You may have come across the acronym WLW on the internet or in a text message and are wondering what it means.
What Does WLW Mean?
WLW is an acronym that stands for “Women Loving Women” or “Women who Love Women.” WLW is an umbrella term used to describe women in the LGBT+ community, including not only lesbians, bisexuals, pansexuals, and other queer women and female-presenting folks. As the West has become more accepting of LGBT+ identities, people have found they need terms outside the black-and-white homosexual and heterosexual.
Origin of the Acronym
It is likely that the acronym wlw was created in the African-American Jazz scene, with such legendary singers as Ma Rainey, Gladys Bentley, Ethel Waters, and Bessie Smith. Jazz lyrics of the day included things like Ma Rainey’s proclamation that “I don’t like no men,” and the radio hit “Masculine Women, Feminine Men.”
Another hot spot for gay culture and wlw was the extremely popular New York City ballroom scene of the Prohibition Era 1920s. Since the late 1800s, the Hamilton Lodge in Harlem had held ballroom dances that welcomed people of all sexualities and genders. By the mid-1920s, these events attracted thousands of people. These balls were the birthplace of modern drag and of many of the terms still used in LGBT+ culture today, including butch, femme, and kiki. Though the Hamilton Lodge balls were most notable for their drag scene, lesbians and other queer folk were welcome there.
Between the sexism, colorism, and general misogynoir of the age, terms that didn’t outright state “lesbianism” were in favor. Bisexuality among women was a little more acceptable, thanks to the earlier influence of fashionable and wealthy black wlw like A’Lelia Walker. Like much of LGBT+ culture, wlw owes its existence to black pioneers for equal rights.
Use of the Acronym
Wlw is usually seen in all lowercase letters and is most commonly used in forums online that discuss LGBT+ issues, especially Tumblr. Although the term wlw fell out of use for some decades and still is not one of the more common terms used in the LGBT community, it has gained a little more traction in the past ten years or so. Unlike many terms for members of the LGBT community, wlw did not originate as a slur, but as a self-claimed identity among women, and is especially useful for those who choose not to be labeled either exclusively lesbian or straight or may not have found another identity they are comfortable with.
Wlw is usually used in text, but in speech, it can be pronounced “wuh-luh-wuh.”
- Bisexual: experiencing attraction to people of one’s own gender as well as at least one other gender
- Pansexual: experiencing attraction to people of all genders
- Lesbian: a female-identifying individual who exclusively experiences attraction to other female-identifying individuals
- MLM: Man Loving Man
- Sapphic: a female-identifying individual who experiences attraction to other female-identifying individuals, including non-binary, female-aligned individuals
The Acronym WLW In Context
Mel: My girlfriend and I saw the most incredible sunset on our hiking trip last weekend!
Jenn: Girlfriend? I thought you were into guys!
Mel: Sure, I like guys, but I’ve always been a wlw. I’m bisexual, you know.
Other Possible WLW Meaning
WLW can also stand for:
- World League Wrestling
- Windows Live Writer
- Women’s Leadership Workshop
- Worship Leaders Workshop
- 700WLW, 700AM, a Cincinatti, Ohio radio station