The Hazards of Naming Sexual Attraction by Michael Kauth

The essay taken for analysis is “The Hazards of Naming Sexual Attraction”, written by Michael Kauth.  This piece deals with the technicalities involved with naming someone a homosexual.  In a world made small by better connectivity and the Internet, words such as “gay, lesbian, homosexual, queer, straight, etc” assume different meanings in different cultural contexts.  In the words of the author,

“The term ‘homosexual’ was adopted in the late 19th century by psychiatrists and medical practitioners to identify a type of psychopathology and, consequently, this term implies sickness, aberrance and immaturity.  Not surprisingly, people for whom this term was applied find it objectionable.  The term “gay” has an altogether different history and different meanings, without the taint of psychopathology.  Older definitions of gay mean happy or joyful, which challenges the image of disease, conjured up by the term ‘homosexual’”. (Michael Kauth, p.149)

Kauth’s essay is historically well informed and looks at the reasons for lack of discussion, debate and objective analysis of homosexuality as a result of its “assumed” negative connotations.  Many scholars and historians have evaded documentation of many controversial subjects of their time; and same-sex relationships have for most part of human history were deemed unnatural, decadent and evil.  Kauth infers that the present state of homosexuals in the larger society is a reflection of a long-reaching pattern of suppression, neglect and condemnation of any sexual action that is deviant from the prevailing norm.  In this juncture, the author points out, labeling homosexual groups under any category can be hazardous to the community.  The strong undercurrent of hate-crimes against members of this minority community has found no respite so far.  And classifying human beings under such hate-provoking terms can only worsen the existing inequalities.  So, the author is quite accurate in the rationale and logic that he applies to arrive at the ultimate conclusions.


Michael R Kauth., The Hazards of Naming Sexual Attraction,, Section 1, Reading 18, p.148.