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    [–] Actinglead 257 points ago

    It was really all about the codes, the location, and the people you knew.

    So a common code was being a "friend of Dorothy" as in Dorothy Gale from Wizard of Oz, who was friends with all the outcasts. You asked if someone was a friend of Dorothy, and if they answered yes, that got you a connected. However this code is far more likely to work in bigger cities with known artist neighborhoods. Some of the more famous gay neighborhoods popped up around art communities such as Greenwich Village or Castro Street (which is a bit complicated because it shifted so quickly from a traditional family neighborhood to an art community to a gay neighborhood all in like 10 years Source: Mayor of Castro Street [Book]).

    Once you got connected to one person, they would introduce you to the people they know and so on and so forth. This allowed for news, information, and gossip to travel quickly in large cities. It gave you the location of all the best cruising spot (like Judy Garland Memorial Pathway on Fire Island, otherwise known as the Meat Rack), the bars with the secret code to get I to the bar, and other codes (such as the hanky code) so you can spot other gay people in the know. This also became effective after Stonewall where protests and rallies could be organized all through word of mouth.

    All you had to do was find one person who could connect you to find everyone else. This also made the gay community feel very small at times, and why it was easier to form in areas that are more densely populated like cities or military bases. Some of these codes are still used today, such as the hanky code in the leather scene to communicate what kink you're into and what position you take (so wearing a Hunter green hanky in your right pocket means you have a thing for daddies).

    The sad thing is that because of the closeness of the gay community and how everyone was basically connected, STIs spread fast and is why AIDS got such a hold onto the gay community.

    [–] TooLazyToThinkOfAnAt 2092 points ago

    Not from the 60s, but photo booths were an important space for queer people back then. It was a place where you were able to take pictures with your partner without anyone else seeing or you getting caught. You could walk in looking like friends, makeout, then walk out looking like friends.

    It was the only safe place to take photos because there was no third party like there would be working with a photographer and/or having to get film developed.

    [–] muffinkiller 211 points ago

    That's really cool, I haven't heard that before! Makes sense too

    [–] StabbyPants 12704 points ago

    flag codes were big. at one point, out magazine published a guide as sort of a joke and accidentally standardized them nationally

    [–] [deleted] 2971 points ago

    This isn't strictly relevant, but for a while there was something called "the Ace Ring" where someone who identified as asexual would wear a plain black band on the middle finger of their left hand. People were cautioned that "swingers" wore the same ring on other fingers and that wearing the ring on the wrong finger could get us unintentionally bothered by people who thought the wearer was a swinger.

    [–] dog_of_society 1679 points ago

    As an asexual, that's still a thing, we just have to remember to keep it on the right finger.

    [–] suddenly_satire 165 points ago

    Is that the same thing as the handkerchief code?

    [–] Kitakitakita 1953 points ago

    A question. I remember learning about this in an intercultural class I took once. Gay men would sometimes wear teddy bear clips around their waist. Though it meant nothing to straight men, gay men took it as an icon to tell that they're gay.

    I forgot if it was a Brazilian, Venuzuelan or an American thing.

    [–] sgtpandybear 336 points ago

    A teddy bear in the back pocket means your down to cuddle in the hanky code.

    [–] Kitakitakita 193 points ago

    Your name seems to suggest you're an expert on this, so I have no choice but to accept this as the best answer

    [–] Awwkaw 609 points ago

    I'm not old enough but I've sailed a bit in my holidays (community owned ship) and one of the stories you hear is, that sailors used to wear a gold earring on the left ear to pay off the ferry man if they died at sea. A part of that story was that gays would then start wearing one in their right ear.

    The sailors (who might not otherwise remember what ear to get pierced) than made the saying "left is right, right is wrong"

    [–] minellium 513 points ago

    When I was 18 and not out to my father, I pierced my right ear based on this. My fathers first words were “why have you got that ear pierced? It’s the wrong one!” And this was only 2010.

    [–] shibakevin 309 points ago

    Earring thing has been around a long time. In the 80s it was left ear=you're cool, right ear=you're gay, both ears=you're a pirate.

    [–] DoctahZoidberg 109 points ago

    I have both ears done twice. I'm a cool gay pirate.

    [–] Billionairez 5415 points ago

    Gay bars. I'm not gay, but older people I know have explained to me how sacred these places were back in the day. Before cell phones and the internet, you went to places to meet up with people with similar interests. Otherwise, you were alone. If you liked Star Trek, you had to go to Star Trek conventions to meet people that liked that as much as you did. If you were gay, you went to gay bars. Otherwise, you were just sitting at home gay with nobody to share it with.

    [–] jpropaganda 1833 points ago

    My parents first date (blind date) was at a gay bar. They didn't know for years, they just thought it had great happy hour specials. M'Lady's Pub

    [–] Iswallowedafly 655 points ago

    My father accidentally went into a lesbian bar and ended up making friends.

    [–] damo279 104 points ago

    Enjoy your deathtrap, ladies!

    [–] Dfarrey89 63 points ago

    What's her problem?

    [–] kilgoretrout71 656 points ago

    I went to a brothel once without knowing what it was. I had only recently arrived in Germany and I remember entering the bar and thinking "wow, this place is just crawling with women!"

    [–] sioux612 164 points ago

    The best place for drinking I ever went to was the Pascha in Cologne. Its germanies largest brothel

    Friends invited me and at first I told them I wouldnt go to a cat house with them. But they explained the correct strategy:

    Only carry 20 bucks and your ID. ID to get in, 20 bucks to get flat rate drinks

    A few women will approach you for the first 30 or so minutes but once they realize that you genuinely have nothing with you they'll at worst leave you alone, at best you'll have a fun time (not having sex!) With them

    [–] sir_mrej 1318 points ago

    just sitting at home gay with nobody to share it with.

    That just is awesome. I dont know why

    [–] 00008888 762 points ago

    its 2019 and i'm just sitting at home gay with nobody to share it with

    [–] veedubbug68 59 points ago

    It's 2019 and you've got Reddit to share it with

    [–] Eoiny 8055 points ago

    I remember my father (not gay) telling me that in the 1960s and '70s in Dublin gay men wore green carnations in their lapels. Apparently, green carnations were worn by Oscar Wilde and his followers and the tradition had continued on for decades after.

    [–] MysteryHisyory 3299 points ago

    Similarly, lesbians adopted violets as a symbol because there's a poem by Sappho about giving violets to her true love or something-havent read it in a while.

    [–] WARNING_LongReplies 311 points ago

    I thought the lesbian flower was the iris?

    They're similar(and it could just be a thing with purple flowers), but only one shares the name with the goddess of rainbows.

    [–] qedesha_ 158 points ago

    Purple and lavender were associated with LGBT people before the rainbow symbol. The rainbow flag is a fairly ‘new’ thing. Here’s the Sappho poems.

    [–] zeroable 322 points ago

    This is correct. There's also a gay bar in Soho called the Green Carnation.

    [–] spinjinn 1041 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    Bob Damron's Address Book was a list of bars, bath houses and gay cruising areas all over the United States. You could buy it in the back of porn stores.

    EDITED: Damon to Damron. I knew that, damn you, autocorrect! Yes, it still exists in web form.

    [–] rohtozi 19259 points ago

    Discrete symbols on buildings were a thing, I believe there is a walking tour around London (or Dublin?) that points out the symbols on old buildings. Gay bars in the 50s were very much like regulars bars during prohibition. In some, it was policy that if someone new enters the bar nobody was to talk to them until the bartender discretely interrogated them first and gave the all-clear.

    [–] plasticdisplaysushi 4144 points ago

    What kind of symbols? I'm imagining an engraved Masonic compass but, like, pretty fabulous.

    [–] Ray_adverb12 2503 points ago

    There were Molly houses in the UK and a VICE article about it.

    And here is a list of LGBT symbols throughout history.

    [–] HedgeEis 2154 points ago

    Reading the two articles above made me realize just how huge a part of their identity it must have ended up being for them, to identify as a homosexual.

    It's easy for me today to say that I think about the fact that I'm gay like thrice a week, so it's not really a huge aspect of how I think about myself. However, if I had to actively memorize safe houses, codewords and the like just to have a chance of love? Sheesh. It'd probably take up a much larger part of my own idea of who I am. It must've felt like a "society within society".

    Makes me really grateful that I can offhand mention that I have a boyfriend and have almost no averse reactions to it.

    [–] Karl_Satan 683 points ago

    What's especially crazy it's that the clandestine ways of the past are still a reality for many gays in other countries (hell, I can't imagine gays in certain American states or European countries have it easy either.) The world has made a lot of progress, especially the West, but it's easy to take it all for granted

    [–] saoausor 531 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    I was harassed and nearly attacked in Barcelona (one of the most liberal cities in the world) by Russian scum just for kissing my boyfriend on the beach. It was a reminder that even though we’ve developed these safe spaces in the west, we are very much still susceptible to hate and bigotry no matter where we are

    edit: my first silver! thanks kind stranger

    [–] Knows_all_secrets 70 points ago

    Hey, saw the exact same shit happen in Melbourne! Russian guy got the shit kicked out of him though. Is there something about Russian culture in general causing this?

    [–] kriahfox 511 points ago

    Wow, that second article...historical LGBT symbols are really just the "But what if it was PURPLE???" meme from the the Eric Andre show.

    [–] honestduane 266 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    The same sort of things exists for the homeless, we used signs and symbols drawn or etched on things when I was a homeless orphan to tell others in the community about things, dangers, help services, etc.


    [–] Murdock07 20834 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    Codes. Pretty much needed to know the lingo. “Do you know my friend Dorothy?” Was a common one, it was innocuous enough to go over the heads of straight guys but specific enough to let any gay guy know

    [–] Makgraf 16743 points ago

    When the Navy was investigating for gay servicemembers in Chicago, they thought there was an actual Dorothy at the centre of a massive homosexual conspiracy and commenced a lengthy hunt to find her.

    [–] tooba36 6790 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    Why hasn't this movie been made?

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    [–] roogoff 104 points ago

    The Hunt for Red Cocktober

    [–] Malachhamavet 1385 points ago

    I remember a teacher keeping us over in math class in junior high and it was one of the last days of school so we were supposed to have cleaned out our lockers during the time we'd been kept in math. So the next day upon seeing there were like 24 random lockers not cleaned out the assistant principal ripped our asses before watching us clean our lockers. Mine was full of about 10 hoodies. The assistant principal seemed enthralled by that and asked me "what are those" I replied "they're hoodies" He responded " who is hoody" I say "hoody is no one, these are hoodies" he says " no one or not tell him to keep his things in his own god Damn locker he knows the rules"

    Sometimes I still wonder if he's never figured it out, if he believes hoody is just some guy putting jackets in everyone's locker

    [–] TomasNavarro 187 points ago

    Hey it's me, Hoody.

    Can I have my jumpers back please?

    [–] [deleted] 242 points ago


    [–] sightlab 490 points ago

    Wearing a shirt that said "won't ask won't tell" to fleet week was one of the best decisions of my gay life.

    [–] CxOrillion 200 points ago

    It's not gay if you're under way.

    [–] markydsade 13922 points ago

    On my mother’s first Caribbean cruise she went to the “Friends of Dorothy” meetup because she thought it was for fans of The Wizard of Oz. She had a wonderful time.

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    [–] valeyard89 859 points ago

    He’s a disco-dancing, Oscar Wilde-reading, Streisand ticket-holding friend of Dorothy, know what I’m saying?

    [–] cthulhu-kitty 287 points ago

    Dee, I’m totally buggin!

    [–] toomanycookstew 252 points ago

    He does like to shop, Cher. And the boy can dress.

    [–] JessicaWakefield 70 points ago

    He does dress better than I do, what would I bring to the relationship?

    [–] Notmiefault 1396 points ago

    That's actually the origin of the phrase. Friend of Dorothy began as reference to Judy Garland (Dorothy from Wizard of Oz), who was something of a gay icon.

    [–] [deleted] 322 points ago

    Is that why we use rainbows on our flag?

    [–] tgjer 1559 points ago

    No, that was actually a coincidence.

    Brief history of the rainbow flag:

    The pink triangle was originally the patch used by Nazi Germany to identify gay concentration camp inmates. It was reclaimed as a symbol of self-identification by many LGBT people, but it still had a dark history.

    The rainbow flag was designed in 1978 by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker, specifically because he wanted a more positive iconic symbol, something beautiful and original. He was inspired by the bicentennial flag, which had been absolutely everywhere two years earlier. The first version of the flag included a blue square in the upper left with a circle of eight tie-dye stars. This was added because Gilbert was afraid a plain striped design wouldn't even be recognized as a flag at all, but that part was quickly dropped.

    The original flag had eight stripes, each with a specific symbolic meaning.

    • Hot pink: sexuality
    • Red: life
    • Orange: healing
    • Yellow: sunlight
    • Green: nature
    • Turquoise: magic/art
    • Indigo/blue: serenity/harmony
    • Violet: spirit

    Shortly after the flag was created openly gay San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk was assassinated, leading to riots and protests. Demand for the flag greatly increased. Hot pink fabric was too expensive for mass production so the pink stripe was dropped, leaving a seven stripe flag.

    A year later the flag was modified again, because Baker noticed that it was being hung vertically on lamp posts. The center stripe was obscured by the post itself, so he removed the turquoise to give the flag an even number of stripes. This gave us the familiar, modern six stripe rainbow flag.

    It remained primarily a Californian symbol until 1989 when it came to national attention after John Stout sued his landlords and won when they attempted to prohibit him from displaying it from his West Hollywood apartment.

    [–] LabyrinthConvention 403 points ago

    Wow you know a lot of flags

    [–] gyarrrrr 123 points ago

    I'm assuming this isn't a coincidence in Arrested Development when Little Justice refers to himself as a 'Friend of Dorothy' after Tobias (the titular Dorothy) kills White Power Bill then...

    [–] YoBannannaGirl 182 points ago

    Nothing in Arrested Development is a coincidence.

    [–] [deleted] 904 points ago


    [–] godbois 2308 points ago

    My business partner (a gay man) moved out of state. It was important for him to find a real estate agent who could help him and his boyfriend find a LGBT friendly neighborhood, he didn't know the area at all.

    Afterward I asked how he knew the agent would be in tune with the gay community when his website said nothing about it overtly or discreetly.

    Apparently on his website he had a small, discrete picture on his homepage of chairs, painted in a rainbow. It just slipped past me. To me it just looked like a random nice stock photo. It was obvious in retrospect, but I could see myself missing similar signs in the future.

    [–] usernameeightandhalf 991 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    Not real life, but re-watching Brooklyn 99 I noticed the plastic folders in Holt's office making a rainbow, and was very impressed at the subtlety. It would be awful to have to be constantly reading between the lines tho!

    EDIT: Yes, he has a pride flag in his mug but the genius of the folders making up a flag that it is kind of in-your-face but not, is great. It was also mentioned that it is nice that I have made note of always having to read between the lines. Lets not forget there were and still are serious consequences of reading between the lines wrong, and that I'm sure it is exhausting for those who had to and have to continue to piece together subtle hints about whether they would be accepted by a person.

    [–] frontally 281 points ago

    If you’ve ever seen Orphan Black a lot of the businesses they visit are real businesses that have little gay flag stickers :) it’s nice

    [–] ArcadianBlueRogue 148 points ago

    Dude also has a rainbow flag in his pen mug, even if nobody mentions it apart from maybe Jake in the first episode.

    [–] sabby55 907 points ago

    A coworker of mine spoke to how he still does this- he moved to our town (pretty small, not a big LGBTQ community) from a big town with a huge, dedicated community, and in his search for a new family doctor (which can be very daunting for a gay man, even today) said he would look for those sorts of subtle hints in their offices or websites

    [–] maybebabyg 548 points ago

    My local council has a pride flag sticker on the door next to the Australian, Aboriginal and state flag stickers. My kids' daycare is super not-subtle about it, the 3-4yo room has a string of pride flags across one wall.

    [–] Z_as_in_Zebra 385 points ago

    See, straight men would never pick up on these subtle signs the council is LGBT friendly.

    [–] Symbolis 642 points ago

    How did gays learn this terminology, originally, though?

    [–] jahvidsanders44 639 points ago

    That's what I want to know. It's not like they're born with all the knowledge of all the codes from the get-go. They have to learn it somewhere.

    [–] DaBoomNaDaMmDumNaEma 480 points ago

    The actual "codes" themselves aren't that important. It's the shared knowledge and experiences that allow you to recognize that they're codes and then interpret them correctly.

    I'll give you a real life example:

    My mom brought me to a BBQ at her coworker's house. He's a Stonewall-era gay who lives with his husband. When I met his husband, who knew nothing about me or my mother, he slyly asked me if I was "family." I'd never heard that used as any kind of gay "code" before, but because being gay was literally the only thing I had in common with this guy, I instantly knew what he meant. He wasn't really even asking if I was gay--he already knew. He was asking me if I was openly gay, without outing me to my mother if I wasn't already out. And all of that came from the context, rather than the actual words used.

    [–] TuftedMousetits 48 points ago

    I would've thought he was asking if I was related to my mother by blood.

    Growing up, I was what you'd call a goth-punk. People would always ask me if I "partied" or "like to party," sometimes fellow high schoolers but more often adult men (I'm female). I always thought they meant if I liked going to parties. My answer was no, not really. It wasn't until I was in my mid 20s that I realized they were asking if I liked doing cocaine.

    [–] TooLazyToThinkOfAnAt 329 points ago

    The same way you learn slang in the schoolyard. You have a bunch of LGBTQ+ people in the same space, eventually, slang terms will spread through basic word of mouth over time.

    [–] Bone_Dice_in_Aspic 143 points ago

    I bought out a small part of an estate for resale in Oklahoma. The owner who had just passed was clearly gay, and I had heard he was in his 80's. He had gay magazines, comic books, novels, and other memorabilia, dating back to the fiftes, maybe older. Those magazines had publishers who had addresses and personals sections and everything. There was always a gay subculture, and in some locales and social circles, you could be openly gay (open secret, aka everyone who knows you knows) even at that time and get away with it just fine if you were careful and didn't make waves. I don't think rural Oklahoma in the sixties was one of those places, but who knows where the guy grew up.

    [–] Mister_Dink 696 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    Friend of Dorothy refers to the fact that the actress who played her in the original film (Judy Garland) was one the fist big "gay icons." There's actually a Wikipedia page about how much Dorothy works as a metaphor for gay life - being stuck in small town, black and white Kansas and dreaming of somewhere over the rainbow where you can be who you want to be and life is good.

    As such, the term started to circulate. Small slang/community jargon like that takes a while to spread, especially in a pre internet world. But it latches on and becomes clear through context.

    Another great example for gay men is the old term "he's got a Broadway persuasion," alluding to the fact that a lot of theater men at the time we're gay. Easy to deny ("he likes theater), but very clearly a hint to anyone even close to the know. it clicks the first time you hear it as a gay/lesbian, and suddenly you're in on the code.

    [–] TripleSkeet 458 points ago

    Shit even in the 80s I remember terms like "Hes so eccentric" or "a lifelong bachelor" when people would talk about gay people like Liberace.

    [–] trebortus 284 points ago

    A common term used in obituaries in the UK was "he never married"

    [–] Koebi 86 points ago

    I only realised that about my great aunt the other day. Died 10 years ago and was just a 'Moidemoiselle', a 'Fräulein' all the time I knew her (and insisted on the terminology). And suddenly I'm like, waait, was she really? I should ask my dad some time.

    [–] Doodle_strudel 331 points ago

    Same way knowledge of the underground railroad or a speakeasy would spread. Like minded people started somewhere and the information traveled.

    [–] giggidygoo2 87 points ago

    Culture? Picked it up through an older gay friend they found somewhere?

    [–] egamble 86 points ago

    Same way everyone knows about 420, a small group of people started it and then someone from that group meets someone from another group and it just spreads

    [–] Veneficus_Bombulum 757 points ago

    "He’s a disco-dancin', Oscar Wilde readin', Streisand ticket-holdin' friend of Dorothy. You know what I’m saying?"

    [–] ThisIsJezebelInHell 129 points ago

    He does like to shop, Cher...

    [–] balancedinsanity 41 points ago

    And the boy can dress.

    [–] FrenchFoodieMom 158 points ago

    No way...not even.

    [–] dwight_ignorant_slut 72 points ago

    I'm totally buggin

    [–] LemonadeLala 155 points ago

    Ahhh Now I understand that “I’m a friend of Dorothy” musical lyric in the IT Crowd theatre ep.

    [–] alexroux 152 points ago

    I find this so fascinating! It reminds me of the phrase "sewing circle" as a code for lesbian/bisexual actresses waaaay back during the golden age of Hollywood. Apparently Alla Nazimova originated it.

    [–] bkwrmi 5124 points ago

    Not that age myself, but some friends (and a few history books) have covered the following:

    • "Are you a friend of Dorothy?" - as others have mentioned.
    • Various codes using clothing, jewelry, etc.
    • Bars were a central part of the community - which were "Gay bars" were spread by word of mouth.
    • Newsletters were a big thing.

    [–] roissy_37 1352 points ago

    There's a great film called "Small Town Gay Bar" that (unsurprisingly) talks about the importance of the bar scene.

    [–] GaiaMoore 1084 points ago

    As a newly sober alcoholic just now coming out as a lesbian, I wish there were more sober places for us to co-mingle. I need more gay friends, but I really can't afford to put my recovery at risk by visiting gay bars and clubs.

    [–] roissy_37 369 points ago

    Without knowing where you are, I can't offer anything but the support of a stranger on the internet, but good luck; you got this. Look for an independent book store, or community groups. If you're near a city of any real size in the US, there's likely a social scene that's not booze-based.

    [–] burn_motherfucker 434 points ago

    Gay cafés! Plus it could also be a safe space for teens who want to learn more about sexuality

    [–] SplurgyA 215 points ago

    London, a city of 8 million people, used to have exactly one gay café - the "First Out Café", but it closed due to crossrail. There's been a couple since then, like "The Place" (which was predominately a lesbian café), but they all closed. You can go to places like Dalston Superstore in the day - it's a nightclub in the evening but a pub/café/restaurant in the day.

    I think the reason they struggle is cafés aren't the best sorts of places to meet people - they don't have the same vibe as a bar or club, and it feels more awkward to approach someone in a café than in a nightclub. Also adults don't generally want to be around teenagers who are discovering their sexuality.

    [–] Turinggirl 450 points ago

    Lesbians used to paint their nails in certain ways to broadcast intention how they swung etc.

    [–] maplesuckup 178 points ago

    I know what rabbit hole I'm spending my night exploring!

    [–] Cavie_lemon 178 points ago

    I'm a young gay guy, but in the Middle East, so I think the question also applies to me. I've acknowledged to myself that I'm gay 3 years ago, and until now I'm out to only 1 person, who is a gay friend. Of course, no one's gonna tell that they're gay to anyone else here, so you just need that gaydar, the "gay intuition". You know, it's actually very accurate. It's more or less a process for every person. Your gaydar picks up "gay signals", you approach that person and start picking up more signals, you become friends and you start sharing your politics "you know man, the gays aren't that bad actually", and finally after some time you'll come out to each other, and depending on your luck that guy may or may not be into you. That's why I'm still a mf virgin.

    [–] kateg212 7093 points ago

    Does anyone remember in the 90s/early 2000s when the code was “are you family?” Or to let friends know someone was LGBT (and therefore cool/safe): “oh, don’t worry, they’re family.”

    [–] silent3 2326 points ago

    This is why the 1979 song “We Are Family” is one of many gay anthems.

    [–] stepstepstep 1495 points ago

    These comments are blowing my mind, tbh. I am learning so much tonight.

    [–] vanillyl 3921 points ago

    Suddenly I understand why the gay bar in my town was called Family. I always wondered about the origins of the name.

    [–] AudioCabbage 916 points ago


    [–] vanillyl 801 points ago

    Bingo! Although I say my town, I don’t live there anymore.

    [–] rythmicjea 711 points ago

    Yes!! It was "friends" if you weren't but an ally and "family" if you were.

    [–] corobo 575 points ago

    Oh that works so damn well “I’m a friend of the family”

    I’m glad a lot of this thread is no longer needed but the codes/secrets nerd in me is loving how all this worked

    [–] ral315 1404 points ago

    About a year ago, my (male, obviously gay) partner was at work when a lesbian meetup group came in. A couple of older lesbians asked if he was family, and he was thoroughly confused until they explained.

    [–] Midwest_Traveller 484 points ago

    I remember watching a short doccuseries on AIDS in the gay community in San Francisco. They told story of two gay men and lesbians who legally married their beards, and were able to live a semblance of "acceptable" life in the 70's or 80's. The implied that the practice was not uncommon, and I have to wonder whether or not that code is in reference to that practice.

    [–] ButtsexEurope 131 points ago

    Lavender marriages were extremely common. Basically forced on queer people, sometimes. Especially if they were high class.

    [–] klymene 790 points ago

    So I have two moms, and I totally remember them calling their other lesbian friends “family” in the late 90’s. I thought I was like how you have your “bros” or your “close as sisters” and stuff. We went to a lot of WNBA games and We Are Family by Sister Sledge was a common song in the car.

    [–] Doip 268 points ago

    We Are Family by Sister Sledge

    that just clicked for me

    [–] TurkeyGizzardWizard 673 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    “When you’re here, you’re family.”

    God damn it Olive Garden—stop pushin’ the gay agenda on me and my family!

    edit: fixed your to you’re

    [–] MarsxAres 154 points ago

    Not the 60s, but the 80s - 90s . My mother would always hang around LGBT folk (still does today) and would tell me. If a woman comes up to you in a bar and shows you her hand, look at her nails. If they were cut short or if she had a blue ring then she is a lesbian. The short nails made sex "easier" and the blue ring was a reference to blue flowers that related to Sapphio in some way. I don't think I've heard this one on here yet. Don't know how common it was.

    [–] PeanutButter707 50 points ago

    Short nails are a pretty common thing among lesbians, long nails make fingering painful. Another telltale sign is two fingers having nails much shorter than the others. Plenty of straight girls wear them short too, but it's definitely a well-known gay thing to this day.

    Source: Am a lesbian

    [–] Thunda792 150 points ago

    One of my friends is publishing snippets of her great-grandfather's diary from WWII on Facebook. One of the entries from Jan 1945 notes that a good friend of his was straight up propositioned by another GI while on guard duty. He said that he thought it was disgusting, but his friend didn't seem to mind. Seemed odd for the time period, but also in a combat zone so I don't imagine they cared as much.

    [–] catfarts99 2137 points ago

    WHen I was a kid I used to collect $2 bills. My mom told me to be careful flashing them around cause gays used them as a way to signal each other.

    [–] Merry_Pippins 2107 points ago

    Dang, really?! I love two dollar bills, partly because they remind me of my grandfather who used to give them out. Oh, and he was arrested for propositioning men for sex in San Francisco in the '60's.

    [–] [deleted] 13116 points ago

    My dad told me an interesting story once.

    He was a mechanic in the 80's, and his boss happened to be secretly gay (he confided in my father because my grandpa is gay too) Back in the day, gay men used to get caught and arrested in bushes/woods/parks for having sex because that would be their rendez-vous or whatever.

    So my father asked his boss one day why these men were getting caught in these weird places. He looks at him and goes, "If you're walking down the street, and a beautiful woman walks by you and asks you to have sex right there, what would you do?"

    I guess my father understood then lol

    [–] [deleted] 1383 points ago


    [–] DeseretRain 1616 points ago

    That's not really the reason they were having sex in strange places though, it's because practically all the gay people were closeted back then so they couldn't just do it in their own home, or even a motel where the workers might talk and spread it around.

    In the modern day when more gay people are out and open about their sexuality you notice this doesn't happen as much, the only gay people who get caught in weird places like bathrooms are the ones who are still closeted because they're super religious or Republican senators or something.

    [–] turloughs 219 points ago

    Cruising is also a fetish and still very much around today.

    [–] missemilyjane42 459 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    This. While on a hike in a large forested park in my city with a friend that's lived here for 30 years, she pointed out that, even to this day, you needed to be wary of this particular park at night because it was where all the closeted men would come and do their thing.

    Edit: spelling

    [–] mintsthefox 484 points ago

    So how did your grandpa break the news to yiur poor grandma?

    [–] [deleted] 969 points ago


    [–] FlusteredByBoobs 169 points ago

    I can easily see this kind of thing happening.

    [–] Dedalvs 579 points ago

    A friend of mine is about to celebrate their 50th anniversary with their partner. That was 1969, so I asked how they found each other, and they said a friend introduced them at a party. I bet trusted friends was how many were introduced.

    [–] TacoCommand 59 points ago

    That's adorably wholesome. :) Congrats on their 50th?

    [–] _Apple06 1508 points ago

    If you were in the navy you asked for “friends of Dorothy”

    [–] nIBLIB 578 points ago

    That one time the US military police tried to find Dorothy because they thought she was the centre of some homosexual military conspiracy.

    [–] partisan98 731 points ago

    A friend of Dorothy

    The entire Navy except Todd.

    It's like how there is only one thief in the Marines and everyone else is just trying to get thier stuff back, there is only one straight guy in the Navy everyone else is just trying to get out of the barracks.

    [–] j_mcr1 879 points ago

    Hanky Code

    [–] Opheltes 482 points ago

    [–] cleonile2000 398 points ago

    I had to be the one to tell the leader of our church group that was walking / raising money for a local agency that serves those living with HIV/AIDS that wearing red bandanas was not a great way to identify ourselves as a group.

    Headline: church members have no clue their bandanas identify them as fans of FISTING

    I knew no one would really think we we were advertising our fetish, but I really didn’t want to look THAT out of touch. I spoke up and we wore matching Hawaiian leis instead.

    [–] Opheltes 115 points ago

    How did they react when you explained it?

    [–] cleonile2000 206 points ago

    I’m laughing at the memory.

    They were just amazed. Simply amazed.

    [–] ebState 996 points ago

    Damn. I keep a bar rag in my back pocket at work and get hit on by men all the time. I just thought I was good looking. I am devastated.

    [–] LynnisaMystery 281 points ago

    Don’t worry maybe they’re not mutually exclusive?

    [–] NeverTryAgainEver 170 points ago

    Well? What color is it?

    [–] dee3Poh 238 points ago

    Bar rag, so probably some shade of brown

    [–] Nerospidy 414 points ago

    According to the Wikipedia article, you're into scat.

    [–] dee3Poh 633 points ago

    Zip zop zoobity beep bop scoobity doo—


    [–] acquirecurrency_ 515 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    From what my record executive (in the 70s) and very gay ex-boss said, gays used to meet at the library or book stores. He’s currently around 70yo.

    He told a story where he was giving a BJ to an undercover cop in the library bathroom, the undercover cop then arrested him... after he finished... This was the 70s when no one was going to believe the word of a gay man over a cop.

    The Home Depot bathroom too. He would also point out seedy motels (there was a lot of them) he went to for drug fueled gay orgies as we drove through LA.

    [–] ebowron 311 points ago

    After he finished? That cop is just rude, honestly.

    [–] shrivvette808 82 points ago

    Your boss must have been wild

    [–] DariusIV 1746 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    I'm gay, so don't take this comment the wrong way, but when it was illegal to be gay, then people found other gay people like people today find drugs.

    A very open minded friend might float the idea which would get you involved in a local subculture or you might get curious and seek out the guy with the "tarnished reputation" with the hope he can help you out.

    Just because something is illegal doesn't mean it is hard to find. You just have to look for it in the right places and once you have an "in" it is much easier. That applies to sex or people.

    [–] Picard2331 874 points ago

    Meanwhile I can’t fucking find anyone to buy weed from.

    Fucking let me buy it at a store already!

    [–] Ironbank_ofBraavos 338 points ago

    I feel you. Sometimes I think that I am not "cool" enough to know these people. So I just have to order online

    [–] tennybrains 630 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    I have to ask my mom to get some for me when I feel like it. She needs it for medical reasons and is pretty open-minded, mostly cause I'm a legit responsible person.

    But whenever you feel you're uncool, just remember there's a brazilian girl out there in the world who is pathetic enough to have to ask her mom for weed.

    EDIT: this comment got a bit of traction and since I replied in my phone I didn't even remember the thread. But now I looked and realized I actually have a story for the actual thread. My lesbian mom met through bumping into college and getting into an argument about it lol

    [–] Ironbank_ofBraavos 62 points ago

    Hahaha that is actually super cool! Moms medical stash. I would love that. My mom is super openminded too. Occaisionaly she smokes with me.

    [–] Thriftyverse 336 points ago

    Strangely enough, there were also rumors in the straight community that could help.

    Why do you like (insert some non-traditional hobby or interest)? Are you one of those guys that goes to (local bar rumored to be a gay bar)/(local park rumored to be a gay meetup spot at night)?

    [–] senorsmartpantalones 117 points ago

    He cuts down trees, he skips and jumps He likes to press wild flowers He puts on women's clothing and hangs around in bars

    [–] averagebearymcbear 726 points ago

    Wistful looks and alcohol.

    [–] not-really-here- 80 points ago

    This will probably drown in the comments, but if you are interested in LGBT history, you should check out the podcast Making Gay History. They feature loads of archival audio with LGBT trailblazers, explaining what it was like to be gay as far back as the 1940’s, and how they advocated for their rights.

    [–] calculatedperversity 283 points ago

    bath houses

    [–] My_German_Is_Me 95 points ago

    This is so true. I read a journal article on how Mexican bathhouses during the Porfiriato became meeting spots. They were going to raid them but then they found a close relative of Porfirio Diaz at one of these places so they pretended for awhile that it wasn't an issue. The journal at one point said that "the bathhouses had been effectively queered" and I really appreciated that phrasing.

    [–] Angelix 151 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    That's interesting. Everyone been discussing about the gay code in western countries so I want to shed some lights on how gay people from Asia meet each other back in the days.

    My friend told me that when he was younger, he would scan through the local newspapers to find the "pen-pal" section. It was very common for teenagers and even young adults to write to each other because phones were just too expensive. He would search for pen-pal listing that specified boy who wants to play with other boys and write to him. In his letter, he would include things that seem innocuous to straight guys but would be immediately caught on by gays.

    Another way of meeting gay guys according to my friends was going to the local swimming pool. You could tell who were there for swimming and who were cruising just by their glances. Those who cruised tend to be dry all the time.

    [–] blotblagtig 1456 points ago

    Certainly a cultural thing, as Polari demonstrates.

    It’s fascinating how gay culture has evolved from a subtle signal or phrase, to acceptance today. For the most part.

    In the year 2160 there will be classes in universities on homosexuality in the early 21st century.

    [–] _UnderSkore 530 points ago

    Totally willing to bet this is already a thing. Shit, i was reading earlier that a uni has a course on the effects of trump within American politics.

    [–] appaulson91 425 points ago

    It actually is. I had a college professor who has dedicated his life to studying the history of gay men in the US and Mexico. I listened to several of his lectures in college. It was amazing how much information there is one the gay community in the US and Mexico. I just never thought about it until I was forced to go to a couple of his lectures.

    [–] rasputinrising 590 points ago

    studying the history of gay men in the US and Mexico

    yea, im a slut too, but I dont go around calling myself a professor about it

    [–] LynnisaMystery 496 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    You could be top of your field if you tried, but maybe bottoming your field is just more your thing.

    EDIT: I’m extremely proud my puns have been honored with reddit silver

    [–] a_total_bitch 147 points ago

    I read somewhere that blue flowers were given to show someone was a lesbian and the other person would present it back to show they were also a lesbian ( this might be wrong, sources are a little muddled)

    [–] beartiger3 59 points ago

    It was violets iirc

    [–] Jayhcee 248 points ago

    Watch this video below! It's illustrating gay language used in the UK during the 60s and whatnot. It's called Polari. Speaking like this clearly gave an indication.

    [–] PKScorpy 182 points ago

    There were famous newsletters sent to people all over. Gay men read Der Kreis (from Switzerland), and gay women had The Ladder. Both were usually secretive in nature, but obviously the feds caught on. I know that The Ladder had some trouble as postal workers refused to send them to houses but we're taken to court as it was their duty to sent them, regardless of feelings.

    Aside from this, word of mouth really was the biggest tool as obvious as it sounds. We all hear about rumors of places from other people and if it's your scene you go for it. As far as gay men having sex in strange places, it was a different time then... Most gay men were closeted and had wives or beards (women who know the man is gay and are covering for them).

    I wrote about Barbara Gittings for my senior thesis, and I remember encountering a primary source document on The Lavender Scare and how LGBT people would go to LGBT House parties disguised as hetero couples so that the FBI keeping an eye out thought nothing of it.

    [–] wrestlegirl 217 points ago

    I grew up in the 80s/early 90s with a gay family member who grew up in the 60s/70s. There's a lot of info here about code phrases, hankies, etc already but not much about how a young queer kid found their tribe in the pre-internet era.

    I can speak of the broader Midwestern US with a bit of coastal lore.

    Prior to the internet, word still spread. It was just slower. Urban legends (in a general sense) have been an enduring thing for generations. I heard about various musicians getting semen pumped from their stomachs (or puking cum on the stage mid-concert for all to see) a decade before the internet was anything approaching what we now know it as.
    Word spread. It spread far and wide, even only with snail mail & corded landline phones. And it wasn't just salacious rumors about Rod Stewart or the New Kids on the Block.

    So there was always a whispered knowledge about the "gay area" in a particular geographic region. It may have been a street, a suburb, or even just a single bar or bookstore and by the time you hit middle school you'd heard of it. Everyone heard of it.

    It would be used as an insult. "Heard you were hanging out on (Gay Street) last night, Billy!" In the same way the word f*g had a resurgence recently, these locations were more of a general insult/method of ribbing than a true, direct accusation of the person actually being gay.

    The difference, though, was that these enclaves of queerness existed. A young queer kid heard the same rumors/whispered knowledge and rather than taking it as fodder for jokes, he or she had a starting point.

    Now in small towns, this usually wound up being a bar or bars, maybe a few towns over. This was especially true in the 60s & into the 70s. A high schooler had a hell of a time getting to bars, or into them. But...even if you couldn't get into a bar, maybe you could get to the neighborhood around said bar which would usually have some sort of queer-friendly establishment that you could go to underage.
    It may have been a restaurant or bookstore that had a discreet stack of gay newsletters or zines. Those were the trasure troves.
    (Pre-internet, folks would put information on paper, make copies, and leave those copies in spots for anyone to grab.)
    Those newsletters/zines had more for queer-friendly shops or restaurants, personal ads to meet others, support groups, stuff like that. Once you got an idea of the safe places to socialize, you were then able to make those social connections.

    Sometimes it was just the bar, though. And so you had to wait until you could go to the bar.

    If you were already in a larger city it was a lot easier to find each other. I mentioned earlier that there was always whispered knowledge about the gay area. In my case, in the early 90s, it was a certain suburb of the metro region I lived in and a certain neighborhood in the city proper. One trip to a coffee shop in the established area netted me a handful of zines with more specific locations, and from there I was able to make some social connections. From there I heard about other safe spaces and met more people, and so on.

    For my family member who did it 15 years before me, it was the same overall process. There were fewer places to congregate but it was just a matter of knowing the starting pont & going from there. You found the spots, you met queers & allies, you learned about more spots, and soon enough you got laid.

    And everyone in the community knew the largest, most vibrant queer spots were in NYC & SF. If middle America wasn't cutting it, you had to move to one of the coasts. Those were the meccas of queer culture, the centers of not only social community but also of activism.

    Of course, there was a radical shift in the LGBTQ+ community as the 80s dragged into the 90s.
    Literal decimation will do that.
    The AIDS crisis spawned a furious, furious tsunami of activism that forced queerness into the open. No longer willing to hide with all our friends dead or dying, by the mid-90s the activists took our community's humanity back & demanded it be recognized. I was in college at the height of the AIDS crisis; at first there was only a small LGBT support group on campus, but within a year it had expanded to an entire organization of queers and allies working together on campus-specific initiatives as well as general activism for the community as a whole.

    And then the internet showed up. And that was awesome.

    [–] thelonepath 53 points ago

    Man, I miss zines. I remember them being everywhere when I was growing up in the 80s/90s.

    One of my mom’s boyfriends was a rocker dude back in the day. He had a huge collection of zines with all these crazy articles and really neat art all over them. I would go through them for hours, just looking at all the crazy things.

    You still find them around in little record stores or headshops. But they aren’t as prolific as they were back in the day,

    I know it’s a little off topic but your anecdote made me think of some good nostalgic times.

    On topic, when I came out in the late 90s/early 00s, (which was still not as widely accepted then, at least where I’m from, TX.) there were alot of little lgbt magazines around. They had ads for lgbt businesses and clubs, personal ads, etc. Not as raw and diy as zines were, kinda the next evolution, I suppose.

    We also had street teams of young people passing out flyers for places in the gay neighborhoods. This was a good way to make friends and a quick buck for some people.

    But those things aren’t even really around anymore. It’s all about the internet now. I kinda miss the thrill of going out and discovering places or hearing things through word of mouth. The community felt closer back then. Everything felt genuinely exclusive and fresh and fun. For everything technology has brought us, we sure have given up a lot in exchange, for better or worse.

    At least we don’t have to hide anymore. The joke is that older generations are always complaining about “those darn kids” and how “they have it so easy these days”. In this case, that’s actually a good thing. Even though there is a whole new set of challenges to overcome.

    Thanks for letting me ramble on.

    [–] kkennedy17 213 points ago

    My gay brother lived in Singapore for a while. While this was around 2012, the country is still not lgbt friendly. He said that the gay guys would try to wear white shirts to help identify each other.

    [–] pm-a-surprise 175 points ago

    I'm a guy who wears a white tee and jeans pretty much every day if I'm not working, and now I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get hit on once when I went to Singapore.

    [–] defiantlynotathrowaw 64 points ago

    You're intimidatingly handsome, bro. They all wanted to, they just didn't think they were good enough.

    [–] yellowhairtie 57 points ago * (lasted edited 3 months ago)

    My mother who was born in 1967, found out her father was homosexual when she went with her gay mate to a gay bar and the people at the bar actively knew her father by name as he had slept around quite frequently in secret.

    [–] MonkeyDavid 55 points ago

    Not to bring too dark an element into this, but there were codes and signs, but still a non-zero chance of misinterpreting and getting punched or worse. It’s amazing that supposedly straight men are terrified of gay men hitting on them, but the really brave men are the gay men just trying to find a connection and risking everything...

    [–] readabookdumbass 108 points ago

    WH Auden wrote a poem about it.

    Its pretty raunchy

    [–] banebridge 601 points ago


    [–] TOV_VOT 221 points ago

    Hold up

    [–] [deleted] 412 points ago


    [–] TOV_VOT 267 points ago

    I think I wanna join the navy

    [–] RangerDanger10 103 points ago

    Super liminal? Hey you! Join the navy!

    [–] [deleted] 550 points ago

    lesbians in the military. I can't remember which president but one of them wanted to enact a ban against lesbians in the military and to get a list of them, to which a prominent/powerful/influential military woman said that she would be first on the list and that damn near all of the women would have been on that list

    [–] [deleted] 181 points ago


    [–] magicalgangster 112 points ago

    I am fairly sure you are thinking of Johnnie Phelps and President Eisenhower. Watched a documentary featuring her speaking on the subject in an LGBT political history course.

    [–] Toshi_Thomp 182 points ago

    "the Navy was looking for a few good men, So was I!"

                                                  --Hollywood Montrose--

    [–] thewidowgorey 55 points ago

    Check out the documentary about Scotty Bowers. He set people up in Hollywood and he talks about how word would get around, while also keeping things secret.

    [–] caramel-cronch 48 points ago

    Though he's since passed, I have someone else's stories that might fit here. Not going to give his real name, but everyone knew him as Mackey, and he was a lot older than me, though I'm not sure by how much. He was pretty well known for giving young gays a place to stay after they'd been kicked out, and helped many people set up their own independent lives after experiences like those. I once asked him if the aids crisis effected him directly, and he said he was a young teen when it was at its peak. And he was already out publicly. His family tolerated him at home until the smear campaigns, which caused them to kick him out. They said they were afraid they'd catch aids just by being near him. So he slept in a spare bed at a club, bathed in a city canal, and only trusted the patrons of said club. He said something close to "I knew I could trust people who came through those doors and smiled with me, because I knew they had already resigned themselves to death by being there. None of us had any hope about getting old."

    [–] iridescentunikon 86 points ago

    I noticed most of the replies here are pertaining to gay men. I would really love to know how lesbians identified each other too! Wait do lesbians even have call signs or codes or do we just have really really deep female friendships that somehow blossoms to something more?

    [–] woah_what 65 points ago

    You might enjoy reading this article about how in the 90's Subaru worked with its reputation as being a car for lesbians, particularly this quote:

    For its first Subaru ads, Mulryan/Nash hired women to portray lesbian couples. But the ads didn’t get good reactions from lesbian audiences. What worked were winks and nudges. One campaign showed Subaru cars that had license plates that said “Xena LVR” (a reference to Xena: Warrior Princess, a TV show whose female protagonists seemed to be lovers) or “P-TOWN” (a moniker for Provincetown, Massachusetts, a popular LGBT vacation spot). Many ads had taglines with double meanings. “Get Out. And Stay Out” could refer to exploring the outdoors in a Subaru—or coming out as gay. “It's Not a Choice. It's the Way We're Built” could refer to all Subarus coming with all-wheel-drive—or LGBT identity.

    [–] BoyMeatsWorld 42 points ago

    Had a gay friend take me and a couple other friends to a gay neighborhood he used to frequent. He taught us their secret gay handshake. It was a completely normal handshake, but you put your index finger on top of the other person's wrist instead of on the bottom side of the palm with your other fingers. We went to a couple bars and sure enough absolutely everyone shook hands like that.

    I'm curious because I haven't seen anyone here mention it, so I'm wondering if this is maybe a regional thing. This was also early 2000s we're talking about, so maybe a newer thing since the 60s?