Op-Ed- Is it Homophobic of the the AP Stylebook to Ban the Word Homophobia?
According 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 inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case.”
Keeping the word "homophobia" narrowly used and confined within a medical context is controlling. Only a homophobic word police would utter such absurd advice. Moreover, the AP’s discouragement of the use of the word with absolutely no consultation with the LGBTQ community demonstrates hubris and insensitivity. It also raises queries 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 Healthy Homosexual.
“It made all the difference to city councils and other people I spoke to,” Weinberg told journalist Andy Humm, who shared the quote with The Advocate and other media. “It encapsulates a whole point of view and of feeling. It was a hard-won word, as you can imagine. It even brought me some death threats. Is homophobia always based on fear? I thought so and still think so...We have no other word for what we’re talking about, and this one is well established. We use ‘freelance’ for writers who don’t throw lances anymore and who want to get paid for their work. ... It seems curious that this word is getting such scrutiny while words like triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13) hang around.”
The word "homophobia" derives from a particular history and struggle for civil rights of LGBTQ people across the world. And it has become part and parcel of a universal LGBTQ lexicon that speaks truth to our reality.
The word has power and an unfortunately deleterious effect. And part of our liberation is in our strength to call acts of homophobia out.
To suggest the press eliminate the word can not only diminish the scope of people understanding homophobia's wide range, but it can also diminish our scope of LGBTQ activists in our continued efforts to effect change.
AP now has control of the word "homophobia,” yet the word doesn’t belong to it. Several mainstream newspapers are pushing back. (Newspapers, and 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 the word “homophobic” and makes a practical point—“If the editors of the AP Stylebook wish to discourage the use of certain words simply because they can be misused or misunderstood, there ought to be a great many in line ahead of homophobia.”