The Associated Press has removed the word “homophobia” from its Style Book, saying the word is no longer suitable for use in social or political contexts.
The style guide, which has been changed over the past few months, now reads that the suffix “-phobia,” which it defines as “an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness”, should not be used “in political or social contexts,” reports Politico.
The guide specifically lists “homophobia” as well as “Islamophobia,” as examples of the not-to-be-used terms, and instead it is likely that the term “anti-gay” would be used in its place.
George Weinberg, the psychologist who coined the term in the 1972 text, The Healthy Homosexual, disagreed with the decision to remove the word. He said:
“[The word] 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. 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. Fowler even allows us to mix what he called dead metaphors. It seems curious that this word is getting such scrutiny while words like triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13) hangs around.”
AP’s Deputy Standards Editor, Dave Minthorn, commented on the changes, which also included the removal of the term “ethnic cleansing”. He said”
“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.”
“We want to be precise and accurate and neutral in our phrasing,” he continued.
The printed version of the Style Book, including these changes, will be available in 2013.