Informant: In the gay community, fish or being fishy refers to how uhh accurately a drag queen presents as a biological female, I guess. This is hard to explain because I use it all the time, haha. Usually we say “oh, she is serving fish” or “oh, she is fishy” which is usually positive, and it is like saying they would pass as a woman because they are so fishy.
Interviewer: Where did you learn this term?
Informant: I picked it up from RuPaul’s Drag Race, which popularized a lot of the drag slang today that has kinda started getting popular in popular culture.
The informant is a great friend and housemate of mine, and he is a senior at USC studying Lighting Design. Coming from Oxnard, CA he and his family are very connected with their Mexican roots and he has grown up practicing and identifying with many aspects of Mexican culture. He is also a very big raver, as he enjoys going to many EDM festivals and aspires to do lighting design for different raves as well.He also identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ identity, comfortable identifying as a bisexual man.
The informant and I typically watch RuPaul’s Drag Race at our off-campus house when it is airing on TV. There are several terms that we use, confusing many of our other housemates and one of the one this informant uses the most is fishy. In our interview, I asked him to define it and provide a definition and some context.
A lot of the folk speech and terms used within the queer community has stemmed from the club and ballroom culture of queer POC’s in large Metropolitan cities such as NYC during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Many of these terms are used today, and as queer POC’s both the informant and I continue to use these terms around other members of the communty as signifiers of our personal identity and our belonging in the community. The lingo also provides a special codified language that others outside of the community might not get as well, providing a sense of security and privacy in a subtle way.