Date: Sat, 16 Jan 1999 00:49:30 -0600 (CST)
From: John Aravosis <>
Subject: AOL Thesaurus Calls Gays Fags & Pedophiles
Article: 52173
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

AOL Thesaurus Calls Gays Fags & Pedophiles: Advocates Demand Merriam-Webster and AOL Be Held Accountable

Wired Strategies—Online Advocacy Consulting, press release, 14 January 1999

John McMullen, GAYBC Radio Network, 206/439-8535,
John Aravosis, Wired Strategies, 202/328-5707,

Washington, DC—America Online’s (AOL) thesaurus service offers shockingly homophobic synonyms for the word homosexual—including faggot, dyke, pederast and sodomite—the GAYBC Radio Network <> (AOL KEYWORD: gaybc) reported today on it’s Daily Dose news webcast.

Merriam-Webster, which provides the thesaurus to AOL, offers the same bigoted synonyms on its online thesaurus <>, according to Wired Strategies <>, an online advocacy firm in Washington, DC. In addition, GAYBC staff found similar references in a Webster’s print edition.

We are shocked and disturbed to learn that terms like pederast and fruit are among those offered by a respectable resource guide like Merriam-Webster’s thesaurus, said John McMullen, president of GLOradio Corporation (GAYBC Radio’s parent company). One of our listeners made us aware of the inclusion of these terms and we felt that it was appropriate to give the matter national attention.

In addition to the blatantly offensive nature of the terms, some raised even greater concerns. AOL is the world’s largest Internet provider, and Merriam-Webster’s a primary source on the English language, said John Aravosis, president of Wired Strategies. When a tag-team like that broadcasts to the world that gays are fags and child molesters, the dehumanizing impact is overwhelming.

This was the exact search result from the AOL/Merriam-Webster thesaurus when the word homosexual was entered in the search engine:

Synonyms ||fag, ||faggot, ||fruit, ||homo, invert, ||queer, uranian, uranist Related Word transvestite; ||fairy, ||nance, ||nancy, ||pansy, ||queen, ||swish; ||dyke, lesbian, sapphist; pederast, sodomite

The thesaurus can be found on AOL at keyword: thesaurus, then by typing in the word homosexual and selecting the search result homosexual noun. Screen captures of the AOL and Merriam-Webster search results can be found at <>.

With so many members from the LGBT community, AOL should be ashamed that this information exists on their site, said McMullen. Using a word like pederast as being relative to homosexual perpetuates the gross lie that we are child molesters. When we looked up racial and ethnic words like Black, Jew, Hispanic and Chinese, we didn’t find bigoted terms like the ’n-word’ or other slurs The homophobic references by Merriam-Webster are nothing more than a tool to perpetuate hate speech towards sexual minorities, he added.

When asked whether removal of the anti-gay synonyms could constitute censorship, Aravosis responded: AOL and Merriam-Webster clearly made a decision not to include slurs against other minorities in their online thesaurus. Searches for the words black and Jew did not return any ethnic slurs. Aravosis concluded, All we ask for is equal treatment for gay Americans.

John Aravosis
Wired Strategies—Online Advocacy Consulting
Washington, DC
202/328-5707 tel.
202/328-5708 fax