When LGBTQIA2S+ people need to give others cheat sheet to decipher their sex/gender preferences, such woke-ism is impractical.

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I hate to admit it—really, really hate to—but I think Florida’s migrant-abusing Gov. Ron DeSantis and hard-right Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson may have a point: the ever-shifting obsession with purifying terminology is getting out of hand in America.

Which, condoning Ron’s and Tuck’s political incorrectness in this one respect, I must insist is not the same thing as remotely liking either of those guys or, god forgive, embracing their cruel, Neanderthal politics (BTW, using “Neanderthal” pejoratively is now considered a slur against a Homo sapiens co-species with a larger brain case but ape-like visage).

But still…

Evolving terms: First, there was LGBT

The acronym LGBT was probably good enough when it was coined. Is public understanding or social justice really much better served just by adding a few letters or numbers? Activists in that broad community of (daily) growing sexual and gender identities now recommend this new, even more inclusive alphabet soup: LGBTQIA2S+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit, asexual, and ally).

How understandable is that term to the average person? I had to look it up.

Soon we may need an expanded English alphabet to encompass the blizzard of unique socio-biological identities of everyone. Not that there’s anything remotely wrong with any of these folks; it’s just impractical and bone-tiring to usefully track the shifting nomenclature.

Who can keep up with the constant cultural add-ons? I’m no genius, but I am at least able to understand the basic concept—sex and gender identities are not monolithic. Psychological and physiological science tells us vast variations on the human theme are normal and natural—and should therefore not be ridiculed, attacked, persecuted, or outlawed.

But I find it annoying and unrealistic that some uber-liberals believe every Tom, Dick and Harriet must keep current with minutiae of the evolving sex/gender zeitgeist—even if we totally support, as I do, the LGBTQIA2S+ community.

It’s esoteric to the degree that it’s practically unworkable as a general social protocol.

Literacy was an extremely rare skill in antiquity

It reminds me of what I learned researching a book I wrote on Christianity’s corruptive effect on America’s evolution—Holy Smoke: How Christianity smothered the true “American Dream” (2018)—during which I waded into the fascinating if often fetid swamp that wets the history of Western civilization.

I learned that from the Greek sages of antiquity until the Renaissance, only a vanishingly tiny handful of people in even the most advanced civilizations of their times could read and write—and, thus, the vast majority of citizens in every locale had zero grasp of the grand ideas their rarified elites were dreaming up.

And even less interest. Most people were just trying to survive in harsh, unforgiving circumstances, with no bandwidth (or learned capacity) left available for, say, what amounted in their survivalist view to pointless navel-gazing.

So a microscopic group of literate people talked to each other through the ages about presumably enlightened, innovative ideas while the rest of humanity continued in darkness until the next revolution.

What’s happening now is not linguistic hair-splitting but -atomizing. Who knows, for sure, what anything means anymore?

Which is better: ‘homeless’ or ‘houseless’?

A contemporary example of this kind of clueless elitism is the scourge of homelessness, in which people who have fallen on hard times economically or psychiatrically or otherwise find they have no home to live in, ending up residing 24/7 in the streets.

Well, the intelligentsia, the so-called “chattering classes,” who have dreamt up the big ideas and social solutions in advanced societies from time immemorial—generally in good faith, I presume—have spent and still spend an inordinate amount of time trying to not insult the disadvantaged citizens they’re trying to advantage. Meanwhile, the huddled masses, shall we say, understand nary a word of the specialized language their would-be saviors or presumed moral betters speak.

Nor do many others.

So, we get curious sociology-speak terms like “unhoused” or “houseless,” which apparently sound less judgmental than “homeless,” perhaps because “homeless” implies the sufferer has no place in society rather than just no roof overhead.

READ: How deep does ‘anti-woke’ opinion go among atheists?

Is the focus on terminology ‘performative’?

In an insightful recent New York Times piece, longtime columnist Nicholas Kristof lamented that the trendy nomenclature American liberals have saddled public discourse with in recent years is “performative” rather than effective:

As for my friends who are homeless, what they yearn for isn’t to be called houseless; they want housing…How about worrying less about jargon and more about zoning and other evidence-based policies that actually get people into housing?

And talking to struggling street dwellers in their own vernacular might be a good place to start.

This growing compulsion that, in part, tries to make language more inclusive and less judgmental can easily get out of hand—and, ironically, make society more divisive. Kristof noted that even the eminent Associated Press recently got egg on its face trying to modernize its venerable and widely-influential Stylebook, when it added this curious passage:

We recommend avoiding general and often dehumanizing “the” labels such as the poor, the mentally ill, the French, the disabled, the college educated.

Kristof responded snarkily: “The French? Zut alors [damn, then]!” 

The AP quickly backtracked—but only partially—when public blowback ensued, including from the French Embassy, which amusingly suggested renaming itself “the Embassy of Frenchness” to comply with AP’s latest Style Book update.

This growing compulsion that, in part, tries to make language more inclusive and less judgmental can easily get out of hand—and, ironically, make society more divisive.

Yet, AP “doubled down,” Kristof reported, on all the other terms it deemed were rendered unseemly and objectionable when preceded by “the.”

Kristof, as I do, found it perplexing that “college educated” should be viewed as a kind of slur.

‘The college boy’ vs blue-collar paving crew

Except I do recall as a college freshman working a summer job on a road-paving crew that I had zero experience or aptitude for, which was not lost on the wholly (besides me) blue-collar crew. They called me “the college boy.” It was a term not of endearment, but derision. After I unwittingly filled a diesel semi-truck’s fuel tank with gasoline, the sentiment became permanent.

The paving crew regarded me as a pampered, elite kid who was learning how to talk pretty but otherwise was largely useless in tackling the difficult, practical problems the crew wrestled with every day on the job. At that time, I didn’t even know how to drive a stick shift.

Lots of similar examples abound in liberal society to remove even a hint of inequity or other-ism, such as now referring to “bodies with vaginas and uteruses” (to not dis transgender males); using the novel acronym BIPOC—for Black, Indigenous and People of Color, which has the advantage of being catchy; and employing the catch-all term Latinx for traditional Latinos (males) and Latinas (females), when less than 3% of actual Hispanics use the word Latinx themselves.

The American Medical Association recently released a 54-page guide on recommended language to be used in combating social problems. Decrying the practice of referring to groups as “vulnerable” or an “underrepresented minority,” the AMA instead advises alternatives such as “oppressed” and “historically minoritized.” This puts the onus on society, not them.

But, as Kristof wrote:

If the A.M.A. actually cared about “equity-focused” outcomes in the United States, it could simply end its opposition to single-payer health care.

In the meantime, I suspect most Americans have neither the time, interest nor intellectual bandwidth to keep abreast of the tsunami of well-meaning but impractical attempts to make society’s terminology more equitable for “the minoritized.”

Instead, why couldn’t we just try to be nicer and more tolerant of humanity’s infinite natural variety—and teach our children to do the same—and stop being so Neanderthalian, so to speak, and divisive.

Easier said than done, I’m sure, but at least far easier to remember than LGBTQIA2S+.

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...