February 2, 2024

Where Did the Term Gay Blade Come From?

The term gay blade originally referred to any gallant young man who was proficient as a swordsman. It had a chivalrous meaning until about 1800 when it began to have a more slangy, sexual connotation. In 1904, for example, the short film The Gay Shoe Clerk depicted a heterosexual shoe clerk who kisses a female client and is said to be "gay."

By the early 1950's, according to Merriam-Webster, "gay" was unambiguously used as slang to refer to homosexual men. It is possible that it was used as slang for gay people even earlier than that, but in the days when homophobia was at its worst word like gay were code words for a secret culture of same-sex men and women who did not want to be ostracized by society.

Today the Washington Blade is a gay newspaper. It is published in Washington, DC and covers lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender news. It has a free news clipping service called BladeWire that collects news stories from a variety of local, regional, national and selected international sources.

The Washington Blade is owned by Window Media, which also owns the Southern Voice LGBT newspaper in Atlanta, Georgia. When the paper was first launched in 1969 it was a newsletter size page on letterhead. It became a full-sized tabloid in November of 1974. In 2001 the original editor-in-chief and publisher, Bob Michaels, sold the Blade to a group of investors who formed Window Media.

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