There is a fair amount of general knowledge about gay people out there now: bears, disco, abs. It's not the 1950s, after all, when everyone pretended gay didn't exist. But there's a lot of stuff we don't tell you about. Plus, if you live in Kansas-ippi or somewhere like that, you may think you don't even know any gay people to spill the beans. In the spirit of greater understanding, we now reveal many of our mysteries and little-known facts.
Some of us were born that way. Yup. Knew it right out of the gate. First thoughts some of us had were about wanting to hold hands with that cute boy in the next stroller.
Some of us don't get who we really are until all the kids have moved out of the house and graduated from college. And yes, it's pretty awkward, and we're not sure how it all happened. But it happens all the time.
We have had many secret ways of communicating with each other, especially when you were putting us in jails and mental institutions for being gay. Oh, and sometimes you castrated us and killed us. So yeah, secret communications.
Some gay people refer to themselves as "queer," a slur that some have reclaimed. But unless they say otherwise, avoid calling gay people "queer."
By the way, the acronym "LGBT" stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Sometimes people add a "Q" for questioning or queer, an "I" for intersex, or "A" for asexual or ally. We usually just say "LGBT."
Sexuality is a spectrum. As reality star Honey Boo Boo once noted, "Everybody's a little gay."
We don't all dress up like women. But to be fair, a lot of straight guys dress up like women sometimes too.
Some gays are "tops," which means they prefer to be the insertive partner in bed. Some are "bottoms," which means they prefer to be receptive. Most are somewhere in between. But really, it's none of your business.
You can be legally killed in 12 countries for being gay. This affects our travel plans.
We have our own travel destinations — cruises and camps and beaches filled almost entirely with gay people. This is partly due to sexual attraction, but also because we feel comfortable and safe around each other. The straight world can be a scary place.
The most famous gay destination is Fire Island, an island near New York City that is full of gay people in the summer. Take the ferry for a visit — if your gay friend has a house share.
A "gayborhood" is a neighborhood where many gay men live, such as West Hollywood, Chelsea, and Boystown. When we make it nice enough, straight people move in and hike up the real estate.
A gay bar is not just a bar. It is a safe space and a gathering place for our community. For a gay man, going to his first gay bar is a rite of passage.
Drag queens are local celebrities within the gay community. They're performers, but many are activists. Always tip the drag queens.
Here's how you tip a drag queen: Approach the stage and hold out a bill during a performance, which is usually a lip-synch but could be any combination of dance, singing, or runway spectacle. The performer will take it when it's time. Be prepared for anything, but usually you'll receive grateful eye contact.
If you haven't tried drag bingo, you must. The hosts are drag queens, who might make fun of you, but you'll love it. And you might win a dildo.
Many gay men love to watch sports. But many gay men also love RuPaul's Drag Race, a reality competition for drag queens that is very much like a sport.
Many gay men play sports too. Softball, kickball, flag football, and rugby all have gay leagues.
Not all religions like gay people. But plenty of gay people are religious. The Metropolitan Community Church was founded by a gay man specifically for LGBT folks. Recently, many other denominations are opening their folds to us as well.
We are not all hairdressers, dress designers, and interior decorators. There are poker champion gays, NASCAR gays, and gay photographers who take pictures of women that straight guys use to … well, you get the picture.
Wearing a green carnation on Thursdays meant you were gay. It was in homage to Oscar Wilde.
We taught Marilyn Monroe how to dance sexy. (See Marilyn burn up the screen in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, choreographed by Jack Cole.)
We have secret meeting places, kind of like Masonic lodges, but with cubicles and steam rooms. They are called bathhouses.
We know a series of high-beam flashes and horn taps that let the Mack truck driver next to us know we can meet him at the next rest stop for … some rest.
There is nothing as absolutely terrifying as coming out as gay to your friends and family.
There is nothing as wonderfully freeing as coming out as gay to your friends and family.
Some of your favorite songs have been written by gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals. You may have used some at your wedding.
Sometimes homophobia has so warped us that we turned against ourselves, became Republicans, and went on to be involved in gay sex scandals while denying other gay people their rights.
Hello, I'm Roy Cohn. I helped Sen. Joseph McCarthy fire like a gazillion people from government jobs on the suspicion that they might be gay. Some of them committed suicide. I never told the truth about me being gay. I died of an AIDS-related illness.
Because we're so often left out of mainstream media, we have our own magazines and television channels. The Advocate magazine is the oldest, founded in 1967, and is heading into our 50th year. Here TV is a pay channel like HBO that's available from virtually every cable operator in the United States.
Besides bathhouses, we also have something called stand-up sex clubs. You can check your coat, maybe your pants, and walk around a big dark building with nooks and crannies to tuck into and have sex with other guys. You don't have to take anyone to dinner, and you can be home in time to watch The Tonight Show.
Sometimes it's fun to use a penis pump. It's a big clear tube with a rubber-ringed open end and a vacuum pump mechanism. It makes your penis really big and sort of fluffy for a while. Then it all goes back to the way it was. Some of us pump up other stuff too. Maybe later on that.
We had the same superheroes as you did when you were young and looking at comic books. And we saw you at Comic-Con. You were in Lycra too. It's all good.
Hi! I'm Jack Larson (as Jimmy Olsen from the Superman TV series). My boyfriend was Montgomery Clift.
It used to be illegal for us to dance together. If we were dancing together at a club and the house lights came on, we knew to pull apart immediately or get arrested. Sometimes we got arrested anyway.
OK, we also have smaller pumps that we use to pump up our nipples. Some of us, anyway. It feels amazing.
A lot of us have Daddy/Boy sex scenes. We don't think it's creepy at all. Now, the idea of a Mommy/Boy scene? Hmm. Have to think about that one, but you go on, go ahead.
We have a secret hanky code. We can communicate whole sentences about ourselves with colors and pocket choices.
We don't all like show tunes. But for those who do, we invented Musical Mondays at gay bars.
If you ever see a hole carved in the wall of a bathroom stall in the men's room, you can thank a gay guy. It's called a glory hole.
When you see pictures of book burnings in Nazi Germany, know that many of those books were about gay, lesbian, and trans life from the collection of Magnus Hirschfeld, one of the first advocates for homosexual and transgender rights.
Ballet is basically a gay sport invented by gays for gays. But we love that your 12-year-old daughter wants to be a ballerina. It's very sweet.
There were "gay marriages" centuries ago early in the first millennium, and they were church ceremonies. You can read all about them in historian John Boswell's book Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. Then the church got all weird in the Middle Ages and shut down the whole same-sex marriage thing.
Hi! I'm former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig from Idaho. I am an antigay politician who got arrested for the whole foot-tapping thing in a men's restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Police regularly choose the youngest, best-looking cops in their precinct to go into men's rooms and flirt with men until they respond. Then they arrest the responders.
The Marines seems to be the branch of the military that has always had the most gay recruits. But the Navy begs to differ.
Gay men sometimes use hookup apps like Grindr just to know there are other gay men in the area and that they are not alone.
A serodiscordant couple is made up of an HIV-positive partner and an HIV-negative partner. Many of them consider that no big deal.
Many sexually active HIV-positive guys serosort their sex partners. There's an app for that.
No city in the world has as many gay — and often clothing-optional — resorts as Palm Springs, Calif.
Palm Springs has the highest concentration of gay couples in the U.S., according to The Gay and Lesbian Atlas (2004).
The man who invented the topless bathing suit for women, Rudi Gernreich, was also a founder of one of the first gay political organizations, the Mattachine Society.
Sometimes our gaydar lets us see you are gay before you know it yourself. But that's cool.
At the turn of the last century in New York, there were clubs called resorts below 14th Street. Straight men went there to have sex with gay men because it was cheaper than hiring prostitutes, according to George Chauncey in Gay New York: The Making of the Gay World.
In the '70s, if your left ear was pierced, it meant you were the active partner in anal sex. On the right? Passive.
Some guys don't like anal sex or oral sex. They just like frottage — rubbing against each other. It was also once so widely practiced among young college men that it was called the Princeton Rub.
Hi! I'm Gore Vidal, another close friend of JFK's. I had a hard time saying I was gay, but my preferred sexual activity was the Princeton Rub. I did not go to Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. Rather than attend university, I enlisted in the U.S. Army and worked as an office clerk. I had a lot of sex with women too.
Gore Vidal wrote one of the first gay novels, The City and the Pillar (1948). At the time, critics said it would forever ruin his career as a writer. But he seemed to do OK.
There are likely 10 gay emperors in China over the centuries. Most notable was Emperor Ai of Han. His lover was Dong Xian. Historians referred to their relationship as "the passion of the cut sleeve" because a story that one afternoon after falling asleep for a nap on the same bed, Emperor Ai cut off his sleeve rather than disturb the sleeping Dong Xian when he had to get out of bed.
Everyone knows that musical powerhouses Noël Coward and Cole Porter were gay. But jazz composer, pianist, lyricist, and arranger Billy Strayhorn collaborated with bandleader and composer Duke Ellington for three decades. His compositions include "Take the ‘A' Train," "Chelsea Bridge," "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing," and "Lush Life."
We have always been clever about sex in unexpected places, such as restrooms, movie theaters, piers, trucks, and what is now the High Line, an elevated park in New York City and was once an awesome gay sex space. Maybe still sometimes is.
Hi, I'm Ed Koch. I am a gay man who was mayor of New York City for three terms, from 1978 to 1990.
Many men who we think of as gay were actually functionally bisexual — like Oscar Wilde, although he would not have called himself gay, bisexual, or even straight.