USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘LGBT’
Folk speech
Humor

Wig Snatching

In LGBT+ communities saying someone or something “snatched your wig” means you’re shocked by whatever happened. It comes from a drag performances where sometimes in more dramatic moments drag queens will literally take off another queen’s wig. Sometimes there can be another wig under the wig, making the whole event entirely premeditated spectacle, but usually the queen whose wig is pulled isn’t prepared and they have their actual hair revealed by the wig snatch.

This particular lingo speaks to the in-grouping found in LGBT+ communities. It’s a phrase referring to a specific act in a genre of show specifically produced, performed, and attended by a mostly LGBT+ folk group. The internet has spread the phrase around to become more mainstream but the nature of its origins shows how insular the environment it came about in was. The exact syntax is also flexible, with all sorts of small variations from “My wig? Snatched!” to sometimes just “Wig,” which makes sense given the LGBT+ communities general position as pioneers of evolving “archaic” language such as gendered pronouns.

Adulthood
Customs
general
Initiations
Kinesthetic

First drink at Stonewall

Main Piece: Many young LGBTQ+ individuals have their first legal or “official” drink at The Stonewall Inn when they turn 21.

Context: The informant is half Paraguayan and half American, and she speaks both Spanish and English. Her mother immigrated to the U.S. as a young adult, so the informant is first generation, but the rest of her mother’s side of the family resides in their home city – Caazapa, Paraguay – and are very well-known in their community. Her father’s side of the family are “classically Jewish” people from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York. Although she is not religious herself, her upbringing was culturally Jewish and Catholic. Our discussion took place in her home in Orlando, Florida while her mom made us tea and lunch in the background. The Stonewall Inn is a now-popularized gay bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, famous for being the site of the Stonewall riots of 1969. It is said that the bar served as a catalyst for many of the leaders and thinkers of the Stonewall riots, as they would gather there to discuss queer theory and modes of action. The informant, who identifies as lesbian and has heard of this custom through her other queer-identifying peers, believes that there is much power in “doing what they did.” In other words, they pay homage to trailblazers for gay liberation and the sacrifices that they made by saving their first legal drink for the bar that, in a way, is partially responsible for their current freedoms.

Personal thoughts: This tradition is a perfect example of how folklore is performative. By going back to a place that holds much historical and personal importance to many people, and re-enacting those who started the tradition, they are truly performing. Those in the LGBTQ+ community who go to the Stonewall Inn Bar are not just discussing what their trailblazers said and did, they are also, in some way, actively taking part in and adding to their own history. As new ideas are brought up by new generations visiting the bar, the tradition and ideas behind it will continue to evolve.

Folk speech
Humor

Reading

About the Interviewed: Davey is a student at the George Washington University double-majoring in English and LGBT Studies. His ethnic background hails from Spain. At the time of this interview, he was currently on leave at his home in Southern California. He is biologically male, but he identifies as gender-queer. Nonetheless, he prefers male pronouns. He is 20 years old.

Davey: “Because reading is what? Fundamental, darling.”

I have just opened up a can of worms. I have asked Davey Gonzalez about the LGBT art of ‘reading’, which is not the same thing as reading books.

Davey: “Okay, before we begin, we have to address these issues from a herstorical standpoint.”

We laugh; Davey and I both like to say ‘Herstory’ instead of ‘History’ when addressing LGBT issues. It’s something of an inside joke. 

Davey: “Reading is an art of poetic insult. When you read someone, you go into them, and you scoop out all of their flashy insecurities. You are reading people like a book. Gay people had it first. They used it as a way to be expressive. It was a way that we all got along. We just read the shit out of each other. This was before your time, or my time.”

I asked him to “read” me. For scientific purposes.

Davey: “I can’t read you David, you’re too nice. …Aw, I’m just kidding, you fickle bitch.”

We laugh.

Davey: “I mean seriously, you come to my place, my home, dressed like you’re going motha-fuckin swimming. [I was wearing a tank top and shorts] You came here to record me? To ask me questions? With my beautiful voice? I don’t think so! Make up your mind, darling!”

I’m in hysterics at this point. I ask him if he thinks that people sometimes take reading the wrong way.

Davey: “Well, there’s a difference between giving a read and being a bitch. When you read, it’s collaborative. Both people are in on it [the act]. Now if I called you a fat slut, that wouldn’t be a read, that would just be true.”

I hit him jokingly with my sandal. Hard.

Summary:

The term “reading” in LGBT culture, refers to the spoken act of pointing out flaws in others for comedic or dramatic effect. Davey wanted me to envision it as the more artistic form of a “diss”.

“Reading” has seen a resurgence among people like Davey in circles of the LGBT community. The popularity of shows like “The New Normal” and “Rupaul’s Drag Race”, have made popular certain elements of LGBT culture that have existed since as far back as the 1970’s. 

 

Folk speech

“No T, No Shade” – Gay Slang

About the Interviewed: Davey is a student at the George Washington University double-majoring in English and LGBT Studies. His ethnic background hails from Spain. At the time of this interview, he was currently on leave at his home in Southern California. He is biologically male, but he identifies as gender-queer. Nonetheless, he prefers male pronouns. He is 20 years old.

I just asked Davey about slang terms used in the LGBT community.

Davey: “No T, No Shade. That’s a good one.”

There’s a bit of a pause here in the recording.

Davey: “It means like, ‘No offense, but…’ – only gayer. It’s like the Gay version of that. (Laughs)”

I ask Davey to use it in a sentence for me.

Davey: “Well, it is a sentence. You say it when you don’t wanna hurt somebody’s feelings. Like – ‘No T, No Shade gurl, but… you’re fat. (laughs)”

I ask him if he knows where the phrase originates from.

Davey: “Well, I don’t know where it’s from, but it has two parts: No T, and No Shade. ‘No T’ means no “Talk”, like you’re not holding anything back. And ‘No Shade’ means you don’t want to hurt their feelings. So the whole thing means, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, BUT-”

Now I’m laughing. I ask him to elaborate more on “The T” and “Shade”.

Davey: “Like I said, the T is like, what’s going on. It’s like gossip. When you ask someone what the T is, you wanna know the truth. So like, if I see someone, and I ask you what the T on her is, I wanna know her deal. Shade is when you wanna be nasty. (laughs) When you throw shade, you’re being mean, you’re being a bitch. I’m a shady lady.”

We both laugh.

Summary:

Gay culture has a number of unique phrases and vocabulary. Davey broke down the term “No T, No Shade”, which roughly translates as a warning that the listener is about to hear something disparaging, yet truthful.

Davey couldn’t remember the first time he heard the phrase “No T, No Shade”, but I remember learning it from him a while back. LGBT culture is unique in that it contains it’s own vernacular and language, despite not pertaining to any particular ethnic background. Davey and I both come from different backgrounds ourselves, yet we’re both united by a culture that with a variety of folklore to share. 

folk simile
Kinesthetic

Drag Performance

About the Interviewed: Davey is a student at the George Washington University double-majoring in English and LGBT Studies. His ethnic background hails from Spain. At the time of this interview, he was currently on leave at his home in Southern California. He is biologically male, but he identifies as gender-queer. Nonetheless, he prefers male pronouns. He is 20 years old.

My friend Davey moonlights as a Drag Performer. I asked if he could define what drag is.

Davey: “Well, everything is drag, that’s what RuPaul [drag icon] says. To most people, it’s just dudes dressing up as girls, which is like, kind-of what it is, but not really. It’s a statement on gender, it’s a statement on performing. People come to drag shows dressed as men, people come as women, people come as whatever the hell they want, that’s what drag is. It’s an illusory gender performance. Men and women both dress as things you can’t describe. Men become Queens, Women become Kings, some become things that you can’t describe.”

I asked him if he could describe what a performance is like.

Davey: “That depends on the queen. When I go out there, I lipsync to songs by Rihanna, Beyonce – I like to be fierce. Most queens lipsync, some don’t. Some actually sing live, if their voice is pretty enough. Those are the fishy queens.”

I asked Davey what “Fishy” means.

Davey: (laughs) “Oh lordy! It means vagina. The more fishy you are, the more you look like a real woman in dress and make-up. Some queens try really hard to be fishy. I don’t have the make-up, or the skills. Yet.”

We then talked about Davey’s personal experiences as a drag queen.

Davey: “Well for starters, I’ve never performed at one of the [drag] clubs. You have to be pretty much be top shit to get in these days. I’ve just done it for parties and things. Just for fun.”

I asked him if the pursuit of “fishiness” was about emulating a standard of beauty.

Davey: “Yeah, I mean, everybody wants to be a supermodel, but I just wanna have fun. I think that as a drag performer, we’re attracted to these images of grandeur and beauty, and some respond by mocking it and others try to become it. It all depends on how you interpret it. It’s art. It’s meant to be that way.”

Summary:

Drag is a performance that plays with the notion of Gender in Western Society. Performances take the form of wild cabaret shows, that showcase vibrant individuals who dress in ways that denounce typical gender norms. Drag can either be a form of Male to Female impersonation, or it can be something crazy and hard to pinpoint. Davey defines drag as a visual art.

As an artist myself, I resonated with Davey’s final statement on gender performance – that art is meant to be multi-faceted. Even within cultures, the meaning of certain performances or pieces of folklore are heavily debated. Ultimately, it’s up to the audience to pick and choose which elements resonate the strongest within themselves.

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