Difference Between Gay and Homosexual

Key Difference – Gay vs Homosexual 


Homosexual is a word that is used to refer to people of the same sex having sexual relations. In fact, homosexual is a word that explicitly describes the sexual orientation of a person. There is another word gay that has slowly come around to mean a man having sexual relations with another man though the word had completely different origins. Today gay and homosexual have become synonymous though it was not always so and gay had different connotations. Let us take a closer look.

What is Gay?

Gay is a word that is a part of the acronym LGBT that stands for lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. This means that the word has become an adjective to describe the sexual orientation of men having sexual relations and emotional attraction towards other men. It is also a noun to refer to a category of men having physical and emotional relations with other men. However, the word gay did not always mean homosexual as it was originally used to reflect happiness, energy, verve, bright, and even carefree. So, if a man had a happy go lucky attitude and he could be described as carefree, he was called a gay man.

It was during the 20’s and the 30’s that the word gay seemed to take upon new meanings with men having physical relations with other men being referred to as gay. By the middle of the 50’s, gay came to be officially recognized word for homosexual men. Even homosexual men preferred to be called gay as homosexual sounded too clinical and almost offensive. There were some who felt that homosexual sounded like a disease or a disorder. Since then, gay has been used to refer to men having physical and emotional relations with other men with other meanings of the word having been almost abandoned.

Difference Between Gay and Homosexual

What is Homosexual?

Homosexuality is a sexual orientation where members of the same sex display romantic and sexual feelings towards each other. Homosexual is a clinical term used by doctors and scientists, to study the sexual behavior of the members of a species. Thus, homosexual is a term that could be applied to males as well as females. However, homosexual females have a special term lesbians, whereas it is gay that has been accepted as a specific term to refer to homosexual men. The word homosexual is not a general word used by people in everyday lives. However, it is not gender specific which means that it could be used to describe two girls or two boys having sexual relations with each other. Men having sexual attraction towards each other prefer to use the word gay for themselves as it is not laden with negative connotations.

Gay vs Homosexual

What is the difference between Gay and Homosexual?

Definitions of Gay and Homosexual:

Gay: Gay is a word that is a part of the acronym LGBT that stands for lesbians, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Homosexual: Homosexual is a clinical term that refers to persons of a particular sex having sexual feelings towards persons of their own sex.

Characteristics of Gay and Homosexual:


Gay: Men having sexual behavior towards other men prefer to be called gay as it has much less negative implications.

Homosexual: Homosexual is not gender specific and can be applied to men as well as women.

Other meanings:

Gay: Gay was originally used to refer to a carefree attitude and also applied to happy and bright and showy people.

Homosexual: This term does not consist of an alternative meaning.


Image Courtesy:

1. “GayFest Bucharest 2005 2“. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Commons

2. “Homosexuality symbols” by Martin Strachoň (Bazi).[CC BY-SA 3.0] via Commons