Are You Gay Or are You Homosexual?
There have only been about half a dozen guys I’ve known or had sex with in my checkered life who you would never guess were gay: G, my ex-partner; Gil, who introduced me to meth; Bert, my financial planner, and M, my 43 year old lover.
Anyway my handsome lover and I were having a discussion about the word “gay,” and how it was used to describe, well, us, and took issue to it since in his mind it implied someone who was frivolous and silly, even effeminate. He, being a guy which is one of the many reasons why I love him, instead preferred the objective clinical term “homosexual,” since it accurately and more cleanly described what we were: men who are attracted to other men for sexual and emotional reasons.
All through my teen years I knew I was different, attracted to young guys my age not girls, but it wasn’t until my freshman year in college – remember this was 1965, not enlightened 2018 – that I first saw the term “homosexual” in my Psychology course textbook and said to myself, “that’s me.”
The word gay, derived from old French “gai,” entered the English language in the 12th century and originally meant carefree, joyful, and bright and showy. By the 17th century, it had taken on sexual connotations and implied “addicted to pleasure” and “uninhibited by moral constraints.” First applied to female prostitutes and men who frequented them, it gradually shifted to “gay boys,” boys or men who had sex with other men. Yet by the middle of the twentieth century, activists in our subculture were preferring the term “gay” to describe us rather than the more pejorative “queer” or “fairy.” (As an aside, the term “faggot” originates from the Middle Ages when homosexuals were burned at the stake. Faggot refers to a piece of wood.)
And so we have gay as a catchall word to describe all of us men who love men, and in a larger, looser sense either sex, male or female, who love their own sex.
Ironically, until gay liberation which took place in the late sixties and early seventies, ‘“gay” men were hardly gay. Many were miserable, ostracized by family and society, often taken to alcoholism and drugs to lose themselves (some things never change) or even suicide. Now we wear the word gay proudly and some of the younger members of our subculture are intentionally using the word “queer” as a way of throwing back in the faces of those that hated us or frankly still hate us the very word they used as a hateful slur.
But are all us “addicted to pleasure” or ”uninhibited and carefree” even “effeminate” as some derivations of the word originally implied? Or are we guys who just happen to like guys, something the term homosexual more objectively describes?
What do you think?
Are you gay or are you homosexual?