Semantics / Lexicon / Terminology / War of the Words / Words Have Power
When it comes to any campaign to sway public opinion, it is well known that the one who defines the terms, defines the debate. And if there’s one thing the GLBT activist community is good at, it’s reframing the issues and redefining terms to suit their political agenda. This strategy was laid out by Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen in their 1989 public relations playbook, After the Ball: How America Will Conquer it Fear and Hatred of Gay in the 90s, and has been followed to the letter by America’s gay activist organizations ever since.
Specifically, GLBT activist leadership has mastered the art of redefining the words associated with homosexuality and transgenderism to be more euphemistic, neutral and emotional, and less graphic, offensive, and threatening to the average American who would normally be inclined to have serious reservations about the topics.
A key component in this strategy to reframe the arguments and win the public relations battle has been the enlistment of academia, the media and other opinion-influencing elites to unquestioningly adopt the GLBT lexicon and, thus, get them to carry the bulk of the load in terms of changing the way people think about the issues of homosexuality and transgenderism.
There’s even a GLBT activist organization within the media ranks called the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association which has developed a “stylebook” of preferred terms and usage for the media to follow as they write their stories.
And if this isn’t Orwellian enough, there is even a Rapid Response Task Force in place to punish the offenders in the event that a journalist or other media player fails to get the memo on the politically correct wording and usage of their preferred terms – as dictated by the GLBT activists themselves.
Given this situation, what can citizens who are concerned about the advance of the GLBT political agenda do to offer a counterpoint to this Orwellian double-speak that distorts terminology with the express goal to propagandize and change public opinion?
In some cases the prevailing words are relatively acceptable and there is no need to quibble because the train has long since left the station and any sustained effort to reframe the issue is met with raised eyebrows and perhaps accusations of paranoia, and may actually serve to alienate those we seek to persuade. But in other cases, concerned citizens must not cede ground and allow certain words to be reframed. Thus, when an unacceptable and inaccurate word usage has already been adopted, we must work hard to overturn the usage by offering more accurate and balanced alternatives – along with reasoned explanations as to why the reframed term is unacceptable, and why your option is more reasonable and acceptable.
Here is a list of a few terms that are frequently used by GLBT activists that merit push back on the part of citizens who are concerned about the advance of the GLBT political agenda:
When the homosexual activist community successfully convinced the media to shift from usage of the term “homosexual” to the more benign terms “gay” and “lesbian,” they reframed what had been a more clinically and behaviorally oriented term to one that spoke to the essence of one’s identity. While in many circumstances it is probably not worth the effort to re-stigmatize the behavior by insisting upon using the term “homosexual” over “gay/lesbian,” this is an instance where even more accurate terminology should be called for by both proponents of homosexuality and transgenderism as well as those who oppose the advance of the GLBT political agenda.
Specifically, given that there is no valid or replicable evidence that sexual orientation is an unchangeable trait, it is more correct to speak in terms of “self-identity” as opposed to “being gay” or “being lesbian.”
Suggested alternatives: gay-identified; lesbian-identified; self-identified gay/lesbian; person who experiences same-sex attraction (SSA); person who is same-sex attracted; person who experiences same-sex temptations; living homosexually.
As discussed above, a key strategy of the GLBT activist community over the past several decades has been to shift the focus from sexual behavior to sexual identity. This reframing of “what one does” – and its accompanying “ick factor” – to “who one is” has been perhaps the single most effective factor in bringing out the widespread acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism we now see in American culture. All debates, arguments, questions, answers, campaigns, terms, phrases, etc. stem from this single socio-cultural foundation.
However, when it comes to the full spectrum of legislation at the local, state and national levels that seeks to carve out protected class status (meaning a group of people who may not be discriminated against or harassed due to a specific factor) for those who self-identity as either homosexual, bisexual or transgender – laws which jeopardize our American freedoms to religious liberty and freedom of conscience – many legal defense groups recommend that those who oppose the advance of the GLBT political agenda make every effort to refocus the issue on behavior and avoid terminology which emphasizes identity (for more on the attempt to separate behavior from identity, see A Queer Thing Happened to America, Chapter Eleven).
For more information in this regard, contact the Alliance Defense Fund and other legal defense groups on how best to strategically frame the issues of homosexuality and transgenderism depending on the context.
Suggested terminology: when referring to GLBT activists and their allies, use “advocates of homosexual behavior,” “advocates of transgender behavior,” etc.
While using the term “homosexuality” is acceptable in many circumstances, unless it is distinguished by the more nuanced term “homosexual behavior,” it is often associated with the concept of a core, unchangeable identity. As discussed above, the goal of emphasizing identity over behavior has long been the goal of the GLBT activist community.
However, given that many men and women may experience same-sex sexual attraction during a season of their lives – but never self-identify as gay or lesbian or choose to “come out” publicly or even embrace the goals of the homosexual political agenda – it is helpful in many circumstances to use the term “same-sex attraction” over the term “homosexuality.” The bottom line is that people who experience same-sex attraction may or may not self-identify as gay or lesbian. And they will not necessarily see themselves as homosexual either. Being sensitive to this distinction may be helpful in certain circumstances, particularly when referring to people who struggle with same-sex attractions and have chosen to seek help overcoming the situation – and steward their sexuality in alignment with their value system and ethical beliefs/constructs.
Suggested alternatives: people who experience same-sex attractions (SSA); people who struggle with SSA; strugglers; overcomers; same-sex strugglers; people who experience unwanted same-sex attractions.
There are countless individuals from all over the world who, for generations, have made – and are making – the personal decision to not embrace their same-sex attractions and/or to not self-identify as gay or lesbian. For some, this decision has been based on a strongly held religious or moral conviction that homosexual behavior was outside the bounds of their faith’s teaching. For others, the decision may have been undertaken more by cultural or familial considerations. For still others, faith convictions play no role in the decision.
Whatever the circumstances, it can be challenging to know how best to refer to people who have walked away from a gay or lesbian self-identity, or who are choosing to steward their sexuality in alignment with their values despite widespread and intense cultural pressure to fully embrace a gay identity.
Complicating this politically incorrect decision is the overt hostility, derision and mockery that these individuals face from GLBT activists and their allies who, despite their own vociferous demands for “tolerance” and “diversity,” refuse to extend the same tolerance for the diversity represented by those who choose to not embrace a gay self-identity.
Although the terms “former homosexual” and “ex-gay” do, indeed, speak to the lives of some individuals who once embraced a gay or lesbian self-identity, they don’t apply to those who experience same-sex attraction but never self-identified as gay or lesbian, nor embraced a gay political identity. Moreover, some who have walked away from their gay identities and embraced the process of sexual orientation change sometimes find that they may experience SSA from time to time and feel caught in between two worlds.
Suggested terms: Given these nuances, some people who have chosen to walk away from a gay self-identity are beginning to adopt the term “post-gay” to refer to themselves. Others refer to themselves as “same-sex strugglers” or “overcomers” or as persons embracing the biblical or traditional sexual ethic. Whatever the case, getting to know people in this situation is highly encouraged. Ask them what term they prefer and be respectful of their preference on this sensitive topic.
Those who advocate for homosexual behavior frequently label those who hold to a traditional or biblical viewpoint on sexuality as being “anti-gay,” or worse. Of course, the use of this “anti” label is intended to shame, silence and stifle any and all opposing viewpoints when it comes to the discussion of homosexuality in the public square. The implication is that to be “against” (“anti”) something is negative and bad, whereas to be “for” (“pro”) something is positive and good.
Given that the media have uncritically marched in lock-step with the demands of GLBT activists and their allies to slap the label “anti-gay” on anyone who disagrees with the GLBT political agenda, how can concerned citizens push back from this polarizing paradigm and reframe discussions more fairly and accurately?
Suggested alternatives to pro-gay: homosexualist; pansexualist; advocates of homosexual behavior; advocates of homosexual and ‘transgender’ behavior; gay-normalizing.
Suggested alternatives to anti-gay: traditionalists; those promoting a biblical sexual ethic; those promoting a traditional sexual ethic.
Historically, the term “sex” referred to the two sexes – either male or female – whereas the term “gender” was typically used in the context of distinguishing noun types and other parts of speech in many languages. For example, there are two genders in Spanish – masculine and feminine – while German has three – masculine, feminine and neuter. And while older forms of English formerly employed gender, today gender distinctions in English nouns have fallen out of usage almost entirely, except for the very occasional instance when one might refer to a ship as a “she.”
These long-held distinctions between the terms “gender” and “sex” started to blur in the 1960s in the context of the sexual revolution and the feminist movement, which sought to obliterate all distinctions between the sexes – claiming that male and female were alike in virtually every respect and equally interchangeable in nearly every circumstance. While this ideology was never true in the first place, there’s been plenty of valid research in the meantime to substantiate that there are, indeed, significant differences between the two sexes.
Couple this ideological blurring of terms with the fact that the last several decades have seen Americans increasingly uncomfortable using the term “sex” – meaning male and female – in part because the term has also increasingly come to mean “sexual intercourse.” Given these trends, the term “sex” has been ripe to be reframed away from its historical meaning of male and female and be replaced with the notion of “gender.”
This evolution in usage wouldn’t necessarily be a great cause for concern were it not for the fact that there is now a political agenda tied to the usage of the term “gender.” Indeed, gender activists today are seeking to radically deconstruct the concept of gender away from the binary paradigm of male and female. In its place they argue that “gender” exists on a spectrum and that there are an infinite number of possible “genders” – above and beyond the two sexes. Quite ironically, while they insist that sexual orientation cannot be changed, they claim that sex/gender can be changed! And they have introduced the concept of “gender identity and/or expression” into laws and allowing for the creation of protected class status – on par with race and national origin – based on what is fundamentally a feelings-based and subjective self-identity.
Given the cultural stakes associated with the politically correct agenda to deconstruct the objective and unchangeable reality of sex – male and female – into the subjective, perception-based concept of “gender,” it is imperative that citizens who are concerned about the advance of the homosexualist and transgender agenda not cede the historical meaning of sex. We should use the term “biological sex” and not “gender” when what we are referring to is male and female.
Suggested alternative to “gender”: sex, biological sex.
There are various approaches available to those who seek professional or pastoral help with their unwanted same-sex attractions. Despite this, advocates for homosexual behavior frequently – and derisively – lump all approaches under the term “reparative therapy” (RT). While RT is a legitimate and helpful therapeutic approach used by some mental health practitioners to assist some clients with unwanted same-sex attractions, it is not the only model.
Beyond this, the somewhat broader category of “conversion therapy” is sometimes also used dismissively by GLBT activists and their allies to refer to certain mental health approaches used by practitioners who seek to assist clients with unwanted SSA.
Despite these attempts to marginalize not only the practitioners who serve in this field but also the clients who experience unwanted SSA and desire to exercise their right to self-determination, there remains strong demand in the mental health field for the various therapeutic approaches methods available to assist those who seek to change their sexual orientation.
Suggested alternative: the broadest and most appropriate way to refer to this field of mental health practice is neither “reparative therapy” or “conversion therapy,” but rather “sexual reorientation therapy” (SRT). SRT can include any of the various mental health and/or pastoral approaches used to address unwanted same-sex attraction for those who want help in this area.
Even though mental health professionals and ministry leaders who assist clients with unwanted SSA do not use the term “cure” when referring to sexual orientation change efforts, GLBT activists and their allies often misleadingly use the term in an attempt to mischaracterize the field and malign those who choose not to embrace a homosexual identity.
In addition, those who advocate for homosexual behavior also frequently mischaracterize what is meant when those with unwanted SSA talk about sexual orientation change. Here, GLBT activists and their allies charge that anything less than complete sexual orientation change from homosexual to heterosexual is evidence that all Sexual Reorientation Therapies are invalid and unworthy of consideration or merit. Using this therapeutic standard, one may as well abandon all schools of therapy and avoid trying to treat any issue if results/outcomes are not 100% positive or 180 degree turns. Some may respond “but homosexuality is different,” but if that is their claim, then that’s a different argument; obviously, those seeking treatment begin with foundations about homosexuality that are totally contrary to those asserted by gay activists. If homosexuality was indeed different, then therapy need not be attended to begin with!
However, these efforts to reframe the issue to suit the purposes of the GLBT activist political agenda amount to nothing more than straw man arguments and are particularly disrespectful in the sense that the individuals who experience unwanted same-sex attraction aren’t allowed to define for themselves the goals they are pursuing when it comes to sexual orientation change.
Given that even the American Psychiatric Association agrees that clients have a right to self-determination and personal autonomy, it is clear that individuals have the right to choose to steward their sexuality in alignment with their ethics and values.
Suggested alternative: use the term “stewardship” whenever possible in discussing the issue of sexual orientation change efforts.
For more information:
Can Gays Really Change? A Review of the Jones and Yarhouse Study on Ex-Gays
What Do We Mean When We Talk About Change?
The Gender Agenda: Redefining Equality