While the term gay can apply to men, women, and non-binary individuals, it is sometimes specifically used to refer to gay men, with the term lesbian tending to be used for gay women. Gay has also been used as an umbrella term for anyone who is non-straight.
"I write to tell you it is a gay house...Some captains came in the other night, and the mistress wanted us to sleep with them." [English Girls Decoyed To France, The Sentinel, Issue 73, May 1885, London, p415] "After discharge A.Z. lived for some time at home. He was not happy at the farm and went to a Western city where he associated with a homosexual crowd, being "gay," and wearing female clothes and makeup. He always wished others would make advances to him." [Rorschach Research Exchange and Journal of Projective Techniques, 1947, p.240]
The term homosexual was coined by Károly Mária Kertbeny in an 1868 letter to Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, deriving from Greek 'homos', meaning 'the same'. However many queer communities have expressed their preference towards gay over homosexual, with the latter definition feeling too clinical, referring to when homosexuality was originally classified as a mental illness in the DSM.
Gay individuals are typically associated with crossdressing though this is not an inherent aspect to gay identities. The association to crossdressing stems from a 'gay' aesthetic, involving 'carefree' and 'frivolous' attire. This was especially influenced by film and media at the time, including a popular film from 1939 that depicted a scene of a man wearing feminine clothing, pronouncing they were suddenly gay.
Other words were used as synonyms for gay, or same-sex attraction including queer, faggot, fairy, and homo. Some of these were intended to be used offensively, though have been reclaimed over the years in a more positive light.
Whilst the Greeks or Romans did not have a social construct for 'homosexuality' at the time, they had practiced diverse sexual relations commonly referred to as pederasty. These relationships involved an older male (the erastes) and a younger male (the eromenos). Both words originate from the Greek erô, erân, "to love". Various statues, art, and literature of these eras depicted these same sex relations. Examples include a love poem written from one man to another, a recount of a man smitten by a boy whilst in an unhappy heterosexual marriage, and a vase painting of two men courting.
In many cases these relations between adolescent boys and older men were not considered a permanent aspect of one's identity, but more of a temporary phase in life - as later on these same young men would often marry women. Though whilst pederasty was an accepted practice, it was discouraged as an indefinite relationship. Greek relationship roles came in the form of a dominant and passive figure, the younger male taking on the passive role until of independent age, with other passive figures including women and slaves.
Records of gay women were far and few between due to the patriarchy domination of ancient Europe cultures.
Same-sex relations were also recorded in Africa, regarding potentially the first known homosexual couple in history. The art of the two men were portrayed in an intimate pose, almost kissing.
Male Azande warriors in northern Congo where known to participate in same-sex activities with younger men, who also assisted with daily household tasks.
Various African tribes had their own terms to describe gay relations, such as 'yan daudu', a Hausan term to describe feminine men that are considered as a wife in relationships. Other tribes believed same-sex sexuality to be a source of magical powers, encouraging crop yields and good health.
Asian history had various portrayals of same-sex relationships recorded as early in the 1800s. Though it wasn't widely practiced it was not seen as an offence nor threat in various regions.
Homosexual sex is featured as an entire chapter in the Indian Kama Sutra, with lesbians being recognised as 'swarinis'.
The two Indian gods Varuna and Mitra were depicted in a homosexual relationship. In historic texts they are mentioned as the personification of two half-moons, merging with one another as the moon waxes and wanes.
In ancient China, ten out of thirteen emperors were documented as having relations with other men, in addition to their wives and concubines. These tie into palace harems in 2,600 BC featuring both men and women.
Prominent aspects of support to gay communities include protests and pride parades. The first pride march celebrated in London took place in the year 1972, with a turnout of over two thousand marchers. Madrid celebrated its first Pride event in 1978, and Berlin hosted its first Pride event in 1979.
Along with woman's rights and the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement has been brought to the forefront of society in the last century. Various countries have legalized same-sex marriage and decriminalized same-sex engagement during the 21st century. Noteworthy events include court mandated laws in the U.S in 2015, and Germany in 2017. Australia passed legislation allowing same-sex marriage after a country wide vote by a 62% to 38% margin. The first country to legalize same-sex marriage was the Netherlands in year 2000.
Homophobia is a form of queerphobia defined as the irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or people who possess homosexual tendencies. In Abrahamic influenced regions, homosexuality was often condemned by religious cultures as a 'crime against nature', especially sex between men (sodomy). With the rise of Christianity in Rome, the death penalty for homosexual intercourse was enacted in 342 AD by Emperor Constantine of the Roman Empire.
Other 18th and 19th century punishments for sodomy included death by fire or hanging, as well forced castrations in France, Great Britain, Italy, Denmark, and other surrounding countries. Later on these sentences became less harsh, usually instead resulting in years of imprisonment.
Religious influences from early history are still impactful in the 21st century, and contribute to various conservative views, especially that of Evangelical Protestants. Various countries to this day either denounce gay identities, or outright criminalize them. Countries such as Russia, Iran, and Afghanistan are notorious for their strict bans on homosexual media, practices, and relationships. Majority of homophobic countries are African.A report in 2020 found that wealthier countries were more likely to be accepting of homosexuality.
|Bisexual||Similar||Attraction to two or more genders||Gay only specifies one form of attraction|
|Gayhet||Similar||Gay attraction to one gender, straight attraction to another||Gayhet requires straight attraction|
|Lesbian||Similar||Gay attraction to women||Gay can encompass attraction to men|
|Omnique||Similar||Fluid attraction that is always gay||Gay attraction can be static|
|Straight||Opposite||Attraction to the opposite or dissimilar gender(s)||Straight refers to different gender attraction|
|Gay Man||Similar||Gay attraction to men||Gay can encompass attraction to women|
|Gay / Homosexual||Sexual||||Gilbert Baker|
|Gay / Homoromantic||Romantic||||Pride-Flags|
|Gay / Homoplatonic||Platonic||||Kau|
|Gay / Homoqueerplatonic||Queerplatonic|| ||Pride-Flags|
|Gay / Homosensual||Sensual|| ||Pride-Flags|
Prefixes and Suffixes
|Label||Prefix / Suffix||Flag||Description||Creator(s)|
|Homocurious||-Suffix||||Primarily attracted to dissimilar genders but interested in similar genders||Beyond-mogai-pride-flags|
Flags and Symbols
The rainbow flag was originally decided by Gilbert Baker and was first displayed in a Gay Freedom Day Parade celebration on June 25, 1978. The flag represents the entire LGBT community, but is commonly used to represent gay individuals specifically. The original flag had eight stripes, with each stripe having a specific meaning: hot pink - sex, red - life, orange - healing, yellow - sunlight, green - nature, turquoise - magic/art, indigo - serenity, violet - spirit.
This design has undergone some changes over the years. As the demand of rainbow flags increased they began selling with seven stripes, without the pink stripe due to the lack to pink fabric. In 1979 the design was changed again, combining teal and indigo so the flag could be split in half for each side of the street. This has lead to the most common variation of the gay flag seen today presenting six stripes.
The general/specific homo- flag was designed by Tumblr user pastelroswell via submission to the blog Beyond-MOGAI-Pride-Flags. Each color is paired with a similar color to represent attraction to and relationships between similar genders. This is also meant to visually illustrate that homo- individuals aren’t necessarily attracted to the exact same gender exclusively, eg. a homosexual man might be attracted to both binary and nonbinary men, or individuals that are multigender with at least one of those genders being masculine. The outermost stripes being purple represents purple’s history as a symbolic color of the LGBTQIA+/gay/queer communities, which intersect directly with the homo- community.
An alternate gay flag was created by Tumblr user Delta. It was defined as representing any gay individual regardless of their gender or the amount of genders one is attracted to. Another alternate gay flag was created by Imoga Pride. On a broad level, it was defined as representing gai, mspec, and non-binary individuals. The brown was chosen to represent gay bears, green to represent unfeminine/masculine gays and gay men, green-yellow to represent gay non-binary and abinary individuals, pink-yellow to represent unmasculine/feminine gays, gay twinks, and femmes, purple to represent variant gays (those not usually represented by the gay community), gay pluralians, butches, stags, and teal-blue to represent curious or questioning gays.
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