The word gay has had a sexual meaning since at least the nineteenth century (and probably before) -- in Victorian England, female and male prostitutes were called "gay" (because they dressed gaily). Eventually, "gay boys" (renters) became used as a term for any male homosexual. In the United States, the term may have arisen from the hobo community: a young hobo, a "gay cat" or "geycat", often had to befriend an older more experienced hobo for education and survival. Such a relationship was implicitly sexual, hence the term "gay cat" came to mean "a young homosexual."
The term can be used inclusively or exclusively. The inclusive meaning refers to both men and women who prefer sexual or romantic relationships with their own sex (see homosexuality). The exclusive meaning refers only to men who prefer sexual or romantic relationships with other men. Whether bisexuals are included in either of those meanings is a matter of debate (see bisexuality).
It has been claimed that "gay" was derived as an acronym for "Good As You," but this is a folk etymology.
The word "gay" is also used in juvenile slang to express derision or mockery. For example, "My computer is acting gay," or "That hat is so gay." The derogatory implication is usually that the object in question is inferior, weak, effeminate, or just stupid. In some parts of the United States, this slang is so common among young boys that many who use it do not know what the word refers to. Another spelling, "ghey", is sometimes found on the Internet and is supposedly used either to insult without reference to homosexuality or to bypass chat room censors. See also: fag.
According to the Safe Schools Coalition of Washington's Glossary for school employees: "Homosexual: Avoid this term; it is clinical, distancing and archaic. Sometimes appropriate in referring to behavior (although same-sex is the preferred adj.). When referring to people, as opposed to behavior, homosexual is considered derogatory and the terms gay and lesbian are preferred, at least in the Northwest."
See also: gay village, gay rights, gay pride, Same-sex marriage, gay movies, gay television shows, rainbow flag, political correctness, homophobia, Famous gay lesbian or bisexual people, Queer culture, Wikipedians/Queer, fag, lesbian, lesbigay, List of gay-related topics.