Tuesday, September 5, 2017

An Impossible Word Problem

It has been pointed out to me that using the word "homosexuals" is considered inappropriate for the same reasons that saying "blacks" is inappropriate. I don't think I ever consciously noticed this rule before in the general sense, and it doesn't seem to be consistent. People say things like "jews" "catholics" "republicans" "redheads" and "intellectuals", so why is it different to say "blacks" or "homosexuals"? Maybe there's two necessary criteria of it being a characteristic that people strongly identify with as well as something which the public considers to not be caused by personal choice. I notice however that for the most part none of the examples I listed above really happen because of personal choice. To be honest I don't know if there even is a sensible consistent way to apply this social rule.

It was recommended to me that I use the word "gay" instead. I chose not to because I consider this word to be even more loaded with harmful stereotypes. If I can't use the word gay or homosexual that just leaves me with the phrases "androphilic man" and "gynephilic woman" which are probably better in every way except for the fact that they're a mouthful to say. The words gay and homosexual are unnecessarily self-referential—sexual orientation includes one's own sex. And the only difference between the sexual orientations of a gay man and a heterosexual woman are that one of them is a man and the other is a woman. So using the word androphilic (man-loving) and gynephilic (woman-loving) is probably much more sensible. Unfortunately gynephilic women and androphilic men are often discriminated against so we need to be classified together for the purposes of talking about the prejudice and discrimination we face.

But make no mistake, sexual orientation is not one attribute in and of itself, it is actually two separate and distinct attributes that we lump together for convenience's sake. Because saying "androphilic men" and "gynephilic women" really is a mouthful.

And for those who still aren't aware, yes there are masculine men who are androphilic, and there are feminine women who are gynephilic. Being an androphilic man does not make someone  more feminine. If a particular androphilic man happens to also be effeminate then that is a separate fact. Likewise, being a gynephilic woman does not make someone more masculine. If a particular gynephilic woman happens to be a bit of a tomboy, then that is a separate fact.

If you're still not clear on that for whatever reason, I suggest you read "Brown" a short story I wrote about an alternate universe where people are widely discriminated against on the basis of hair color rather than skin color. I posted it on this blog.

What are you still doing here? Go read it! :)

Note: I just invented the word semantic trap. It means a situation where you can't find suitable words to express what you actually mean that don't add in extra connotations which you don't mean. Unlike semantic disputes which are arguments about how to define a word, a semantic trap is when you can't find a suitable word for your definition.

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