A SAD MISUNDERSTANDING
WHY HOMOSEXUALS ORIGINALLY CALLED THEMSELVES “GAY”
The use of the word “gay” to designate someone who is homosexual suggests that homosexuals are more "carefree", "happier", or more "bright and showy" (Wikipedia’s definition) than others. That was not how the word was understood when it was first used as a code word for someone who was a homosexual. The present understanding is that the word “gay” is a positive, accurate designation of homosexual people in general and that it was chosen because homosexuals are generally happy, carefree people. That could not be further from the truth. That “gay” people are generally considered happy, carefree people is a sad, even tragic misunderstanding, out of sheer ignorance, of the reasons this word was originally used to designate homosexual people.
Until quite recently, most people, including most homosexuals, considered being homosexual a sad, sorrowful thing. And it still is a sad thing for many if not most. Before the advent of the code-word “gay” for homosexual men and later also for homosexual women, homosexuality was universally considered a blight, something that doomed a person to a life of sadness and inability to experience and enjoy the most important pleasures and satisfactions of life, especially those of having a family and children, and acceptance in society itself. Homosexuals were considered doomed for their whole lives to living a lie and never being able to allow any but their most trusted confidants, if even them, to know anything about their real predilections.
Even the most empathetic, sympathetic of people considered homosexuality a sorrowful thing.
Before the last century, there were few if any ways for homosexuals to refer to one another so that homosexuals could know and recognize them but others could not. They needed a code word they could use and they chose the word “gay” because it meant exactly the opposite of how people thought of them. It was a word that homosexuals could use without anyone knowing what they were talking about.
At the time, the word “gay” was never, ever thought to be a true description of homosexuals. Never! The few loud drag queens and extravagantly mannered “gays” whom one saw and experienced in society were aberrations, not the norm. And most of those loud, extroverted homosexuals were extremely unhappy people. There was little that was happy about them besides their outward manner, which was/is, ultimately, merely a parody of life and manners, and not really a satisfying way to be.
To the world, being homosexual is still a sad stigma, something infinitely sorrowful, with nothing “gay” about it. At best, it is somewhat more of the “vale of tears” that normal life on Earth is so often considered to be. At worst, it is something people consider horrible, to be avoided and even rooted out.
Make no mistake about it, the word “gay” as a designation of homosexuality is a code-word, chosen at the time because no one would have thought it meant being homosexual, because homosexuality was, and often still is, thought of by many as an unfortunate, infinitely sad thing, with absolutely nothing happy about it.
In mid-20th century, when I grew up, no one ever knew what one was talking about when one said he or someone else was “gay”. It was hiding what a person was, not making it known.
I repeat: homosexuality was, until very recently, seen as a very sad, sorrowful, unhappy thing. And in much if the world, it still is.