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Friend of Dorothy is a euphemistic slang term for a gay man. The term is commonly believed to reference the character Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz.
Friend of Dorothy can be shortened to the acronym FOD. The term is used interchangeably with a newer phrase, Friend of Ellen, referring to the lesbian talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. In the first half of the 20th century a similar phrase, Friend of Mrs. King, was used in England. This British phrase directly translated to queen, another slang term for a gay man.
The phrase friend of Dorothy dates back at least to the Second World War, a time when performing homosexual acts was illegal in the United States. Men used the term to discuss their sexual orientation among the LGBTQ community, without alerting outsiders to their sexual preference.
While most believe the phrase refers to the character Dorothy, there is some confusion about whether the term refers to the book or film character. In the book “The Road to Oz,” the sequel to “Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy converses with the character Polychrome. Polychrome states “You have some queer friends, Dorothy.” She replies “The queerness doesn’t matter, so long as they’re friends.”
Judy Garland played the character of Dorothy in the film “The Wizard of Oz.” She was a well-known gay icon and had many gay friends, including her former son-in-law Peter Allen. Gay men could also relate to Garland’s songs of hope and her personal struggles. As in the book, the cinematic representation of Dorothy is also accepting of differences in other people, including her friends.
Others reject the notion of the term having anything to do with Dorothy Gale at all. There are suggestions that instead the phrase may refer to American poet Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Dean, a pianist popular with gay audiences in the ‘30s and ‘40s, or a Ms. Dorothy that ran a gay-friendly Kansas boarding house.
While there is greater acceptance of homosexuality in modern society, so there is less need for the euphemism many cruise lines still list gay and lesbian social events as “meetings of the friends of Dorothy” on their daily schedules. This practice originated in the 1980s, when homosexuality was more taboo.