AP Advises Against Use of 'Homophobia' in Revised Style Book

The Associated Press put out a number of changes to its Style Book today, with this notation:


An irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness. Examples: acrophobia, a fear of heights, and claustrophobia, a fear of being in small, enclosed spaces. Do not use in political or social contexts: homophobia, Islamophobia.

Politico spoke with the AP:

"Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities, a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don't feel that's quite accurate," AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told POLITICO.

"When you break down 'ethnic cleansing,' it's a cover for terrible violent activities. It's a term we certainly don't want to propgate," Minthorn continued. "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."

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  1. The AP should continue to use "homophobia" just as it has been used and not try to limit its meaning. For one thing, public perception and usage are what define a word or phrase, even when the word roots or semantics are more limiting.

    According to Merriam-Webster, homophobia is the "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals."


    Posted by: robert | Nov 27, 2012 10:35:41 AM

  2. "Religion is irrational. Religious-based fear and hatred of homosexuality is therefore VERY adequately described by the word 'homophobia'."

    Actually, both in terms of connotation and the etymology, bigotry is a better word than homophobia.

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | Nov 27, 2012 10:57:07 AM

  3. Popular usage always trumps original meanings of a word or phrase, and that usage eventually becomes an official part of the meaning. For example, use of the word "cool". The AP might have taken time to look at the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

    homophobia : the "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals"

    Posted by: robert | Nov 27, 2012 10:58:23 AM

  4. I apologize for the double entry. I didn't see the "next" link.

    Posted by: robert | Nov 27, 2012 11:03:48 AM

  5. i prefer the term Gaycist it's easier to say and straight to the point.

    Posted by: Alexander | Nov 27, 2012 11:37:24 AM

  6. Sorry, but I agree 110% with Weinberg:

    We have no other word for what we’re talking about, and this one is well established.

    It is in fact homophobic to deny that homophobia is THE term for aversion to gay people. It is no less homophobic of the AP to ban the term than it was for the New York Times to ban the word "gay" for years.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Nov 27, 2012 12:37:27 PM

  7. George Weinberg is absolutely correct. IT IS a psychologically irrational phobia - just like fear of heights, cats, or the number 13 - and should be named as such.

    Posted by: EchtKultig | Nov 27, 2012 9:23:04 PM

  8. @Paul R: "A dog is a dog" is a tautology.
    "Homophobia is just that: a phobia" is not a tautology or a definition, it's a simple statement of fact that homophobes don't want to face up to.

    Naturally developed terms are usually preferable to artificial attempts to replace them. How long have people been trying to find a suitable non-sexed third person singular personal pronoun? I'm still proudly using "homophobia" and "Islamophobia". Like the NYT did with "gay", the AP will eventually face reality.

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Nov 28, 2012 3:53:04 AM

  9. Call me a bigoted pedophobic but why not the british term bumbanditophobia to express your revulsion?

    Posted by: Quentin | Feb 18, 2013 9:15:22 AM

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