The word that dare not. . .


Madam, - Why are commentators on homosexuality so reluctant to use the word "homosexuality"? Is it an example of the Sellafield/Windscale syndrome, whereby, to change the public perception of something, all that is required is to call it by a different name?

In his article on civil partnerships for homosexual couples (Opinion & Analysis, December 21st), Niall Crowley of the Equality Authority uses the phrase "gay, lesbian or bisexual", or some variation on it, no fewer than 15 times, while eschewing the word "homosexual". He evinced a similar tendency in his article of December 6th, responding to the Vatican document on homosexuality.

He gives the game away right at the end of the latest article, when he uses the expression "all forms of mutually supportive relationships - same sex or heterosexual", when it would have been easier to say "homosexual or heterosexual".

Lest I be accused of homophobia, while I agree with the Pope's recent pronouncements on homosexuality, I have met many homosexuals over the course of my life and have generally got on well with them. I experienced a brief homosexual phase myself, lasting about a month, when I was a teenager. Many of my favourite actors - Dirk Bogarde, Sir John Gielgud, Leonard Rossiter, Denholm Elliott inter alia - were homosexuals. One of my favourite films, Death in Venice, based on the book by Thomas Mann, is about a homo-erotic attraction of an old man towards a beautiful young boy.

One of the most important tenets of a democracy is freedom of speech, but I have noticed over the years that if one expresses an opinion contrary to the liberal beliefs espoused by most of those working in the media - who incidentally are not representative of the so-called "plain people of Ireland" - one is accused of being conservative or intolerant or worse. For instance, as Eamonn Gavin says (December 21st), any suggestion that the number of foreigners entering this country should be restricted is met with accusations of racism. Similarly, any expression of dissent about the propriety of homosexuality is met with accusations of homophobia.

Tendentious articles such as Niall Crowley's latest two contributions are extremely annoying because they are clearly written from a politically correct perspective, the chief characteristic of which is an inability or unwillingness to speak plainly. - Yours, etc,

JOE PATTON, Chapelizod Court, Dublin 20.