Every in-group has a language of its own, and the gay community is no different. A few decades ago, terms used to talk about gay people often were derogatory or condescending; today, those same words may be considered gay-friendly. The tone or meaning of these words may have changed with time. Take queer for example. A generation ago it applied to gay people in general and had a negative connotation. Today queer is used to denote those who do not fit into any stringent sexual characterization. Here is a small sampling of commonly used in-terms that may help you feel at home. Many other familiar and mostly unfamiliar terms can be found in the various dictionaries of gay terms and slang published on the Internet.
Acceptance: As compared with tolerance, it means embracing the entire gay community.
Bisexual: Attracted to both men and women.
Boyfriends: Two men involved in a romantic and sexual relationship.
Butch: Masculine lesbian or queer woman (can also be used to refer to a masculine man).
Civil union: Couples sharing certain monetary benefits but not as fully as when officially married. Benefits vary by state. The term is more or less synonymous with “domestic partnership.”
Coming out: Admitting your LGBTQ identity to yourself and the outside world. The term is widely used in combination with “closet” as in, “coming out of the closet.” In addition to gay people, parents too can come out.
DOMA: Acronym for Defense of Marriage Act. A law that in part defined marriage as strictly taking place between a man and a woman and was declared unconstitutional on June 23, 2013 by the US Supreme Court. It cleared the way for an increasing number of US states allowing same sex marriages.
Drag, drag queen: Men crossing gender lines, often by wearing women’s clothes, make-up and/or wigs. (Drag king refers to women dressing in male “drag.”)
Fag, faggot, fruit: Derogatory terms for gay men, sometimes reclaimed with pride by the gay community.
Femme: A feminine lesbian or gay woman (also sometimes used to refer to a feminine-identified man).
Gay pride: The joy of having the LGBT community accepted both legally and emotionally by the world at large.
Gay liberation: See above.
Gay: Sexual attraction to a person of the same sex.
Homosexual: Literally meaning a person attracted to someone of the same sex. This term is now considered somewhat unfriendly because of its clinical nature.
Lesbian: Gay woman.
LGBTQ: Acronym for: Lesbian, Gay. Bisexual, Transgender (also transsexual), and the often omitted Queer.
Queen: A gay man sometimes affecting exaggerated feminine gestures.
Stonewall: Refers to a historic riot in Greenwich Village on June 28, 1969, when a group of customers at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, successfully resisted the abusive behavior of the homophobic NYC police bent on arresting them. The Stonewall riots mark the beginning of the gay liberation movement in America.
Straight: Individuals who are primarily attracted to persons of the opposite sex.
Surrogate: In the gay world, most often refers to a woman inseminated with the sperm of a gay man who carries his baby to term.
Transgender: A person who identifies with the opposite sex than the one he or she was assigned to at birth. These individuals may or may not elect to change their sex using hormones or surgery.