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all things gay (or "Homosexuals 101")  dstei-@copydesk.org
 Feb 27, 2004 13:17 PST 

My 2 cents on "gay marriage" and other things (well, it's kinda long, so maybe 4 cents). Disclaimer: I'm on the board of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. I'm also chairman of The SF Chronicle's Style Council.

 I confess: I dont understand the widespread objection to the term gay
marriage. Arent we talking about allowing gay partners to marry each
other? That IS the issue, isnt it? Before they are wed, isnt it
proper to say theyre in a gay relationship? So, why cant the marriage
be a gay marriage?
   My main objections to "gay marriage" are: 1. It is somewhat gender exclusive. Many lesbians DON'T like being called gay. 2. It ignores bisexuals. 3. It's not a separate institution (not a "black marriage" or a "gay marriage" is just marriage ... one could try to make an argument that civil unions are essentially gay marriage in Vermont). The people suing are seeking (and Mayor Newsom in SF has granted) the right to marry someone of the same sex. "Same-sex marriage" avoids all of those objections.

FYI: The SF Chron's stylebook says:
GAY MARRIAGE: Avoid the term. Better to use the phrase "same-sex marriage." No U.S state recognizes same-sex marriages. Restrict use of the phrases same-sex marriage or gay marriage to cases where what is being discussed is a legally recognized marriage with full marriage rights ("Lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages"). Same-sex relationships, such as civil unions and domestic partnerships, do not have full marriage rights in the United States. Elsewhere in the world, Belgium and the Netherlands offer full marriage rights to gays and lesbians. Several other European countries don’t go as far but recognize civil unions, which do not provide full marriage rights. Provincial courts in Canada have ruled that gays and lesbians must be allowed to marry, and the Canadian government is preparing legislation to provide full marriage rights.

 The NLGJAs suggested term, marriage for gays and lesbians, doesnt
address the point that gay people are already allowed to marry (a >person
of the opposite sex). Also, the group must know that theres no way a
term so cumbersome will be used with any regularity in news copy, and
its a nonstarter for headlines.

     Those points were raised on NLGJA discussion boards as well.

 Also, I hope someone can clarify the objection to "homosexual." Is it
that the word has been tainted through derogatory use, or is
there something inherently wrong with its etymology?
David Brudnoy, longtime radio
talk-show host in Boston, is gay and uses homosexual as the preferred >term. ... And why is queer gaining acceptance? It still seems grossly
offensive to me.

        As pointed out elsewhere, "homosexual" is both old-fashioned (from a time when the word was probably used to report someone being arrested) and clinical. As for Brudnoy, he's not representative of mainstream gays/lesbians at all. He didn't come out until he almost died of AIDS and pretty much had to. As someone else pointed out, the evolution of "queer" is about taking back the term. To me, it's like some blacks, who use the word "nigger" casually -- but only in a conversation with someone of the same race, never with anyone else. (Growing up in Oakland, Calif. -- where blacks are the largest ethnic group in a minority-majority city -- I heard this a lot and it was casual BS-ing, not said in anger). I think "queer" has evolved enough that some gays/lesbians are using the word w/ "outsiders" (hence "Queer Eye."). I think it needs to be used with caution, however, in mainstream publications.

Again, as point of reference, The Chron's stylebook says:

QUEER: In general, follow the profanity/obscenity rules when used as synonym for gay/lesbian: Do not use terms that are considered homophobic unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story. However, some people -- particularly young gay men and lesbians -- have reclaimed the word as a badge of pride. In that sense, it may be used when the viewpoint is clear.


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