Babelfish: An Investigation Into Queer & Lesbian Slang Around the World

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The babelfish is a curious little fish described in Douglas Adams’ six-book trilogy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The idea behind it is that if you are a hitchhiker across many galaxies you can stick one in your ear you are able to understand anything said to you in any language. You know, science. If you can’t seem to get your hands on one, and are busy checking out the lesbian scene in Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico or Japan here are a few words to help you along the way.

It took me a long time to verify that the following terms were actually used as casual slang, but the lines get a little blurred when I started to consider how words sometimes (especially reclaimed and empowered slang) evolve from oppressive language and slurs. No words included in this guide are intended to hurt, trigger or insult anyone, but are more a study about how far we, as a community, have come. Also, from what I can gather, trans and bi are both widely understood terms nowadays, but if you have any other turns of phrase from your queer corner of the Earth, leave them in the comments!



(pronounced adams-toh-her)

Definition: Yup, this gem literally translates to Adams Daughter. (As in the Addams Family.)

Many think this particular turn of phrase started off as a derogatory term in the 60s, and was used to point out people that “looked like lesbians,” but has since been adopted and is now used casually as a descriptor for all lesbians to use – kind of like calling someone a “friend of Dorothy.” And I mean, who wouldn’t want to be Wednesday Addams?


“How about the cute girl at the bar? Is she an adamstocher?”



Definition: Literally German for “little boy,” but slang tells us that bubi is a cute, diminutive version of saying someone is butch.

Incidentally, the german for butch is simply, butsch. Makes sense, since parts of English are clearly rooted in Germanic.


“That Ellen DeGeneres Gap Kids line is a bubi paradise.”


Literally translates into “bush masseuse.” Admittedly not the classiest of terms, but still quality slang.

The origin of this word is easy to determine, and the crassness of the meaning can be misinterpreted easily. Context is so very important in language and turn of phrase, as we all know, so we should probably be careful about how we use this one.


“How long have you known you were a büchsenmasseuse?”
“Since the 4th season of Buffy.”



Definition: Calling someone a hüftenwackler is essentially calling them a “hip jiggler.” Just another general term for calling someone a lesbian.

The best out of all the Shakira-inspired monikers, I’m told this is a very neutral term, but it’s not used everywhere. It seems that most of the hüftenwacklers are confined to Berlin and Cologne.


“Who’s that hüftenwackler talking to Carol?”

“Oh, that’s Therese.”



Definition: A jubelhure is a lesbian who is no stranger to a good party. In other words, she can often be seen “pulling up to the club with her ceiling missing” (which someone said to me once, and it took me way too long to realize it just means 2Chainz was driving a convertible). Don’t expect a quiet afternoon at a quaint Munich coffee house with this girl. She’s probably still recovering from the night before.

This word is a derivation of jubel frau, proper German for “cheering woman,” it makes sense how the more colloquial version took to mean “party girl.” No one is sure how it got monopolized by the lesbians though.


“I’m so hungover, I went on a date with a jubelhure and poured myself into bed at 6am.”



Definition: I punched it into Google translate and it means, wait for it, “deep sea researcher.” Obviously, this term is embedded in innuendo and refers to a woman that likes to go down on other women.

I’m not sure how this one originated, but I’ll take any nickname that makes it sound like I went to grad school for something awesome while simultaneously implying that I am a fan of “researching” the “deep sea.” Also, whomever is writing that Little Mermaid slashfic (in German), you’re welcome.


“It’s not-very-subtly implied that Ursula is a tiefseeforscherin.”

Kesser Vater

(kess-er vah-ter)

Definition: If we break down the translation, kess is an adjective that can translate into “saucy” and vater means “father.” Yep. Saucy father. It’s akin to the Latino-used papi or “daddy.” Some might associate the term with the more universal “butch,” but really, it means so much more than that.

The kesser vater has a long underground history of awesome dapper women and is used pretty widely in Germany today. To break it down simply, before the label became popular the “kesser vater movement” began in Berlin and Cologne around the early 1930s (most likely as an import from the United States) filling nightclubs, burlesques, bars and the back streets with women in coattails, ties and tophats. They owned their masculine swagger, their gait, and carved out a place for themselves in the queer community. The movement dropped out of the public eye, and then reemerged sometime in the mid 50s – where mentions of it started appearing in underground newspapers. For the term’s origin, some point to Rotwelsch (also known as Gaunersprache), an old-school Yiddish-derived slang used by thieves, vagrants, and those on the outskirts of society, but nobody knows for sure.

The origin of the term, and the journey towards its relatively newfound popularity, really illustrates how marginalized the LGBTQ+ community used to be and how far it’s come. Now, the term and can be found throughout numerous publications without significant explanation, or even abbreviated as KV, signaling the cultural understanding of the expression. Dr. Jody Skinner, a German linguist, mentions in her PhD thesis that the traditional use for kesser vater has a heavy implication of a woman occupying the traditional role of a man, and specifies that the typical kesser vater is commonly seen in “masculine garb” with a “trophy girlfriend” (whatever that means).


“Marlene Dietrich wearing a top hat and tails is the epitome of the kesser vater.”






Definition: Giro literally means circle or round. In its slang form it means a place (be it a bar, club, hotel etc.) that is LGBTQ+ friendly.

As far as I can tell, this term is meant to imply that a specific bar or club is “the queer scene.” The implication of a circle, like an inner circle, makes me think it was originally intended to let people know of places on the DL, but has recently become more widely used.


“Rome’s hottest new giro is Thighs, an all-new hotspot that answers the question ‘WHAT?!'”



Definition: Just a straight-up word used to say “lesbian” and its origin is kind of amazing.

In 1996, Italy’s first lesbian online forum (Lista Lesbica Italiana) was born. There were approximately 900 members and they all kept in touch through a massive listserve and various chat forums hosted on the site (we’re talking Geocities here). Through the years, the abbreviation “LLI” (pronounced Le-Li) became so widely popular in the lesbian community that it evolved and became a brand new word in and of itself. It’s basically Italian Straddlers, you guys!


“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that every lalla loves to hate The L-Word.



Definition: In formal Italian, describing someone as sgallettata implies that they are vibrant and bold. In Tuscan dialect, however, it means a person is “wobbly.”

Probably intended to mean queer, and it’s often used to describe the young or inexperienced people within the LGBTQ+ community.


“Jenny’s girlfriend is a sgallettata, she just came out last month.”

Spanish (Spain)



Definition: Bollera comes from the now-defunct “büeyera,” or, “woman who plows the land using oxen,” but now just means a woman who is queer. It can also be used to describe genderqueer people.

Notice that a lot of these words are derived from women taking on roles previously only held by men, and they are initially used to ridicule or belittle anyone who chooses to live outside heteronormativity. Regardless, the more progressive LGBTQ+ Spanish society of today has reclaimed this term, and uses it casually.


“This study* shows that 80% of attendees at this Sleater-Kinney concert are bolleras.

*fake, non-existent study


Definition: Don’t be fooled by the #TacoTuesday implications here. Tortillera is actually derived from the Spanish “tuerto,” meaning “twisted” or “not straight.” Get it?

Originally intended for homosexuals in general, at the turn of the century, it was a vulgar way of calling someone queer. Over time it’s been redirected specifically towards lesbians, and some still consider it somewhat derogatory. Careful around this one.


“Is it too much to ask that everybody on TV be a tortillera?”

Spanish (Mexico)



Definition: Lesbian.

As a lencha myself, I have particular affinity towards this label – mainly because I like the way it sounds – but most importantly because the fabled origin of lencha, comes from one of Mexico’s first female comedians. Maria Elena Velasco, known to her friends and family as “Lencha” (which is what you call Elenas in Mexico, like Williams are Bills) was an actor, screenwriter, singer/songwriter, producer and one of the first and few famous Mexican female directors.

While not a lesbian herself, Lencha Velasco was best known for her portrayal of La India Maria, where she played a stereotypical indigenous woman who had a filthy mouth and tons of sass. For a while, lencha was an insult hurled at strong women and “bossy” ladies. Again, like many a  label before it, lencha was soon understood to mean “lesbian,” but more importantly, it meant “powerful-lesbian,” which is literally THE BEST pretend insult anyone has made up. Today, lencha is very commonplace, very neutral and used all across Mexico. Unfortunately, most think it’s a direct derivation of “lesbiana” and Maria Elena Velasco’s legacy is largely forgotten.


“Carmen de la Pica Morales is my all-time favorite lencha.”



Definition: Pronounced just like the jeans brand but in a Mexican accent, and obviously in reference to those deviant women who… wear jeans, levis is a euphemism that I’ve only encountered when young people are telling old people that a person is a lesbian.

The term is a very uncreative derivation of lesbiana and the last time I heard this was a couple of months ago, when my cousin was trying to explain to my grandma that the two women holding hands in the plaza were probably together romantically. In Mexico, especially in the smaller towns and villages, women holding hands isn’t much cause for concern, in fact it’s usually a safety measure. So, the easiest way to differentiate is to imply that those women “wear pants.” A lot.


Cousin: “No Abue, those women are levis. They’re together.”

Abue: “Ay, ay, ay.”

*true story.


百合族 or Yurizoku

Definition: Meaning “tribe of lilies,” yurizoku is the most elegant, literature-based lesbian euphemism.

The term appears in manga, anime and other japanese literature, but the precise origin is unknown.


“Are you part of the yurizoku or do you just like flannel?”

Researching this article, I came across pages and pages of slurs, insults and words rooted in hate and fear. It took me days and days to sift through piles of what-people-meant-to-says and you-have-to-understands. I finally came across words that communities had lifted from the mud, dusted off, polished up and presented to ourselves again with new meaning. It sort of felt like someone buying a gift for themselves just for the satisfaction of unwrapping it. It’s a bittersweet feeling.

Anyone who grew up gay, or queer, or just different can tell you that society can be a jumble and a tumble of of insults and euphemisms, and people trying to make themselves feel better by making someone else feel worse. We tell ourselves that the words intended to harm us say more about the person saying them than whomever they are trying to put down. But, now I know that words are small time machines that take us across societies and time periods and fill in the gaps of who we were back then and how far we have come. For me, it was hard to separate the hatred rooted in some of these words, until I realized that by taking them back an entire community could move forward. I realized our language carries some heavy baggage and it’s just as bent and battered as we are.

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Isabel is a Mexico City native and current Brooklyn dweller, stands about 5-feet tall and gets really mad when her girlfriend stores the olive oil on a high shelf. She's a documentary filmmaker by day and expert quesadilla architect by night. She runs a small production company with her brother and has worked with Paper Magazine, A&E, History Channel, Bon Appetit and The New York Times. You can find some short, dry sentences on her Twitter and her fauxtography on Instagram. She's a mediocre bowler.

Isabel has written 12 articles for us.


  1. I live in Germany and most of the terms I have never heard of, some are plain outdated (like 1920 kind of outdated-lol- kesser Vater is something my grandmother would have said) and some are just plain rude foulmouthed language like a construction worker would use it but I have never heard a lesbian talk like that. Sorry, but never use any of those expressions while in Germany, you´ll earn weird looks at best and a slap in the face at worst!

    • I second that. Never heard any of those except kesser vater, and that is like, what my grandma would have said 20 years ago. Do NOT use the jubelhure, hure is a very, very offensive, derogatory term for sex worker.

    • Thank you, I just wanted to say the same. I’m German and the only term I ever heard of is “Kesser Vater” but this is super old fashioned. The others simply sound made up to me, they are funny but actually not used in language. And it’s called Tochter not Tocher ;)

      Still, nice idea

  2. I really like the idea of writing about lesbian slang terms used all over the world! My inner language/cultural differences nerd did a little happy dance as I saw the headline :)

    However, I am a native german and never really encountered the words described above (in the section of german slang terms) in everyday conversations – or rather: whenever I heard them, they did sound really out of place/ outdated. Depending on the person who used it, even downright hateful. (Only exception is butch. That word is kind of neutral and is kind of modern/used in every day speech)

    Ones that ARE used in germany, are mostly borrowed from english, like butch, femme or dyke. I presume that is, because the vast majority of positive portrayal of lesbians in the local media are (mostly) from the US (e.g. films or series,like the L-Word).

    I’ve wracked my brain to come up with some modern german lesbian slang words, and realised there are not that many german words actually in use! The ones I’ve heard in actual conversations with other lesbians are:

    – Kampflesbe (literal translation: Fight Lesbian, an english equivalent would be Bull Dyke. Most of the time it is used as a slur, but some decide to reclaim it and use it as a positive self-identifier)

    – Altlesbe (literal translation: Old Lesbian, it describes a really old-school and traditional kind of lesbian (like in: living in a strict butch/femme relationship and (somewhat) refusing to understand what that “Queer” thingy is supposed to be.)

    – Sandkastenlesbe (literal translation: Sandbox lesbian. That is the kind of woman, who always knew since kindergarten that she is attracted to women only. The english version of that term would be “Goldstar-lesbian”, I guess?)

    – Perlentaucher (my personal favourite :) ) (literal translation: Pearl Diver, an english version of that word might be clam diver? Only that instead of diving for a clam you dive down for a freacking pearl. And Pearls are beautiful.)

    But I have to say, I really like the simplicity of the italien “Lalla” and it is really fun to say that word out loud! :D

    • Sandbox Lesbian is so much better than gold star Lesbian! Love that it isn’t exclusionary to any woman who’s had sex with a man. I could see how sandbox Lesbian could be interpreted wrong though.

    • Amazing, thanks for sharing! I was thinking that I hadn’t come across any of the terms from the article when I was on exchange in Germany.

      Sandkastenlesbe is awesome and totally superior to goldstar lesbian.

  3. As a long term resident of Japan, I’ve never heard the term yurizoku. Terms that are found mainly in anime or manga are often found only in those mediums, and never used irl.

    Most common phrases are:
    ゲイ(gei)- literally ‘gay’
    バイ(bai)- bisexual
    クイア (koo-ee-uh)- queer
    ボイ(boi) or ボーイッシュ (boi-isshu)- butch
    フェム (femu)- femme

    You can see most words are just English words modified to fit Japanese pronunciation. Acronyms like FtM are also used, but I’m still not so clear on what trans language is appropriate and which people feel is more derogatory, so I’ll let someone else field that.

    • I’ve heard “yuri” on its own to refer to lesbian anime/stories, but it’s also my understanding that most Japanese speakers wouldn’t know what it means outside of that context. My partner is Japanese, and I know there are a few other terms she’s told me before, too–I’ll bug her tomorrow and update this then :)

    • There’s also the lovely Aセックシャル and ノンセックシャル for asexual and nonsexual, Xジェンダー for X-gender (which from what I’ve heard from X-gender identified people is distinct from western nonbinary genders) plus my fave 寄り for -leaning. Also タチ, ネコ, and リバ for what role you take in the bedroom (which is way more important than I thought it’d be). So you can be like タチ寄りリバ or ビアン寄りバイ which is a pretty convenient. There’s also 中性的 for describing androgynous style.

      The only gross thing is the word for straight, which is ノーマル or normal. Like, heteronormative much? I know that in Japan it’s taken on its own meaning separate from the word origin, but still, as a native English speaker, yuck.

  4. I am German, too, and I have never heard those terms aside from “kesser Vater” and “Bubi”, but Bubi is mostly used when referring to a haircut (“Bubikopf” – Kopf means “head” in German).

    Did these terms somehow make their way to the US a couple of decades ago and kind of just stayed that way?

    Also, the German word for “butch” isn’t “Butsch”. It’s, well, “butch”. We use a lot of English/American words in our everyday lives, and that word is no exception.

    I am very sorry to be so naggy, but one final thing: “Büchse”, as in “Büchsenmasseuse”, does not translate to “bush”, but to “can” (or to “rifle”, while we’re at it), which is a derogatory term for female genitalia, so…just stay away from that one, maybe.

    • You’re right, it should be “hexalogy”. But I think a lot of times “trilogy” is simply used to describe multi-volume books?

    • Oh man, well, it’s meant to be a reference on how once the 5th and 6th books came out the publishers continued to label the series a trilogy. To the extent of even adding a legend on the cover of the 5th that read, “The fifth book in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s trilogy.” In retrospect, maybe too obscure?

    • It’s called “a trilogy in five parts” actually and it’s presumably a joke by the author since Hitchhiker’s is a comedic novel.

  5. First of all, great job Isabel ;-). Must have taken you quite a bit of time to find all these terms! However, as a fellow German, I can entirely support Claudia’s and Maria’s posts.
    Let me put this message out there: Please girls, don’t call anyone “Jubelhure” on your next trip to Germany…ever…don’t even think about it. I would feel deeply offended if you were calling me a “Cheering Hooker”!

  6. I’m surprised to learn the actual root meaning of tortillera because all the Central American queers I know definitely use it to fondly refer to chicas que les gusta “palmar tortillas” (girls that like to palm out tortillas). I am so curious about how it developed different contexts in different places.

  7. I’m dutch, but i do know a fair bit of german, and i will tell you that if someone was to call me a ‘jubelhure’ i would have to seriously restrain myself from giving you a very angry and aggressive answer. It’s plain offensive. The rest of those slang words would likely just get you an eyeroll and a sigh. I do second Claudia’s suggestions though, like ‘perlentaucher’.
    In the netherlands, ‘woman who likes women’ is sometimes used instead of lesbian, because it’s more inclusive of trans and bi women.

  8. In Iceland, we generally use “lella” or “lessa” about ourselves, although they were originally used as insults, so some people might take offence. Both are derived from the Icelandic word for lesbian.

    This also reminds me of a funny story. When traveling with some queer buddies in the Faroe Islands, some locals started laughing when we were cheering each other on to walk faster using the word “labba” which in Icelandic means to walk. Apparently, in Faeroese it means lesbian (although it’s pronounced more like “lebba” and probably written that way too).

  9. Yurizoku was first used in the 70’s in the gay men’s magazine Barazoku. Barazoku means “rose tribe” and referred to gay (and bi) men. Yurizoku was meant to be a female equivalent for lesbians/bi women. (
    I don’t think the terms yuri/yurizoku are used much these days outside of manga/anime.

  10. I did not know there was an Italian autostraddle equivalent until the very moment and my day has just been made. Grazie mille, Isabel!

    Can any Italian Straddlers confirm whether or not “lesbicona” is considered derogatory or not? Best I could find as a translation for “dyke”

    • Lesbicona is plain derogatory, don’t use it! It literally means “big lesbian”, and maybe it could be similar to “bull dyke”, but its only usage could be between really close friends mocking each other, not to describe a stranger. Actually, in Italian we use only “lesbica”…safe and simple. For gay men there are more words, even derogatory terms now reclaimed by the community, but for lesbians there is just “lesbica/lesbiche”.

      • Yes, I think it really depends on who’s saying it and in which context. I am not an expert on slang, and I know it differs from region to region and town to town, but I’ve only heard the term “lella”, which I now understand is also used in Iceland? Nice. :)

  11. i love this article! however, it made me sad trying to think of gay slang words in my language and realising they are all slurs/negative words. :(

  12. We’re an Italian couple…and well, “lalla” is spelled wrong, and we’ve never heard about “giro” and “sgallettata” being used this way! Like others pointed out about German, these words sound outdated. :D
    About “lalla”…first of all, the right word is “lella”. We know it’s used as slang for lesbian in northern Italy, but surely not in the south, where we live (Naples). We aren’t even sure that it’s so widespread, really; many Italian lesbians don’t like it (us included), because it has a childish sound.
    To our knowledge, “giro” is not used in a queer way: it can be used exactly in the same way by anyone who’s into a specific scene, like goths or punks, not just lesbians. It simply describes clubs or places belonging to a certain scene (giro), but again, it’s not even that common.
    And “sgallettata”…oh boy. It’s so archaic…and describes someone who’s a little slutty, a little frivolous; literally it means “lively as a rooster”. We’ve never heard anyone using it outside of a joke, and certainly not in a queer context! Sure, maybe in the North…lol. Far as we know, it could only be used if you’re making an impression of a XIX century grandma who’s describing an insolent niece! :D

    • I’m from Tuscany and I completely agree! I’ve never heard “giro” nor “sgallettata” in a specifically queer context (actually I’m not even sure I ever heard of the latter).
      “Lella” does sound childish. If anything, it’s something I would say as a joke about baby lesbians. Although I’d rather not use it at all :D

      Personally, I feel the only universally understood lesbian slang we have here is borrowed from English… with the wrong pronunciation, of course ;)

      • Wow, this thread has finally made some Italians come out! :)

        Ciao Elena! Finalmente qualcun altro dall’Italia! :)

    • Oh! Thanks for the correction of “Lalla / Lella” – I do agree, it does sound somewhat childish. And I don’t think I’d ever use it in a queer context.

      Anyhow, I still think it is fun to say “Lella” out loud :)

      • Yes, Lella is fun to say, that’s probably why I will never be able to take it seriously. It is also slang for “dumb” in my region :D

        Ciao to you, Thoughts :D You’re among the few fellow Italians I’ve spotted here, glad to know there are more than I thought!

  13. I’m going to Mexico in a month and I am so excited to impress people by knowing lencha and levis! Maybe I’ll walk around la zona rosa in Mexico city randomly saying them, haha.

  14. Also, I would say for English speakers the phonetic pronunciation of levis is probably more like le – vees, since the i in vice makes quite a different sound.

    Thanks for researching these, I love this article!

  15. I’m with my fellow Germans that I almost never encountered those German terms but I find Büchsenmasseuse hilarious, in a good way, and will find a way to use it!

  16. Great article!

    I just wanted to point out however that Jubelhure is unlikely to be a derivation of “jubel Frau” as stated in the article – I mean, “hure” doesn’t even sound like “frau” – and far more likely to be literally Jubel + Hure (which means cheering… prostitute). Maybe one to avoid?

    For more exciting German translations, come follow me @thegermanfor ;-)

    • Yeah, I didn’t catch that but Hure definitely does not translate to Frau/woman. It literally means whore.

      • Being English, my pronunciation of “Höhe” is terrible and always comes out “Hure”. I get looks. So I just try never to say Höhe.

  17. I wish they’d included those words in my German language classes at university – relevant to my interests and more useful than a lot of the things they did teach us!

  18. OMG!
    I truly have never heard of every single one of these except for “Kesser Vater” in the 2000’s Berlin.
    Kesser Vater was the classy butch woman of the eighties, but is wildly outdated.
    Do NOT ever use any of these in Germany!
    Except if you use Büchsenmasseuse and I am present to see the reaction on the other person’s face.
    I laughed so hard at this.
    Oh, and don’t use Bubi,ever,either.
    It’s a very derogatory term for a man or a childlike baby butch,maybe.

  19. I was always told that “tortillera” means lesbian because the way your hands move when you make tortillas resembles lesbian sex…somehow?
    I also love “de ambiente” for gay/queer, which I used to hear ALL THE TIME at gay bars in DF–“eres de ambiente?”, aka, “are you gay?” I’ve heard it comes from this Juan Gabriel song:
    But that might just be a myth…
    Thanks for this article!

    • Seconding the “de ambiente” thing which is so funny because that sounds like such a VAGUE thing…like…”are you of the scene/environment/etc.”

      Anyway. Bush masseuse (or “box masseuse” as stated in the comments) and hip jigglers = amazing. I need these on a tote bag.


    • In Spain while talking about the slang term over drinks:
      “Why tortillera,though?”
      The woman across from me raises an eyebrow.
      “Because tortillas are made like this,”
      Them she raises her flat hands, slaps them together, rubs them, flips them over, rubs them,slaps them, rubs them,and then puts the imaginary tortilla down.
      I love that word.

      • I love this explanation too — in my mind I’ve always understood it that way, the same way as I thought “bolleras” had to do with making “bollos” (or buns of bread) — but the problem is that the classic Spanish tortilla is made from potatoes and eggs in a pan and not molded with the hands… It’s too bad though

  20. Heyyyy omg been meaning to comment on this since forever.

    Im Filipino and I think most of our terms are more for gay men but because people love wordplay we sometimes use them for lesbians too.

    1. Bakla (bahk-la) Real Filipino word for gay.

    2. Tomboy-basically used in place of lesbian

    3. Bading (bah-ding) again more for gay men but this is more slang.

    4. Beki (beh-ki) for a gay person

    5. Bex/Beks- from Beki. Ive had friends who use this for both gay men and lesbians

  21. High five, fellow lencha!

    I only knew levis and tortilla or tortillera when I was younger, but I never liked those, so I would say that I was “les”. When I was 18 my ex from Mexico City taught me the word “lencha” and I liked it because the same reason as you, the way it sounds. Now it’s one of the three labels I like for myself -the other two are gay and queer. I guess that queer may sound a little snobby in Spanish, but I don’t think we have a synonym, so I’m sticking to it.

  22. Like my fellow Germans, I urge you to not use any of those words mentioned above. Also, I never heard any of them in reference to lesbianism.

    Also, I’m pretty sure you’re missing a T in Adamstochter because otherwise it won’t mean daughter (Tochter).

  23. Loving the spirit of this article but thinking the info probably should have been sourced from straddlers living in the countries discussed…luckily, we’ve got the comment section! :D

    • Yeah, I was going to ask, how was this fact-checked and researched? Between this and the “how to flag queerness in a country where being queer is illegal” article that had highly US-centric suggestions, I’m a bit disappointed at the coverage of international culture on AS lately :(

      • Ughhhh me too, to the point where I’m considering downgrading my subscription. AS’s US-centrism is understandable as this is an American site catering to a mostly American audience… But there are no excuses for the kind of cultural aloofness and ignorance presented in this article and the one you mentioned. I’m sure this article means good, but how hard would it be to actually fact-check with a couple of people who are actual native speakers and IN the LGBT scene in these countries?

        • Yep, a quick shout-out on Twitter or similar would have definitely stopped some of these howlers going through!

      • Yeah, me too.
        It’s like other countries are fun and exotic side notes instead of real places where people actually live.
        I even found that “Look at me! I went to Europe and took pictures!” article a while back, a little offending.
        Also, shit is hitting the fan right now in Germany over racism vs. feminism, after hundreds and hundreds of women got molested in a very public space by a thousand men of mostly immigrant origin over NYE, and I feel like that would be just so relevant to autostraddle’s interests, but it’s like we are on another,very foreign planet.
        Personally, I would love a featurette of gay bars or monuments or places, or even recipes, from around the world, told by locals.
        It would make the world feel a little smaller, closer knit, and less alien.

        • I really really need a safe place to discuss what has happened in Germany (and apparently Sweden has well) because I’m sick of only finding two types of publications :

          1) we mustn’t speak too loud about this! It’ll be used by racist people to say that muslims/immigrants/refugees are bad ! Victims, silence yourselves!


          2) We must protect our women ! Close the border now against these violent men who rape our woomen !

          I need think pieces that actually discuss the issues (how was this organised? Why now ? Is it different than what sadly usually happens at Oktoberfest and on New Year’s Eve everywhere (newsflash : women in big crowds sadly always get “felt up” aka sexually assaulted and it is always disgusting and outrageous). How does rape culture contribute to the discourse we hear today ? What IS rape culture in Germany like?
          (I read a piece – in French – about the German law requiring victims of sexual assault to prove they “defended themselves sufficiently” for a conviction to happen. is this true?).

          • Hi! Yes, the whole time I have been reading your comment and amidola’s (who is basically my neighbour, right?) I thought “this, this!” because I haven’t seen any coverage of the events in Germany and there are very pro-active, intersectional feminist things happening.
            although I don’t think that 1) is anywhere near prevalent in the discussions here in Germany it is an accusation that a LOT of people hear all the time when they try to talk about things in a more nuanced way.
            And btw, the events ARE currently being used by racists, nazis and generally people who are in positions of power in Germany.

          • I feel the same about having a safe space to talk about what went down. Especially since german comments (and comment sections) are usually full of mansplaining and fearmongering.
            Right now I’m trying to piece it all together for myself and am working on a blog post about it – even though I’ve got no idea where to publish it right now. It’s still all in the early stages of planning :)

            Anyhow, in the meantime: how about we meet again in the Friday open thread and use it as a safe space to discuss it instead?

            PS: About your question about the German law requiring victims to prove the victim defended themselves sufficiently: I’ve heard the same, but I’d need to check up on that again. I do know, that it was a widely debated hot topic for a while, because I remember that it didn’t exactly specify what would/would not be deemed as a sufficient act of self defence.
            I’ve got to admit, I didn’t follow the debate back then. But now I am really curious myself and want to know wether that is true or not. So, thanks for the inspiration! :)

          • Remember the “discussion” over rape culture with that male turd on another thread the other day?
            While I was researching statistics to slap him over the head with, I found that Germany was fourth in the world in terms of rape and assault a couple of years ago.
            I only thought to myself, “Really?” and was wondering a little bit.
            But since the Köln assaults, I am more aware.
            I notice how I keep my head down, late at night and keep walking on,scared, as strange men try to talk me up on deserted streets, how a guy tried to reach into my shirt at a party and everyone thought I was being weird for being *that* outraged and threatening to break all of his fingers, how..
            We do have an issue, and I didn’t even notice. Really.
            But what’s happening now, is a wild instrumentalisation of the events by racists, who are using the very justified fear of women and the very justified outrage of the feminists.
            You have to understand, that Germany is a powderkeg right now.
            There are way above a million of refugees already, with no end in sight, and we are feeling literally overrun.
            A lot of people are scared of “islamisation”, of the economy crumbling, of the state itself collapsing.
            And the reason that you want to talk about this in a “safe space” *pulls out safe space cookies*, is that you as well are from a place with a lot of muslim immigrants and you know to be afraid of them, as a woman, especially as a gay woman.
            Speaking of “these muslim immigrants” hereby does not mean Ahmed my uber cool arabics teacher who would probably help me translate the entirety of Carol into arabic for the LGBT immigrants or Özge, my turkish best friend who offered to make out with me at our graduation party to shock all of the homophobes with sticks up their asses, it means those groups of young men on the street, that are highly prone to violence, have been taught little respect for women and outright hatred towards gays.
            Now, we are both from super liberal countries, and all of a sudden we are learning that one thing trans women and a lot of others on this site are so familiar with: Fear.
            To fear, but whom?
            Because “The refugee” doesn’t actually exist.
            The thing about the whole scope of the refugee situation is, that almost an entire population has been replaced.
            A lot of them are deeply disturbed, highly violent young men, and I will not deny that.
            But the rest of “them” are dads and scholars, women, children, smokers, non smokers, a lot of elderly people, you name it.
            There are Ahmeds and Özges among them, too!
            I work at a shelter as a physician, sometimes, and I am usually struck by how simply I could be sitting in my old ER at a hospital in town, and I’d be having the exact same kinds of patients, except for them being less shockingly traumatized or shot up.(That really kills me, sometimes,btw.)
            So, yes, I think it is wrong to let the rights direct our fear and anger towards “the refugees” but I also think that we have a rape culture, and that having a whole bunch of young men, a lot of whom have been taught a sense of entitlement and a lot of whom have a tendency for violence is not helping the situation any.
            There ARE a lot of violent attacks on LGBT people in the shelters, it is so common, actually, that there are special language courses for LGBT people, the LGBT refugees get special treatment and usually we are trying to get them out of the shelters asap.
            I have been personally cornered after hours in a shelter, by a group of young men who threateningly demanded treatment for their minor cold, or something, until a security guard stepped in.
            Sometimes, with some people, there is, undeniably, a sense of violence in the air.
            I don’t think that it’s racist to demand that guests and foreigners adhere to the laws of the western countries and societies,that they are guests in or have chosen to live in.(We do have strong antidiscriminatory laws.)
            That they not exact violence or assault upon people they deem “lesser than”.
            In my personal opinion, whoever doesn’t can get deported right away, no questions and no qualms, whatsoever.
            However, this should not distract from the fact, that we have an issue all to ourselves!
            The shocking thing to me, is that I have been to Cologne and the place in between the Dome and the Train Station is huge and the probably most public space in all of Cologne.
            How could this have even happened, with the police describing it as a “quiet evening” or anybody else stepping up and in?
            I mean, there were a thousand men feeling women up so severely they were bruising them, raping them, molesting them, and nobody noticed or thought this was weird?
            Through the whole thing I personally have learned to fear again.
            And I have to say, that it would be a lot easier for me, to just fear refugees, instead of every effing idiot out there, at night.

            As to the laws, I don’t know about how much you have to prove that you defended yourself, I just know, that it is really hard to defend yourself in a way, that you are not the perpetrator!
            You are not allowed to use excessive force while defending yourself, you are not allowed to carry any weapon, because that would imply that you planned to hurt someone with it, even in self defense, if you are a black belt, such as I am, you have to warn your attacker beforehand, because if you defend yourself, it is counted as assault with a weapon.
            So, actually, I am glad I didn’t manage to break that guy’s fingers at the party, because it would have cost me my license, since I practiced Taekwondo as a teenager. *sigh*

        • About the shit hitting the fan in Germany right now:
          I agree, it would be relevant to fellow autostraddler interests. However, I don’t know how much insight the staff has, into what went down on new years eve. Heck, even in Germany the debate is overheated and filled with populism, which makes it hard to figure stuff out! Plus: All of a sudden a bunch of white and decidedly anti-feminist people (ab-)use feminism against refuges (as in: ALL brown muslim refugees behave like pigs and are here to attack our poor white innocent christian women! White christian men would NEVER do that!)

          I’d rather have it that they don’t report on it, if they don’t know that much about the political climate right now. Especially because there’s so much wrong information going round and it is not always easy to check them for clarity, even if you’re in Germany.

          • That’s a fair point. AS staff, would it be possible to look for original pieces on the topic in German (I think I found a few in French as well) and ask them if they would like to publish an English version here ? I’d be happy to help with language (although my German is a bit rusty) and maybe @amidola would as well?

          • Oh man, I don’t have much to contribute except that I have been REALLY wanting more nuanced discussion on the Köln fuckery — not here specifically, maybe, but it’s just been so profoundly absent from so much of my regular media consumption. (Which means I obvs need to up my game, but so does everyone else.) Didn’t expect to find similar sentiments here in this comment section of all places!

          • I’m not a staff member, so there’s not a whole lot I can do to get this noticed, but I have to say that these comments are the first time I’ve heard about what happened (someone mentioned something about Koln on FB but I didn’t get context) and I really appreciate you all bringing it up. I absolutely second an article, though it will need to come from someone who is acknowledgeable about the situation at hand and can understand & transmit cultural nuances.

          • For anyone who is interested in the sexual assault laws in Germany, here is a recent article about proposed changes that would widen Germany’s legal definition of rape and the circumstances under which it can be applied (re: victims’ self-defense):

            I also second the sentiment regarding the need for a safe space to discuss these types of issues and I’m struck (though, not surprised) by the portrayal of the Köln attacks in the media (and by politicians). I think there are a number of different conversations that tend to happen simultaneously about this, at least in what I have been able to read. One revolves around the fear that this instills in people (in non-native appearing people within Germany, in all genders that worry their presentation could be a contributing factor to being assaulted or attacked, etc.). Another seems to be grounded in preventive measures, which very easily segues into the influx of refugees in Germany. And then there seems to be the inevitable calls for keeping these issues isolated from one another (which is next to impossible, in my opinion) and the victim-blaming or glossing over of such violent events.

            I really appreciate seeing some of your perspectives on this, although I regret that it is a necessary conversation.

        • @Chloe
          Translations are my jam! If you have a nice article for AS or the public in general, just send me the link over a pm!
          I’m also willing to paraphrase info for anyone who has seen anything cool they want to get the gist of, and a definite:
          Yes! to the Open Thread!

          P.S.:Sorry for the previous long post, I’m obviously feeling rather stongly on the topic.

      • I guess “imperialist” is a weird accusation to levy given that the writer is from Mexico City (and as far as I know Mexico isn’t an imperialist country) but yeah, this list was a mess.

    • Hey y’all — thank you for this feedback about US-centrism. We are reading, listening and discussing, I promise. Isabel, who is an extraordinarily talented writer we are blessed to have on our team, spent a lot of time researching this post and will respond herself soon!

      Regarding Germany — we actually have a very strict editorial policy that our writers are not allowed to cover high-stakes stories happening in other countries unless they are from that country, specifically to prevent “cultural aloofness and ignorance” and in response to feedback we got in our very early years when we did do that a lot. We actually do have a writer now who is living in Germany, but because she is a white American, we wouldn’t have thought to ask her to cover what is happening there? I suppose this policy sometimes has the accidental side effect of seeming like countries are “exotic side notes” instead of where people live when we do go forward with lower-stakes or “good news” articles. We reject at least a dozen pitches a month by white americans living in foreign countries who have pitches along these lines or want to write about how strange! and different! LGTBQ culture is overseas.

      Most websites — nearly all of them, even the ones with huge budgets — have a small core team or 4-5 writers/editors who do most of the site’s writing and editing and handle a handful of outside submissions a week. Regardless of the issue being covered, one of those 4-5 people will write about it. It’s cost-effective and gives those writers/editors a reasonable schedule and workload and makes budgeting much easier.

      That’s not how we roll here. Our desire to, as often as possible (which ends up being about 50% of the time), have somebody from the culture being discussed — whether that be non-binary people, black women, single mothers, people from the south, Germans, bisexuals, femmes, Australians, Christians, the list goes on and on and on — write any stories about that culture; means that we have hundreds of writers in our rolodex, and a team of staff writers and contributors that is immense and often un-manageable. It’s all because we require to have on hand (on the core team) at least 20 identities I can think of off the top of my head. We spend days hunting down writers with the exact identity or background we feel is needed to write [x] story, but sometimes don’t have time and can just accept what comes to us. Thus, our workloads and schedules and inboxes are ridiculous. So please know that we are doing our best to authentically cover a wide range of viewpoints in a way no other site with this level of funding would ever dream of doing (other editor-in-chiefs i speak to are baffled by the size of our stable). We still mess up a lot but are trying, and will definitely do our best to cover the story you have requested.

      because submissions are closed right now (due to aforementioned workload) as we’re still months behind on editing and publishing submissions, you can pitch by emailing Laneia directly, laneia at autostraddle dot com.

      And again, thank you for the feedback, we are listening.

      • Riese, I love you and AS for responses like that.
        I personally don’t question Isabel’s abilities as a writer, but it was too obvious that the German words weren’t cross-checked with actual native speakers.

        I think that a bunch of people have made it pretty clear in this comment section that AS writers can ask us about German language stuff anytime.

        As for the current (or not so current) situation in Germany: Your policy is good. This is already so much out of hand and even the discussion in this very comment section is somewhat derailing as we speak. If this should come up in the Friday Open Thread, it’d be good to have an admin that keeps an eye on the discussion. Even in these few comments I have read some things that almost made my stomach turn, and that’s a thing that very rarely happens on AS.
        And no, it wouldn’t be a good idea to have a white American cover this, or a white German or just “any” reader from Germany, for that matter. I have referenced to this initiative earlier and will happily do so again:
        If someone is to cover this subject I think it’d be good to have a person that knows German law and politics and is an experienced feminist writer. Idk. Everything about this just makes me sad.

        • @Maria: I was not impressed with Wizorek so far (re: Cologne and Hamburg, as well) but to each their own. Best and most nuanced artikel, in my opinion, was from Antonia Baum (Wären sie nur nicht so dumm) for FAZ. What a piece of writing. I felt such a relief reading it.
          @Riese: Thank you for your answer and the transparency. It’s an admirable editorial policy!

          • Thanks for the recommendation. I didn’t understand all of it so I sent it to my mom (who out of the blue this morning started telling me she’s been up all night thinking about Köln as well) and now i’m giving her a lecture on 2nd vs 3rd wave feminism \o/. I love you mom.

      • Thank you for not having an American write about this!
        I do get, that it is an awful amount of work what you’re doing, and I don’t think we’d all of us be here and enjoy this site if we wouldn’t appreciate it.
        However, sometimes we could use a space where we can discuss the things that are upsetting or relevant in other parts of the world as well.
        This doesn’t necessarily need to be translated into its own post or article, but maybe a mention or conglomeration in another regular post would be nice.
        Just post one or two articles written in the New York Times in the news section with an accompanying paragraph, and we could discuss whatever there.
        I think you guys did that with the Paris attacks and I was grateful to just have the comments section to curl up in.

      • Here’s some thoughts regarding your policy to never ask someone who is not from a certain country to write about stuff that’s happening in that country:

        Given that your budget probably doesn’t have enough space to hire a writer from every country in the globe (wouldn’t that be lovely), but also given that this has the side-effect of countries only being treated as “exotic afterthoughts” (I have been dismayed at what of Malaysia gets attention, if any, esp after Fikri left), how about:

        1. Opening up people to be assigned to _regions_ rather than being hyper-strict about _countries_, like how a typical newsroom works. I don’t know how diverse your current staff is, but I figure you could probably end up with enough people for particular subregions, and it’ll also identify gaps in hiring a lot clearer than trying to account for every country ever

        2. Have your staff pay attention to issues that are happening around the world, like the Germany situation, find who’s already writing about them, and proactively ask them if they’d like to write something for AS. Hell you have some commenters here already!

        3. Have a running list of people you know who are reliable writers (they’ve written for AS before or they’ve contributed something one time, etc) with a list of countries or regions that you can trust that they’ll report with integrity, then ping them if something comes up. This doesn’t mean they have to be native to the country necessarily – I think in your case the American in Germany could have done a decent job.

        I don’t think we’re expecting that only people who are native to country X be the ones that write about country X. That can sometimes be levied as a convenient excuse for not highlighting stuff that happens around the world (not accusing you of doing so, but I’ve noticed variations on the theme being used by people to deflect responsibility for inclusion and intersectionality – “oh if only we had Minority X to do this job for us!”) Also, many times, our own homegrown reporters are terrible at writing about stuff that happens here, and sometimes the best writing comes from an “outsider” (honestly, the best report I’d ever seen about MH370 came from a 10-year-old American boy). Research and active listening can do wonders for reporting on an issue where you’re the outsider.

        What we’re asking for, for anyone who’s writing such pieces, is respect, integrity, fact-checking, and accountability. From ANYONE who writes anything on here, but especially when they’re dealing with a topic unfamiliar to them (and I’d imagine that nationality/country is not the only factor where AS writers write outside their personal experience).

        And again, I recognize that there’s only so much you can do with your current setup, but hopefully these suggestions can help bridge the gap between “well let’s just not report about anything happening in countries we’re not from or in” and “let’s write about them as though they’re an alien housecat”.

    • Hi all. Thanks so much for your feedback.

      I read through all your comments, and honestly all I can do is apologize for the misinformation above. I guarantee you that the German and Italian words in question were researched and fact-checked by natives as well as a couple of linguists, and I did not intend any part of this list to be offensive in the slightest. I am so sorry that it was not up to par. As someone also foreign to the U.S., I absolutely understand the outrage when my native language is being misused, and I really do appreciate the comments pointing out the various grievances.

      I’d also like to say an enormous thank you to all of you who provided better and safer terminology. I’m always astounded by the high-quality comments on AS posts, and feel very lucky to write for a community that is so ready to jump into the fray and drop quality knowledge. I can only apologize for letting you all down.

      • Holy moly, I did not expect all of this discussion to go down in a thread off a short comment I wrote while on Nyquil last night! For the record, I get that most writers don’t speak five languages, and you have only so much time to spend on each post — but I do think that AS readers are an amazing resource that can be tapped, especially when speaking about international matters.

        I guess the only thing left to say is: hi Isabel! We (I) welcome you as a new AS writer with open arms, and even if it isn’t real slang, I definitely want to find a way to work “Büchsenmasseuse” into my daily life, as long as I’m not speaking to a native German speaker, because it is delightful.

        • I just called my gf “Büchsenmasseuse” and she’s still laughing. She loves it! I think we found a wonderful new word thanks to you, Isabel :) Welcome here and thank you for answering the feedback so kindly.

      • It couldn’t hurt to edit the article to signal words that comments have flagged as offensive, since anyone could come across the article and not read the comment section.

        • yes, I am pretty damn disappointed that the article wasn’t edited a bit even after all the mistakes in spelling/translation and usability (!) that the native speakers pointed out in the comment section.

      • Sadly I don’t know much about queer french culture because I only get queer content from english speaking sites !

        BUT I promise to research it and get back to you :)
        Any other frenchie out there want to share, feel free :)

  24. another german here.
    as others have pointed out, the only one of these i’ve heard before is “kesser vater”, and even that one is a term no one would use in actual conversation. i agree that using some of these words can be taken as very offensive.

    another comment on “Adamstochter”: i’m not sure if this is seriously implying that “Adamstochter” is a reference to the addams family, but if it is, then i find this very unlikely. i don’t think the addams family was very culturally influential in germany in the 1960s (and still isn’t today).
    my guess (although i’ve never heard this term, and google isn’t helpful either) would be that “Adamstochter” is actually a variation of “Evastochter”, which describes a very feminine woman ( – so a daughter of Adam, rather than Eve, would maybe be a woman who’s a bit more “masculine”…
    if you have a source connecting it to the addams family, though, i’d be interested to see that.

  25. This was really disappointing. Other langauges than English are not some exotic joke. Non-English speaking queer communities are also not an exotic joke. Check your imperialist thinking, please.

  26. Italian straddler here!
    Lalla is spelled wrong…it’s actually “lella” (leh-llah). I’ve always known that it was just and abbreviation from “lesbica” (lehs-bee-cah), lesbian in Italian…but I much prefer the origin reported in this article!

    “Sgallettata”….never heard of it :D “Giro” is not specifically queer either.

    Other expressions we (me and my friends, from northern Italy and Sardinia)are:

    “Lesbicona”: it could be either used as an insult by non-lgbt people (“dyke”) or to describe a butch lesbian. It literally means “big-ass lesbian”;

    “Camion/Camionista” (cah-mee-on): Camion is Italian for truck. So, literally “truck driver”. It’s used to describe butch lesbians.

    “Sgundola” (sgoohn-doh-lah): used in Northern Italy (Lombardy, precisely). I don’t really know the meaning, I should ask my friends on this one.

    “Frocia” (froh-tchah): female version of “frocio”, literally “faggot”. Mostly used by gay men who are friends with lesbians.

    I also know some french terms too!

    “Gouine” (gooh-een) or “Goudou” (gooh-dooh): its original meaning was “prostitute”…because in the past in France they thought that lesbian activity was their prerogative. Now it’s been reclaimed by lesbians, much like “dyke”.

    A question for the spanish speakers: Marimacha, is it offensive?

    Thank you all straddlers, love from Italy.

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