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- Spillin' The Tea: 'Drag Race' Queens Talk Dating & Tammie Brown's Night In Jail | Billboard Pride
- Saisons de Billboard: Spilling The Tea - SensCritique
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Spillin' The Tea: 'Drag Race' Queens Talk Dating & Tammie Brown's Night In Jail | Billboard Pride
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In it, he is interviewing The Lady Chablis , a prominent drag performer in Savannah, about her dating life, and she notes that she avoids certain men because they're prone to violence when they "find out her T":. My thing, my business, what's goin' on in my life. Chablis' interviews in Berendt's book gave the world a peek into the vocabulary of black drag culture. T here is short for truth, and her truth is that she's transgender. It's worth noting that Chablis herself uses the letter T instead of the word tea in her autobiography, and glosses it as "my Truth.
From there, however, the line between 'T' and 'tea' became a little fuzzier. The other meaning of 'hidden T' or 'hidden truth' -- that is to say, gossip -- soon became 'tea', along with all of the wonderful new linguistic possibilities. So why is it increasing in popularity now? Well, drag culture has gone mainstream.
Ru Paul's Drag Race is currently more than ten seasons strong, and as the word 'tea' for 'truth' spread out from the black drag community, it spread to both groups. See, for example, Larry Wilmore on The Nightly Show proclaiming that things were 'weak tea' when he felt that the speaker hadn't given a fully honest answer. That's a good reference, but it's been around in gay culture for a LOT longer than that. Initially, it used to be that gay people would cruise for each other in literal Tea Rooms, where high tea was served. Then later it was slang for "toilets" where gays would cruise cottage.
Then in the 80's telling some gossip was referred to as "spilling the tea" kind of a play on words as gay people sometimes referred to themselves at "tea" as in, "is he tea? Most of this is apocryphal, but I do remember the term being thrown around in the early 80's in the gay community and when I asked what it meant, no one could tell me definitively.
But it was some combination of the above. And the definitions I'm sure are also regional. Now it definitely has evolved into specifically meaning gossip.
But before it had a broader coded meaning starting with the tea houses in Victorian England. I'm in two minds about this. Certainly in Britain, I've never heard of 'tea' being used as slang for anything regarding gay culture; I'm familiar with 'cottaging', and the whole idea that people might signal in an anonymous place for a gay encounter, but 'tearoom' is a very American turn of phrase and I've been unable to find any source that links it back to actual tearooms rather than being, say, a metaphorical use.
Brits definitely refer to the act as cottaging, so the question that it grew from a British idea -- people actually soliciting sex in tea rooms -- rather than a misunderstanding of a British idea doesn't really convince. There is definitely the idea of a 'tearoom' in America, as noted in Laud Humphreys's famous book Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places , but a connection with actual Victorian-era tearooms is somewhat lacking.
I'm inclined to believe that this might very well be a case of convergent etymology. Could it be that this is a false etymology from the drag community, where they heard gay men referring to 'tea' as something to be hidden and extrapolated outwards from that?
Sure, I guess; it's not the most outrageous idea, put it that way. That said, I'm much more convinced by the idea that it's merely a homonym for 'T' as in 'truth' , and that usage of the word 'tea' by the gay community as a signal -- if it is as widespread as you say -- is mostly unconnected. I'm more convinced that gay culture probably took the idea of 'Tea as in T as in Truth' from drag culture, either way. Also, I learned about hanky codes for a book I was writing, and that shit is insane. Likewise, Polari. Minority signalling is a fascinating subject. Gurl went to wikipedia and pulled a basic reference.
This t is lukewarm at best. Nice try though. It has no connection whatsoever to this etymology. It comes from black drag communities. T stands for truth, and can sometimes be spelled or "mixed" up with the word tea, so spilling tea is telling the truth about something.
There are records of it being used in black drag communities in the 90's. No shit? I thought it was a reference to the Kermit tea-drinking meme because it often depicts laying out hard truths. I believe it's from the Kermit the Frog meme where he sips tea and ends with "but that's none of my business". I am assuming they are saying things like serve or spill "the tea" the person just made it their business.
Yes it's from the Kermit talking shit w Liptons meme. My daughter also claims it's used bc "tea" is a homonym with the letter T which stands for.. Whatever others are posting about true ancient origins, sipping this tea was popularized in current times by the success of the Kermit meme. Where Kermit sips some Lipton and makes an observation adding "but that's none of my business". Like someone above has mentioned, the inverse is true. Kermit meme is more likely referencing drag culture.
And the popularization comes from RuPaul's drag race's success. I didn't say it didn't originate from drag culture but maybe I have a different understanding of popularized if we're saying that everybody that uses the term now got it directly from watching Rupaul's drag race or some other drag event. Kermit can be referencing that but the references I saw all over Reddit, Twitter, Facebook etc for a year were referencing Kermit meme by definition. Even battle rap, and those guys definitely aren't going to knowingly make any references from drag culture.
Saisons de Billboard: Spilling The Tea - SensCritique
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