Last week and through the weekend, for reasons unknown, #homosexuality was a top trending hashtag on Twitter in the United States. Although this may seem like positive media attention on the surface, the use of the term “homosexuality” may be less than ideal for the LGBTQ community. In order to understand why this word may be detrimental to queer people, Twitter users should first understand where the word originated. 

Karl-Maria Kentbeny, an Austrian journalist in the mid-to-late 1800’s, coined both “heterosexual” and “homosexual.” Kentbeny’s terms were created with the intention of being less judgmental or vulgar than the words that the courts were using. These included “sodomite” and “bugger” and same-sex relations were often referred to as “abominable vices.” Despite whatever Kentbeny and his fellow journalist, German LGBTQ rights activist Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, intended, “homosexuality” was soon weaponized against the fledgling community of gays men, lesbians and transgender individuals. 

Not long after Kentbenny and Ulrichs’ work began, Sigmund Freud stole into the limelight of psychoanalysis and created his own theories concerning homosexuality. He did not believe that same-sex relations were an illness, but rather a developmental arrest. Within this theory, he claimed that homosexual persons were simply individuals who had never matured into adult relationships; i.e. heterosexual relationships. 

Author Sasha Constanza-Chock posted a photo with the caption “welp #homosexuality is trending so here’s me and my partner @LiceagaYara doing our part to contribute to that trend ;).” Despite verified Twitter users like Constanza-Chock, Randy Rainbow and Billy Porter using the hashtag “homosexuality,” several of them seem as mystified as the rest of us as to why that specific term was trending. 

One Twitter user pondered “having feelings for a man should be in the DSM-5.” That acronym stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association. Used as a record for diagnosable mental conditions, the DSM did actually list same-sex attraction as an illness until 1973. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) issued an official apology for their past mistreatment of the LGBTQ community in 2019, even though they recognized that homosexuality was not a mental illness more than 45 years prior.

The apology, however, may have come much too late for victims of homophobic harassment or violence. For many, the word “homosexuality” strikes fear. Several Tweets on #homosexuality followed a common negative threat. The Conservative Tribune posted, “The left wants to mold your kids to hate your values. #DepartmentofEducationDOE #education #homosexuality #LGBT #Nebraska #publicschools.” 

While it appears to that #homosexuality started trending in the U.S., it did have a brief burst of global high level trending, spreading across the globe to places like Ghana, but apparently for entirely reasons. On July 24, a Twitter user in Ghana wrote, “They support the #homosexuals because many #NPP [New Patriotic Party] people are #gays. Evil people. Kudos to the #NDC [National Democratic Congress] #MPs for creating this bill to criminalize #homosexuality. #TheBillMustBePassed In #Ghana #Gha.” 

This, like many other Tweets, are supporting Ghana’s legislative endeavor to sentence intersex, transgender and gay citizens to a maximum of ten years jail time for simply existing as they are. 

While there still seems to be no explanation about what started the Twitter trend, for now, it appears to have gone the way of the Macarena, the Ice Bucket Challenge and anyone with the last name Kardashian: away.

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