THE LANGUAGE OF THE Homosexual (Oct, 1965)

It’s interesting that he defines “Coming out” as essentially discovering that one is gay instead of becoming public about it. I guess that this makes sense since being publicly gay in the 60’s wasn’t really an option.

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Homosexual slang, says this expert, is becoming an important part of our language and literature.

by Donald Webster Cory

America is a mixture of many types of speech reflecting the cultures and backgrounds of its teeming millions. One type that is widely used, though not given recognition, serves a very important function in the lives of many people. This is the language of the homosexual.

There are 2 ways in which homosexual slang is used. The first is when it is employed by the outsider or “straight” individual to describe or refer to homosexuals ar.d their activities. In this way the slang mirrors society’s disapproval and permits a person to talk of homosexuals without incurring any guilt by association.

The other, or “inside” language, is used by the homosexual and serves several purposes other than simple communication. It helps to transform the feeling of being a despised minority to that of a special in-group.

Not only do homosexuals have a language, which in itself becomes an identifying factor, but because of its secret nature it imparts the feeling of belonging, a need particularly strong in the members of this minority.

When these members meet, the dropping of a few homosexual slang words enables recognition, and strengthens the bond of fraternity. It makes them comrades as it were in the common struggle. By giving new meanings to everyday words, it allows a more open discussion of forbidden subjects with little fear of detection by the “outsider.” Words or phrases are also employed to describe other members, not only as to appearance, manner, desirability, and sexual preference, but also to reflect the prejudices of the community.

These labels are often quite stinging in their critical content, and reflect the two-sided feelings of these people toward themselves and their sexual outlook.

Since more and more of these words are finding their way into our language and literature, it is worth examining some of them: AC-DC: the bi-sexual, a person who will have sex relations with members of either sex; the expression has no particular emotional connotation and is sometimes heard also in the heterosexual world.

Auntie: an aging homosexual; employed by the more youthful to show their disdain and superiority.

Basket: the bulge produced, usually in a person wearing tight dungarees, by the male genitalia.

Benrus Queen: a homosexual, not necessarily effeminate, who derives gratification from watching others perform a sex act.

Butch: a masculine appearing person, not necessarily a homosexual; it is one of the higher compliments a person can be paid. In lesbian circles, it refers to a very masculine type of female homosexual.

Camp: A life-of-the-party person, usually one who attracts attention by utilizing the mannerisms of the other sex.

To Camp or To Camp It Up: to have fun, create a jovial atmosphere, by employing gay expressions and effeminate gestures, etc.

Chicken Hawk: a chicken is an adolescent; the chicken hawk pursues this type.

Clever: an attractive or good-looking person.

Come Out: A common expression with 2 meanings—(1) to become aware of one’s homosexual interests; (2) to have one’s first homosexual experience.

Dike: female homosexual; lesbian. Bull-Dike: very masculine lesbian. Diesel-Dike: a lesbian who is considered a “fast worker.”

Do Somebody: perform the act of fellatio. This is descriptive terminology; it is a basic phrase employed, having no emotional overtones.

Fairy: seldom used in homosexual circles, except as a term of contempt for another gay person. In heterosexual slang, it is used to refer either to any homosexual, or to an effeminate one.

Femme: the feminine or womanly type of lesbian.

Gay: homosexual.

Group Expression (or Group Therapy) : a gay orgy involving several people.

Hustler: a male prostitute. The name connotes a certain status, at least to those who apply the term to themselves, whereas in the female counterpart those of the profession are looked upon with disdain.

John: the older man who pays for sexual favors from the younger, more attractive person.

Meat Rack: an area designated as a “pick-up” spot.

Meat Sandwich: sexual activity in which three people take part, the more desirable person being the center of attraction, literally as well as figuratively.

Nel: the name applied to the individual, not necessarily an invert, who displays feminine mannerisms. This person is referred to as being “nelly.”

Number: a sexual contact of short duration or little consequence.

Queen: when used by itself usually indicates an effeminate homosexual, but when coupled with a descriptive word, such as “benrus,” it loses the feminine connotation and becomes simply part of the phrase.

Closet Queen: the person who hides his homosexual interest either from himself or the world. The expression carries with it much contempt.

Drag Queen: the homosexual who wears feminine clothing. To “go in drag” is to be dressed in such attire. This behavior is condemned by the vast majority of homosexuals, not only because these people are not considered desirable sexually, but because of the resultant distorted public image.

Size Queen: the invert who prefers the male with a large penis.

Tea-Room Queen: the deviant who loiters in a men’s room (tea-room) for the purpose of making a sexual contact. It is another working expression and has no particular coloration.

Green Queen: the individual who frequents public parks to seek gratification in the concealment of the trees and bushes. The added danger of detection plus the feeling of exposure in public apparently enhances the excitement of the sexual experience.

Queer: again, used almost exclusively in heterosexual circles, to denote the homosexual.

S & M: the sado-masochistic aspect of deviant activity; many homosexuals profess to look upon these members with grave disapproval.

Seafood: a sailor.

Straight: heterosexual; usually used as an adjective.

To Tip: literally to walk, bouncing on the tips of the toes in an exaggerated, feminine gait. When a person says he must tip, he means he must leave or walk away.

Trade: the inserter in the sex act of fellatio; rough trade is the particularly tough or surly individual playing this role.

Trick: the word is interchangeable with “number”; originally used by women prostitutes in referring to their customers, who were “tricked” out of money or other concessions.
Mr. Cory is the well-known author of “The Homosexual in America” and editor of “Homosexualily: A Cross-Cultural Approach.”

  1. Hirudinea says: March 8, 20115:32 pm

    Why am I worried that I knew about 90% of these words?

  2. Tom says: March 8, 20115:33 pm

    I was in a “group therapy” session in college once but do not recall any sexual activity. I don’t think that would have slipped my mind even though it was many years ago.

  3. Alex says: March 9, 20114:27 pm

    As a out gay man, I have heard almost none of these before.

    A trick is a one night stand.
    Trade is generally a whore, or a person who can be bought for a price.
    Rough trade is S&M trade.
    Femme is simply a conjugation of feminine, and is applied to all orientations and gender identities equally.
    “Do Somebody” is not a ‘gay’ phrase. It’s just a euphemism for sex.
    Come Out means to publicly acknowledge your orientation.
    Camp means outrageously effeminate in an ironic or kitschy way.

    Drag queen, hustler, john, chicken hawk, and butch are correct. The rest I’ve never heard of.

  4. Hirudinea says: March 9, 20115:36 pm

    Well Alex this was published in 1965, and by someone I assume wasn’t gay, just an “Anthropologist”, so its bound to have some mistakes today.

  5. David Moisan says: March 10, 20115:37 pm

    It’s remarkable for 1965. I heard most of these except for “tea-room” which hadn’t been current until Larry Craig got caught in one. A streetcorner near my house was once a very popular cruising spot with its own website.

  6. TNH says: August 16, 20111:09 pm

    This guy calls himself an anthropologist, but I don’t think he interviewed many informants. These definitions sound like they either came from a single source, or the author himself was the source. There’s no evidence of disagreement about the precise meanings of what are really very emotionally loaded terms.

    Whoever he is, the source knows the homosexual community and is comfortable with its language. He knows the emotional weight of every term, which modifications make it pejorative or neutral, when and where it’s used, and which terms are not used within the community. When a definition mentions the community’s opinions about a specific habit or practice, the opinions are consistently staid and respectable: S&M, gravely disapproved-of; drag queens, bad for the community’s image; camping it up, a jolly and wholesome activity.

    It all sounds so civilized. There’s no mention of the harassment, beatings, shakedowns, entrapment, and arrests that in some jurisdictions are practically routine. It’s 1965. The Stonewall Riots are four years away.

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