The usual word for homosexual in Spanish is gay, pronounced as in English. Given the word’s foreign origin, some speakers do not inflect it for number: hombres gay, gay men. Both puto and maricón are derogatory terms for gay men, although they are also used in the more general sense of coward. No seas puto/maricón. Don’t be a pussy, a fraidy cat.
A home-cooked meal, Mexico City
Like any subgroup, gays have their own vocabulary, only some of which is understood by the general public.
Ambiente means environment, so the euphemism de ambiente refers to the gay scene or lifestyle, especially in mixed company. Un club de ambiente, a gay club. No soy de ambiente. I’m not into the gay scene. I’m not that kind of gay.
Obvio refers to someone whose homosexuality is visible. No es nada obvio. You can’t tell he’s gay just by looking at him. I’ve also heard this idea expressed via se le nota.
- ¿Se le nota? Is he obviously gay? If the neighbors see him in the street, will they realize he’s gay? (asked by a suegra about her son’s boyfriend, whom she hadn’t yet met)
- Se le nota a leguas. You can tell he’s gay from a mile away. A leguas means ‘from leagues away’, leagues being a nautical distance.
- Se me hace que es gay. He strikes me as gay. He seems gay to me. My gaydar goes off around him.
An effeminate, flamboyant gay man would be called una loca, a queen. A humorous way to say that someone is gay is le gusta el arroz con popote, literally, he likes to eat rice with a straw, a reference to oral sex. Also: Se le hace agua la canoa.
Buga refers to straight people: una fiesta buga, a party of straight people. Pinches bugas, fucking heteros. Si es gay, que me la mamen, y si es buga, que yo se la mamo. With a gay guy, I like to get sucked off. But if he’s straight, I’ll blow him.
Salir del clóset
Borrowing a metaphor from English, salir del clóset means: leave the closet, come out, declare one’s homosexuality. A closeted gay is a closetero. ¿Saben de ti? is a sensitive way to ask someone if they are out.
¿Qué rol eres?
Among gay men, the sexually penetrative partner is activo, the top. The bottom is pasivo. A guy who is both activo and pasivo would be called inter, versatile. To ask whether someone is top or bottom: ¿Qué rol eres?
As with straights, boyfriend is novio, although the neutral word pareja is also common, especially if the relationship is serious. El matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo, same-sex marriage, is legal in a few parts of Mexico and includes certain federal protections as well.
The noun lesbian is lesbiana. However, the adjective is lésbico. Un beso lésbico, a lesbian kiss. Common slang terms for lesbians include lenchas and tortilleras, tortilla makers. Marimacha, dyke, emphasizes a lesbian’s masculine qualities.
The words bisexual and its shorter version, bi, exist in both languages, but note that in Spanish the first vowel is pronounced /i/, following the Spanish spelling.