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Boi (pronounced the same as "boy"; plural "bois") is, generally speaking, a youthful, androgynous, queer identity that originated in African American culture in the 1990s. Some argue that only People of Color have the right to call themselves bois. Beyond this, the word has a variety of meanings, which are very different from one community to the next. In the lesbian community, bois are masculine, but the word means the opposite in the gay male community. Some people who identify as bois use it as a transgender nonbinary gender identity, but other bois aren't transgender.


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."[1]

"Boi" started out with no queer context, and was possibly a reclaimed racist slur. Boi came to mean a wide variety of alternative masculine identities. Mediated Boyhoods goes on to tell all about how boi is used "in emo, BDSM, gay, lesbian, and genderqueer communities"[2]. Those interested in the word should read what is visible in the Google Books scan of that book.

For People of Color only?

The word "boi" originated in African American culture. It has also been taken up in Latino and Asian communities. Although there are many white people who call themselves bois, others argue that only People of Color are entitled to call themselves bois.

Some would argue that since "Boi" is AAVE, however, that it is strictly a black identity.

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."[3]
  • 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."[4] Gay men may use the word boi for young bisexual or gay men who are feminine.[5]
  • 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]."[6] 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.[7] Some define boi simply as a younger butch lesbian.[8]
  • A transgender man who is young, and/or who is early in his transition.[9]
  • In the BDSM community, bois "are usually female submissives or bottoms and usually have a female Daddy. They are typically masculine or 'butch'."[10]
  • 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."[11]
  • 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.[12]
  • 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.[13]

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.

Other queer masculine identities

Some other queer masculine identities are ag, butch, stud, tomboy, and trans masculine. Each of these words have their own nuances of meaning, which can be very different from one community to the next. This section should explore some of the ways that boi differs from these.

Related terms

  • boifriend. If one's lover or partner identifies as a boi, it's common to say they are one's boifriend.
  • queerboi[14]
  • transboi[15]

See also

External links


  1. Mediated Boyhoods, quoted by the Genderqueer Identities blog.
  3. "bklyn boihood."
  4. Rona Marech, "Nuances of gay identities reflected in new language / 'Homosexual' is passé in a 'boi's' life." February 8, 2004. SFGate.
  5. Rona Marech, "Nuances of gay identities reflected in new language / 'Homosexual' is passé in a 'boi's' life." February 8, 2004. SFGate.
  6. Riley, "Don't call me butch: What kind of lez are you?" September 21, 2011. Lez Get Real. (archive)
  7. "Where the bois are." New York Magazine.
  8. Crain, Chris (2007-11-22). "Who’s The Fairest Twink Of Them All?". San Francisco Bay Times. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  9. Crain, Chris (2007-11-22). "Who’s The Fairest Twink Of Them All?". San Francisco Bay Times. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  10. "BDSM terminology for newbies." BDSM Education.
  11. Rona Marech, "Nuances of gay identities reflected in new language / 'Homosexual' is passé in a 'boi's' life." February 8, 2004. SFGate.
  12. 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.
  13. "Boi or grrl? Pop culture redefining gender". MSNBC. 2005-10-01. Retrieved2007-05-07. Published October 1, 2005
  14. Rona Marech, "Nuances of gay identities reflected in new language / 'Homosexual' is passé in a 'boi's' life." February 8, 2004. SFGate.
  15. Rona Marech, "Nuances of gay identities reflected in new language / 'Homosexual' is passé in a 'boi's' life." February 8, 2004. SFGate.
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