In an attempt to neutralize journalistic descriptions of people who actively oppose gay civil rights, The Associated Press has banned use of the word “homophobic” in its stylebook, which is followed by the majority of the American press.
AP said the word “homophobia” wrongly suggests that the hatred of LGBT people is irrational or represents a psychological problem.
In the latest revision of its stylebook, AP also bans the terms “Islamophobia” and other “phobia” words in “political and social contexts.” AP also categorized the term “ethnic cleansing” as inappropriate.
“Homophobia … (is) just off the mark,” AP deputy standards editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO. “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.”
The man of coined the word “homophobia” disagreed. George Weinberg, who used the word in his seminal 1972 book “Society and the Healthy Homosexual,” said, “It was a hard-won word.”
“(The word) made all the difference to City Councils and other people I spoke to,” Weinberg said via email to San Diego gay journalist Rex Wockner. “It encapsulates a whole point of view and of feeling. … 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.”
The LGBT media watchdog and advocacy group GLAAD said its officials are reviewing the changes to the AP guide.
Wisconsin Gazette, which subscribes to AP and generally follows its guidelines for reporters, will continue to use the term.