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All the Freaks Are on Parade
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Black and African-American are in, Negro and Colored are out. Hispanic is still acceptable, but Latino is where the zeitgeist is headed (no matter if actual Latinos prefer the term “Hispanic” over the term “Latino”–they’re just pawns in the game of white moral posturing, after all). Oriental has been tasteless for generations now, we describe them as Asian.

What about gays? That’s the default identifier I employ. Do I need a few good lashings from the PC o’ nine tails to straighten (heh) me out? From Google’s Ngram viewer, the percentages of books published in the US containing each of six nouns recognizably identifying those who are into others of the same sex, in their plural forms to avoid sweeping up confounding adjectives:

Good thing I’m not always as clinical in my thinking as I should be–homosexual is on the way out and gay is about to take the top spot. Apparently it’s what the buggers prefer, so far be it from me to protest.

Sapphic and sodomist, barely identifiable on the graph, have become even less apropos over time. Prior to the second half of the 20th century, not much was written about gays at all. Society said if you’re going to do whatever you want to do, fine, but do it behind closed closet doors. We now recognize that for being the hidebound, retrograde stuff that it was, though, as we celebrate alternative lifestyles, striving relentessly to bring them out in plain view!

(Republished from The Audacious Epigone by permission of author or representative)
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  1. I try to say "homosexual" and avoid "gay". "Homosexual" is descriptive and value-neutral (but that's just my heteronormative prejudice blinding me to linguistic oppression). It is amazing how quickly "gay" swept in. As late as 1961, the words "I feel pretty, and witty, and gay" could appear in a major musical motion picture — the lyrics actually a change from the original stage lyrics which did not include "gay" — without any sexual connotation implied at all. My wife has an aunt, born early 60s, who was called "Gay" (short for her given name) until maybe middle school (c. 1975, say).

    Another lamentable loss of a perfectly good English word. Orwellian indeed.

  2. Noah, I know a women who still goes by "Gay" – probably born about the same time.

  3. I too prefer to say "homosexual" for the same reason as Noah. I once used "sodomite" in a published article while in college. Let's just say that went over like the Hindenburg.

    I also prefer "oriental" to "Asian" since Asian could mean anything from Tokyo to Tbilisi to Tel Aviv. Oriental at least narrows it down a bit more.

    I also recently learned (a few years ago) that "mulatto" has apparently fallen out of favor.

  4. Saint Louis,

    Replaced by biracial/multiracial, I assume?

    Dennis Mangan nailed the inanity of all this:

    It used to be, back in the old days, generally agreed upon as to what constituted offensiveness. Usually one would have to consciously insult someone, or behave in a way that was calculated to offend. Since there were agreed-upon ways of being and acting – otherwise known as "manners" – most people knew when their behavior was or was not acceptable.

    No longer: there are now so many rules and regulations that one may go about offending at will without knowing it. It seems as if being offended or aggrieved has really taken off with the success of accusations of racism. Being offended at something someone says has become a court of no appeal. The one allegedly giving offense is supposed to back down immediately and apologize. So it's no wonder that every person who is slightly different has adopted such a stance. It's a culture of complaint, in which everyone is special, and all others are supposed to recognize and respect that specialness.

    It's ironic that the main thing the 60s were supposed to do was liberate us from the confines of a stifling culture. Instead, manners have become more rigid than ever, and the possibility of giving offense has grown by leaps and bounds.

  5. "sodomist"?

    Shouldn't it be "sodomite"?

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