We have already learned to our sorrow just how little President Obama and his dogsbody Hillary Clinton are interested in China’s dismal record on the rights of its citizens or the brutalizing of demonstrators in Iran. Now, an internal memo circulating around the State Department’s Human Rights bureau reveals that the administration’s deepest unease about human rights in this vale of tears is . . . lexicographical. The memo indicates that State’s Policy Planning bureau -- once the stomping ground of intellectual luminaries of the likes of George Kennan, Paul Nitze, and Paul Wolfowitz -- is now the purveyor of a different kind of intelligence, the kind that spins “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me” on a backward axis and lands it upside down. To wit:
. . . there is some sensitivity in LGBT quarters about the use of the nouns homosexual and homosexuality and that we might consider amending our usage of these terms in the HRRs [Human Rights Reports]. We did some quick research by contacting the Center for Global Equality, the umbrella NGO representing the LGBT community in the U.S., and by consulting the usage of the New York Times and the Washington Post regarding these terms. We learned from the NGO community that there indeed is a growing concern about the use of the nouns homosexual and homosexuality, but it has not become yet a hot-button matter. Our research indicated also that there is not much standardization in alternate usage.
Nonetheless, we wish to be sensitive in our own human rights reports, and a group of WAEs and Dan Baer and I have formulated a few simple usage rules, drawing from the above press sources and the recommendations of the Center for Global Equality. We hope all HRR editors can incorporate the recommendations below into their drafts without too much difficulty.
1. We learned that the use of homosexual as an adjective is acceptable. Thus, it is acceptable also in the HRRs to refer to “homosexual conduct, homosexual activity,” etc.
2. Regarding homosexuality as a noun, we advise turning the noun into an adjective, e.g., “Homosexuality was a matter of great concern” thus might be “homosexual conduct was a matter of great concern”
3. Regarding homosexual as a noun, we advise the terms gay man/men or lesbian/lesbians as alternatives
4. Regarding homosexuals in a collective sense, such as “homosexuals were targeted…”, we advise the phrase “persons targeted for sexual orientation or gender identity.” Alternatively, use of the collective noun “Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders” can be used
We realize that any change in usage or procedure is a bit onerous at this late production stage, but we feel that this is an important step to take. We may refine our usage suggestions for the next HRR season as we become more educated about alternative words and phrases. Thank you in advance for being flexible in looking at your LGBT sections to make appropriate changes.
This is so tragically and yet so hilariously of a piece with the core of the Obamic worldview, in which process is all and the thrilling beauty of American democracy -- the embracing of the rights of ordinary men and women -- is reduced to the meaningless blather of development or lessons in ubersensitivity to demographs, that one doesn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.