The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


There I said it.

Well, I wrote it; against the Associated Press's recommendations.

The AP Stylebook is a guide for grammar, punctuation and principles for journalists and editors and writers (and grad students). 

Yesterday it was reported that they no longer want writers to use the word "homophobia."

Technically, the word should mean an irrational fear of homosexuals, or "queer fear."

But the word has come to include all of those who are against gay equality, whether fear is involved or not. And homophobia can be internalized, as when a person who is gay is afraid of their own sexuality and works to hide it or even legislate against their own self interests, in the case of lawmakers such as Larry "I am not a homophobic" Craig. Homophobia can also be institutionalized, as when governments or churches pass restrictions against gay people.

The AP now says that -phobia denotes "an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness." And that to use the term homophobia makes an assumption about the person that may not be true and that we just don't know, like assuming they are mentally ill or irrational.

But homophobia often nearly always  does indicate an irrational fear. Maybe not of an individual gay person, but this.

Most anti-gay (to use AP approved words) attitudes are related to religion. And religious leaders in the anti-gay movement often nearly always say things like allowing gay marriage will lead to the downfall of society and that gay acceptance is angering God and He is retaliating by bringing storms like Sandy and Katrina to our shores.

Now if those are not irrational fears I don't know what is.

And institutional homophobia is based on fear too. Lawmakers fear that voting for acceptance of gays will cause them to lose their position in office. That is irrational. Across the country gay people were elected in record numbers at all levels of government, including our first gay (lesbian) senator, Tammy Baldwin.

Word control

I'm reminded of being told several years ago by a prominent gay leader in Birmingham not to use the word "homosexual" in writing. "Ever!"

This was after I had written about articles (on this blog) about people of his (our) sexual orientation. And when talking about the orientations; heterosexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality, there are no other words to describe them. "Gay" is not an orientation.

And when writing from a historical perspective sometimes it is necessary to use the word as well.

And finally, I am not going to let the religious right scare me into not using the proper term to describe myself, as they had scared that person into denying himself of being a proud homosexual. In fact, I guess that man was a victim of his own internalized homophobia.

Likewise, I am not going to allow the AP to water down homophobia into "anti-gay."

I live with the effects of homophobia every day. I cannot marry my partner. Homophobia. I can be fired from my job (if I had one) for being gay. Homophobia. I can be beat to within an inch of my life because I am gay and it not be called a hate crime in this state. Homophobia. I can be jeered at and taunted for holding my partner's hand walking down the street. Homophobia. I am hesitant to put my arm around my partner's shoulder in church even though I see straight men doing it every Sunday. Homophobia. I can't donate blood even though I am HIV negative and have been in a monogamous relationship for 11 years. Homophobia. I had restricted visitation with my children after my divorce. Homophobia. I was banned from visiting my son for lunch or other activities at Green Valley Elementary School in Hoover. Homophobia.

I could go on.

But with so much homophobia around us, I don't see how we can stop using the word.

(photo from the Wipe Out Homophobia facebook page.)

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