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The H-Word
Paul Niquette
excerpt from
Sophistication: How to get it...then what!
(c) Copyright 1996 by Resource Books, all rights Reserved.
Version 1.4, September 29, 1996


Affection does not come from the heart. Nor courage from the intestines. Sophisticated people know that even emotions are brain functions. Same for mind and soul -- if soul there be. Complexity mocks our struggle to comprehend the mind's inner workings.

The ultimate self-referent question may be:

Take sexuality. The brain probably owns that too.

No person -- not even the most sophisticated person -- wants to analyze the subject all that much. Still, one aspect deserves thoughtful consideration -- a controversial zone, where the English Language interferes with perceptions: homosexuality.

Same or Different

While 'heart' and 'guts' merely preserve flawed ideas in charming metaphors, 'homosexuality' harms understanding.

That the H-word applies to either gender compounds its iniquity. Sameness again. Is homosexuality the same in men and women?

The differentiation afforded by 'lesbian' goes only part way in clearing things up. Sameness continues to cast its semantic shadow across our discernment: females attracted to females, thwarting their reproductive missions. Same for the rarely used 'urning.' {Definition}

Two New Words

Permit me to coin two new words:

  1. gynotaxis n. The responsive movement of an organism toward a female; attraction of either gender to a woman.
  2. androtaxis n. The responsive movement of an organism toward a male; attraction of either gender to a man. {Derivation}

These terms relocate the distinction in sexual orientation from the attractee to the attractor.

They dare to suppose that awareness of 'self' does not influence sexual orientation.

A gynotaxic male is drawn to a female because the latter is a female -- not because she is unlike himself.
A gynotaxic female is drawn to a female because the latter is a female -- not because she is like herself.
A gynotaxic male and a gynotaxic female have a common sexual orientation, whereas the former is classified as 'straight' and the latter 'gay' by today's conventions.

The mechanisms of response reside within the individuals to whom the terms apply. Mostly in their brains, one might suppose. Movement is toward the respective stimulus. Attributes of self are not taken into account.

Thus, I am proposing terminology consistent with nature and simpler than the 'homo' model.

In and of themselves, however, words do not expand our knowledge. They are mere tools.

Scaffold for Misunderstanding

Is sexual preference voluntary? ftp://netnow.micron.net/~sophist

Let's go to work on that question. I have grouped the conventional expressions alongside my proposed alternatives:

Heterosexual Male
Gynotaxic Male
Heterosexual Female
Androtaxic Female
Homosexual Male
Androtaxic Male
Homosexual Female
Gynotaxic Female

Until the middle of the Twentieth Century, only the first two, the heterosexuals, were judged to be 'normal.'

The language supported a convenient category -- all homosexuals -- for heterosexuals to regard as 'abnormal' and therefore in need of ...

Much has changed. But even today and probably well into the next century, heterosexuals will hold those views, perpetuating laws and practices and proscriptions against homosexuals, abetted by an outdated word convention -- the H-word -- a scaffold for misunderstanding. {Background}

Many heterosexuals -- most of the people I know! -- consider homosexuality to be voluntary. Heterosexuality, which is so obviously a sine qua non for reproductive competence, is taken to be 'natural,' and, being inate in the heterosexual's experience, is taken to be -- well, inate.

Homosexuality can be 'cured,' some say emphatically -- despite credible data to the contrary.

Considering the pressures to conform with heterosexual patterns of behavior -- social and religious and legal -- why would anyone elect to cross over voluntarily into homosexuality?

First Principles Apply

First, a first principle: Females have a monopoly on the uterus.

The second first principle: All persons, male or female, begin life inside a female.

A male fetus developing within a female environment finds himself bathed in feminine fluids. At some stage during gestation, a male must, in effect, assert his maleness. Available evidence suggests that a mild chemical struggle ensues, which inconveniences the mother, prolongs the pregnancy, and endangers the fetus.

It takes 'guts' to say this, but connectivity inside the brain may account for some gender differences in mental attributes. Better let it go at that.{Reference}

Speculation or Fact?

Another difference may result -- not a difference between males and females but between males and males.

That won't be known until puberty, which is preceded by a range of external events, each a nominee for cause.

It is tempting to place an exclamation point at the end of the previous sentence.

Linguistic Payoff

Now, here is where the new words come into use. Set forth above is a plausible explanation for the appearance of two kinds of males, gynotaxic and androtaxic.

The assumption of voluntary sexual orientation will be foreclosed if further research confirms such an in utero hypothesis.

How about females?

You deserve an answer to the question:

My answer is, I don't know.

Again, I don't know.

There's no 'homo' lurking in my mind. How about yours?

The proposed designation 'gynotaxic female' admits -- invites! -- a different explanation from that offered above for 'androtaxic male.'

You will excuse me for saying what I often say:

Ignorance is Some Excuse

Having admitted ignorance, I find the temptation to speculate irresistible.

Suppose -- some guts music, please -- just suppose that developing into a gynotaxic female indeed results from a voluntary process. Or, for that matter, developing into an androtaxic female.

To test this model, one might begin by simply asking gynotaxic females. If I knew any, I would.

Is that because a typical introspective woman perceives her own sexual preference as indeed voluntary?

A 'homophobic' society in the past coerced androtaxic males into the closet. Would a 'homomanic' society exhort gynotaxic females to accept a false inevitability?

Meanwhile, inheritance is not transmitted in the blood. Anger does not come from the spleen. And the English Language remains -- well, unsophisticated.

HyperNotes and References

Background -- And Foreground

The first version of this essay was drafted in the eighties and rejected by various publications. For some time I thought the issue would simply go away with increased public tolerance nourished by enlightenment. Not so.

A sequel to "The H-Word" is in preparation. It will try to attenuate the emerging issue of same-sex marriages.

A neologism -- perhaps two -- will be proposed for making distinctions that will allow ungrudging social and economic benefits to gynotaxic female couples and androtaxic male couples.


homosexual n. (1892) 1: of, relating to, or characterized by a tendency to direct sexual desire toward another of the same sex 2: of, relating to, or involving sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex; n (1902): a homosexual person and esp. a male. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

lesbian adj, often capitalized (1591) 1: of or relating to Lesbos 2 [fr. the reputed homosexual band associated with Sappho of Lesbos]: of or relating to homosexuality between females; n, often capitalized (ca. 1890): a female homosexual. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

urning n. Male homosexual. The equivalent of lesbian, which exclusively refers to a female homosexual.

The discovery of both terms by the present author in Paul Dickson's A Connoisseur's Collection of Old and New, Weird and Wonderful, Useful and Outlandish Words served as an inspiration for "The H-Word." {Return}


andro- combining form [L, fr. Gk, fr. andr-, aner; akin to Oscan ner- man, Skt nar-, OIr nert strength] 1: male human being <androcentric> 2: male <androecium> Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

gyno- combining form [Gk gyn-, fr. gyne woman]: female reproductive organ: ovary <gynophore> Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

taxis- combining form [Gk, lit., arrangement, order, fr. tassein to arrange] (1758) 1: reflex translational or orientational movement by a freely motile and usually simple organism in relation to a source of stimulation (as a light or a temperature or chemical gradient) 2: a reflex reaction involving a taxis Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary {Return}


In The Right Brain, Tom Blakeslee, confronts this question with more courage -- and references -- than I have. {Return}

The author, Paul Niquette, can be reached at niquette@micron.net

1997 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.