AP’s New Stylebook Bans the Word ’Homophobia’
The Associated Press announced this week that it has dropped the word "homophobia" from the newest addition of its StyleBook, Politico reports.
The widely used guide to English language usage discourages reporters from using a number of words, including "homophobia," "Islamophobia" and "ethnic cleansing." The online version of AP’s StyleBook states that words ending in "phobia" are "an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness." It calls "ethnic cleansing" a "euphemism" and adds that AP "does not use ’ethnic cleansing’ on its own. It must be enclosed in quotes, attributed and explained."
AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told Politico that members of the AP don’t consider "homophobia" and the other terms to be "quite accurate."
"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," Minthorn told the website. "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."
He added that AP wants to be "precise and accurate and neutral" when it comes to phrasing. The online StyleBook has been amended but the news agency’s physical book will be changed next year.
George Weinberg, who coined "homophobia" in his 1972 book "Society and the Healthy Homosexual," disagrees with AP’s decision to nix the word.
"I just want to go on record as disagreeing with the AP’s decision not to use ’homophobia,’ the word," he said. "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."
Weinberg wasn’t alone in his disapproval as Nathaniel Frank, the author of "Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America," said he also disagreed with the AP’s new guidelines.
"The ’mental illness’ part is surely too literal - no one accuses arachnophobes of needing an asylum," he said. "The term homophobia was first used in the 1960s when psychologists began to notice how vehement their own colleagues’ reactions were to gay people-far more irrational, it seemed, than feelings around other outsider groups.
"As Weinberg and others used it, the term meant a dread or fear of close contact with gay people and a strong discomfort with homosexuality," he added. "Not everyone who opposes gay rights has a phobia. At a practical level, it may be wise to throw the term homophobe around less, as calling people names is generally an ineffective way to change their minds."