A gay beard is an antiquated slang term for someone who serves as social cover for a closeted homosexual man. This type of person might be a friend, co-worker or even a spouse. During the days when virile movie stars like Rock Hudson and James McGreevey married beautiful women to keep their secret sexual orientation hidden, having a beard was often necessary for them to continue living as straight men.
Today, the LGBT community embraces facial hair as a symbol of identity and self-expression. They have many different beard types, each with its own meanings and symbolism. A "twink" beard, for example, is sparse and subtle, and reflects an androgynous or feminine identity. On the other hand, a "daddy" beard is thick and full of untamed masculinity. Using facial hair as a means of self-expression is especially important for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who may use it to reinforce their sense of maleness.
In addition to being a powerful form of expression, beards also serve as a way for LGBT people to connect with others within their communities. Many of them are used as an outward sign that a person is a member of a specific subculture, such as the leather community or drag queens. They can also be used to demonstrate political affiliations or a shared interest, such as music or sports. This sense of camaraderie and connection can be particularly meaningful to those who have been discriminated against, both inside and outside the LGBT community.