Published: 22nd September 2018
Why is pride associated with homosexuality? Understanding the terms queer, gay and bisexual
Who is called a straight person? The word ‘straight’ is used to refer to a person who is heterosexual, that is, anyone who has a sexual orientation to persons of the opposite of sex
A: Are you straight or queer?
B: What do you mean?
A: Are you gay or straight?
B: I don’t get you.
A: Are you a hetero or homo?
B: What an embarrassing
The above is a piece of conversation between two persons. The Indian Supreme Court verdict decriminalising homosexuality was widely covered and discussed by mainstream media as well as social media across the globe. Many English language learners came across a number of words and phrases associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and homosexuality. One of the readers of the column sent me a query with a request to discuss the terms associated with the LGBTQ community and their rights.
Another reader sent me a query requesting me to explain why the term ‘pride’ is associated with homosexuals and why the image ‘rainbow’ is used to describe the community. Yet another reader wants to know whether the LGBT community has a special lingo.
Why is ‘pride’ associated with homosexuality? The terms ‘pride parades’, ‘pride marches’, ‘pride events’ and ‘pride festivals’ are commonly used to talk about demonstrations for the legal rights of the LGBT community and to refer to events that celebrate the rights of the LGBT community. Since there has been so much discrimination toward the community, the terms ‘gay pride’ and ‘LGBT pride’ are used by the people belonging to the community to promote their self-affirmation and dignity in order to end discrimination. In short, the community takes pride in celebrating their identity and sexual diversity.
Why is the image ‘rainbow’ associated with LGBT? A rainbow, which has many colours, is a symbol of diversity. As the different colours reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, a rainbow flag is used to denote gay pride. The rainbow flag comprises eight stripes (8 colours) and each stripe is assigned a specific meaning: pink-sex, red-life, orange-healing, yellow-sunlight, green-nature, turquoise-magic/art, indigo-serenity, and violet-spirit.
Who is called a straight person? The word ‘straight’ is used to refer to a person who is heterosexual, that is, anyone who has a sexual orientation to persons of the opposite of sex.
In the UK, a homosexual person is known as ‘bent’. In contrast to this, the term ‘straight’ is used to refer to a heterosexual person. The phrase ‘go straight’ means to follow the correct path (normal/natural path) and heterosexuals are perceived to have a normal/natural sexual orientation. So the term ‘straight’ is used to refer to them.
What is the meaning of the word ‘queer’? The meaning of the term has changed a lot during the past few decades. ‘Queer’, which literally means strange, odd or peculiar, is used to refer to people who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or transgender. The term is used to refer to people who are not heterosexual. Once it was used as a derogatory term.
The LGBTQ community has proudly accepted the term to celebrate their queerness. Now, when we use the word ‘queer’ or ‘queerness’ we do not talk about the quality of being strange, rather we refer to the gender identity of some people that fall outside the heterosexual mainstream.
• I find Queer is inclusive and allows me to identify myself within a community without necessarily sharing my specific label – Lucy
The term ‘bisexual’ is used to refer to a person who is attracted to more than one gender and the term ‘pansexual’ is used to refer to a person who can be attracted to all kinds of people, regardless of their identity. A person who has both masculine and feminine characteristics and whose gender cannot be easily identified is called ‘androgynous’. The word ‘cisgender’ or ‘cis’ is used to refer to a person whose gender identity matches with the gender they were assigned at birth. Now since the rights of the LGBTQ community are recognised and homosexuality has been decriminalised in many countries including India, the need to use gender-neutral (non-sexist) words has gained momentum. For example, use the word ‘themself’ in the place of ‘himself/herself’ if the gender of people is not specified.
• These days everyone calls themselves a good Samaritan though they do not come forward to help anyone.