High Fives Are Gay

Everyone high fives. Everyone knows what a high five is. Watch any sport on TV and you’ll surely see at least a few high fives. High fives are so common that it’s weird to think that they were invented, and more recently than you think. Today I’m summoning my inner Album and sharing some fun facts on a topic that you wouldn’t think to look up yourself.

First of all, high fiving is gay. And I mean that literally. High fiving was, and maybe still is, known as a symbol of homosexuality because the guy who basically invented the high five was gay and was a bit of a gay icon in a small community. He was also an athlete. Glen Burke played baseball for the LA Dogers and on October 2, 1977, his teammate Dusty Baker hit a home run, ran the bases, and when he came back to home plate, Burke was waiting there with his hand held up. Baker didn’t know what to do, so he just reached up and hit his hand.

And you must be thinking, there’s no way that people weren’t slapping hands before 1977. And you’re right. They were giving fives, just not high fives. Their hands weren’t held up, they were held down or held out. The low five has dated back to the 1920’s, and I’d guess that similar gestures probably date back long before that too. But it’s so weird to think that my parents weren’t high fiving people when they were growing up in the 60’s and 70’s.

a gif from Hamilton where Alexander and Lafeyette high five
Look at this historical inaccuracy in Hamilton. What do you have to say for yourself, Lin-Manuel Miranda?

Back to Glen Burke. As I said, he was gay and therefore faced a lot of prejudice in the MLB, being one of the first openly gay athletes. When he retired, he lived in the Castro district of San Francisco, and because of him, the high five became a symbol of gay pride there, especially after he started playing (and became a star) in a local gay softball league.

Now, high fiving seems simple. Just…hit someone’s elevated open hand with your own. I don’t think this is an action that needs a lot of description or visuals. And yet, the high five Wikipedia page (where I got a lot of the information in this blog post) has gifted me with this amazing series of pictures:Two people demonstating several versions of high fivesI can’t decide if “Victim misses” or “with finger guns” is my favourite part of this set. Were these taken specifically for this Wikipedia page? Was this guy like “Honey, I have an idea. Come here, I need your help for some pictures.” This lady doesn’t seem too happy, especially when this trickster of a dude pulled his hand back and taunted her with those finger guns.

a closeup of an unhappy lady who missed a high five
Same, girl, same.

National High Five Day is on the third Thursday of April, so make sure to celebrate that, but even that day has a wild story tied to it. The creators of the day made up a high five origin story, claiming it was real, and giving credit to a guy named Lamont Sleets. But it was all fake, just a publicity stunt for National High Five Day.

Honestly, I’ll be thinking about Glen Burke and the other weird interesting high five facts every time I see a high five, let alone participate in one. It’s really cool that there’s such a neat history to such a common action, and no one knows. I’d guess that even people in the LGBTQ community are unaware of the ties. I found all this information out while looking up trivia for a project at work, and I just had to share the goodness.

And for more high five goodness, Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother was a high five king.

That’s all for now!


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6 thoughts on “High Fives Are Gay

    • Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far, but he sure sounds cool. Imagine, doing something as silly as holding up your hand and all of the sudden being known as the inventor of such a common and pure action.

      • I would go that far. Heroes get remembered, Legends never die. “Hey who invented the High-Five?” Boom, legend. Normally this would send me down an unnecessary google path of destruction looking up other hand signals and gestures like the “pound it” and “Okay” sign and who invented those, but Im refraining

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