Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Meaning of “Gay”

“Gay” is an English loan word and, for three decades, until recently, has been popularly used by the Thai public as another word for gà'tuhy. The term gà'tuhy originally meant “hermaphrodite,” later coming to mean transvestite, transsexual, effeminate male, as well as a vague general term for homosexual males. Gà'tuhy is sometimes a common, but mild, pejorative, but most Thai use it in a neutral way to describe males who don’t conform to Thai gender norms. Its use generally causes titters. However, “gay” has become something more distinct from gà'tuhy. In 1994“gay” began to be more widely used to refer to masculineidentified men who are emotionally and sexually attracted to other males. By the end of the decade, Thai media usually emphasized the distinction.

It was just a few years ago that Thai of the lower classes might deny he’s gay, associating the word with being anally receptive (the equivalent Thai gay slang term for “bottom man” is kween or gay-kween), because everyone knew that gà'tuhy were the kween. Because of the distinction, it is more common for a barboy (a male sex worker), whose sexual orientation is often the subject of great speculation, to declare in English or Thai that he’s “gay.”

Story Continues...

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