Monday, January 23, 2012

Just Say No to Saying "Homosexual"

“Language is not merely a means of expression and communication; it is an instrument of experiencing, thinking, and feeling ... Our ideas and experiences are not independent of language; they are all integral parts of the same pattern, the warp and woof of the same texture.” –William Chomsky

I believe in the importance of language. I believe in the power of words to do both harm and good. I believe that words are not just words— they are weapons, change agents, olive branches and identifiers. They are perhaps the most important tool we possess. So yes, I fixate on language. Some (many) might even say I harp on language. Annoying as it may be for others, that’s a badge I wear proudly. And as trite as it may seem, one of the words that makes me cringe the most is “homosexual”.

I get it. There’s no one word that works for everyone, and no matter what you say, you’ll probably offend someone.  Not everyone has reclaimed the world “queer”. Using an acronym such as “LGBT” forces the user to choose an order or hierarchy of identities, and either excludes people or becomes too long to use (LGBT vs. GLBT vs. TBLGA vs. LGBTAAQQP, etc.) “Gay” may offend the radical feminists of the 70’s. “Lesbian” doesn’t jive with many young gay women. And so on, and so forth. So I understand why people might gravitate towards “homosexual” as a neutral term.  However.

If you google “homosexual” and skim past Wikipedia and dictionary definitions, you arrive at the following:

1) What Causes Homosexual Desire ( (“Most of us fail to understand why anyone would want to engage in homosexual activity. To the average person, the very idea is either puzzling or repugnant.”)
2) Homosexuality ( (Basically, How to Avoid Being or Raising a Gay)
3) Homosexuality ( (Homosexuality is like being an alcoholic)
4) My personal favorite, a collection of old videos about The Homosexual Menace. “Boys beware!”

And it just gets better from there: Americans for Truth about Homosexuality! Multiple reparative therapy options! Research on homosexuality and finger length! (…Really? Nothing?)

Further, until 1974 “homosexuality” was a diagnosable mental disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (which remains the most widely-used manual for diagnosis of mental illness). That didn’t just result in some gay kids going to therapy (not to minimize the trauma I’m sure that caused), it meant that gays could be institutionalized against their will for consensual sexual behavior. It meant that gays couldn’t run for public office or work with children. It meant they couldn’t seek help for other mental health problems without having to work on their gayness as well.

All of this should tell you something—that the word “homosexual” has been used not as a term of endearment or empowerment, but as a stigmatizing, pathologizing and even demonizing word historically used to instill fear and discomfort—and that continues today (you don’t hear Hilary Clinton using the word “homosexual”—you hear crazies like Rick Santorum and Fred Phelps using it). No one says “Homosexual Pride Parade”; they say “homosexual agenda”. The term is used against us, not for us. Not with us. When I hear that word, I hear all of those awful contexts along with it. It sounds like oppression and discrimination and pain, to be frank. It makes me want to throw up and punch something at the same time. 

I don’t claim to speak for the gays of the world, or the gays of the country, or the lady gays, or really anyone other than myself. But I do know that I’m far from alone in my disdain for this word. So please, folks—think again before uttering the word “homosexual”.  It’s just gross. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Long December

When it rains, it pours—and those of us in Michigan know it has been a freaky, unpredictable, omg-the-world-is-burning-around-us kind of month filled with unseasonal downpours. Life since Thanksgiving seems to have mimicked this pattern. The holidays are always a bit stressful, but that was augmented this year by all of the little bugs that come with going through a major life transition. Navigating families and family time. Watching my anxiety control my actions more than I did. Sharing space with the wedding boycotter while she pretended nothing has changed, and far worse, the anticipation of that evening. Walking back to my desk after talking to our bank and slowly realizing that I’d just been blatantly discriminated against for the first time, and having to scramble to move our money because of it. Listening to politicians spout hate-filled, irresponsible lies about my life, my relationship and our future. Watching my state sign discrimination into law, again. My car dying, and desperately searching for a new one. It’s been difficult for me to write here through all of this. Each attempt left me feeling so overwhelmed that the blog became a source of stress instead of the outlet I had come to value. 

It has been a long December. But as my spiritual leader Adam Duritz tells us, this year will be better than the last. Our stressful car search fittingly ended just as the rain stopped and the snow arrived, restoring order and direction to what has felt like a chaotic and stagnant few months. As always, I’m reminded of the incredible privilege of sharing a life with someone who walks so gracefully with me through all of this and makes me laugh when all I want to do is throw things. 

Now that we are less than 9 months out from the wedding, planning is starting to pick up—and along with that, I anticipate more anecdotes worth sharing and more experiences worth processing. Expect to hear about coming out to strangers, navigating the legal process of trying to become a family, planning a wedding with a raging anxiety disorder, and the anti-gay political climate in Michigan. But also expect some updates about dresses and invitations, because everyone needs a little fluff sometimes. At least that’s what I tell myself when I watch the Kardashians. And the Real Housewives. I’ll just stop there… 

Thank you all for your continued support :) Please come back on Monday for a discussion of why the word “homosexual” makes me want to throw up and throw elbows simultaneously.