Homo is insulting? / queer

Fernando

Senior Member
Spain, Spanish
In the 'Cultural issue' thread I have been using the term 'homosexual' to refer to people who are sexually attracted by same-sex people.

A couple of foreros (one of them quite politely) has pointed out that 'homo' is an insulting word. I do not know if 'homosexual' is or not in the same 'group' than 'homo'.

I know that 'fag...' is insulting and I avoid its use. Since my aim is not to hurt anybody's feelings (without being too much politically correct) I would like to know which is the 'right' word.

I do not intend to start a discussion on the morality of the homosexuality or whatsoever around homosexuality.

I simply want to know whether I can use the terms 'homo' or 'homosexual' without insulting anybody.
 
  • QUIJOTE

    Senior Member
    USA
    Like you said before in this age of "political correctness" one has to be careful how to refer to different people even if your intentions are good, there is always that little open end that may offend the listener or reader, having said that, I would stick to "gay", I am sure you have heard men and women say I am gay, but not many said "I am a homo" right?

    This reminded me of another thread where someone wrote stewardess , I wanted to write flight attendant but I imagined if nobody mentioned it maybe is not such a big deal.
     

    VenusEnvy

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    "Homo" (or "Homosexual") never used to be so offensive. It was previously used as a neutral term. However, its misuse has, I believe, given it a negative connotation.
     

    Markus

    Senior Member
    Canada - English
    Homosexual is a very clinical term and it to me it sounds overly formal. Gay is definitely the right word to use in the vast majority of cases. However I would also like to point out that 'gay' has taken on negative connotations as well in recent years as a synonym for 'stupid' or 'bad'. For example, "That TV show is really gay." Personally I hate the usage, but there's not much to do besides let it run its course.
     

    daviesri

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Fernando said:
    I was not allowed to enter in a 'Gays&Lesbian party'. Must I assume that gays is only for men?
    Since it was a Gays & Lesbian Party you may not have been allowed to enter because you were not gay. I would find this hard to believe though because usually they would not care.

    Gay is used for both male and female homosexuals.
    Lesbian is used strictly for the women.
    There really isn't a term used specifically for gay men that I am aware of. Since women have lesbian, I guess the men use gay as in the party you listed above.

    As far as negative connotations to the word "gay", I would say that this is used strictly in the hetero world as far as a negative meaning goes.
     

    Bill Rich

    Senior Member
    US - English
    Actually, the term "gay" is universal. There are gay men and there are gay women.

    Think of it in the context that there is no separate name for gay men. There are gay men and there are lesbians but all of them, both men and women, are gay.
     

    Jad

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    I'd say it sounds nicer to say 'gay man' or 'gay woman', because I think using 'gay' as a noun almost gives the impression that the person who says it is alienating the gay person and giving him or her a whole different name altogether. Eg, "I was talking to a pair of gays" doesn't sound as nice as "I was talking to a pair of gay guys/men".
     

    Fernando

    Senior Member
    Spain, Spanish
    Thank you very much, Quijote, Venusenvy, daviesri, Markus, Bill Rich and Jad.

    This is certainly a minefield. I will use both homosexual or gay. I perceive from your comments that possible negative connotations of both words are rare. If I am wrong, let me know.

    I will avoid 'homo'. It is strange to me since 'homo' is Greek for 'the same' and daviesri has used 'hetero' with (I think) no negative connotation, but it is OK to me if you all think it is offensive.

    Just to give something: In Spain 'homosexual' has no negative connotation at all. We have adopted 'gay', pronounced (more or less) as in English (/gei/) with the same universal/male meaning than described by Bill, Rich or daviesri.

    I will certainly never say 'gay guy'. Too difficult to spell. :D
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    Fernando said:
    I was not allowed to enter in a 'Gays&Lesbian party'. Must I assume that gays is only for men?
    How did they know? Did they ask you to provide a video tape of what you did last time you had a shag??:confused:

    Anyway, in England at least, "gay" can refer equally to women, but is more commonly used to refer to men.

    I replied to the other thread, not realising you had started this one, so I repeat here what I wrote there -

    "homosexual" yes has traditionally been a non-offensive(ish) term. Note that in present day English it is no where near as common as in French and Spanish. In English it has quite a medical ring to it. Even quite serious journals will talk of "gay" rather than "homosexual" (so don't be influenced by the Spanish usage). However, here I think everyone was commenting on the use of "homo" which as I say has always been offensive.
     

    Edwin

    Senior Member
    USA / Native Language: English
    Since the popular TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy it seems to me that all terms for homosexuals have become less offensive. This is no doubt due to the fact that more and more people are becoming more accepting of homosexuality. Even the word queer is not as bad nowaday. When I was a kid many years ago one couldn't use any non-derogatory word for homosexuality. One had to use some oblique way to refer to it. This was before the advent of Gay Pride.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Recent use of the word queer is a militant tactic to preempt what used to be the worst of the offensive terms for homosexuals.

    It's analogous to the big push, back in the 70s, to replace Negro with black. In those days, possibly hard for young people to believe, the practice in the South was to call them niggers generically, but use Negro in "mixed company"-- meaning a group with ladies as well as gentlemen, by the way. White men would talk about niggers in the store or the town square or the 4th of July picnic even though women were "around," but if the gathering were smaller, or "special" such as a dinner party or church function, or anything else you had to dress up for-- then you said Negro, sometimes with an extra-polite inflection that stood for a smile and a little tip of the hat (wink-wink).

    Well, "mixed company" also meant situations where outsiders were present. Here's where we get into the dark side of things. When euphemistic racial terminology became a national issue, after WWII when black populations in the north got larger, then the use of Negro got a little coercive. White southerners who disliked being "pushed around" would often say the word with a certain inflection, eliding the final vowel a little, turning the "ee" into a shorter vowel-- bigots in yankee-produced movies and sitcoms of the activist 50s and 60s pronounced it "Nigra."

    In short, euphemisms that are imposed by do-gooder social engineers don't usually work, and diehards find ways around them. Sneeringly-inflected use of the word Negro was as offensive as nigger said a certain way (or, in the north, said at all)-- and rightfully perceived to be so. That's why the well-intentioned activists and militants made it hip to say black instead.

    Well, just as you can sneer and say blllack, you can say "that's so gay" with a certain inflection. I suspect that's why queer, once by far the strongest pejorative, is being recruited as a term of choice, "worn proudly."

    You hear hetero as a noun increasingly, and by analogy I think homo will become a far more neutral term. Still some people will continue to pronounce "ho-mo" a certain way, and their attitude will be conveyed no matter what contortions the conventions of terminology are put through.

    C-c-c-cain't we all just...get along?
     

    Amityville

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Thanks for the (relatively) full picture, ffb. When I was a child, my aunt reported that a new neighbour was 'black as the ace of spades' but had a lovely line of white washing. Black people were a novelty to her but those days of innocence are long gone. For a time only 'coloured' was acceptable - it was rude to say 'black' as it was in your neck of the woods. Nowadays it seems very prissy to say Negro, and especially Negress and it is mostly older people still steadfastly being politically correct according to standards of their era.
    Gays - similar story - in my childhood the issue was very much undercover, the 'nancy-boys' nudge wink, that dare not speak their name (and certainly wouldn't want to be called that, it's right out, or is it ?).
    ps my eyesight must be going but I read your 'homo' (italic) as 'horno' and thought this must be the third member of the trio, AE-style !
     

    neuwk

    New Member
    UK, English
    daviesri said:
    Lesbian is used strictly for the women.
    I am a lesbian trapped in a mans body!

    Dont know how universal that sentance is but it makes sense in the UK, but i wouldnt recommend you blurt it out to strangers only friends when joking about sexuality
     

    $orceress

    Member
    philippines-spanish, tagalog, chavacano, bisaya, tausug, english
    in our daily conversations, when we use the term 'homo' it does give a different meaning to the term 'homosexuality'. like when we say "you know that guy, he's actually a homo!.." in that sentence, it could be somewhat insulting because it means that they are actually criticizing the person with all the bad things on their minds regarding homosexuals. nevertheless, homo is also in general. it could mean homosexual which are also homo sapiens..see what i mean? so why use the term and doubt about it when you can use the true term homosexual right?
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    Edwin said:
    Since the popular TV show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy it seems to me that all terms for homosexuals have become less offensive. This is no doubt due to the fact that more and more people are becoming more accepting of homosexuality. Even the word queer is not as bad nowaday. When I was a kid many years ago one couldn't use any non-derogatory word for homosexuality. One had to use some oblique way to refer to it. This was before the advent of Gay Pride.
    I think there would still be discomfort hearing "queer" used in regular speech, especially from heterosexuals. The infamous "N word" is accepted from one black person to another, and not welcome from caucasians. I think this is similar.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    lsp said:
    I think there would still be discomfort hearing "queer" used in regular speech, especially from heterosexuals. The infamous "N word" is accepted from one black person to another, and not welcome from caucasians. I think this is similar.
    Yes and no, depending on your context. You won't see a weekly TV show with Nigger in the title, and University literary and cultural programs about black people use that polysyllabic monstrosity-- and to think I used to think Afro-American was cumbersome.

    Anyway, such programs are showing up in other fields, "Women's Studies" being the next logical steps. Now you see "Queer Studies" and reference to "queer issues," all of it presumably up for discussion. In the context of a university, "queer" is a concept as well as a descriptive term, and the effort is being made to broaden it to cover other "modes of alienation." So now Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye is "queer," whether he was homosexual or not. Consider the emergence of the trendy wannabe type, the "metrosexual." Gawd, I hope they're not the new hippies I've been expecting a rinascimento of, for some years now.

    Anyway, back to context-- queer when it comes out in conversation at the local tavern is still derogatory when that's the intent. And it's still harshly so.
     

    modgirl

    Senior Member
    USA English, French, Russian
    VenusEnvy said:
    "Homo" (or "Homosexual") never used to be so offensive. It was previously used as a neutral term. However, it's misuse has, I believe, given it a negative connotation.
    With all due respect, the word its does not require an apostrophe in the sentence since it's (it is) possessive.
     
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