Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On "Homasexuls"

In my blog regarding presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, I made a side comment regarding the anti-gay movement's continued use of the outdated term "homosexual." The use of the term "homosexual" is offensive, or at least distasteful, to many gay people. I'm not the spokeswoman for all gay people, but I personally cringe whenever I hear some "reverend" or anti-gay advocate start talking about Teh Homasexuls.

Now, I have said before that hyper-political correctness annoys me. Mainly, because I cannot keep track of the ever-changing labels we are supposed to call those of us who identify as anything other than heterosexual. But what bothers me much more than hyper-political correctness are people who wear the "I hate political correctness" badge with honor- using it to justify what amounts to actual hate, bigotry, and/or intolerance.

Because as much as I can see how political correctness can be annoying, if someone were to tell me that my use of the descriptive term describing that person's race, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender identity was offensive, I would consider that person's request. And, if I understood the reasoning behind that request I would comply with it. As a reasonable person, I can see that there is no detriment to me in not calling a person something that he or she does not want to be called. Easy enough.

Professor John Boswell, in my current fascinating read Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality says it well,

"...gay people appear to prefer the term "gay," which they have chosen to apply to themselves, to "homosexual," which was coined and popularized in the context of pathology. There can be no more justification for retaining a designation out of favor with gay people than for continuing to use "Negro" when it has ceased to be acceptable to blacks. One cannot of course please everyone, but it does seem that a reasonable concession of speech is an effort which scholars can make at a very small cost to themselves."

By "coined and popularized in the context of pathology," Professor Boswell is referring to the inclusion of "homosexuality" in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM) as a mental disorder. Even though homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973, the negative connotations from its previous inclusion remain.

And even though gay people and allies used the word "homosexual" during the early gay rights movement, because of the subsequent anti-gay backlash, the word has taken on further negative connotations. For instance, conservatives now use the word "homosexual" to invoke family destruction, disease, immorality, and worse. Peruse any "family values" website for examples.

So, why the continued use of "homosexual" amongst those in the anti-gay movement?

I have several theories, some or none of which, may be true:

Theory #1. They simply don't care that such use is offensive to many people. They see our dislike of the term as yet another instance of political correctness gone too far. And, that we would be offended by a mere word is something that proves how silly and oversensitive gay people, and liberals in general, are.

Theory #2. They don't know that their use of the term is offensive to many people. If this theory is true, it reflects how out of touch anti-gay advocates are with their "homosexual" opponents. And that, despite not knowing any real life "homosexuals" (or not thinking that they know any) or what many real life homosexuals prefer to be called, these "advocaites" know exactly what "the homosexual agenda" is.

Theory #3. They use the word, knowing that it has negative connotations, to lend credibility to their anti-gay goals. It's easy, after all, to scapegoat a group of people who already make some people uncomfortable.

Theory #4. They use the word simply because they can. This is a free country after all. While it's true that we have free speech, wouldn't using a less offensive word be a small and reasonable concession to make "at little cost to themselves"? And, if anti-gay advocates were truly interested in dialogue out of mutual respect and/or respecting all human beings, they would make these small concessions.

Any other theories?

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