of our liberation is in our strength to call out acts of homophobia.
at the Associated Press Stylebook have announced that they are
“discouraging” use of the word “homophobia.” The AP Stylebook
widely used guide that media use to standardize terms and general usage.
the LGBTQ community be in a kerfuffle about it? Because the editors
decision without consultation with the nation’s leading LGBTQ
leaders, activists, and newspapers. That is a problem.
estimated 3,400 AP employees in
bureaus around the globe, its suggestion could have a tsunami-like
how the world comes to understand, be informed about or dismiss
against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people.
defines “phobia” as “an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form
illness” and therefore should be expunged from political and social
including words such as “Islamophobia” and
in language is important, and yet language is a representation of
we use it perpetuates ideas and assumptions about race, gender and
orientation. We consciously and unconsciously articulate this in our
conversations, about ourselves and the rest of the world, and it
the word “homophobia”? A lot. The history and culture of not only
violence, and hatred toward LGBTQ people but also an irrational fear of
It’s this irrational fear that may not need psychiatric or clinical
intervention but should nonetheless be aptly labeled as none other than
there is the infamous bogus legal argument called the “gay panic
simply an excuse for murder in which a heterosexual defendant pleas
insanity as self-defense against a purported LGBTQ sexual advance.
example is the “ick factor.” It’s the
heterosexuals feel toward the way we LGBTQ people engage in sexual
hearts and minds of these folks will take a while, if not a lifetime.
Dave Minthorn, AP
Deputy standards editor, who shared with POLITICO
the word “homophobia... (is) just off the
mark...it’s ascribing a
mental disability to
someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have. It seems
Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such,
if we had
reason to believe that was the case.”
is a representation of culture.
It is my
opinion that by keeping the word “homophobia” narrowly used and
a medical context is controlling. I feel that only a homophobic “word
would utter such absurd advice. Moreover, it’s also absurd for AP to think that their discouragement of
the use of the word with absolutely no consultation with the LGBTQ
demonstrates anything but hubris and insensitivity. It also raises
about AP’s political and social
motives for doing so.
Just ask George Weinberg,
the psychologist who
coined the word “homophobia” in his 1972 book, Society and the
“It made all
the difference to city councils and other people I spoke to,” Weinberg
journalist Andy Humm, who shared the quote
Advocate and other media. “It encapsulates a whole point of view
feeling. It was a hard-won word, as you can imagine. It even brought me
death threats. Is homophobia always based on fear? I thought so and
so...We have no other word for what we’re talking about, and this one
established. We use ‘freelance’ for writers who don’t throw lances
who want to get paid for their work. ... It seems curious that this
getting such scrutiny while words like triskaidekaphobia (the fear of
number 13) hang around.”
“homophobia” derives from a particular history and struggle for civil
LGBTQ people across the world. And it has become part and parcel of a
LGBTQ lexicon that speaks truth to our reality.
The word has
power and, unfortunately, deleterious effect. And part of our
liberation is in
our strength to call out acts of homophobia.
the press eliminate the word can not only diminish the scope of people
understanding homophobia’s wide range, but it can also diminish our
LGBTQ activists in our continued efforts to effect change.
AP now has control
of the word “homophobia” and yet it’s
not theirs. Several mainstream newspapers are pushing back.
media, are under no order to follow AP
guidelines.) John E.
McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun wrote
in his column “Sorry, AP, can’t go along on ‘homophobia” that
the AP “ruling on this
point in reasoned,
principled, and wrong-headed.” McIntyre points to the 40 year usage of
“homophobic” and makes a practical point - ”If the editors of the AP
Stylebook wish to discourage the use of certain words simply
can be misused or misunderstood, there ought to be a great many in line
Board member and Columnist, the Rev. Irene Monroe, is a religion
theologian, and public speaker. She is the Coordinator of the
African-American Roundtable of the Center
and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the Pacific School
Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev.
Monroe is a
graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary at
University, and served as a pastor at an African-American church before
to Harvard Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow. She was
named to MSNBC’s list of 10
Black Women You Should Know. Reverend Monroe is the author of Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always:
Bible Prayers for Not’So’Everyday Moments. As an
feminist theologian, she speaks for a sector of society that is
invisible. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Click here to contact