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Gay was the preferred term since other terms, such as queer, were felt to be derogatory.since the sexual orientation now commonly referred to as "homosexuality" was at that time a mental illness diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).By the end of the 20th century, the word gay was recommended by major LGBT groups and style guides to describe people attracted to members of the same sex.
Bringing Up Baby (1938) was the first film to use the word gay in apparent reference to homosexuality.
In mid-20th century Britain, where male homosexuality was illegal until the Sexual Offences Act 1967, to openly identify someone as homosexual was considered very offensive and an accusation of serious criminal activity.
Additionally, none of the words describing any aspect of homosexuality were considered suitable for polite society.
Well into the mid 20th century a middle-aged bachelor could be described as "gay", indicating that he was unattached and therefore free, without any implication of homosexuality. The British comic strip Jane, first published in the 1930s, described the adventures of Jane Gay.
Far from implying homosexuality, it referred to her free-wheeling lifestyle with plenty of boyfriends (while also punning on Lady Jane Grey).