Scottish civil servants banned from saying ‘homosexual’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

New guidance from the Scottish government says that civil servants must not use the word ‘homosexual’ because it is deemed offensive to gay people.

According to the Herald, the new rule states: “It is not acceptable to use the word ‘homosexual.’ This term is offensive to many people as it is the term that was used in law to make same-sex sexual relationships illegal.”

Those working on councils, health boards and quangos are also told that they should use the word ‘straight’ instead of ‘heterosexual’ because the latter can cause confusion.

The Campaign Against Political Correctness criticised the move and founder John Midgely said: “The word homosexual to most people would be as inoffensive as heterosexual. It is silly to claim they are loaded terms – they are neutral and simply describe sexual orientation.

“This sort of mumbo-jumbo is completely counterproductive to good community relations.”

A spokesman for Stonewall Scotland said the group supported the guidelines because the word ‘homosexual’ was a term used when being gay was considered a ‘condition’.

The noun ‘homosexual’ is rejected by some because of its clinical connotations, which hark back to the days when gay people were viewed as mentally ill.

It is used most often by those who disagree with homosexuality and is sometimes modified to ‘homosexualists’ when discussing gay rights activists.

US newspapers The New York Times and The Washington Post restrict usage of the term ‘ homosexual’ and the Post’s style guide notes that it “can be seen as a slur”.

British newspapers generally accept ‘gay’ as a permissible alternative to ‘homosexual’. The Guardian counsels that ‘gay men’ should be used instead of ‘gays’, while the Daily Telegraph states that ‘homosexual’ is an adjective, not a noun.

In recent years, some style guides warned against the use of the term ‘practising homosexual’. This phrase has now disappeared from the majority of style guides, as it has become almost obsolete in mainstream use.