The Mainstreaming of The Gay Lingo

“Yesss, honey! Work! You betta get your life!” This is a phrase that, a few years ago, one may have only heard at a ball or on certain streets in major cities where gay men and drag queens and the like congregate. So why am I hearing it from straight female coworkers and girls on the street nowadays? It seems that lately, since that obnoxious Tamar Braxton and “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” hit the small screen, every chick is calling her friends “bitch,” snapping her fingers and, for lack of a better phrase, fagging out. And it’s a pain in the fucking ass!

Now don’t get me wrong – as a gay man, I have many straight female friends. I always have. I’ve never tried to separate them from my gay friends, but I realize that, at times, I speak a little differently around my gays. There’s a certain lingo and language that we gay men used among ourselves, and most of the time, my straight friends had no idea what the hell we were talking about! Hell, it took a long time for me to understand some of the new phrases I heard when I first went out. There’s a certain banter among us that’s downright fun and all our own. It’s reserved for certain times and with certain people. The girls had no idea what “trade” was. They didn’t know what we meant when we referred to someone as “cunt” or why sometimes we may refer to a male as “she” or “queen.” Back when I was a teenager and had just discovered the ballroom scene, none of my straight friends had any idea what “voguing” was outside of a song and a dance Madonna did in 1990. But that was then.

The days when our straight friends and relatives couldn’t decipher what you were talking about with your male “girlfriends” are long gone. There are a few other people to blame, and first on my list is Tyra Banks. Her once-popular TV show, “America’s Next Top Model,” featured several flamboyantly gay men and even Tyra herself, encouraging aspiring models to be “fierce” and to “work it.” Tyra wagged her finger, snapped and even dubbed one of her male judges “Miss Jay.” I’m sure Tyra thinks she was being all-inclusive and gay friendly and teaching naive country girls with modeling dreams valuable lessons about diversity, but after a while Tyra came off to me and my friends like the annoying girl with too many gay friends.

Then came “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and a slew of other bad reality TV shows featuring a gaggle of catty women and their oftentimes obnoxious and equally catty gay male friends. Singer Toni Braxton’s sister, Tamar, appears weekly on TV with the weave and attitude of an Atlanta drag queen and the lingo to match. Soon enough, the average chick was bragging about being fierce and “having face” and “throwing shade” and actually understanding what the phrase “throwing shade” was! Only thing was half the straight people spouting long-used gay lingo didn’t know that gay men had been using the phrases before reality TV even existed.  The language we had was no longer ours.

The real culprits in gay culture being taken and our language being snatched by the straights are a few gays themselves! Some young, overzealous queens just want to tell their girlfriends everything about being gay: how to talk, what clubs the gay guys go to, what to say, how to spot or “clock” gay guys, how to throw and catch shade. They wind up creating these little monsters: straight girls who are too exposed to gay culture and start behaving more like flamboyant gay men than like women! They want to “read,” tell you to “get your life” and tell you they’re “real fish” and vogue against you because they watched Vogue Evolution dance on MTV. And they’re always overzealous to use their newfound knowledge and newly learned language.  Especially if they know you’re gay. It’s exhausting.

Now don’t get me wrong, being gay isn’t some secret society with secret code languages, and at times I do like introducing my friends to aspects of gay culture when they ask me, but I do like having some stuff that’s strictly between me and my gay friends without it being snatched up by the mainstream. Or without everybody knowing what I’m talking about. My straight friends don’t really need to know what a vers top is. Most of my straight friends don’t even know I speak a gay lingo because I don’t usually speak it to or around them! It’s also particularly annoying when gay culture and lingo is stolen and not given credit. Madonna would have had you believe she invented voguing and Tamar Braxton would have you believe that her catch phrase, “get your life,” is originally hers and then the masses fall in line and follow suit. And it gets on my nerves!

Soon we’ll have to just back to old school gay Pig Latin! So girls, take heed. Use it in moderation or just leave the gay talk to the ones who do it best: the gays. Don’t call me “honey,” “bitch,” “Miss” or any form of “queen” if you don’t know me, or you will get read for filth and it will indeed be major shade thrown and you will gag. Bitch.

  • Brent

    You can’t even tell who is gay anymore. Now the girls are using the lingo around their straight men. Straight guys are using it now too. Can we have anything of our own?

  • Damarcus Bell

    Language, as communal as it is, does not belong to anyone anymore than the air we breath. Enough said.

    • cjayconrod

      And there you have it. I don’t know why anyone believes they have exclusive ownership of anything. Did you register a copyright/trademark? Didn’t think so.


    POW! POW! POW!!!! Shots fired!

    Oh how iLove you for this post!

  • cjayconrod

    I will say that it’s a problem that people don’t know the source of lingo. Being homophobic and talking about someone “throwing shade” at you will always raise an eyebrow over here. I also think people need to understand the context in which it’s used. More specifically, that you can’t come at folks you don’t know with lingo and expect a positive reaction.

  • Deebs

    Nice article. I’m definitely careful about which aspects of the gay culture I share with select str8 friends. Some just aren’t ready and don’t know their place.

  • stacyannj

    I think people wanting to sound like and act like you is a GOOD problem to have. There’s always going to be tension when the mainstream tries to score cool points with a minority group by (poorly) imitating it or showing off how much they know about it. Is it painfully awkward? Yup. But I think it’s a sign that people’s minds are moving the right direction.

  • Bama

    Nice article

  • Roosevelt Arje Jackson

    Interesting Article