In case you did not know, in the western world, LGBTQ is one of the most common and currently accepted acronyms used to describe those who are identified as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, queer or questioning folks.
You see, in addition to this week's much anticipated US Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage as well as the ongoing debate regarding the Court's previous decision to uphold the lawful exclusion of gays from the rank and file of the Boy Scouts of America; immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday, the Associated
Press (AP) -- a very influential American cooperative news agency --announced that terms like "homophobia" and by extension words like "homophobes" as well as associated adjectives like "homophobic" are to be summarily excluded for use by its professional constituency.
Apparently, this ban was effective immediately as evidenced by the wording in the "Associated Press Online Stylebook" and will be reiterated in the printed version this year.
But please don't let the word "style" in its title fool you. For journalists, the AP style manual -- whether online or in print -- is more than some trendy fashion statement whose linguistic admonishments are to be donned at will. Instead for such devotees woven into the very pages of that compendium are the definitive standards of excellence by which its members are to be cloaked.
The implication of this ban being that journalists and other associated commentators are only to use the aforementioned banned terms when quoting someone else.
But these same professionals should not under any circumstances themselves ever use these now forbidden descriptors to characterize either the attitudes or behaviors of others towards either the LGBTQ community or towards LGBTQ behaviors and practices.
Much like a tournament tile crossword player given a new version of the game's official wordlist; finding the best, rule sanctioned wording is essential for continued competitive play.
But that does not necessarily mean that the players and others are not left to wonder just why these terms no longer meet the Associated Press' standards of professional excellence or what terms to now use to fill the void.
Firstly, what is now so objectionable about using words such as homophobia, homophobes and homophobic anyway?
According to glbtq TM an online encyclopedia on gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer culture; George Weinberg -- a Columbia University trained PhD in clinical psychology -- noting that some of his colleagues appeared to harbor irrational attitudes towards homosexuals started to label his own co-workers as homophobes during the late sixties. But it was not until 1972 that Weinberg presented his thoughts more fully regarding this extreme adverse aversion and irrational reaction, defining it as "the dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals" and labeling it homophobia, in his book "Society and the Healthy Homosexual".
However, rather than identifying and labeling this then newly recognized behavioral phenomenon as a ubiquitous descriptor of sorts to be used for descriptive purposes only separate and distinct from some clinical disorder; Weinberg simultaneously attempted to designate the term homophobia also as a clinical syndrome of sorts with its origins steeped in pathological processes. Thus he also campaigned for the use of the term homophobia as a clinical diagnostic classification as well as a clinical phenomenological descriptor.
Others who helped to popularize the term homophobia during the seventies continued to use it interchangeably as both a descriptor and as a provisional but non-clinically sanctioned diagnosis.
And even now, folks who use the term today -- even after 40 years -- still fail to bring to the public's attention in an intelligible non-convoluted layman's manner the fact that word homophobia never achieved status as an officially sanctioned clinical diagnosis.
Homophobia has never appeared as a possible clinical diagnosis either here in the US in any "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" (DSM). Likewise, it has not ever appeared abroad in any "International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems" (ICD) despite Weinberg's and others' continued and present day assertions that experiencing such a phobia implies the need for some sort of clinical intervention.
To this day, even though homophobia is now sanctioned as a valid clinical phenomenological descriptor by the APA or American
PsychiatricAssociation which redefines " 'homophobia' [note the APA's use of quotation marks are indeed in accordance with the new Associated Press standards] is [as] a term that refers to the irrational fear and prejudice against homosexual persons"; homophobia is still and has always been considered a non-clinically sanctioned phobia which means that homophobia is not classified as a psychiatric condition and therefore like racism, sexism and so forth is not subject to treatment via an authorized clinical intervention.
Admittedly, it is extremely difficult to ascertain this knowledge even with the appropriate use of quotation marks based on the APA's most current definition of the term.
And yes, there are such entities as non-clinical phobias as well as clinical phobias. What student has not heard of the term "math phobia" which like homophobia presently designates a clinical phenomenological descriptor of a non-clinical phobia only?
Moreover, just because a person experiences some sort of irrational fear or a phobia does not imply necessarily that there is a need for some kind of sanctioned clinical intervention even though treatment of some sort may be indicated.
Without the argument becoming too technical or circular, unless the resulting phobia falls within the diagnostic purview of the sanctioned or verifiable clinical anxiety disorders; there is no such rule prescribing that an intervention if required at all should ever be of a clinical nature.
Yes, in case you are wondering, in psychology, there are plenty clinical phenomenological descriptors of other non-sanctioned clinical anxiety disorders and phenomena besides phobias. A clinical descriptor like "test anxiety" for example is just one of many non-sanctioned clinical anxiety disorders or phenomena.
The use of such clinical phenomenological descriptors of non-clinical disorders and phenomena is undoubtedly complicated to be sure but quite needful for the advancement of the field.
Yet, following present Associated Press logic, are such clinical phenomenological descriptors like "math phobia" and "test anxiety" just to name a few to likewise be banned?
But returning to the currently banned term homophobia. All of this is not to say or even to imply that Weinberg and his cohorts are mistaken. Those he labeled as homophobes might have indeed suffered and there may be folks who still suffer from some kind of unrecognized clinical anxiety disorder who might very well benefit from a clinical intervention of some sort.
Weinberg just has not proved it to date in large measure because he has not yet delineated the more significant underlying anxiety disorder from its ubiquitous phenomenological counterpart.
But make no mistake, he and his cohorts have clearly demonstrated that such a phenomenon exists.
As such, terms like homophobia, homophobes and homophobic are not nor have they ever fallen within the rubric of any sanctioned clinical anxiety disorder. In mental health; the terms homophobia,homophobes and homophobic have always and only been legitimately used as clinical descriptors and even as a provisional diagnosis yet never ever as a bona fide clinical diagnosis.
Regrettably, the failure to make this distinction clear to the public including to journalists is basically the fault of academic, clinical and even research psychologists, psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. Oops our bad or mea culpa if you prefer.
But, I implore you, please do not judge us too harshly by throwing the baby out with the bath water. In this instance, the baby is the liberal usage of clinical descriptors ending with term "phobia" when and wherever appropriate. And the proverbial bath water is tainted or provisional terms ending with the suffix "phobia" unclearly presented as clinically validated maladies, syndromes, disorders or conditions.
Weinberg and his colleagues made one of many classic missteps when discovering, classifying and labeling an heretofore unrecognized ubiquitous clinical phenomenon and its associated clinical condition. He did not distinguish the clinical behavioral phenomenon from its clinical malady.
Despite his groundbreaking accomplishment; Weinberg failed to also recognize that a phenomenon very similar to the condition homophobia but not the same as homophobia may and does exist that is neither maladaptive nor pathological and that such a phenomenon may actually result from normative and adaptive processes.
Furthermore, by inadvertently failing to recognize the adaptive aspects intertwined in and inextricably linked to the experience of homophobic likesymptomatology he conversely failed to ever fully articulate the symptom profile of homophobia such that it could ever attain status as a bona fide clinical phobia resulting from a recognized clinical anxiety disorder.
If he had done so, the irrational fear of homosexuals might have also been broaden to include among others the fear irrational or otherwise of women, men, children, old people, those from certain ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds, those with physical or emotional illnesses, deformities and disabilities so forth and so on as well as the fear irrational or otherwise of those of a certain sexual orientation or even the celibate depending on whether or not he chose to identify this phenomenon as a clinical malady or not.
And the recent Associated Press ban on terms like Islamophobia and ethnic cleansing as well as homophobia might not have had to been initiated by journalists.
More precise, accurate and neutral terms might have emerged from this subfield of psychology by now instead of from journalists if only Weinberg or his colleagues recognized the limitations inherent in his preliminary research findings. Acknowledging such limitations in no way would have diminished the significance of his original contribution.
And I am only guessing here but the term "homophobia" might have been upgraded conceptually to a higher level of abstraction to include something like "the fear of certain groups of people" if used as a clinical phenomenological descriptor or "the irrational fear of certain groups of people" if used to designate a clinically diagnosable malady.
If properly researched, a more accurate symptom profile of homophobia as an organizing construct might have emerged or still might emerge if there are those interested in pursuing this line of reasoning.
Alas, placing aside the researcher's first commitment to scientific objectivity and neutrality by opting instead to champion the LGBTQ cause rather than delving further into understanding the processes and purposes of homophobia itself; Weinberg may have inadvertantly derailed his own research. He may even now be unwittingly contributing to its continued diminishment in essence relegating his research on homophobia to a footnote in mental health history.
Remember a time when event specific clinical phenomenological descriptors like battered wife syndrome, combat fatigue, shell shock and so on permeated the air waves. But as history reveals, such terms as these have come to be replaced by the more accurate, precise, situationally neutral and clinically sanctioned classifications like Acute Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
However that linguistic development was the result of advancement in the field not a counter reaction like this one spearheaded by outside forces undeterred that folks like Weinberg and his cohorts including the American Psychiatric Association have yet to recognize the need to revise the current confusing if not misguided use, implication and application of the term homophobia rather than remain entrenched in this intractable theoretical and linguistic debate.
Is a followup book in order? Or perhaps a committee should at least be convened?
However whether or not the Associated Press will ever rescind its decision to ban the use of the terms homophobia, homophobes and homophobic as acceptable clinical descriptors only -- even if at bear minimum the inherent mandate for clinical treatment is dropped since the term homophobia as previously stated is not nor has it ever been professionally sanctioned in our field as a bona fide clinical phobia and as such nor is there a sanctioned clinical treatment at this time -- remains to be seen.
It appears unlikely however that Weinberg is considering revamping the construct based on his reply. Instead, he retorted not to ban the term but place it in the index of mental disorders as it currently stands. Yet, who knows as the dialogue continues perhaps so will the work?
Ironically, the logic Weinberg and the American Psychiartic Association (APA) itself presumably used to help exclude ego-syntonic homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) four decades ago this very year could and in all likelihood will now be effectively used against him to exclude his own concept of homophobia as it presently stands from serious consideration as a mental disorder. Furthermore, as previously stated, the concept of homophobia is not sufficiently delineated yet to merit such consideration.
What a blow it would be indeed to find the term both banned and barred.
University of Oregon trained journalism major and AP Deputy Standards Editor, Dave Minthorn is quoted as saying in Politico
the discontinuation of "Homophobia especially -- it's just off the mark. It is ascribing a mental disability to someone and suggests knowledge we don't have. It seems inaccurate".
Needless to now say, AP Deputy Standards Editor Minthorn is right in many respects. The social value of the terms homophobia, homophobe and homophobic has diminished over time given these even now publicly recognizable limitations and mis-characterizations.
Nonetheless, the term homophobia and its related linguistic sequelae are not without significant current and historic merit when used appropriately as an ubiquitous phenomenological descriptor not inappropriately as a clinical diagnosis.
Too often, persons or organizations expressing passionate but unsupportive statements towards the LGBTQ community or regarding LGBTQ behaviors and practices are increasingly being inappropriately and indiscriminately labeled as homophobes, homophobic or afflicted with homophobia.
Isn't that when a once helpful clinical breakthrough is treated as or worse still becomes little more than a form of name calling or bad mouthing?
Although not really applicable to the term homophobia; Minthorn is of course correct in assuming that under absolutely no circumstances whatsoever should journalists or other unqualified commentators ever diagnose clinical conditions or syndromes. Nor should journalists, or any professional, ever use clinical descriptors for the thinly-veiled purpose of name calling. But such professionals as well as the public at large should be free to liberally use a clinical descriptor whenever linguistically helpful.
Robert Epstein -- Harvard trained PhD in experiemental psychology and former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today revealed in my email interviews with him that he has attempted to address some of the inexactitude, inaccuracy and bias inherent in Weinberg's concept of homophobia for quite awhile now.
To that end, more recently in an online article on CommPro
.Biz; Epstein reiterated his 2003 recommendation to replace the term homophobia and its related adjective of homophobic with the less commonly used terms "homomisia" and "homomisic" respectively which he coined.
Homomisia characterizes a hatred or aversion to homosexuals and/or homosexuality unlike homophobia which is theoretically viewed as a fear based phenomenon.
In the CommPro.Biz article, Epstein argues that the term homomisia is more accurate as it reflects a more "honest" characterization of the beholder's actual affective experience.
For Epstein, a fear based phenomenon like homophobia implies that the object or group feared is actually frightening while an aversion or hatred like homomisia stems from ignorance and bias.
But according to Epstein for homomisia; there is no inherent judgement that the object or group is really frightening.
However, Epstein's argument no matter how cleverly crafted for preferring the terms homomisia and homomisic over homophobia and homophobic lacks the psychological theoretical coherence implicit in Weinberg's characterization of homophobia, homophobe and homophobic.
So this clinical research scientist wrote back to our experimental research scientist that clinical theories in psychology often purport that the irrational aversion to and even hatred of LGBTQ community and LGBTQ practices or of anything or group for that matter is fundamentally fear based independent of whether the object or group and or the group's behaviors and practices are objectively scary or not.
Very briefly, fear is psychologically considered a more common denominator for behaviors like aversion while hatred is considered a form of aggression.
But hatred even though mediated via aggression is also assumed to usually stem from a real or perceived threat stemming from fear.
I added that as the accepted biological imperative still remains the "propagation of the species"; it can be effectively argued that an adaptative aversion to homosexuals and homosexuality independent of some rationality dimension altogether is theoretically justifiable on the grounds of biological reproductive necessity alone without postulating any affective experience whatsoever needless to say something as intense as hatred.
Also the terms homomisia and homomisic while they may better characterize the aversion some folks have toward homosexuals and the practice of homosexuality such terms simply do not provide a more neutral or inoffensive linguisitic alternative. Quite the contrary, terms like homomisisa and homomisic are quite provocative and even more incendiary than Weinberg's construct when applied indiscriminately to all persons expressing negative sentiments toward the LGBTQ community or toward LGBTQ practices or behaviors.
And in my own thoughts; I concluded, the term homomisia is objectionable based on the underlying assumption that the views of the homomisic person like that of the homophobe are condemned as irrational. There is an implied need for its harbinger to receive rehabilitation of some type.
Not necessarily changing his mind Epstein -- despite our robust theoretical differences -- was kind enough to reply to these arguments in turn recommending that I should get my ideas out there perhaps by starting a blog. I chose this forum instead.
Since those rapid fire email exchanges with Dr. Epstein; I have henced learned that another Harvard University PhD but one who unlike Epstein was trained in government not psychology also takes issue with the notion that sentiments against the LGBTQ community or toward LGBTQ practices and behaviors are all necessarily the result of an irrational mind.
That philosopher turned blogger is Andrew Sullivan --formerly of the Daily Beast and now of Dish Publishing LLC who is also a self-identified gay, Catholic, conservative. Sullivan notes in Politico
that neither is a similar religious or moral position against homosexuality necessarily irrational. "It might be rational in the context of wanting to maintain a social hierarchy or coherent theocracy".
And all of this does not even begin to address the objections -- rational or otherwise -- there are to gays in particular and to homosexuality based on health concerns.
Folks like Sullivan, who are of foreign extraction by birth with a health condition like a positive HIV status, find themselves not only confronting personal but more formidable institutional barriers to obtaining certain acceptance such as US citizenship for example independent of their otherwise noteworthy individual contributions to the country.
Neither the term homomisia as proposed by Epstein nor homophobia as characterized by Weinberg really resolves either science's or the Associated Press' expressed need for precision, accuracy and neutrality when discussing this very complex, kaleidoscopic and often times emotionally charged subject.
Homophobia and homomisia remain crosswords at cross purposes.
AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn reported to
that: "Instead, we [the Associated Press] would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such if we had reason to believe that was the case."
Clearly neither Minthorn nor the Associated Press are waiting for psychology to unscramble this veritable grab bag of terms.
However, Minthorn's suggestion while seemingly ensconced in noble intentions in actuality only adds to the growing ignoble hardscrabble.
Anytime you use the term anti-gay as an organizing social construct; you invariably push back the civil rights movement for women at least linguistically speaking by assuming that women's behavior including that of lesbians should be subsumed under an inherently and historically male metaphor.
It is just politically incorrect to adopt such a position even as a default measure in the 21st century. To avoid committing such an egregious social error should be a no brainer. But alas; it is not.
Moreover, it is always incumbent upon any professional to take a studied look to see just how the group in question respectfully refers to its own members when referencing such persons or the associated behaviors and practices of such persons. As noted earlier, LGBTQ appears to be the best fit to date although there are other variants.
So drawing upon that group's own stated personal preferences and the theoretical paradigm outlined herein; I am proposing the use of a newly coined term LGBTQ+ to serve as the root of a more precise, accurate and neutral linguistic alternative by which to discuss neutral, positive and negative sentiments expressed toward those presently identified as LGBTQ as well as toward LGBTQ behaviors and practices.
In this new paradigm, L=lesbian, G=gay, B=bisexual, T=transgender, transsexual, third sex, Q=queer or questioning and the += an acknowledgment that there are notable differences in the use of this term for folks similarly identified in non-European based cultures. Although the differences may appear quite subtle here and might even appear gratuitous to others if not totally non-existent given the current paradigm where LGBTQ= lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, queer or questioning folks; there are significant differences inherent in the use of each term.
For starters, in this new paradigm LGBTQ+ differs from the more commonly used acronym LGBTQ in that the former (a) always refers to the individual's personage as a human being first and foremost and (b) never subordinates the individual's or group's humanity to some sexual orientation or behavior and/or practices and (c) nevers refers to an organizational institution or office of any kind whereas the term LGBTQ and its variants as currently used clearly can and may or may not do so in all three instances.
A significant advantage in adopting this new paradigm is the fact that whether you are Pro-LGBTQ+ or Anti-LGBTQ+; there is no inherent assumption that you are ever for or against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, third gender, queer and questioning folks or question such persons standing as people. Even though, in reality, you may very well be for or against such persons as people or question such persons standing as human beings; such an assumption is never implied in this new construct.
Furthermore, in this newly proposed construct, there is no underlying assumption that any sentiments Pro-LGBTQ+ or Anti-LGBTQ+ are either rationally or irrationally determined. But as we know in reality, such sentiments may or may not be rational or irrational. However, such an assumption is never implied in this new paradigm unlike in Weinberg's current concept of homophobia or Epstein's construct of homomisia.
Hence, there is no implied judgment regarding the righteousness or unrighteousness of your views whether Pro-LGBTQ+ or Anti-LGBTQ+. Needless to say, unlike homophobia or homomisia, there is not any implied need for a mental health judgment or clinical or other intervention. Although, in reality, you may or may not need clinical help of some kind. It is just never implied.
Therefore, theoretically speaking, you may now be Anti-LGBTQ+ but not be against, afraid of or hate those who are identified as LGBTQ+.
In fact, you may now actually love those identified as LGBTQ+ while being Anti-LGBTQ+ even loathing, detesting and despising LGBTQ+ behaviors and practices.
Conversely, you may now theoretically speaking, be Pro-LGBTQ+ rights let's say without presumably liking or supporting those who are identified under the designation of LGBTQ+ or without liking or supporting LGBTQ+ behavior or practices.
Use of the term Anti-LGBTQ+, such as in the statement "I am Anti-LGBTQ+" does mean that you are against the commonly associated behaviors and practices of the said group LGBTQ+.
Likewise, use of the term Pro-LGBTQ+, such as "I am Pro-LGBTQ+" does mean that you support the commonly associated behaviors and practices of said group LGBTQ+.
Inherently embedded within this new construct of LGBTQ+ with its associated variants of Pro-LGBTQ+ and Anti-LGBTQ+ is sufficient flexibility to more precisely, accurately and neutrally identify, discuss and label complex human attitudes and behavioral displays towards LGBTQ+ designees without compromising, denigrating, stigmatizing or wrongfully diagnosing the motivational intent or affective experience of any relevant party while maintaining scientific objectivity.
Can this truthfully be said of homophobia, homomisia or anti-gay?
Hopefully, this new paradigm will meet with the approval of those as conceptually diverse as let's say social conservatives and liberals both alike when discusssing attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community, behaviors and practices even though such folks may certainly agree or disagree with the theory included herein in part or in full.
Clearly, it will take some careful planning to get the folks on board with this new terminology. It is admittedly a tad counterintuitive in certain places.
For instance, the plus sign (+) may initially strike some as odd as though I am secretly trying to say the current group affiliation as an LGBTQ+ is positive in some way when clearly I am not addressing whether such membership is either positive or negative.
Furthermore, the use of a plus sign (+) may also be counterintutitve even for the professional when prefixes such as pro and anti are added into the mix since such particles of speech have their own positive or negative valence.
And not the least objection of which is the fact that, LGBTQ+ is not pronounceable as a word. It's not even a valid tiled crossword play. Memorization may require the assistance of a championship expert.
The term LGBTQ+ is also not likely to be on par with the highfalutin verbiage expected to come before a US Supreme Court judge like Harvard University trained JD Anthony Scalia who is a self-
identified SNOOT (Syntax Nudnik of
LGBTQ+, Pro-LGBTQ+ and Anti-LGBTQ+ are respectfully submitted anyway as the best constructs to resolve the inherent theoretical biases, incendiary undertones and sexist implications embedded in the terms homophobia, homomisia and anti-gay as presently defined.
Only you can say whether these scrabbled words with friend et al. (and others) are now sufficiently unscrambled to prove productive in promoting peace and understanding while simultaneously cultivating conceptual linguistic precision and accuracy by maintaining the scientific integrity of objectivity and neutrality.