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EDITIONS
Friday, 29 November, 2002, 16:37 GMT
E-cyclopedia's glossary of words for 'gay'
Since 1998, the E-cyclopedia has been charting the use and abuse of particular words behind the news headlines.

Amid rising debate - inspired by the UK Government and legal authorities - about what are suitable terms for minority sexual groups, here as a special public service is a one-stop primer clarifying what words are in and out about being in or out.


homosexual, from now on, the word that dare not speak its name. The UK government has decided that, following consultation with the gay community, the term homosexual will not be used in its papers. The word was coined in 1869 by Hungarian writer Karl Maria Kertbeny; its introduction was in fact intended to stop use of the word pederast. For decades homosexual was regarded as a non-discriminatory alternative to words like queer, ironically a word now preferred by some gay groups.

gay, still part of the government's vocabulary (just), and still the most widely used term. However, opinions vary on how long it will be around. A spokesman for the Bar Lesbian and Gay Group said that, when judges were considering hate crimes against gays, they would best understand a simple term like "gays". But gay writer Philip Hensher says young people now use "gay" to mean "hopelessly naff"; he suggests the use of "sodomites".

lesbian, as every schoolboy knows, "lesbian" owes its derivations to the Greek poet Sappho, who lived on the island of Lesbos. Still a perfectly acceptable term, even according to the government.

OTPOTSS, the phrase which will replace "homosexual" in the government's anti-discrimination laws. Short for "orientation towards people of the same sex"; has already inspired spin-offs, like "otpotss-hags". The Sun asked "Will Northern gays be Lancashire Otpotss?"

LBGT, another acronym, for lesbian, bisexual, gay and trans people (see below). The term which will define the groups who can be targets of "homophobic" hate-crimes, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Trans, as in transsexual and transgender, and thus by extension transphobic crimes, those targeting the trans community. Emergence of word may have implications for sustainable transport pressure group, Sustrans.


Reader Graham, UK, adds: How about homophile? I think that just by replacing "sexual", you remove some of the focus on sex.

Reader Nick Wilson, England, adds: Re: Graham, uk. If you put in the word 'phile' you would probably get gangs of 'outraged parents' setting fire to gay peoples houses.

Reader Ady adds: Otpotss is an anagram of something very offensive! Was this deliberate?

Reader Michael adds: There is already a word... homogeneous. Comes from 'homo' and 'gender'. No mention of sex or sexual.

Reader Duane Henry adds: If change is deemed necessary, I prefer the term homosocial.

Is otpotss in or out? In a bid to assist the government, you are invited to submit suggestions for suitable terms which could be used in official and polite contexts.

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Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.


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