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Redefining gay for reporters

The AP style guide references have been updated and this is great news. The changes, via GLAAD:

In the previous edition of the AP Stylebook (2005), the entry for gay read as follows:

gay Acceptable as popular synonym for both male and female homosexuals (n. and adj.), although it is generally associated with males, while lesbian is the more common term for female homosexuals. Avoid references to gay, homosexual or alternative “lifestyle.”

The updated 2006 entry reads:

gay Used to describe men and women attracted to the same sex, though lesbian is the more common term for women. Preferred over homosexual except in clinical contexts or references to sexual activity.

Include sexual orientation only when it is pertinent to a story, and avoid references to “sexual preference” or to a gay or alternative “lifestyle.”

The 2006 edition also relocates the sex changes entry under the more accurate and inclusive term transgender. The transsexuals entry, which used to direct readers to the entry for sex changes, now also points to transgender:

transgender Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.

Another welcome update for 2006 was the deletion of the term “lesbianism” — another word that has taken on pejorative connotations. Prior to 2006, the AP Stylebook entry for “lesbian, lesbianism” had read, “Lowercase in references to homosexual women, except in names of organizations.” GLAAD applauded the deletion of the term “lesbianism” and the removal of the reference to “homosexual women,” though the removal of the entire entry was unexpected (currently, the AP’s style guideline for “lesbian” is located in the entry for “gay”).

So, most MSM reporting will now reflect the above definitions. Look for the right-wing “news” organizations to continue tossing “homosexual” around.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding