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Gay


Gay is a term that has come to refer to individuals who exhibit not only a same-sex orientation and sexual preference (e.g., men who have sex with men), but also embrace a lifestyle based upon that orientation.

In other words, gays have "come out of the closet" or are overt, as opposed to being covert homosexuals or claim heterosexual identity but have sex or desire sex with members of their own gender. Gay is sometimes distinguished from homosexual in emphasizing the cultural, social and identity aspects of homosexuality.

Although in recent years the term gay increasingly has come to be used to refer to both same-sex oriented males and females, it generally refers to the former. Indeed, many lesbian organizations reject the term gay as a self-designation, restricting it to males, although this view may be less common among younger lesbian women.

Historically, the term gay stems from the Old Provencal word "gai," meaning high spirited and mirthful. Beginning in the seventeenth century, the term referred to the behavior of a playboy or dashing man about town. By the 19th century, the term had come to also refer to a woman of allegedly loose morals. The term gay did not attain prominence as a self-selected term for openly homosexual individuals until the late 1950s and early 1960s. It became increasingly common in this usage by the 1970s and was established in general usage by gays and non-gay individuals alike by the 1980s.


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