find it amusing (seriously..) – and that’s a good rule of a thumb to follow. The same goes for blonde-haired women. I don’t know about Your country, but at least half of the jokes in mine are about how stupid or naive blonde-haired women are. Sometimes one doesn’t even think about it. Needless to say, it’s not really amusing, in fact, it’s exactly the opposite (and I am not a blonde woman).
    There is another issue here – heterosexual people used to talk quite pejoratively of homosexual people. They didn’t hate them, no, not really. But they used to think in a certain way, and that, just like the blonde women jokes, became a mental habit as one’s life went on. I think one should never devalue (the wholesome meaning or the life of) another human being, for any reason, if one can. Even in thought. I believe it IS a problem, even at that level.

  • Jake said:

    I wish that I had written this post! :)

  • David said:

    I prefer the term “Vaginatarian” as it describes both straight men and lesbians.

  • Succubus Evaligan said:

    I am a lesbian women. I dislike and hate queer and gay words. I think that gay and queer are so androcentric and phallocentric.

  • Eric said:

    Have you thought of the term “Uranian” as a counterpart to “Lesbian”, i.e. a word that can be used as an adjective or as a noun and identifies the sex of the person immediately (unlike “gay”)?

    As in: “To have altered my life would have been to have admitted that Uranian love is ignoble. I hold it to be noble – more noble than other forms.”~Oscar Wilde

    I think the term was occasionally used to refer to female homosexuality as well in past, but that doesn’t make sense since the term arose from the account in which Aphrodite was born from the heavens, a process in which the female had no part. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uranian

    Anyway, in future, when people will hopefully be less uptight about homosexuality, we could refer to people by referencing the sex they are attracted to, rather than whether that sex is the same as their own or not. Hence: androphiles and gynophiles. (And biphiles, I suppose.)

  • Philip Clark said:

    The reason no one will ever adopt Uranian again on a broad scale is that it was a term eventually linked to a group of late Victorian and Edwardian boy-love poets. Timothy d’Arch Smith’s book Love in Earnest (1971) is an enlightening look at that group.

    I like your idea, Eric, of androphile and gynophile (or the old-school “homophile”), but I think that ship has sailed.

  • lauren said:

    David, you must a penister, gay boy or straight boy, right?
    Count me in as a woman who abhors the archaic, ugly, useless term of lesbian used by neanderthals. Gay woman is fine. Transsexual and transgender terms are stupid. If you’re transgender you are now either boy or gal so say it. Transsexual – who cares, you’re play-acting.
    “Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

  • Matt Bennett said:

    Totally agree. Nouns are used to offend someone, fag, rug-muncher… adjectives (also can be offensive, obviously) are more able to be used to just describe. It’s why ‘trans’ is better than ‘tranny’. I think queer is definitely the best way to go.

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