Banning The “H-Word”?

The gays go by many names: gay, of course, pansy, fruit, shirt lifter, the ever-controversial “faggot” and, yes, homosexual. Intentionally the most clinical of the queer colloquial, “homosexual” went out of style in the 1990’s, replaced by the more neutral – and neutered – gay. “Homosexual” became the buzz word of the anti-gay conservatives set, spoken of as if it’s still 1950 and gays still “have” mental illnesses.

“Homosexuals”, however, have recently popped up in two giant newspapers: The New York Times and Washington Post. And GLAAD’s Sean Lund wants to see the archaic reference erased. Permanently.

In a piece over at Huffington Post, Lund takes on The Times and WaPo and describes the root of his particular problem thus:

Earlier this month, two leading national newspapers published editorials that, besides being smart, incisive and adding substance to issues often mired down in inane stereotypes, left a number of people, myself included, feeling a bit queasy. And in both cases, the queasiness was because of a word.

The editorials made strong cases for respect and inclusion, and for rejecting the outdated prejudices that continue to plague the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. But at the same time, they evoked an outdated stereotype. Both editorials referred to gay people as “homosexuals,” usage that was all the more surprising for being out of step with each paper’s style guidelines.

Both The Times and WaPo clearly define gay as the preferred, most politically-friendly term for the, well, gays. As GLAAD points out, The Times shifted terminological gears in 2005, while WaPo joined up in 2006.

In a July 10th, 2007 editorial dissecting “once-homophobic” Dr. James Hollsinger‘s anti-gay past, The Times wrote:

The Senate Health Committee will have to dig beneath the surface on Thursday to consider the nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to be surgeon general. Dr. Holsinger has high-level experience as a health administrator, but there are disturbing indications that he is prejudiced against homosexuals.

Such language, says Lund, sounds more appropriate for Jim Naugle than The Times.

…Anti-gay activists tenaciously cling to the archaic term “homosexual” and endorse the ludicrous, and harmful, malpractice of trying to turn gay people straight — all part of a desperate effort to convince the public that happy, fulfilled gay people and their loving, committed relationships do not and ought not exist.

You can see it in the public statements of people like Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle, who, in a revealing moment, recently was quoted in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel as saying, “I don’t use the word ‘gay.’ I use the word ‘homosexual.’ Most of them aren’t gay. They’re unhappy.”

Lund concludes that, like “faggot”, the term “homosexual” must be tossed in the bin:

The word “homosexual” belongs to a bygone era, much like the “F-word” whose high-profile usage by Ann Coulter, Isaiah Washington and others was decisively condemned earlier this year. Both words send a message that gay people are less than you. Less than human. Just plain less than. And in so doing, they erode the mutual respect we all hunger for and the dignity we all deserve.

Yeah, homosexual’s definitely an impotent, antiquated term, but what would life be like if we could only use the word “gay”? Do you know how boring that would make our jobs, Mary?

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