Gay Neighbor Show Your Support Newsletter site map Contact Us
Get Gay Neighbor Gear En Espanol
Bookmark and Share
Learn more Tell your Story Read Stories ResourcesMedia   Home
Glossary of terms

Offensive Terminology to Avoid

This list is borrowed from Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD)

  Offensive: "homosexual" (n. or adj.)
Preferred: "gay" (adj.); "gay man" or "lesbian" (n.)
Please use "lesbian" or "gay man" to describe people attracted to members of the same sex. Because of the clinical history of the word "homosexual," it has been adopted by anti-gay extremists to suggest that lesbians and gay men are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered — notions discredited by both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s. Please avoid using "homosexual" except in direct quotes. Please also avoid using "homosexual" as a style variation simply to avoid repeated use of the word "gay." The Associated Press, New York Times and Washington Post restrict usage of the term "homosexual" (See AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).

  Offensive: "homosexual relations/relationship," "homosexual couple," "homosexual sex," etc.
Preferred: "relationship" (or "sexual relationship"), "couple" (or, if necessary, "gay couple"), "sex," etc.
Identifying a same-sex couple as "a homosexual couple," characterizing their relationship as "a homosexual relationship," or identifying their intimacy as "homosexual sex" is extremely offensive and should be avoided. These constructions are frequently used by anti-gay extremists to denigrate gay and lesbian people, couples and relationships.
As a rule, try to avoid labeling an activity, emotion or relationship "gay," "lesbian" or "bisexual" unless you would call the same activity, emotion or relationship "straight" if engaged in by someone of another sexual orientation. In most cases, your readers, viewers or listeners will be able to discern people's genders and/or sexual orientations through the names of the parties involved, your depictions of their relationships, and your use of pronouns.
 Offensive: "sexual preference"
Preferred: "sexual orientation"
The term "sexual preference" is typically used to suggest that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is a choice and therefore can and should be "cured." Sexual orientation is the accurate description of an individual's enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex and is inclusive of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and heterosexual or straight men and women (See AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).

  Offensive: "gay lifestyle" or "homosexual lifestyle"
Preferred: "lesbian," "gay," "bisexual"
There is no single lesbian, gay or bisexual lifestyle. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals are diverse in the ways they lead their lives. The phrase "gay lifestyle" is used to denigrate lesbians and gay men, suggesting that their sexual orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be "cured" (See AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).

  Offensive: "admitted homosexual" or "avowed homosexual"
Preferred: "openly lesbian," "openly gay," "openly bisexual"
Dated term used to describe those who are openly lesbian, gay or bisexual or who have recently come out of the closet. The words "admitted" or "avowed" suggest that being gay is somehow shameful or inherently secretive. Avoid the use of the word "homosexual" in any case (See AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).

  Offensive: "gay agenda" or "homosexual agenda"
Preferred: "lesbian and gay civil rights movement" or "lesbian and gay movement"
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are as diverse in our political beliefs as other communities. Our commitment to equal rights is one we share with civil rights advocates who are not necessarily LGBT. "Lesbian and gay civil rights movement" accurately describes the historical efforts, by gay and straight people alike, to achieve understanding and equal treatment for LGBT people. Notions of a "homosexual agenda" are rhetorical inventions of anti-gay extremists seeking to create a climate of fear by portraying the pursuit of civil rights for LGBT people as sinister. (See AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).

  Problematic: "hermaphrodite"
Preferred: "intersex person"
The word "hermaphrodite" is an outdated, stigmatizing and misleading word, usually used to sensationalize intersex people.

  Problematic: "sex change," "pre-operative," "post-operative"
Preferred: "transition"
Referring to a sex change operation, or using terms such as pre- or post-operative, inaccurately suggests that one must have surgery in order to truly change one's sex.

  Offensive: "special rights"
Preferred: "equal rights" or "equal protection"
Anti-gay extremists frequently characterize civil rights and equal protection of the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans as "special rights" in an attempt to energize opposition to family recognition, anti-discrimination protections and equal opportunity laws (See AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).

  Problematic: "transgenders," "a transgender"
Preferred: "transgender people," "a transgender person"
Transgender should be used as an adjective, not as a noun. Do not say, "Tony is a transgender," or "The parade included many transgenders." Instead say, "Tony is a transgender person," or "The parade included many transgender people."

  Problematic: "transgendered"
Preferred: "transgender"
The word transgender never needs the extraneous "ed" at the end of the word. In fact, such a construction is grammatically incorrect. Only verbs can be transformed into participles by adding "-ed" to the end of the word, and transgender is an adjective, not a verb.

DEFAMATORY TERMINOLOGY

  Defamatory: "deceptive," "fooling," "pretending," "posing," or "masquerading"

Gender identity is an integral part of a person's identity. Please do not characterize transgender people as "deceptive," as "fooling" other

  Defamatory: "she-male," "he-she," "it," "trannie," "tranny," "gender-bender"
These words only serve to dehumanize transgender people and should not be used (See Defamatory Language).

NAMES & PRONOUN USAGE

We encourage you to use a transgender person's chosen name. Often transgender people cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to change their name legally. They should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone else who lives by a name other than their birth name (e.g., celebrities).

We also encourage you to ask transgender people which pronoun they would like you to use. A person who identifies as a certain gender, whether or not they have taken hormones or had surgery, should be referred to using the pronouns appropriate for that gender.

If it is not possible to ask the person which pronoun he or she prefers, use the pronoun that is consistent with the person's appearance and gender expression. For example, if the person wears a dress and uses the name "Susan," feminine pronouns are appropriate.

It is never appropriate to put quotation marks around either the transgender person's chosen name or the pronoun that reflects their gender identity.

Loading
Site Map | GayNeighbor.org is an Initiative of the Cream City Foundation
Site creation: Circore Creative Services
Become a fan