According to a recent article in the New York Times by Jeremy W. Peters, it is high time that we abandon use of the word “homosexual” since “that five-syllable word has never been more loaded, more deliberately used and, to the ears of many gays and lesbians, more pejorative.”
Does Peters have a point? Are journalists, commentators and broadcasters marginalizing themselves – not to mention dating themselves – by using it? And if conservative Christian leaders and communicators want to remain relevant, should they also make the semantic shift?
Certainly not. There are good reasons to retain the terms “homosexual” and “homosexual practice,” not to mention continuing to use quotation marks to qualify terms like same-sex “marriage.”
Peters notes that in 2006, GLAAD (originally an acronym for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), “persuaded the Associated Press, whose stylebook is widely used by many news organizations, to restrict use of the word,” also stating that, “Scholars expect the use of the term to eventually fall away entirely.”
Similar journalistic shifts have taken place with the term “same-sex (or gay) marriage,” to the point that even the Washington Times removed the quotes around “gay marriage” in 2008.
Here are five reasons why we should not follow suit.
1) To make these changes is simply to capitulate once again to homosexual activism, allowing those with a distinct political and social ideology to dictate terminology, thereby dictating understanding.
Homosexual strategists like Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen, writing in the late 1980s, called for a carefully crafted semantic battle so as to win the hearts and minds of the American people. And they did not hide their goals, calling for the “conversion of the average American’s emotions, mind and will, through a planned psychological attack, in the form of propaganda fed to the nation via the media.”
To capitulate here is just another step in the wrong direction.
2) We deceive ourselves if we think we will be any less vilified by LGBT leaders and their allies if we simply change our terminology without changing our ideology.
For years I have done my best to represent accurately the sentiments of those who identify as gay and lesbian, qualifying my terms, quoting LGBT views fairly and contextually, commonly using the terms “gay” or “lesbian” or the initials LGBT (along with “homosexual”), denouncing genuine homo-hatred when I have seen it, and encouraging churches to be sensitive to the struggles and rejection often experienced by those who are same-sex attracted and/or confused about their gender identity.
But I have stood firmly against many of the goals of gay activism, making clear that the Bible prohibits homosexual practice and stating emphatically that the union of two men or two women is not marriage in God’s sight.
Do you think this would change in the least if I never used the word homosexual again or if I removed the quotes from the word “marriage” when it referred to same-sex unions?
Conservative Christian communicators who think that making the terminological shift will thereby make their conservative views more acceptable to society (especially to LGBTs) are deceiving themselves.
3) If we abandon the term “homosexual,” we follow the gay-activist strategy of emphasizing identity to the exclusion of behavior.
Gay activists see their struggle as the next chapter in the civil rights movement, with men like NBA player Jason Collins commonly compared to Jackie Robinson. In reality, the gay liberation movement that began in earnest in the late 1960s was the next chapter in the sexual revolution, a counterculture movement that took aim at the moral foundations of society.
And while it is true that many gays and lesbians are family-oriented people who are devoted to their kids and to each other, there is much more homosexual and bisexual promiscuity than heterosexual promiscuity, while gay leaders like Dan Savage speak against monogamy and advocate for so-called monogamish, open relationships, and while homosexual STD transmission, especially among young men having sex with each other, remains at frighteningly high levels.
Why must we buy into the “identity instead of behavior” strategy? And since the gay activist vocabulary continues to grow (G+L+B+T+Q+P+?), must we constantly modify our terminology accordingly?
4) In and of itself, the term homosexual is simply the same-sex equivalent of heterosexual, being descriptive rather than derogatory, whereas the term “gay” is meant to be positive in itself.
Isn’t neutral terminology preferable? And doesn’t the term homosexual simply speak of someone attracted to the same sex rather than to the opposite sex?
It is one thing to use the “N” word, since it is overtly offensive, while I understand that terms like “colored” or “Negro” have been abandoned in deference to the preferences of black (or African) Americans. At the same time, black Americans have not said to us, “Don’t say ‘colored,’ say ‘special,’” whereas gay activists have said, “Don’t say ‘homosexual’ say ‘gay,’” thereby dictating concepts as well as terms.
And if “homosexual” is inappropriate, even though it is simply descriptive, why is “transgender” acceptable, at least, for today?
5) The ultimate battle is over the redefinition of marriage.
Homosexual activists have long recognized that if they could redefine marriage, all their other goals would follow, and they were right. Once we agree that marriage can be redefined so that it no longer means the committed, legal union of a man and a woman but simply the legal union of two people, we are fighting a losing battle, since our most fundamental (and correct) argument is that homosexual unions, no matter how committed, are not marriage.
It is imperative, then, that we not surrender ground here. When we lose the battle for ideas, which are expressed by words, we lose the battle for the heart and mind of the society.