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The Associated Press (AP) has decided to ban the use of “phobia,” particularly the word “homophobia.”
Monday’s update to the AP Stylebook, considered the bible of copy editors across the English-speaking world, says that words ending in “phobia” indicate “an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness” and should not be uses in “political or social contexts.”
Dave Minthorn, AP deputy standards editor, tells Politico:
“Homophobia especially — it’s 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.”
Longtime gay journalist Rex Wockner, who is based in San Diego, shared with his followers an email from George Weinberg, author of "Society And The Healthy Homosexual" (1972), who coined the word "homophobia":
"I just want to go on record as disagreeing with the AP's decision not to use 'homophobia,' the word. I am a psychologist and author who coined the word a long time ago. It made all the difference to City Councils and other people I spoke to. It encapsulates a whole point of view and of feeling. It was a hard-won word, as you can imagine. It brought me some death threats. Is homophobia always based on fear? I thought so and still think so. Maybe envy in some cases. But that's a psychological question. Is every snarling dog afraid? Probably yes. But here it shouldn't matter. 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. Fowler even allows us to mix what he called dead metaphors. It seems curious that this word is getting such scrutiny while words like triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13) hangs around."
San Diego Gay & Lesbian News does not subscribe to the AP, but generally follows the AP Stylebook. SDGLN, however, will continue to use the words “homophobia,” “homophobic” and “homophobes” as long as mistruths, lies, hatred, bias, discrimination and propaganda are used by anti-gay activists to demonize the LGBT community. While those words may anger the Religious Right and the anti-gay activists, who have lobbied against their usage, the words do adequately describe the types of people who hold irrational and illogical hate or mistrust of LGBT people, or incite discrimination or violence against LGBT people, or remain adamantly against equality for all Americans even though those rights are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.