Gay and lesbian vs. homosexual

Mae Kuykendall mae.kuykendall at
Wed Aug 10 12:03:08 PDT 2005

Assuming Dan will stick to his vow of silence, I'm inclined to post on
this.  I am empirically inclined, but not as rigorously systematic about
it as is Dan.  

Thus, I will say, empirically but not with his care to systematize, no
one I have ever met who is gay or lesbian has ever called himself or
herself "homosexual" in my presence.  I have had the privilege of
meeting many gay or lesbian people, among then "rank and file," and I
feel confident to say that the term "homosexual" occupies a linguistic
space in which it is either used as a silliness, to recall its coinage
as a description by sexologists of the nineteenth century who treated
gayness as a medical condition (the cognate term for women being
"inverts"), or it is used as an insult by someone who believes being gay
still should be seen as a "condition."  In some cases of unfamiliarity
with the cultural visibility of gayness, someone may use the word
awkwardly and cautiously, and upon gaining ease of reference to the
current culture, will abandon it.

For that reason, something attitudinal, and not mere choice among
available neutral usages, would seem to lurk in the persistent use of
the term by someone who has been in a position to learn about current

Mae Kuykendall  

>>> "Volokh, Eugene" <VOLOKH at> 08/10 1:47 PM >>>
	My conjecture is that interest groups are *not* necessarily an
excellent reflection of American cultural, political, and social
communities.  That's what my original post, which pointed out that
despite the seeming preference of interest groups for
"African-American," "Latino," and "Native American," the rank and file
of the groups seemed to prefer "black," "Hispanic," and "American
Indian."  (The seeming preference was the one that I'd generally heard
from activists, not one measured by group names; groups in those areas
came from many different eras, so the names sometimes reflected
historical activist preferences, e.g., Negro and Colored, rather than
modern activist preferences.)

	Note also that even to the extent group names reflect terms
may be preferred by the community, their omission of other terms
tell us much about whether the community is hostile to other names.
There may be multiple acceptable names, but a few that sound more
appealing (for instance, because they expressly stress to their target
audience their openness both to gays and lesbians), catchier, more
colloquial, and so on.


Dan Pinello writes:

> An excellent reflection of American cultural, political, and social 
> communities are the interest groups and other organizations 
> that serve 
> them.  Such groups are usually utterly dependent on the financial 
> support of their targeted populations and can't survive without their

> approval.
> So what names do groups within the homosexual/gay/lesbian community 
> use to attract dues-paying members and other financial contributors? 

> Do they choose "homosexual" or "gay and lesbian" to market their 
> services to that community?
> I've compiled a partial list of such national organizations 
> at the end 
> of this message.  (Adding state and local organizations would 
> increase 
> the list by many fold.)  Judge for yourself what the answer to the 
> question is.
> With this evidence in mind, how dispassionate was Justice Scalia's 
> choice to use "homosexual" and "homosexuality" 109 out of 110 times 
> when he needed to make reference to that community in the 
> Lawrence and 
> Romer dissents?
> Even in the unlikely event that Justice Scalia had virtually no prior

> knowledge of that community and its self-identification preferences,

> these organizations alone filed briefs in Lawrence and Romer: the 
> National Gay & Lesbian Task Force; Parents, Families & Friends of 
> Lesbians & Gays; the National Center for Lesbian Rights; Gay 
> & Lesbian 
> Advocates & Defenders; the Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation;

> the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association; Gay and Lesbian Lawyers

> of Philadelphia; the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers Association of South 
> Florida; the Lesbian and Gay Law Association of Greater New York; the

> Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles; the Lesbian and 
> Gay Bar Association of Chicago; United Methodists for Gay, 
> Lesbian and 
> Bisexual Concerns; the Mennonite Council for Lesbian and Gay 
> Concerns; 
> Presbyterians for Lesbian & Gay Concerns; the United Church Coalition

> for Lesbian & Gay Concerns; and the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian

> Jewish Organizations.
> Whereas, not one group with "homosexual" in its name filed a brief in

> Lawrence or Romer.
> Don't those facts alone inform a dispassionate observer that the 
> community of interest with which he or she is dealing prefers 
> "gay and 
> lesbian" as a descriptive and not "homosexual"?
> Yet the latter still got the nod 109 out of 110 times.
> Dan Pinello
> P.S.  Probably to the delight of many, I won't be able to participate

> further in this debate.  An unfinished book manuscript demands my 
> whole attention for the rest of the month.
> A Partial List of National Interest Groups and Other Organizations 
> (not listed earlier in this message) Within the 
> Homosexual/Gay/Lesbian 
> Community:
> Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons
> The Association of Gay & Lesbian Psychiatrists
> Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
> The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, City University of 
> New York The Committee on Lesbian and Gay History, American 
> Historical 
> Association
> The Federation of Gay Games
> Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues
> The Gay & Lesbian Association of Choruses
> The Gay & Lesbian Medical Association
> The Gay & Lesbian National Hotline
> The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund
> The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
> The Gay Men's Health Crisis
> The Gay Officers Action League
> The Gay Realty Network
> The Homosexual Information Center (established 1965)
> The Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies
> The International Gay Bowling Organization
> The International Gay Rodeo Association
> The Lesbian & Gay Band Association
> The Lesbian & Gay Country Music Association
> The Lesbian Health Fund
> The Lesbian Herstory Archives
> The National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian & Gay 
> Ministries The National Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual 
> & Transgender 
> Community Centers
> The National Archive of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender 
> History The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce The 
> National Gay Newspaper Guild The National Latino/a Lesbian & 
> Gay Organization ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives Senior 
> Action in a Gay Environment 
> _______________________________________________
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