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Gay Terms

Ever wonder what the pink triangle or the rainbow pride flag stand for? Confused about those terms you've heard around campus, but can't seem to recognize? Here is a glossary of Queer terms and symbols which will hopefully help you out. Just scroll down and read away!

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Androgyny: From the combined Greek words for man and woman, it was once used to denote the state of having both male and female attributes. Its current usage is to denote a form of self- presentation somewhere between butch and femme.

Bisexual/Bi: A person who has sexual and emotional relationships with both women and men, though not necessarily at the same time.

Black Triangle: A symbol in the shape of an inverted triangle adopted by lesbian culture in remembrance of the lesbians who were forced to wear a black triangle and were killed by the Nazis in Europe.

Boston Marriage: Used primarily in nineteenth century New England to refer to two women who set up a household together for an extended period of time. Some Boston marriages were undoubtedly lesbian in nature, but others were probably platonic.

Butch: A lesbian who prefers traditionally masculine dress, style, expression, or identity.

Closet: The confining state of being secretive about one's homosexuality.

Colors Historically Associated With Homosexuality:

Green: United States, 1930's to 1950's.
Red: United States, late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Pink: Nazi Germany.
Scarlet: Imperial Rome.
Violet: Imperial Rome.
Blue: present-day Russia.
Lavender: throughout history and in present-day United States.
Rainbow: present-day United States.

Come out: To acknowledge one's homosexuality, either to oneself or to others; most often a public declaration of being lesbian or gay.

Commitment Ceremony: Any ritual, religious or secular, for honoring the union of lesbian or gay male couples.

Cross-dressing: The practice of dressing in clothes traditionally assigned to the opposite gender; also called transvestitism or drag.

Drag: Cross-dressing, assuming both the dress and mannerisms of the opposite gender.

Dyke: Once known as a derogatory term for lesbian, the word dyke was reclaimed by lesbians in the 1970's as slang, and many lesbians now refer to themselves as dykes.

Femme: A lesbian who prefers traditionally feminine dress, style, expression, or identity.

Gay: Homosexual. The term refers to both men and women, though many gay women now prefer to call themselves lesbians.

Gaydar: The uncanny and seemingly innate ability lesbians and gay men tend to have to recognize and detect one another; from gay and radar.

Heterosexism: A bias toward heterosexuality, to the exclusion of homosexuality.

Homophobia: Literally, the fear of homosexuals and homosexuality, sometimes merely implied, but often taken to the point where biased statements are made or biased actions are taken against lesbians and gay men. Homophobia can be societal, external, or internalized.

Lesbian: A female homosexual. The term literally means a resident of the Isle of Lesbos, a Greek island where the ancient lyric poet Sappho, whose versed celebrated love between women, lived.

Pink Triangle: A symbol of the shape of an inverted triangle adopted by lesbian and gay culture in remembrance of the homosexuals who were forced to wear pink triangles and were killed by the Nazis in Europe.

Pride March: A public procession or parade of lesbians and gay men to proclaim the pride, solidarity, and unity of gay people.

Queer: Once known as a derogatory term for homosexual, Queer was reclaimed by lesbian, gay, and bisexual activist in the 1980's as a proud name for themselves. Queer blurs both gender and sexual orientation and is regarded as more inclusive of difference than lesbian or gay.

Rainbow Flag: Designed in 1978 in San Francisco by artist Glibert Baker as a symbol of lesbian and gay pride. Originally, there were eight colors in the flag; pink for sexuality, red for light, orange for healing, yellow for the sun, green for natural serenity, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit. In 1979, the flag was modified to its current six-stripe format (pink was omitted, blue was substituted for turquoise and indigo, and violet became a rich purple). Signifying the diversity and unity of the lesbian and gay movement.

Ring On Pinky: Wearing a ring on the little finger of the left hand has for much of the twentieth century been a code for homosexuality.

Sexual Orientation: Sexual identification, depending on a person's sexual relationships or affinity.

Significant Other: One's chosen romantic partner.

Smash: A young woman's crush on another woman. The term was used in late nineteenth century and early twentieth century women's colleges.

Transgender: An umbrella term for those who blur the lines of traditional gender expression.

Transsexual: A person who has undergone or is preparing to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Transvestite: A person who dresses in the clothes and assumes the gender expression of the opposite sex.

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