Gay traditionally means "happy" but in Modern English it also means homosexual. This meaning is more common now. The word "gay" describes a person who is sexually attracted to people of the same sex. They are often also romantically interested in people of the same sex. This means males who like other males or females who like other females. The word "gay" can mean any homosexual person, but sometimes it specifically means homosexual men. Homosexual women are sometimes called "lesbian" instead.
Gay and straight versus homosexual and heterosexual[change | edit source]
The word homosexual comes from the Ancient Greek word homos, meaning "same", and sexus, the Latin word for "gender". People usually use the word "gay" instead of "homosexual". The word heterosexual comes from the Greek word heteros, meaning "different", and sexus, the Latin word for "gender". The word "straight" is used more often than "heterosexual" when talking about people who are attracted to the opposite sex.
Openly gay versus closeted[change | edit source]
Because discrimination against homosexual people is very common, gay people often hide the fact that they are gay. These people are said to be closeted. This is a metaphor that compares keeping a secret about themselves to hiding inside a closet. When a gay person decides to stop hiding the fact that they are gay, they are said to be "coming out" of the closet. A person who has "come out" as being gay is said to be openly gay or simply out. For many years, very few people were openly gay, due to sodomy laws and many people not liking gays. During the cultural changes of the Roaring Twenties and 1960s, many people began to come out. Today, there are many people who are openly gay.
Gay in LGBT[change | edit source]
LGBT is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. Together these people make up a community – a group of people who work together. This community works together against discrimination. Much of this discrimination comes from homophobia. The word "homophobia" means a fear of homosexuals. However, the word is not always used that way. Many homophobic people hate LGBT people, not fear them.
Negative use of the word gay[change | edit source]
Most people in the gay community use "gay" only when talking about gay people. Outside the gay community, it is sometimes used as slang by young people to mean something is weak, stupid, or less important. For example, "That is so gay!" is used to say something looks or acts stupid. They may also use the word "queer" in the same way. It is considered an immature saying and is not often used by adults. It is also considered offensive to homosexual people.
Sometimes people also use this to mean something is very colorful. This is because of the stereotype that gay men are very interested in fashion, clothing, and interior design; another possibility is that people are still using the word in its original sense, as the word gay originally meant "fun" or "joyful". Sometimes even gay people themselves use the word this way. When they do this, they may not think the way they use "gay" means "about gay people".