Cartoon from Punch magazine in 1857 illustrating the use of "gay" as a colloquial euphemism for being a prostitute. One woman says to the other (who looks glum), "How long have you been gay?" The poster on the wall is for La Traviata, an opera about a courtesan.
Usage statistics from English books, according to Google Ngram Viewer.
The rainbow flag is a symbol of gay pride.
Symbol of LGBT
"Bar Revenge", a Gay Bar in Brighton, England

Term that primarily refers to a homosexual person or the trait of being homosexual.

- Gay

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Terminology of homosexuality

Terms used to describe homosexuality have gone through many changes since the emergence of the first terms in the mid-19th century.

Two men at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear indicate their identity with the word gay in the context of same-sex orientation, and protest its usage in the sense of stupid or uncool.
Karl-Maria Kertbeny coined the word homosexual in this 1868 letter.

In English, some terms in widespread use have been sodomite, Sapphic, Uranian, homophile, lesbian, gay, effeminate, queer, homoaffective, and same-sex attracted.

LGBT community

Loosely defined grouping of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other queer individuals united by a common culture and social movements.

Greenwich Village, a gay neighborhood in Manhattan, is home to the Stonewall Inn, shown here adorned with rainbow pride flags.
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi at the Friends of the Pink Triangle Ceremony
Pink and yellow triangles were utilized to label Jewish homosexuals during the Holocaust.
Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry argued before the Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale.
The headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest gay rights organizations in the United States

LGBT, or GLBT, is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

Gay men

Gay men are male homosexuals.

Apollon et Cyparisse by Claude Marie Dubufe, 1821
Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum nose-kissing
Pre-Columbian ceramic of two men engaging in oral sex
Two young men about to have relations. Qing China, date unknown.
The Death of Hyacinthos by Jean Broc (1801)
An illustration from the 19th-century book Sawaqub al-Manaquib depicting homosexual sex between young men
A pink triangle was worn by gay men during the Holocaust.
ACT UP was founded by Larry Kramer to fight for medical funding and research on the HIV/AIDS crisis.
1990 ACT UP radical direct action protesting the Bush Administration's slow pace of federal research for AIDS
Binyavanga Wainaina, a Kenyan writer, who came out in 2014 in response to a wave of anti-gay laws in Africa
Jamaican rapper Buju Banton has included violently homophobic messages in his music, for which he has received criticism.
Activists enact a scene of Chechen mothers mourning their disappeared sons, draped in LGBT and Chechen flags
Abdellah Taïa has written about the abuse he suffered as a gay child in Morocco.
McQueen, Fall 2008
Post-Modern Art Attack
"Magenta carpet" at Life Ball 2013
In The Maltese Falcon, Peter Lorre played an overtly stereotyped effeminate villain.
On Pose, Billy Porter plays Pray Tell, a Black gay man with AIDS in New York.
Gay men are more likely to be abused but less likely to seek help.
HIV prevention poster advocating for safe MSM sex in Vietnam
Protest against mass incarceration in Chowchilla, California in January 2013
London advert protesting the exclusion of unhoused LGBT people
Two young gay men at Taiwan Pride
A youth at DC Pride
Two fathers with their child
Two older gay men in March 2010
Buck Angel, a bisexual trans man
A gay man in a wheelchair at London Pride 2016
Two gay men kiss during a Gay Parade

Some bisexual and homoromantic men may also dually identify as gay, and a number of young gay men today also identify as queer.


Umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual or are not cisgender.

LGBT flag from 2013 Stockholm Pride
Drag Ball in Webster Hall, ca. 1920s. Many queer-identifying men distanced themselves from the "flagrant" public image of gay men as effeminate "fairies".
Queer resistance banner at a march

Starting in the underground gay bar scene in the 1950s, then moving more into the open in the 1960s and 1970s, the homophile identity was gradually displaced by a more radicalized gay identity.

LGBT rights by country or territory

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon, 1864

Rights affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people vary greatly by country or jurisdiction—encompassing everything from the legal recognition of same-sex marriage to the death penalty for homosexuality.


Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon, 1864

Closeted and in the closet are metaphors for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who have not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity and aspects thereof, including sexual identity and sexual behavior.


A six-band rainbow flag representing the LGBT community
The Stonewall Inn in the gay village of Greenwich Village, Manhattan, site of the June 1969 Stonewall riots, the cradle of the modern LGBT rights movement and an icon of LGBT culture, is adorned with rainbow pride flags.
LGBT publications, pride parades, and related events, such as this stage at Bologna Pride 2008 in Italy, increasingly drop the LGBT initialism instead of regularly adding new letters, and dealing with issues of placement of those letters within the new title.
2010 pride parade in Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, which uses the LGBTIQ initialism
People gathering at the Senate Square, Helsinki, right before the 2011 Helsinki Pride parade started
LGBT families, like these in a 2007 Boston pride parade, are labeled as non-heterosexual by researchers for a variety of reasons.

is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.

LGBT culture

The Stonewall Inn in the gay village of Greenwich Village, Manhattan, site of the June 1969 Stonewall riots, is adorned with rainbow pride flags.
The rainbow flag, often used as a symbol for LGBT culture
Two men kissing.
Dykes on Bikes, Hamburg
Bisexual pride flag
Transgender pride flag
First trans solidarity rally and march, Washington, DC USA (2015)
Cologne Germany Gay Pride Parade (2014)

LGBT culture is a culture shared by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals.


Romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or sexual behavior between members of the same sex or gender.

Zephyrus and Hyacinthus
Attic red-figure cup from Tarquinia, 480 BC (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)
Burning of two homosexuals (the knight Richard von Hohenburg and his squire Anton Mätzler) at the stake outside Zürich, 1482 (from the Spiezer Schilling chronicle)
Dance to the Berdache
Sac and Fox Nation ceremonial dance to celebrate the two-spirit person. George Catlin (1796–1872); Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
A woman spying on a pair of male lovers. China, Qing Dynasty.
Female youths are depicted surrounding Sappho in this painting of Lafond "Sappho sings for Homer", 1824.
Sappho reading to her companions on an Attic vase of c. 435 BC
Photograph of the Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen (1920–1991) alias Tom of Finland, well known for his stylized highly masculinized homoerotic art, playing the piano in late 1950s. In the background, his partner Veli Mäkinen (left) and his sister Kaija (right).
An illustration from the 19th-century book Sawaqub al-Manaquib depicting homosexual anal sex with a wine boy
Shah Abbas I of Persia with a boy. By Muhammad Qasim (1627).
U.S. President Barack Obama signs into law the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010
LGBT activists at Cologne Pride in 2015 carrying a banner with the flags of 70 countries where homosexuality is illegal
Protests in New York City against Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Roy and Silo, two New York Central Park Zoo male chinstrap penguins similar to those pictured, became internationally known when they coupled and later were given an egg that needed hatching and care, which they successfully provided.

The most common adjectives for homosexual people are lesbian for females and gay for males, but the term gay also commonly refers to both homosexual females and males.


Embodiment of traits in a boy or man that are more often associated with feminine behavior, mannerism, style, or gender roles rather than with traditionally masculine behavior, mannerisms, style or roles.

The Younger Apollo Teaching Hyacinth to Play Lyra by Louis de Boullogne
In Virgil's tale of the two young lovers, Nisus and Euryalus, Euryalus was "beautiful" and had a close relationship with his mother, while Nisus was fast and skilled with weaponry.

While gay boys receive the same enculturation, they are less compliant.