The Associated Press has removed “homophobia,” among other terms, from its style guide. Dylan Byers reports :
The online Style Book now says that “-phobia,” “an irrational, uncontrollable fear, often a form of mental illness” should not be used “in political or social contexts,” including “homophobia” and “Islamophobia.”
AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn explains the move:
“Homophobia especially — it’s just off the mark. It’s ascribing a mental disability to someone, and suggests a knowledge that we don’t have. It seems inaccurate. Instead, we would use something more neutral: anti-gay, or some such, if we had reason to believe that was the case.”
“We want to be precise and accurate and neutral in our phrasing,” he said.
George Weinberg, a psychologist credited with introducing the term in 1972, disagrees :
It encapsulates a whole point of view and of feeling. It was a hard-won word, as you can imagine. It even brought me some death threats. Is homophobia always based on fear? I thought so and still think so . . . . We have no other word for what were talking about, and this one is well established. We use freelance for writers who dont throw lances anymore and who want to get paid for their work.
Rod Dreher, meanwhile, applauds the change :
I know people who for whatever reason morally disapprove of homosexuality, but who are friends with gay people, and who arent the least bit afraid of them. [ . . . ]
To label these things as phobias is to psychologize what may be a rational moral stance, given the premises. Is an Orthodox Jew or Muslim porkophobic because their religion forbids consuming pork?
The changes have already been made to the AP’s online stylebook and are slated to appear in the printed edition next year.