Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gay vs. Homosexual

Ben over at Scattered Words quoted my post on how some far right conservatives refuse to use the word "gay," instead only using "homosexual." He seemed to think that my take on the issue was absurd, and then admitted that he hadn't noticed, but that he also hadn't been looking.

Think about it, though. Do gay publications say things like, "John, who is a homosexual..."? No, they say, "John, who is gay..." Mainstream publications use the word gay too rather than homosexual. The gay community has made it fairly clear that the word "gay" is preferable to "homosexual" when describing people or groups. In fact, many people (including me) take offense when someone is described as "a homosexual." But, for some reason the far right only uses the word homosexual. To me, it's pretty blatant that they use it as a way to demean gay people, especially since they know that gay people prefer the term gay (or lesbian).

Apparently not everyone has noticed this phenomenon. So, if you haven't so far, look for it. You'll notice it pretty quickly.


At 2/11/05 2:03 PM, Anonymous Short said...

The term "homosexual" sexualizes the individual and reduces him to just his sexual nature. The term "gay" allows for the whole life of an individual. That the far right uses "homosexual" exclusively is not surprising, and for us, quite demeaning. We are more than just whom we f**k.

At 2/11/05 7:14 PM, Blogger grace said...

thinking about that....
I promise you...I am not thinking about who you f**k no matter which way I say it. I'm with Ben in that I just really have not consciously thought about it. I'm not saying that it's not some subconscious thing I'm not aware of...and I'll be more aware of it in the future. But the "straight world" even the word gay is not faring too well as far as a positive light in general(see this post on my blog
What do you think about that?

At 2/11/05 7:18 PM, Blogger grace said...

The thing is this...and I'm really NOT trying to be argumentative here or homosexual...both those identities are all about how you have sex, are they not? I mean, isn't that the crux of the entire matter? I'm not saying I think that it should be...but...isn't it, after all?
Maybe it's not. Let me know.
Your Friend,

At 3/11/05 7:27 AM, Blogger Brady said...

Shorty, I agree, thanks for the post.

Grace- I urge you to just take a look and see. Does the far right press ever describe someone as a gay man? Does the gay or mainstream press ever describe an individual as a homosexual? I really think there is something there.

As for your response to Shorty. Frankly, I'm kind of surprised. Being gay is so much more about who you have sex with. There are plenty of gay virgins out there. I knew I was gay way before I had any type of sexual contact with any other male.

Being a heterosexual is not about who you have sex with. It's about who you are attracted to, who you fall in love with, who you become emotionally and romantically connected with. Sure, sex is a part of that, but it's not all of it.

The same goes with being gay. If I never had sex again, I'd still be gay because I would still be attracted to males, still be in love with my partner. I'd still care for him on a romantic and emotional level, even without any sexual activity.

Narrowing all of it down to who you have sex with is exactly what the far right wants to do, I think. It all goes back to the "yuck factor" you mentioned on your blog. If they can make straight people see gays as their sexual acts, and not as normal people that fall in love just like everyone else, they succeed in playing off of the yuck factor.

At 3/11/05 7:31 AM, Blogger Brady said...

Grace- as for your post about "gay being the new stupid," I agree it happens. I myself actually had to teach myself not to use the word like that because I had a habit of it when I was in high school.

But, I think it is a bit different. That is a word, almost disconnected from the meaning, used mostly by teenagers.

My main question is, if gay people would like to be called gay, and have gone on notice that "homosexual" is a term that is not preferred, why does the far right ignore that? I really do think there is a reason there.

At 3/11/05 2:32 PM, Anonymous Shorty said...

The reason, Brady, is oppression. There is also a clinical history to the term "homosexual," with connotations of psychological illness. There are so many historical examples of one group oppressing another through negative associations; it's the easiest way to "otherize" a group that is deemed to be on the outside of the main.

At 3/11/05 5:12 PM, Blogger grace said...

Yeah, I know not everyone who is "gay" or "straight" will necesarrily have sex. I guess I just meant(or should have said) that those particular labels are rooted in sexuality whether it results in the act of sex or not. Does that make sense? You are right in that I seem to be contradicting myself here...talking about the "yuk factor" and then making it so black and white as I seem to be here. I'll pay more attention to what I read and the way the words are used. I really have just not ever thought of it this way before.

At 3/11/05 6:24 PM, Blogger Brady said...


I don't think you are alone in not noticing this idea. I made the post because I was surprised to hear that others hadn't noticed it.

I agree that being gay or straight is rooted in someone's sexuality. I just think narrowing sexuality down to sexual acts is short-sighted and unfair (especially to gay people), considering how much goes into sexuality than just the sex acts.

Shorty- Good thoughts on the "clinical" use of the word homosexual.

At 4/11/05 4:22 PM, Anonymous Bruce Garrett said...

I remember how long it took for people to get the New York Times to use the word 'gay' instead of always 'homosexual'. Insisting on being identified as 'gay' was a big deal back then, largely because the mental illness stigma on us was still very, very recent history. Although the word was first coined by a human rights campaigner, and later absorbed into the psychiatric community by someone who didn't think there was anything medically wrong with us, the term quickly became a kind of brand upon us, one which many of us back then were eager to throw off.

I think nowadays a lot of gay people use both words in slightly different senses, with 'gay' being the more abstracted term for the whole person, and 'homosexual' the more specific term for their libido. 'Gay' is the broader description, has the wider meaning, compasses more of your inner self then 'homosexual'. 'Homosexual' is about your gut level reflexes. 'Gay' is about how you live your life with that particular set of reflexes.

At 5/11/05 5:24 PM, Blogger CrackerLilo said...

I think it's that they like to emphasize that "sexual" part. They also can't stand to give gay people the satisfaction of using their name for themselves. (And they just don't acknowledge bisexuals like me at all.)

Grace, sometimes the descriptive word is necessary. I hope in time it becomes less necessary, and one can simply be identified as, say, "John, Jim's husband."

At 12/11/05 2:57 PM, Blogger Willie Hewes said...

Brady, there is definately something there, and I don't honestly believe anyone could have missed that.

They say homosexual because gays prefer gay. It's a move against the normalisation and politically correct attitudes towards being gay. I have seen this written down in so many words, search for it, you will find. (Haven't got a link, sorry.)

As I see it, "homosexual" is the equivalent of "negro". We don't use the latter anymore, and for the same reasons that the former will eventually move out of the normal vocabulary.


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