The New York Times says that the word homosexual is so passé, and they might have a point. They write that the all-encompassing term for those with same-sex inclinations is too “outdated and clinical,” but it’s still used as an acceptable term when talking about our community.
These days it’s rare to meet someone who says “I’m homosexual.” Instead, they are likely to say they are gay, lesbian, queer, bi, fluid, or free from labels altogether. But it’s inevitable we’ll be called something. So if homosexual is out, group, then what should replace it? What should we be called?
Dana Piccoli: I prefer Dana, but I am totally cool with lesbian. Homosexual feels kind of antiquated but I don’t find it offensive. I’ve always like the term “gay community” because it sounds like we are are always on the verge of having a nice picnic or potluck. I often use the word queer however in my writing, because I understand and respect that we all feel differently about our identities. One does not need to give up their identity in order to support the identity or expression of another.
Valerie Anne: I was actually talking to someone about this recently, about wanting a word that encompasses the entire LGBTQ community, that isn’t “the LGBTQ community.” For now, I use “queer” but I don’t love it. It has too much negative history to it. Besides, it means “weird” when it comes down to it. It means strange, odd. It still implies “other.”
I scoured other languages for a word and have come up with nothing. I considered “sparkly,” i.e. “Here’s a list of the hottest sparkly women on television” and it would mean lesbian/bisexual/trans* women (I believe this idea came post-Pride Parade when I was covered head to toe in glitter I didn’t arrive in). But that hasn’t quite caught on. For myself, I like “lesbian” because it fits me the best; I don’t mind “homosexual” but it sounds kind of clinical and cold. I don’t mind “gay” either but for some reason my brain tends to consider that to be a more masculine word. Though I’m still waiting for the day someone asks me directly if I’m gay so I can answer, “Am I gay? I’m ecstatic!”
Grace Chu: I prefer gay and lesbian. Homosexual is antiquated, but I find “queer” to be a loaded word. While it has been reclaimed, it has taken on a life of its own and has become associated with unnecessarily complicated politics that often devolve into oppression olympics and faux “I am for the people” jargon that these “common folks” learned in their fancy liberal arts colleges. No thank you. I don’t identify with the queer scene, I can see through the bullshit and it just rubs me the wrong way. I’m a lady lovin’ lady and that’s that. I am a lesbian. The end. (I am sure Marcie will agree.)
Heather Hogan: I like to use “homosexual” when I’m writing TV recaps sometimes because it’s just such a silly-sounding word that it makes things funnier. Like cattywampus or gardyloo or taradiddle or widdershins. It’s practically Seussical. Also, Tina Fey rescued it from having derisive power in Mean Girls with that home-schooling scene about how God created guns on the third day so man could fight the dinosaurs … and the homosexuals. So now every time I read “homosexuals” in a serious context from a Conservative writer, I only ever hear it like that. When I’m referring to my sexuality, I probably say “gay” or “lesbian” the most. I really like the word “queer” also because of that Judith Butler-y idea of how it’s a living, breathing, constantly evolving idea that gets in the cracks between solid things and blows up society’s archaic shit.
Marcie Bianco: Yes, I agree with Chuey. I’m a lesbian, and I think this specificity is important and, for me, integral to how I infuse my erotic life with my feminist politics.