The Decline And Fall Of The “H” Word….

These days, this sign, wielded in New York in 197, might very well be lettered differently. Fred W. McDarrah -Getty Images

To most ears, it probably sounds inoffensive. A little outdated and clinical, perhaps, but innocuous enough: homosexual.

But that five-syllable word has never been more loaded, more deliberately used and, to the ears of many gays and lesbians, more pejorative.

“ ‘Homosexual’ has the ring of ‘colored’ now, in the way your grandmother might have used that term, except that it hasn’t been recuperated in the same way,” said George Chauncey, a Yale professor of history and an author who studies gay and lesbian culture.

Consider the following phrases: homosexual community, homosexual activist, homosexual marriage. Substitute the word “gay” in any of those cases, and the terms suddenly become far less loaded, so that the ring of disapproval and judgment evaporates.

Some gay rights advocates have declared the term off limits. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or Glaad, has put “homosexual” on its list of offensive terms and in 2006 persuaded The Associated Press, whose stylebook is the widely used by many news organizations, to restrict use of the word.

George P. Lakoff, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, has looked at the way the term is used by those who try to portray gays and lesbians as deviant. What is most telling about substituting it for gay or lesbian are the images that homosexual tends to activate in the brain, he said.

“Gay doesn’t use the word sex,” he said. “Lesbian doesn’t use the word sex. Homosexual does.”

“It also contains ‘homo,’ which is an old derogatory,” he added. “They want to have that idea there. They want to say this is not normal sex, this is not normal family, it’s going against God.”

Historians believe the first use of “homosexual” was by Karl-Maria Kertbeny, a Hungarian journalist who wrote passionately in opposition to Germany’s anti-sodomy laws in the 19th century.

But by the 20th century, the word had taken on a definition associated with the American Psychiatric Association’s classification of same-sex attractions as a mental disorder. That did not change until the association reversed itself in 1973.

William Leap, a professor of anthropology at American University who studies the field of “lavender linguistics,” which examines how gay people use certain words and phrases, said the offensiveness of the word stems from its medical history. “It already has all that clinical baggage heaped on it: that’s the legacy of the term now,” he said, adding that because of its use in a scientific way, many people do not realize how it can fall on gay and lesbian ears.

“It’s not like ‘faggot,’ which is a negative term that could get somebody’s mother to slap their hand,” he said. “Homosexual is a term that everybody knows.”

Yet it endures.

“Now they’re encouraging this young man who’s announced he’s homosexual to go play, when Obama said he wouldn’t even let his own son play,” Rush Limbaugh said recently as he talked about Michael Sam, the college football player who recently came out. When Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona faced pressure to veto a bill that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers, Mr. Limbaugh cited the work of the “homosexual lobby.”

And last year, when Jason Collins became one of the first professional male athletes to reveal he was gay, Chris Broussard, an ESPN commentator who has called homosexuality “that lifestyle” and condemned it as a sin, announced that he had “no problem with homosexuals.” Later, an article in The Christian Post described his comments, noting that Mr. Broussard went on to discuss his conversations on the subject with a gay colleague, LZ Granderson, whom the writer noted is “a homosexual ESPN commentator.”

During oral arguments last year in the Supreme Court case Hollingsworth v. Perry, when Justice Antonin Scalia asked the lawyer Ted Olson, “When did it become unconstitutional to prohibit homosexuals from marrying?” it seemed to some that he was unable (or unwilling) to use the word gay.

The word’s power depends, of course, on who is using it. In the late 1970s, Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign was centered on the notion of “homosexual recruitment,” the belief that gays and lesbians tried to woo unsuspecting children into their ranks. Gerry E. Studds, the first openly gay member of Congress, once recalled how someone confronted him about whether he was still a “practicing homosexual.” He shot back: “No. As a matter of fact, I think I’m very good at it.”

When Professor Leap’s students use the term, which they still do occasionally, he corrects them. “I say, ‘Excuse me. Let me give you a piece of vocabulary instruction. In this class the word is gay or lesbian, and this is why.’ “

Gays and lesbians adopted various terminology of their own, often code words in conversation with one another. Because gay was already a known adjective meaning joyful, it could be used as a way to communicate same-sex desires to others who were in the know.

“A lesbian could say she met a gay gal the night before and her lesbian friend would know exactly what she meant,” Professor Chauncey said, “while her straight boss would have no idea what she was talking about.”

The early gay-rights movement was called the homophile movement because its founders explicitly rejected the word homosexual; they did not want to be identified as exclusively sexual beings.

Franklin E. Kameny, a gay rights pioneer, coined the phrase “Gay is Good” in 1968 as a way to help strip away some of the negative association. By then, gay had become the preferred term among gays and lesbians. But it would take decades for the rest of the country to catch on.

The New York Times resisted the word gay until 1987, preferring homosexual (now, it prefers the word gay in most contexts). The Washington Times set off in quotes the term gay marriage until 2008. The newspaper also updated its standards that year to say the term was preferred over “homosexual marriage.”

In the early 2000s, when same-sex marriage was a brand-new concept, gays were routinely described in mainstream media as homosexuals. Today, use of the word is less and less frequent. A Google Books scan shows a sharp decline in its use in recent years after peaking around 1995.

Scholars expect the use of the term to eventually fall away entirely.

“These shifts always reflect a change in sensibility,” said Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist who teaches at Berkeley. “That’s what happened when ‘Negro’ yields to ‘black’ and ‘African-American.’ It’s just an old-fashioned word that denotes a generally neutral but old-fashioned sensibility.”

Jeremy W. Peters – The New York Times

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Lambda Legal sues Doctor, Clinic For Denying Care To Transgender Woman….


Lambda Legal on Tuesday filed a lawsuit claiming that an Illinois health care services group denied medical care to a transgender woman after she requested hormone replacement therapy.

The lawsuit alleges a violation of the Affordable Care Act’s non-discrimination provisions that requires that clinics receiving federal funds treat transgender patients in the same manner as they would any patient under their care.

According to the suit, Naya Taylor requested to start hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as part of her medically necessary, transition-related healthcare to treat her gender dysphoria, but was refused by Dr. Aja Lystila, her primary care physician.

Taylor asserts that Lystila first claimed she was not experienced in providing hormones to transgender people even though hormone therapy is regularly provided to non-transgender patients in a variety of settings every day. Later the clinic told Taylor that it “does not have to treat people like you.”

“When they said, ‘we don’t have to treat people like you,’ I felt like the smallest, most insignificant person in the world,” said Taylor. “The doctor and office provide hormone replacement therapy for others at the same clinic, they just refused to do that for me.”

The Affordable Care Act is the first federal civil rights law to prohibit health care providers that receive federal funds from discriminating against any individual on the basis of sex for purpose of providing health services.

That prohibition extends to discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity, regardless of the actual or perceived gender identity of the individuals involved, according to Lambda Legal.

The suit names Lystila and the Carle health care group as defendants.

LGBTQ Nation

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Coalition Of Miss. Businesses Want LGBT Customers To Know They’re Welcome….

Mississippi-decal for “If You’re Buying, We’re Selling”

Following the Mississippi legislature’s recent passage of a religious freedom bill that opponents say could lead to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays, businesses statewide have responded by displaying a decal informing LGBT customers that their business is welcome.

The “If You’re Buying, We’re Selling” campaign started in the commercial district of Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood last week, and has since spread statewide, reports The Clarion-Ledger.

The campaign is built around opposition to Senate Bill 2681, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill on April 3.

Opponents of the new law, which takes effect July 1, worry it could lead to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians. Supporters insist it does not authorize businesses to deny service to customers based on religious beliefs.

But a group of entrepreneurs behind the “If You’re Buying, We’re Selling” campaign want to make clear that they’ll take money from anybody willing to spend it.

“A lot of us were trying to counter the negative stuff from outside Mississippi,” said local business owner Eddie Outlaw, who was part of the creative team behind the campaign. “We wanted to let people know – not just the LGBT community but the progressive community as a whole – that this doesn’t represent everybody here.”

To drive that point home, participating businesses will display in their storefront windows a vinyl, sticker-like circle that reads, “We don’t discriminate. If you’re buying, we’re selling.”

Equality Mississippi says hundreds of companies across the state have already signed up to display the new stickers in their window. The program is free of charge and is open to any business who is opposed to discrimination of all kinds.

LGBTQ Nation

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Cab Drivers Quit Over Promotional Ads For Cleveland’s Gay Games….


More than a dozen taxi drivers are dropping out of a dedicated cab service at Cleveland’s airport because they don’t want to drive vehicles with signs promoting the upcoming Gay Games.

WOIO-TV in Cleveland reports that at least 17 drivers have refused to drive cabs with Gay Games signs. Most of the drivers are Muslim and have cited religious objections, the station said.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport hosts a dedicated service in which three local cab companies use special vehicles and preset rates.

According to the airport website, the drivers who participate in the service receive “enhanced customer service training.”

Gay Games Executive Director Tom Nobbe told Outlook Ohio on Friday that the cab drivers’ objections run counter to the overall reaction to the international event in northeastern Ohio.

Organizers have offered to line up LGBT-inclusive diversity training for transportation, safety, hospitality and other businesses and agencies whose employees will help Gay Games visitors, he said.

“This could accelerate those efforts,” Nobbe said.

“It’s unfortunate they feel this way,” he said of the cab drivers. “It’s the first time something like this has happened.”

The ninth Gay Games, featuring competitions in 36 sports, is scheduled for Aug. 9-16 in Cleveland and Akron. Organizers expect 30,000 participants and spectators.

Airport Director Ricky Smith issued a statement confirming that two of the service’s three cab companies – Ace and Yellow Taxi Cab – had drivers drop out of the airport program because of religious reasons.

He said they will be replaced within three weeks.

Outlook Ohio

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Elderly N.C. Couples With Severe Medical Issues Demand Marriage Rights….


Three lesbian couples have filed suit in North Carolina, demanding that the state recognize their marriages from other states due to severe, life-threatening medical issues that each of the couples is dealing with.

Among them is Ellen “Lennie” Gerber and Pearl Berlin of High Point, an elderly couple, who have been together for 47 years and married in Maine last year. Berlin is in fragile condition, after suffering from a fall, which caused broken ribs and internal bleeding.

“As Pearl’s spouse, I want and need to be by her side the whole time in any medical emergency,” Gerber said in an American Civil Liberties Union statement this week. “The idea of Pearl having to go through any sort of emergency alone, or have another person make decisions for her is devastating to me.”

Jane Blackburn and Lyn McCoy of Greensboro have been together for 20 years and got married in Washington, D.C., in 2011. Right now, however, Blackburn is dealing with stage IV breast cancer.

“If Jane dies without the state recognizing our marriage, we’ll never be able to have the dignity of other married couples,” McCoy said, according to the ACLU. “[A]nd there is no guarantee that I will be able to recoup the benefits that we would have been entitled to if it had happened during her lifetime.”

Esmeralda Mejia and Christina Ginter-Mejia of Hickory have been together for 19 years, and the couple, who married in Maryland last year, are raising a 7-year-old boy. After a decorated Army career, Mejia was forced to retire upon learning that she had cervical cancer, and later finding a tumor in her left lung. When Mejia experienced liver failure, she was airlifted to Charlotte, N.C., and hospitalized for 144 days, but Ginter-Mejia was not allowed even a single day of family medical leave from her job, because their marriage is not recognized in their home state. Ginter-Mejia is their son’s sole legal parent, so if Mejia dies, he won’t receive the family benefits from Esmerelda’s military service.

The three couples are represented by the ACLU of North Carolina and the law firms Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and Ellis & Winters LLP.

This is the second lawsuit to challenge North Carolina’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Because of their medical conditions, the plaintiffs are requesting swift action from the court. The other lawsuit, filed by Shana Carignan and Megan Parker of Greensboro, is also related to health issues. Their son Jax has cerebral palsy, but he is unable to get the health coverage he requires — which is available through Carignan’s health insurance — because Carignan cannot adopt him legally.

Michelle Garcia – The Advocate

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Jeffrey the series: “Skinny Jeans” (Episode 3)….

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If Equality For Same-Sex Couples Harms Your Straight Marriage, It’s Your Own Fault….


For years, in thousands of same-sex marriage debates which I have participated, those opposing marriage equality have claimed that if it was made legal, harm would be done to opposite sex marriages.

There was nothing about their argument that seemed the least bit logical, so I fought back vehemently with all the rational thought I could muster against, what to me, was a purely irrational concept.

I missed something. I should have seen it. It parallels another argument anti-gays have made for years, long before the marriage equality issue was even on the table.

They would argue that “homosexuality was unhealthy.”

They would point to the fact that LGBT people seemed to suffer from higher levels of depression, suicide, and alcoholism. LGBT people were likely to die younger. Their observations were not a fallacies. LGBT people were, and are, susceptible to those problems. It was the premise that homosexuality itself caused those problems that was erroneous.

Clearly, the life threatening issues LGBT people face have everything to do with how they are treated by society, and the people they know. It is the overt external pressure for people to be what they aren’t, and it is the deep seated pervasive beliefs of inferiority that bombard LGBT people every day.

It is homophobia, that not only erodes the self esteem of LGBT people, it prevents participation in the societal structures that have proven healthy for heteronormative people: Marriage, families and support by intimates, that have societal acceptance and honor, create mentally and emotionally healthy environments in which modern humans thrive.

It is not the “homosexuality” that kills. It is the homophobia.

It is not a coincidence that the same people who argue against homosexuality are also the source of that homophobia which causes the effect they triumph. Their argument is true because they make it true.

Now, they are trying to make their perceived harm from marriage equality true as well.

In Oklahoma, state lawmaker Rep. Mike Turner (R-Edmond), is proposing a bill to cease marriage all together in the state. He maintains that he is staying within the principle of equality and follows the will of the people to prevent same-sex marriages from happening in Oklahoma while living up to principles in the U.S. Constitution.

He’s right. It would maintain those criteria.

I have come to attempt to understand the impulses of the anti-gay crowd by observing knee-jerk reactions of my young sons. When Trestin Meacham decided to starve himself in protest of same sex marriages in Utah, I saw a parallel. I see a similar impetus here.

My son, Jesse has what can be called “a short fuse.” It is characteristic of many in his biological family, and it is made even more pronounced in Jesse due to his exposure to methamphetamine in the womb.

When he has a conflict with someone, he often wants to take what he perceives as justice into his own hands. Of all the calls I have gotten to deal with a problem at school, the vast majority started in a situation where he was potentially the wronged party.

I have conversations with him:

“Ok, Pal, you have to think this out? What would have happened if you took this to a teacher and a reasonable answer could have been worked out?”

“I wouldn’t have acted out and gotten in trouble.”

“Right. Who would have had the tougher time?”

“They would have.”

“Who was the one in trouble by doing it your way?”


“What do you think of that?”

“It’s warped.”

So I need to ask Mr. Turner: “Who will be the one in trouble by doing it your way?”

Answer: You.

You are doing what my grandmother would call “cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

Ignoring the bureaucratic mess that will ensue, it boggles my mind how completely gutting a state’s family law and protections for children will help anyone. It also calls into question the “traditional marriage” advocates claims to care about the importance of marriage in society.

This action says that its importance is expendable before the need to win.

To all the anti-gays I have argued with over the years, here is my message: Yes, I was wrong in all those arguments. I am not sorry for arguing for marriage equality. I was then, and still am, right about that. I am still right about its justice and that it holds the highest of ethics and moral principles to support it.

What I am sorry for is missing the obvious.

I am sorry that I did not point out that there is a factor that WOULD cause harm to your marriages should same sex marriage become legal: you. To my credit, I honestly did not believe that you would take, or consider taking, actions that make your concerns a self-fulfilling prophesy. I thought better of you than you appear now to be.

Mr. Turner is saying on your behalf, “If we can’t have it exclusively, then we will see to it that no one has it.” I did not see that coming.

It won’t be the same-sex couples, our families, our loves, our lives or our legal protections that will harm your marriages, it will be your destructive initiatives like this one.

The possible silver lining here would be the possibility that opposite sex couples affected may stop and reflect on what being prevented from marrying feels like.

Be that as it may, it is apparent that you intend to “win”, no matter who actually loses, even if that includes families like your own.

To quote my son Jesse, “That’s warped.”

Rob Watson – LGBTQ Nation

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