Key Difference: Gay is a term used for people who are homosexual. Whereas, lesbian is a term used for homosexual females. Homosexual is a person who gets attracted to his/her own sex.
Gay is a term that is used instead of homosexuals. It is being used for people who sexually attract to others of their same gender. This word originally used to refer to feelings of ‘carefree’, ‘happy’, or ‘bright and showy’. By the last decade of the 20th century, this term was used with the meaning of homosexual. Since the end of the 19th century, there has been a global movement towards increased visibility, recognition and legal rights for homosexual people, including the rights to marriage and civil unions, adoption and parenting, employment, military service, equal access to health care, and the introduction of anti-bullying legislation to protect LGBT minors.
The promotion of the term ‘gay’ was started in full swing at the end of the 20th century as this gave the LGBT community a name to be called by the people. Many LGBT communities do not promote this term and still they do not agree to take up the term. The legalization of homosexual marriages in many countries has made a new community of homosexuals. In modern world, the term ‘gay’ has also come to denote something that is awkward, stupid, bad or lame. However, the influence of homosexuality is so much on the term ‘Gay’; that people get offended if called as ‘gay’.
Gay, as a title given to a group of people, doesn’t make is shameful or awkward. In fact, they are privileged to receive the title as their identity that was lost for so many years.
The term ‘lesbian’, on the other hand, refers to the homosexual females. They are female who get attracted, physically and mentally to other females. LGBT communities have recommended this term for female homosexuals. This term was invented in the 20th century and has no other meaning apart from this.
Women who loved each other in the 18th and 19th century were encouraged and respected as it was known as romantic friendships, Boston marriages, or "sentimental friends". The documented proof of these things can be obtained by looking at the number of letters exchanged between women. If a similar relationship was made to a male, it was considered against society and it destroyed the woman’s reputation. Lesbian though invented as a term in 20th century, has existence of its meaning since many decades.
Both, gay and lesbian are terms for homosexual people. The only difference is the sexual preference given to same sex by males and females. Homosexuals are identities in the society and are respected by the law of various nations as well. Their sentiments and behavior for the same sex may be unjustifiable for some; however everyone has right to live according to their wish in the society. Many nations have made it legal to be with a partner of same sex and file a suit against anyone in the society who harasses the homosexual couple.
Image Courtesy: deccanchronicle.com, thetangential.com