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What is a Friend of Dorothy?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 23, 2024
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A friend of Dorothy or FOD is someone who identifies as homosexual or queer; the term can encompass a range of people in the queer community, from transsexuals to asexuals. This euphemism came into common use in the gay community in the middle of the 20th century, when people needed to be discreet about their sexual orientation. Although the gay community is increasingly "out" today, the term endures, especially to describe closeted people in the queer community.

There are several theories for the origins of this term. The most likely reason is that it is named for Dorothy Parker (1893 - 1967), a famous gay rights ally and icon who inspired a variety of slang terms within the queer community. Parker's witty, trenchant writing was often littered with euphemisms which were later adopted by the gay community, making it easy for people to identify each other without explicitly stating their orientation. People have been describing themselves as friends of Dorothy since the 1930s, lending credence to this theory.

Others link the term to Judy Garland, who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Garland herself was quite an icon in the gay community, and the character of Dorothy is often noted for her acceptance of diversity and differences. Furthermore, a rather effeminate character in the movie, the Cowardly Lion, identifies himself as a “friend of Dorothy,” although he was of course referring to the character, not to his sexual orientation.

The use of this phrase as a codeword for homosexuality exploded in the 1940s, along with terms like Mary, Nelly, and Mrs. King to describe people in the queer community. Widespread awareness of the hidden meaning of the term didn't arise until the 1980s, when the gay community became much more prominent in many societies, and the term is still sometimes used as a euphemism; on cruise ships, for example, a gay-friendly gathering might be identified as a “meeting of friends of Dorothy” or an “FOD meeting.”

Some people who consider themselves queer allies may also call themselves friends of Dorothy, even if they do not identify as queer themselves. Of course, for people who are actually named Dorothy, the double-entendre involved in describing oneself as a FOD must be extremely frustrating.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon994732 — On Mar 02, 2016

I'm a lexicographer aka word nerd, so I thank you for the clarification and researched time lines. Thanks to this post, I'm updating my entry for "FOD". And I will be back for words! Keep them coming.

By anon976267 — On Oct 31, 2014

As a straight male with a very close gay friend, I have to agree with other posters. I was shocked at the use of the word queer in this article. I know queer isn't necessarily a derogatory term, but to me at least it seemed harsh in this article. I really think you should change it to gay or homosexual. I'm not necessarily one for political correctness but I came here to read an informative article and found myself upset enough about it to post something.

I also have to say it is really refreshing to hear someone defend guys and mention God in the same post. I'm glad there are still some religious people who don't pick and choose bible verses that they like and just love thy neighbor as God intended.

By anon207692 — On Aug 20, 2011

I agree. That term needs to be retired, right along with the "N" word, and referring to persons of Mexican-Americans as "spics", "wetbacks", and "cholos". We are all one under God's eyes - please, let us respect one another for what we are inside - that is what counts, not the color of our skin, the content of our hearts, or our sexual preferences.

By anon183925 — On Jun 06, 2011

Some recovering alcoholics will refer to themselves as a "friend of Bill", a code for Alcoholics Anonymous membership. I don't believe many homosexuals identify themselves as "friends of Dorothy" for the same reason. I mostly hear that from straight friends who want to clue me in on someone else's sexual orientation. I've also heard lesbians described as "women in comfortable shoes", although I have yet to hear an actual lesbian use that term.

I've heard "queer" as a positive term from gay friends, mostly to describe the LBGT community as a whole. Using the "f-word" to describe male homosexuals, however, is almost always offensive, so it's a really good idea to refrain from using it casually when referring to a gay man.

By leilani — On Jul 27, 2008

Also, how about the American TV shows "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and "Queer as Folk". I don't think the producers would use an offensive or politically incorrect term as the *title* to their shows -- not in this day and age. That someone is offended by a term is *always* possible, but the word "queer" has been ameliorated by the gay community, and may be used in an unoffensive context. Of course homophobes could use the term derogatorily as well. It's all about context.

By rjohnson — On Jul 27, 2008

Anon16012 - Actually the word queer is used by the gay community as a positive or neutral term.

By anon16012 — On Jul 27, 2008

I am straight. I find the use of "queer" to describe members of the gay community both offensive and antiquated.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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