What does gatekeep mean?

To police who has access to an identity or community

Gatekeep is when a person takes it upon himself to determine who has the right to identify with a group, community, or fandom. Gatekeeping typically includes challenging a person to see if they are worthy of the identity.

Gatekeepers feel that they have some type of authority to determine who can pass through an imaginary gate to access a certain identity. This territorial behavior has been around since the advent of human civilization and became even more prevalent online in forums and social media (keyboard warriors are common culprits).

Where did gatekeep come from?

There is no clear origin regarding who coined the "gatekeep" term in this context, but the label gained prominence in the mid-2010s. Redditors created a "Gatekeeping" subreddit in July 2016 to share gatekeep examples they have encountered. The term has also become popular among zoomers on TikTok as a way to call out manipulative behavior, along with gaslighting tactics.

Examples of gatekeeping

You will see gatekeeping occur in any identity group, whether it be an ethnic group, gender group, sports fandom, or pop culture fandom. For example, if you wear a Star Wars (SW) shirt, you may be ambushed by an older SW fan challenging you about the best trilogy in the series. If you answer "the prequels," he will probably dismiss you as not a real fan.

Gatekeeping can become toxic and destructive when it involves basic identity groups, like ethnicity or sexuality. For example, a gatekeeper may have a certain idea about how a Black person should look and act, or a gatekeeper may expect a heterosexual to dress and behave a specific way. And if a gatekeeper believes you do not fit their requirements, they may attempt to exclude you from the identity or community.


Tom feels like he needs to gatekeep who can become a fan of Mouse Rat or not
Yeah, it's rather infuriating and he turns away potential fans of the band
Meme calling out gatekeeping nerds
Meme calling out gatekeeping nerds

Related Slang


Updated July 1, 2021

Gatekeep definition by

This page explains what the slang term "Gatekeep" means. The definition, example, and related terms listed above have been written and compiled by the team.

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