In a previous generation, the word “Negro” went from being a perfectly acceptable, even favored, term for black people, to being offensive. Has the same thing happened to the word “homosexual”? Here’s a Ruth Graham tweet from the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission leadership summit:
— Ruth Graham (@publicroad) April 22, 2014
Is this a thing? Since when did “homosexual” cease to be a neutral term, and become offensive? I’m not being snarky here; this is news to me. Why is “homosexual” a problem?
Meanwhile, three cheers for the public statement, signed by gay marriage proponents Andrew Sullivan, Jonathan Rauch, Eugene Volokh and others, calling for tolerance for dissenters. From the piece:
Much of the rhetoric that emerged in the wake of the Eich incident showed a worrisome turn toward intolerance and puritanism among some supporters of gay equality—not in terms of formal legal sanction, to be sure, but in terms of abandonment of the core liberal values of debate and diversity.
Sustaining a liberal society demands a culture that welcomes robust debate, vigorous political advocacy, and a decent respect for differing opinions. People must be allowed to be wrong in order to continually test what is right. We should criticize opposing views, not punish or suppress them.
The freedom—not just legal but social—to express even very unpopular views is the engine that propelled the gay-rights movement from its birth against almost hopeless odds two generations ago. A culture of free speech created the social space for us to criticize and demolish the arguments against gay marriage and LGBT equality. For us and our advocates to turn against that culture now would be a betrayal of the movement’s deepest and most humane values.
We prefer debate that is respectful, but we cannot enforce good manners. We must have the strength to accept that some people think misguidedly and harmfully about us. But we must also acknowledge that disagreement is not, itself, harm or hate.
As a viewpoint, opposition to gay marriage is not a punishable offense. It can be expressed hatefully, but it can also be expressed respectfully. We strongly believe that opposition to same-sex marriage is wrong, but the consequence of holding a wrong opinion should not be the loss of a job. Inflicting such consequences on others is sadly ironic in light of our movement’s hard-won victory over a social order in which LGBT people were fired, harassed, and socially marginalized for holding unorthodox opinions.
UPDATE: This whole language issue reminded me of a Bloom County strip, the punch line of which Bill Safire revealed in a 1988 column:
“That’s the most adorable little colored girl playing outside,” observes a woman in Berke Breathed’s comic strip, “Bloom County.”
“‘Colored’? You’re saying ‘colored people’ in 1988?” asks her socially sensitive son. “You know better, Ma.” He suggests they agree to use “the new-age term ‘people of color.’” Ma accepts that, and says, “People of color. Colored people.” The son blows his stack.