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In the Press: What’s In a Name?

I was quoted in the online magazine Edge New York in a story about the power of language to both liberate and oppress. My quotes are copied here, or follow the link for the full article:

WHAT’S IN A NAME: EMPOWERMENT OR INSULT?

by Scott Stiffler
EDGE Contributor
Monday July 28, 2008

“Very early on, [the word ‘homosexual’] became a term of stigma that was used pejoratively.” In doing so, conversation shifted from the behavior and worth of the individual to the matter of orientation. “The word homosexuality connotes bias by giving it a very clinical focus — as if being gay was only about sex.” says Geoffrey Steinberg, a licensed clinical psychologist.

As a medical term, Steinberg reminds us how it was a psychiatric diagnosis used to “pathologize gay men and lesbians” until 1973. That’s the year when the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. Today, we’ve still not recovered from homosexuality’s 104-year run as a “narrow term of bias that ignores the identity, culture and relationships of the LGBT community in favor of this focus on sexual behavior.”

Still, Steinberg counters that “It’s important to allow people to define and identify themselves as they want. This is an internal debate amongst subsets of the gay community — but that debate is a very different story than the use of language by an outside group as an attack against gay people in a way to control and oppress.”

But for Steinberg, the very notion that we’re engaged in debate about what we should call ourselves (as well as what were allowed to call someone else) is an opportunity to “reach an understanding that can be healing instead of further fracturing an already oppressed group. My hope would be that it’s an opportunity for dialogue as opposed to attempts to control.”

Full article
© 2008 Edge Publications, Inc.

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