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NYT: The Term "Homosexual" Is Going Extinct

"Homosexual," a term often cited as being a first cousin of "colored," has been in sharp decline since 1995 and might soon vanish from mainstream culture completely, according to a New York Times feature published on the weekend. 

The Times reports:

In the early 2000s, when same-sex marriage was a brand-new concept, gays were routinely described in mainstream media as homosexuals. Today, use of the word is less and less frequent. A Google Books scan shows a sharp decline in its use in recent years after peaking around 1995.

Scholars expect the use of the term to eventually fall away entirely.

“These shifts always reflect a change in sensibility,” said Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist who teaches at Berkeley. “That’s what happened when ‘Negro’ yields to ‘black’ and ‘African-American.’ It’s just an old-fashioned word that denotes a generally neutral but old-fashioned sensibility.”

The LGBT community has been split and spirited in a debate over reclaiming "fag" from homophobes, but I don't foresee similar polarizing attempts from the community to rebrand and revive "homosexual" as fashionable. It's charged and reductive, and those who use it in the future will be met with the apologies and eye-rolls that accompany the "sorry about my grandparents, they haven't quite caught up with the times" sentiment. 

What do you think about "homosexual" becoming an endangered word in contemporary language, Instincters?

(Be sure to check out the fascinating Times feature, which details the term's turbulent, eye-opening history.)


Homosexual and gay/lesbian serve different purposes. As noted, homosexual is clinical, and describes an exhibited behavior: adolescent male dolphins frequently engage in homosexual behavior.

The terms gay and lesbian refer to identities and cultures, and encompass far more than behavior. Dolphins or other animals are not gay just because they engage in same-sex sexual acts.

I have taken my own mother to task over this distinction repeatedly. While I do engage in homosexual acts, I am far more than that, and I will not be defined by that alone. I am a member of a community with a rich history, values, conflicts, traditions, and far more. I am gay.

I'm fine with either one. Homosexual does sound more clinical but it doesn't bother me at all.

Why do we need to put labels on anyone any ways? That is just wrong and i think a little childish.

I prefer 'homosexual' because I am not 'gay'.

A  fascinating book called 'The invention of  heterosexuality" by Jonathan Ned Katz   will educate everyone on how and at  what point in history   heterosexuality Homosexuality  etc.  were coined.  It happened in the mid late 1800's  .  There  has never been any  categorizations of human sexuality before that, hence  the lack of  them in the Judea/Christian bibles .  This book  is a great read! Very informative. .

"Homosexual" is too clinical.  If a label is needed, "gay" is so much more comfortable but still appropriate.  

The word Homosexual is very scientific. I do not think we are going to be sad if it is not used anymore. I do not find the word offensive at all. If they are not using the word homosexual then what are they using, LGBT?

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