Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Open Forum: Do We Need to Reclaim the Term "Homosexual"?

The term "homosexual" has become very popular when anti-gay activists refer to our community. They use terms like "homosexual activism", "homosexual agenda", and "homosexual militants". Homosexuality used to be the prefered term when discussing people who are attracted to the same-sex but times have changed. Gay and Lesbian activists feel the term sounds too medical, too disease like and so prefer to use terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual, LGBT, GLBT, etc.

While the Rainbow community has moved away from using the word "homosexual" anti-gay activists have been constantly using it in order to ratchet up fear, and to bring back the notion that homosexuals are unhealthy, unstable, and mentally/physically ill.

What I find interesting is that the Rainbow community has made renewed efforts to embrace the word "Queer" which was up until recently considered a derogatory term for LGBT people meaning "freak, oddball, different" but now it can also be an umbrella term representing those who are of a different sexual orientation/gender identity.

So I pose this question to you "homosexual activists" out there, do we need to reclaim the term "homosexual" or do we need to keep insisting on other words?


Anonymous said...

My problem with "homosexual" was never that it sounds too medical; it's that it truly describes a very small number of individuals within the queer activist community. The use of the word promotes two myths. First, the myth that everyone is attracted exclusively to members of the "opposite" sex exclusively to members of the "same" sex, or half and half. Second, the myth that there are only two sexes and genders and that everyone can be placed unambiguously into sex and gender categories. The words homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual do not allow for the fact that some people who may identify as gay, straight, or bisexual may be attracted to individuals who do not fall into the binary.

Unknown said...

I think there should be more emphasis on "gay," since it is still used in astounding frequency to refer to "stupid" things. I used to be a teacher, and you would be shocked to hear how often teenagers use that word. It's actually replaced "retarded" in the lexicon of children.

Anonymous Blogger said...

William, I 100% agree with you. I have to admit that even my own friends have used the word "gay" to replace all negative adjectives. "that movie was gay" "Homework is gay" but I don't the even realize how offensive it is.

Queers United said...

I agree that we need to address how the term "gay" is being used as well. I just feel the word "homosexual" is used constantly by our devout enemies while those who say "that's so gay" are acting more out of insensitivity. The reason anti-gay activists like the term "homosexual" is because the word "sex" is in it and they are on a mission to portray gays are just being sex obsessed inidividuals.

Miss Vicki said...

I don't want any parts of that word, I can't reclaim a word I never would embrace. Just to hear those who use it - they sound like they want to throw up when saying it - the disgust and hatred towards it and me.

No way I strongly despise that word.

Queers United said...

But isn't it because the word has such a harsh stigma that we would want to reclaim it? Think about it, Queer was such a horrible word people still won't use it, but now the younger generation is using it freely and in a positive self-affirming way. The same can be done with the term homosexual I suppose.

Miss Vicki said...

"But isn't it because the word has such a harsh stigma that we would want to reclaim it? Think about it,"

Nope, I thought about it.

The young people of today (not all) have reclaimed the use of the 'N' word. I'm happy for those who have found a way to embrace it. And, yes indeed it has taken away lots of the oppressors power when using it.

But, personally I can't call myself the "N" or the "H" --

I love your blog - glad I found it.

Queers United said...

Miss Vicki thank you, I love your blog as well! I don't think the N word has been reclaimed quite in the same way. I know some black people will use it but they don't feel comfortable with others using it, so the word still holds the stigma if used by a non-POC. Whereas straight people now use the word "Queer" to talk about LGBT people, and in a positive way I see that it has been mostly reclaimed. I am sure in parts of the country Queer is still very much used as a pejorative.

Anonymous said...

why is it always window dressing with you guys ?
Homo is the word best understood the world around, as is has ancient Greek and Roman origin.
Gay is an awfully coward term that may have had its purpose back in the fifties of last century but should most urgently be band from the vocabulary of our present day culture. In western Europe gay is now defined as a homosexual who desparately tries to be 'normal'
and the types who follow all fashion crazes. So it definitely has the most negative connotation. Internationally the word homo is just fine and has no negative meaning within the Euro community. People can use 'homo' just as easily in a negative sense as in a positive way.
Queer is fine with me too, though.
Most Euro countries have great words in their own language that used to be negative but now ar all used as pride definitions: Belgium has 'Jeanet', Germany 'Schwul', the UK embraces 'faggot', France 'Pedé', Holland 'flikker' .
All great words.

Anonymous said...

window dressing? all political battles are fought with semantics. why are the christians using the term homosexual and not gay, its semantics.

Queers United said...

dreaming I certainly agree that the term homosexual would only be applicable for gays/lesbians and certainly would not make sense as an umbrella term because it does not include queer, bi, etc. The question though I guess is if one wanted to refer specifically to gays/lesbians would homosexual and should homosexual be used in certain settings?

Anonymous said...

There's also a cultural and generational difference: In the UK, homosexual is a perfectly normal word, though younger people are more inclined to use gay, not out of philosophical objections, but because it's less formal and "old-fashioned". Indeed, older out gay men and lesbians seem just as comfy with both terms. Of course, there's always the exception to prove the rule, but that's the broad, general outline.

So, should you stumble across people un-self-consciously using the term homosexual to describe themselves, they may not be self-loathing or radical reclaimers - they may just not be from the US.

Queers United said...

thank you for adding that depth, I was unaware of that being from the U.S. myself.

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