The Brief: Online, the term "gay panic" is often used by LGBTQ+ people to describe their states of excitement.
What Does Gay Panic Mean?
The term “LGBTQ+ panic defense,” also known as “gay panic defense” refers to a legal strategy for defendants accused of enacting violence and committing hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people. It has been banned in a dozen states. However, the term “gay panic” has taken on an entirely new meaning in internet culture slang.
Online, queer people use “gay panic” to refer to their own feelings of panic related to their sexuality. This could occur when someone is experiencing intense emotions around a queer crush, LGBTQ+ culture, attractive celebrities, or other queer subjects.
The top Urban Dictionary entry, submitted by user Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye, for “gaypanic” gives several definitions:
1) When you feel panic around someone of the same sex because you are attracted to them
2) you forgot your flannel or to cuff your jeans
3) when a homosexual feels panic
4) you have to see your homophobic/racist/Karen like relatives for thanksgiving and/or for another holiday and have to hide your gayness
5) someone figures out your sexuality when it wasn’t intentional
The slang term is popular among fans and stans who may use it when a character or star and the audience, in turn, are experiencing intense emotions related to a queer crush, relationship, or moment. On Twitter, people use the phrase as a verb and to describe a state of being:
When she did this I literally gay panicked. Why is she literally the most gorgeous soul ever?? Like Joe is a lucky man. 😭🥺😍 pic.twitter.com/HkPZsmhYGU
— allie. (@g0ldcage) March 15, 2021
My gay panic
— Tygrysco28🐝 (@f0kinav0cad0s) March 15, 2021
Bi panic is a version of gay panic for bisexual people and anyone experiencing attraction for people of more than one gender.
— Erica Talajkowski (@ETkow12) March 15, 2021
Gay Panic Memes
At the time of writing, videos associated with the hashtag #GayPanic have received over 22.1 million views on TikTok. Memes related to the “gay panic” slang term include a GIF of Sarah Paulson on Ellen with the caption “[screams in gay]” and one of Jonathan Van Ness in Queer Eye making a face that shows “gay fear.”