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From the NY Times Magazine: Homolexicology By WILLIAM SAFIRE Published: November 6, 2005 In an article about a referendum coming to a vote in Maine this week, The Associated Press reports that opponents of broadened civil rights protections for homosexual men and women claim that such legislation, already signed into law by the governor, would "grant a new status to gay men and lesbians that could open the door to same-sex marriage." Meanwhile, Marc Lacey of The Times reports from Nairobi, Kenya, that in a referendum revamping that nation's constitution, "there has been disagreement on whether the language opposing discrimination would protect gay men and lesbians, who are scorned here." Apparently, in writing about people who are homosexual, the word gay no longer covers both men and women. (Contrariwise, the word guy, as I noted in a recent column, now does apply to both sexes when taken together, though seldom to women individually.) Most stylebooks are a half-step behind current usage. Gay, alone, is "acceptable as popular synonym for both male and female homosexuals (noun and adjective)," advises The A.P., "although it is generally associated with males, while lesbian is the more common term for female homosexuals." The Times says "Gay(s) may refer to homosexual men or more generally to homosexual men and women. In specific references to women, lesbian is preferred. When the distinction is useful, write gay men and lesbians." It seems to me that the usage is now the specifically inclusive gay men and lesbians whether the distinction is useful or not. Why is gay no longer encompassing enough? "Historically, gay represented both homosexual men and women and technically still does," says Chris Crain, editor of the gay weeklies The Washington Blade and The New York Blade, "but a number of gay women felt that gay was too male-associated and pressed to have lesbians separately identified so they weren't lost in the gay-male image." That led to such names as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. (The Washington Blade began in 1969 as The Gay Blade, a play on an old expression about a gallant.) Diane Anderson-Minshall, executive editor of Curve, a lesbian magazine in San Francisco, agrees that the one-word adjective was expanded to set homosexual women apart: "When, in the queer world, you say 'the gay community,' the majority of the time that conjures up San Francisco's largely male Castro District, or West Hollywood or 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,' so interjecting the word lesbian into the mix is a necessary reminder that we ? gay women ? are not simply a subset of that larger male world but rather our own distinct community of individuals." The editor freely uses "queer," formerly a slur, to include not only lesbians but "bisexual women and lesbian-identified transgender women." This leads to the initialese L.G.B.T., standing for "Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender," as well as its gay-first G.L.B.T. The reader will note my careful use of the word homosexual as an adjective modifying a noun like man rather than as a noun itself. That's for two reasons: first, because the prefix homo is from the Greek homos, "the same," in this case denoting a "same sex" relationship, not to be confused with the Latin homo, "man," as in homo sapiens, the current species of human being. Another reason for the wincing at homosexual, especially as a noun, is the emphasis that the word places on sexuality, while gay and lesbian also may range across cultural and social attitudes (but watch out for that no-no lifestyle). An American Psychological Association report notes that homosexual "has been associated in the past with deviance, mental illness and criminal behavior," which has led to a "negative stereotype." As that connotation wears off, I expect that the noun ? a Standard English synonym for the now widely used "same-sex" ? will make a comeback. We know where lesbian (no longer capitalized) comes from: the Greek island Lesbos, "after the alleged practice of Sappho" as the O.E.D. carefully puts it, home of the poet (formerly poetess) who made the place famous. The word gay, which originally meant "lighthearted" as in "her heart was young and gay," was British slang for "a loose woman" in 1825, turning into "a homosexual boy" in 1935 and gaining that meaning in U.S. slang in the 1950's. (Forget the meaning of "cheerful"; the call letters of a Washington radio station, WGAY, are long gone.) First use I can find of the compound adjective same-sex is a headline in the May 29, 1970, Valley News of Van Nuys, Calif.: "Rise of Same-Sex Marriage Stirs Legislation Move." That headline fits today over articles from Maine to Kenya. Original Source: click here, free registration req'd.