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Boi (pronounced the same as "boy"; plural "bois") is a term with many meanings. Broadly, it indicates "masculinity which is not cisheteronormative." This identity originated in multiple subcultures in the mid-to-late 1990s. It was also widely adopted as a self-descriptor by gay men at the time. Some lesbian youth who are more masculine and those who identify as trans employ this term as they have yet to define a common vernacular to describe themselves. Zoi, zeeshe, goi and shoi are alternative terms. Other variations include queerboi and transboi, and if one's lover or partner identifies as a boi, it's common to say they are one's boifriend.
Some other genderqueer masculine identities like boi are ag, butch, masculine of center, stone butch, stud, tomboy, and transmasculine. Each of these words have their own nuances of meaning, which can be very different from one community to the next.
The book Mediated Boyhoods: Boys, Teens, and Young Men in Popular Media and Culture tells about how the word "boi" originated in hip-hop music with no queer context:
"In the early 1990s, a young, Georgia-based musician named Antoine Patton adopted the performance name 'Big Boi' ('Outkast,' 2006, 357) [...] in the early 1990s his usage did not announce a different manifestation of masculinity…on the contrary, with the performer’s dress, clothes, and mannerisms readily identifiable as masculine, Big Boi’s personal appearance and gender identity were largely conventional. His reconfiguration of the word 'boy,' therefore, was more likely a play off the racially charged meaning that has long been associated with the term, given the long history of whites, especially in the South where Patton hailed, calling adult black men by the diminutive term 'boy.' Akin to the process of other marginalized groups throughout the 1990s reclaiming formerly pejorative terms [...] Patton’s use of the word both recalled this history and rewrote it…
"As the 1990s progressed, the term 'boi' [...] morphed into new socio-cultural forms—and ones that did not embody a mere homophonic respelling of the word 'boy' but signaled a new form of masculine gender expression. Young men involved in both the skate and rave scenes, for instance, adopted the moniker 'boi' to denote their rejection—either in part or in full—of hegemonic forms of masculinity and their subscription to a softer, more sensitive identity."
The author posits that the word may have been a reclaimed slur and goes on to tell how boi is used "in emo, BDSM, gay, lesbian, and genderqueer communities" and . Those interested in the word should read what is visible in the Google Books scan of that book.
The word "boi" appeared in various communities during the 1990s (e.g. masculine-of-center lesbians, butch drag kings, and submissive BDSM partners, etc.) none of which were in any way black-specific. Rap artists didn't begin incorporating the word "boi" into their lyrics until circa 2000 (at least, given the available liner notes). The first use of this word in a song title was likely "Dope Boi Fresh" released in 2002.
Variety of meanings
Boi is used within LGBTQ+ and butch/femme communities for a person's sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It has many different meanings, in each community, and within those communities. Some of these are:
- An umbrella term for many different queer masculine identities. For example, the bklyn boihood organization defines boi this way: "We are transmen, studs, doms, butches, tomboys, queens, Ags-all self-identified bois and queers of color striving for visibility, self-affirmation using our stories, journeys, and talents." Queer theorist Julia Horncastle says that "boi and boy [...] describe a type of masculine identity adopted by people on a butch and/or FTM or MTF and/or queer and/or genderfuck spectrum."
- The Genderqueer Identities blog says, "Use of 'boi' outside of relation to transgender spaces specifically seems to be strongly associated with African American men's culture (see results for 'pretty boi', for example)."
- Among gay men, a boi can be "a boyish gay guy." Gay men may use the word boi for young bisexual or gay men who are feminine.
- In the lesbian community, "a 'boi' is a younger lesbian that typically looks and acts like a guy. She dresses in clothes designed for men, has a boyish hairstyle and carries herself like a dude [...] older lesbians generally aren't referred to as 'bois.' I’m 31. Hell, I'm taking this term to the grave with me. Simply because I'd rather not be called [butch]." One definition of a lesbian boi is one who has casual sex, in contrast with the stereotype of the "U-Haul lesbian" (women so monogamous that they move in together on the second date), and are said to be more like young, sexually free adult men than butches, who are said to be more like mature, settled, football-watching married men. Some define boi simply as a younger butch lesbian.
- Ariel Levy, in her book Female Chauvinist Pigs, interviews several bois, one of whom said, "To me, a boi is someone who doesn't have so much to prove. Bois are kind of dirty. Sexually dirty, but also we’re not in the clean, pressed, buttoned-up world... we're like little urchins. A lot of us are artists." Another boi said "I never really wanted to grow up, which is what a lot of the boi identity is about. I want to go out and have a good time! I want to be able to go out to the bar at night and go to parties and go to the amusement park and play. That sense of play-- that's a big difference from being a butch. To me, butch is like adult. If you're a butch, you're a grown-up: You're the man of the house."
- A transgender man who is young, and/or who is early in his transition.
- In the BDSM community, bois "are usually female submissives or bottoms and usually have a female Daddy. They are typically masculine or 'butch'."
- Some transgender people who were assigned female at birth identify as bois rather than-- or in addition to-- identifying as transgender men. One such person explained why: "Justin, who is 19 and didn't want to use his last name because he's not out to his family as transgender, calls himself a 'boi' -- with an 'i' -- because he feels like a boy -- with a 'y' -- but 'I don't have the boy parts, as much as I wish I did.' 'I'm still learning the ropes of just being me,' he added."
- Some people who were assigned female at birth call themselves bois to mean that they partly or completely don't identify as feminine, female, a girl, or a woman. Some of these bois identify as transgender or intersex.
- Some people who call themselves bois see boi as a genderqueer identity or nonbinary gender. They may see themselves as transgender or cisgender. Their style of dress may combine masculine and feminine gender expressions, in an expression called "genderfuck." They may go by "he," "she," or gender neutral pronouns.
People have the right to self-identify, but they also need to self-identify responsibly, with awareness of their label's history, whether it is cultural appropriation, and whether it is the most accurate label they can find. Part of the usefulness of this wiki is in helping people do that, so they can research a label's history and meaning, and make sure they have the most accurate one.
Some notable people outside the Western gender binary who have described themselves as "boi" include:
- Indie-pop musician Anjimile
- American writer and model Devin-Norelle describes zimself as nonbinary and a boi.
- Performance artist and musician Dua Saleh
- Author Rivers Solomon
Boi characters in fiction
See main article: Nonbinary gender in fiction
There are many more characters in fiction who have a gender identity outside of the binary. The following are some of those characters who are specifically identified as "boi" either in their canon, or by their creators.
- Down to the Bone, a young-adult book by Mayra Dole, contains a character named Tazer who self-describes as genderqueer and a boi. He/him pronouns are used for Tazer. Content warning: The main plot involves the protagonist being kicked out of her home because of her sexuality, and there are some LGBT-phobic opinions expressed by characters, as well as use of semi-reclaimed slurs that could be triggering to readers.
- Yahoo! Groups: Boi_Fancy (archived from 2001)
- The Brown Boi Project
- New York Magazine: Where the bois are
- Butch-Femme.com: "What is a boi and how do you define a boi?" (archived forum thread from 2003)
- Lez Get Real: "Don't call me butch: What kind of lez are you?" (article from 2011)
- Butch voices: FAQs
- Boi Society.com (archived)
- Boi (slang) at Wikipedia
- The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality. 2019. p. 56. ISBN 9781784506636.
- Marech, Rona (8 February 2004). "Nuances of gay identities reflected in new language / 'Homosexual' is passé in a 'boi's' life". SFGate. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
- "Gender Census 2019 - The Worldwide tl;dr." Gender Census (blog). March 31, 2019. Retrieved July 7, 2020. https://gendercensus.com/post/183843963445/gender-census-2019-the-worldwide-tldr Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20200118084451/https://gendercensus.com/post/183843963445/gender-census-2019-the-worldwide-tldr
- "Who we are." Butch Voices. http://www.butchvoices.com/who-we-are/
- Mediated Boyhoods, quoted by the Genderqueer Identities blog. http://genderqueerid.com/post/52144260437/hello-i-once-heard-somebody-say-the-term-boi
- "Boi Fancy: Identity Politics and the History of Boi in Queer Spaces" June 20, 2018. http://www.boifancy.com/
- "bklyn boihood." https://prezi.com/ybttsym4mewd/bklyn-boihood/
- Horncastle, Julia (2008). "Queer Bisexuality: Perceptions of Bisexual Existence, Distinctions, and Challenges". Journal of Bisexuality. 8. doi:10.1080/15299710802142192.
At a micro-level boi and boy, for example, are slang terms used to describe a type of masculine identity adopted by people on a butch and/or FTM or MTF and/or queer and/or genderfuck spectrum.
- Riley (21 September 2011). "Don't call me butch: What kind of lez are you?". Lez Get Real. Archived from the original on 16 January 2014.
- Levy, Ariel (2 January 2004). "Where the Bois Are". New York Magazine.
- Crain, Chris (22 November 2007). "Who's The Fairest Twink Of Them All?". San Francisco Bay Times. Archived from the original on 29 March 2012. Note: Article contains the t****y slur multiple times.
- Levy, Ariel (2005). "Womyn to Bois". Female Chauvinist Pigs.
- "BDSM Terminology For Newbies". BDSM Education. Archived from the original on 15 March 2019.
- Faderman, Lillian; Stuart Timmons (2006). Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02288-X. Retrieved 2008-06-23.
- "Boi or grrl? Pop culture redefining gender". MSNBC. 1 October 2005. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
- @anjimilemusic (Feb 25, 2019). "thank u thank u :) however I am not a girl, I'm a non-binary transmasc queer boi who uses they/them and he/him pronouns 🤘🏾" – via Twitter.
- Instagram profile, accessed 29 July 2020
- Michael Love Michael (9 September 2019). "Meet Devin-Norelle, Chromat's First Masculine of Center Model". PAPER. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
- "I'm not a man, yet not a women". 29 October 2018.
- Saleh, Dua [@doitlikedua] (21 June 2020). "I mainly use they/them and occasionally he/him pronouns.
Some terms I accept and terms I don't accept, in that order.
[White heavy check mark]: king, bro, fam, boi, Mx., Mr., sir, dude, man, gentlethem, stan account etc
[No entry sign]: queen, sis, girl, gurl, woman, etc" – via Twitter.
- Solomon, Rivers [@cyborgyndroid] (10 June 2020). "what about my boyishness? what about the little girl in me who desperately wanted to be a little boy because i saw in boyhood a me-ness i never found in girlhood? what about the fact that i'm a boi? what about the fact that i'm a dyke?" – via Twitter.
- Dole, Mayra L. (2008). Down to the Bone.