By Malissa Rogers
The Associated Press (AP) Style Book has recommended that journalists refrain from using the term “phobia” in “political and social contexts.” That means that “homophobia” and other words such as “Islamophobia,” may become taboo within news organizations across the nation.
“It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have,” AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn told Politico. “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.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, the idea behind the change is to revise how journalists describe people who may be “anti-gay” or “opponents” of a gay lifestyle. For example, if a political libertarian opposes government programs to hand out condoms; some would call him a homophobe. But, according to AP, the more fair description could be “public health funding opponent.”
However, if someone has repeatedly attacked gays or lesbians, then the term “homophobe” could be the better suited description.
AP’s change has sparked controversy amongst national and local news organizations, and not all journalists have been pleased with the AP’s decision. Baltimore Sun language authority John E. McIntyre called the AP’s stance “reasoned, principled, and wrong-headed.”
“What’s in the word ‘homophobia’? A lot: the history and culture of not only discrimination, violence and hatred toward LGBTQ people but irrational fear of us,” Irene Monroe of the Huffington Post wrote. “This irrational fear may not need psychiatric or clinical intervention, but it should nonetheless be aptly labeled as a phobia.”
The AP’s decision is likely to continue to be heavily debated by both reporters and editors throughout the country.
“The editors made their decision without consultation with the nation’s leading LGBTQ organizations, leaders, activists and newspapers,” Monroe wrote. “That is a problem.”