Terminology

ANDROGYNE

A person with masculine and feminine physical traits.

ASEXUAL

A sexual orientation generally characterized by not feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. Some asexual people do have sex. There are many diverse ways of being asexual.

BEAR COMMUNITY

A part of the queer community composed of queer men similar in looks and interests, most of them big, hairy, friendly and affectionate. The community aims to provide spaces where one feels wanted, desired, and liked. Bears, Cubs, Otters, Wolves, Chasers, Admirers and other wildlife comprise what has come to be known as the Brotherhood of Bears and/or the Bear community. See also: Ursula

BIGENDER

Having two genders, exhibiting cultural characteristics of masculine and feminine roles

BIPHOBIA

Fear or hatred of people who are bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, or non-monosexual. Biphobia is closely linked with transphobia and homophobia.

BISEXUAL

A person whose primary sexual and affection orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or towards people regardless of their gender.

BODY IMAGE

Refers to how a person feels, acts, and thinks about their body. Attitudes about our own body and bodies in general are shaped by our communities, families, cultures, media, and our own perceptions.

BODY POLICING

Any behaviour which (indirectly or directly, intentionally or unintentionally) attempts to correct or control a person's actions regarding their own physical body, frequently with regards to gender expression or size. (ASC Queer Theory)

BUTCH

A gender expression that fits societal definitions of masculinity. Usually used by queer women and trans people, particularly by lesbians. Some consider “butch” to be its own gender identity.

CISGENDER

A gender identity, or performance in a gender role, that society deems to match the person’s assigned sex at birth. The prefix cis- means "on this side of" or "not across." A term used to call attention to the privilege of people who are not transgender.

CISSEXISM/GENDERISM

It is the belief that there are, and should be, only two genders & that one’s gender or most aspects of it, are inevitably tied to assigned sex. In a genderist/cissexist construct, cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans*/ gender non-conforming people are the oppressed/target group.

COMING OUT

“Coming out" describes voluntarily making public one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It has also been broadened to include other pieces of potentially stigmatized personal information. Terms also used that correlate with this action are: "Being out" which means not concealing one's sexual orientation or gender identity, and "Outing, " a term used for making public the sexual orientation or gender identity of another who would prefer to keep this information secret.

CROSS DRESSER (CD)

A word to describe a person who dresses, at least partially, as a member of a gender other than their assigned sex; carries no implications of sexual orientation. Has replaced “Transvestite”

DISCRIMINATION

Inequitable actions carried out by members of a dominant group or its representatives against members of a marginalized or minoritized group.

DRAG KING

A person (often a woman) who appears as a man. Generally in reference to an act or performance. This has no implications regarding gender identity.

DRAG QUEEN

A person (often a man) who appears as a woman. Generally in reference to an act or performance. This has no implications regarding gender identity.

FEMME

Historically used in the lesbian community, it is being increasingly used by other LGBTQIA people to describe gender expressions that reclaim/claim and/or disrupt traditional constructs of femininity.

FURRY (FURRIES, FURRY FANDOM)

People or a community, who enjoy role playing primarily as anthropomorphic animals, creatures or characters, either through costumes, or/and varying art mediums. The furry community at large is diverse in sexual orientation and gender identity.

GAY

A sexual and affectional orientation toward people of the same gender; can be used as an umbrella term for men and women.

GENDER

A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth.

GENDER EXPANSIVE

An umbrella term used for individuals who broaden their own culture’s commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms. Gender expansive individuals include those who identify and transgender, as well as anyone else whose gender in some way is seen to be stretching the surrounding society’s notion of gender.

GENDER EXPRESSION

How one expresses oneself, in terms of dress and/or behaviors. Society, and people that make up society characterize these expressions as "masculine,” “feminine,” or “androgynous.” Individuals may embody their gender in a multitude of ways and have terms beyond these to name their gender expression(s).

GENDER FLUID

A person whose gender identification and presentation shifts, whether within or outside of societal, gender-based expectations. Being fluid in motion between two or more genders.

GENDER IDENTITY

A sense of one’s self as trans*, genderqueer, woman, man, or some other identity, which may or may not correspond with the sex and gender one is assigned at birth.

GENDER NON CONFORMING (GNC)

People who do not subscribe to gender expressions or roles expected of them by society.

GENDER QUEER

A person whose gender identity and/or gender expression falls outside of the dominant societal norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination of them.

HETERONORMATIVITY

A set of lifestyle norms, practices, and institutions that promote binary alignment of biological sex, gender identity, and gender roles; assume heterosexuality as a fundamental and natural norm; and privilege monogamous, committed relationships and reproductive sex above all other sexual practices.

HETEROSEXISM

The assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual. Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people while it gives advantages to heterosexual people. It is often a subtle form of oppression, which reinforces realities of silence and invisibility.

HETEROSEXUALITY

A sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of a gender other than their own.

HOMOPHOBIA

The irrational hatred and fear of lesbian, gay, and queer people. It can also impact the lives of bisexual, pansexual, transgender, intersex and asexual people. In a broader sense, any disapproval of LGBTQIA people at all, regardless of motive. Homophobia includes prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and acts of violence brought on by fear and hatred. It occurs on personal, institutional, and societal levels. Homophobia is closely linked with transphobia and biphobia.

HOMOSEXUAL / HOMOSEXUALITY

An outdated term to describe a sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same gender. Historically, it was a term used to pathologize gay and lesbian people.

INTERNALIZED OPPRESSION

The fear and self-hate of one’s own target/subordinate identity/ies, that occurs for many individuals who have learned negative ideas about their target/subordinate identity/ies throughout childhood. One form of internalized oppression is the acceptance of the myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group.

INTERSECTIONALITY

A term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to describe the way that multiple systems of oppression interact in the lives of those with multiple marginalized identities. Intersectionality looks at the relationships between multiple marginalized identities and allows us to analyze social problems more fully, shape more effective interventions, and promote more inclusive advocacy amongst communities.

INTERSEX

People who naturally (that is, without any medical intervention) develop primary or secondary sex characteristics that do not fit neatly into society's definitions of male or female. Many visibly Intersex people are mutilated in infancy and early childhood by doctors to make the individual’s sex characteristics conform to society’s idea of what normal bodies should look like. Intersex people are relatively common, although the society's denial of their existence has allowed very little room for intersex issues to be discussed publicly. Hermaphrodite is an outdated and inaccurate term that has been used to describe intersex people in the past.

KINK/KINKY/ KINKINESS

Most commonly referred to as unconventional sexual practices, from which people derive varying forms of pleasure and consensually play-out various forms of desire, fantasies and scenes.

LEATHER COMMUNITY

A community, which encompasses those who are into leather, sado-masochism, bondage and domination, uniform, cowboys, rubber, and other fetishes. Although the leather community is often associated with the queer community, it is not a "gay-only" community.

LESBIAN

A woman whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender.

LGBT

Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. An umbrella term that is used to refer to the community as a whole.

LGBTQIA ALLYSHIP

The practice of confronting heterosexism, sexism, genderism, allosexism, and monosexism in oneself and others out of self-interest and a concern for the wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual people. Is founded on the belief and believes that dismantling heterosexism, biphobia, transphobia and genderism/cis-sexism is a social justice issue.

MICROAGGRESSIONS

Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults about one’s marginalised identity/identities. (D.W. Sue)

MISGENDERING

Attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect/does not align with their gender identity. Can occur when using pronouns, gendered language (i.e. “Hello ladies!”Hey guys”), or assigning genders to people without knowing how they identify (i.e. “Well, since we’re all women in this room, we understand…”).

MOGAI

An acronym that stands for “marginalized orientations, gender alignments, and intersex.” Is used by some in a similar way to the umbrella acronym: LGBTQIA.

MONOGAMY

Having only one intimate partner at any one time.

MONOSEXISM

The belief in and systematic privileging of monosexuality as superior, and the systematic oppression of non-monosexuality.

MONOSEXUAL

People who have romantic, sexual, or affection desire for one gender only. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are the most well-known forms of monosexuality.

MSM

An abbreviation for men who have sex with men; they may or may not identify as gay.

NON-BINARY

A gender identity and experience that embraces a full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonate for an individual. It may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new unbounded ideas of self within the world. For some people who identify as non-binary there may be overlap with other concepts and identities like gender expansive and gender non-conforming.

NONMONOSEXUAL

People who are attracted to more than one gender.

OMNIGENDER

Possessing all genders. The term is used specifically to refute the concept of only two genders.

OPPRESSION

It exists when one social group, whether knowingly or unconsciously, exploits another social group for its own benefit.

PANSEXUAL, OMNISEXUAL

Terms used to describe people who have romantic, sexual or affectional desire for people of all genders and sexes.

POLYAMORY

Denotes consensually being in/open to multiple loving relationships at the same time. Some polyamorists (polyamorous people) consider “poly” to be a relationship orientation. Sometimes used as an umbrella term for all forms of ethical, consensual, and loving non-monogamy.

POLYGENDER, PANGENDER

Exhibiting characteristics of multiple genders, deliberately refuting the concept of only two genders.

PRIVILEGE

A set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group. The concept has roots in WEB DuBois’ work on “psychological wage” and white people’s feelings of superiority over Black people. Peggy McIntosh wrote about privilege as a white woman and developed an inventory of unearned privileges that she experienced in daily life because of her whiteness.

QUEER

One definition of queer is abnormal or strange. Historically, queer has been used as an epithet/slur against people whose gender, gender expression and/or sexuality do not conform to dominant expectations. Some people have reclaimed the word queer and self identity as such. For some, this reclamation is a celebration of not fitting into norms/being “abnormal.” Manifestations of oppression within gay and lesbian movements such as racism, sizeism, ableism, cissexism/transphobia as well as assimilation politics, resulted in many people being marginalized, thus, for some, queer is a radical and anti-assimilationist stance that captures multiple aspects of identities.

SEX

A medically constructed categorization. Sex is often assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth.

SEXISM

The cultural, institutional, and individual set of beliefs and practices that privilege men, subordinate women, and devalue ways of being that are associated with women.

SEXUALITY

The components of a person that include their biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual practices, etc.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION

Sexual Orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction or non-attraction to other people. Sexual orientation is fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their sexual orientation.

TRANS MAN

A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person. Some trans men may also use the term FTM or F2M to describe their identity.

TRANSPHOBIA

the fear or hatred of transgender people or people who do not meet society’s gender role expectations. Transphobia is closely linked with homophobia and biphobia.

TRANS WOMAN

A person may choose to identify this way to capture their gender identity as well as their lived experience as a transgender person. Some transwomen may also use MTF or M2F to describe their identity.

TRANSGENDER

Adjective used most often as an umbrella term, and frequently abbreviated to “trans” or “trans*” (the asterisk indicates the option to fill in the appropriate label, ie. Trans man). It describes a wide range of identities and experiences of people whose gender identity and/or expression differs from conventional expectations based on their assigned sex at birth. Not all trans people undergo medical transition (surgery or hormones). Some commonly held definitions:
1. Someone whose determination of their sex and/or gender is not universally considered valid; someone whose behavior or expression does not “match” their assigned sex according to society.
2. A gender outside of the man/woman binary.
3. Having no gender or multiple genders.

TRANSITION

An individualized process by which transsexual and transgender people “switch” from one gender presentation to another. There are three general aspects to transitioning: social (i.e. name, pronouns, interactions, etc.), medical (i.e. hormones, surgery, etc.), and legal (i.e. gender marker and name change, etc.). A trans* individual may transition in any combination, or none, of these aspects.

TRANSSEXUAL (TS)

A person who lives full-time in a gender different than their assigned birth sex and gender. Many pursue hormones and/or surgery. Sometimes used to specifically refer to trans* people pursuing gender or sex confirmation.

TRANSVESTITE

This is an outdated and problematic term due to its historical use as a diagnosis for medical/mental health disorders. Cross Dresser has replaced transvestite, see above definition.

URSULA

Some lesbians, particularly butch dykes, also participate in Bear culture referring to themselves with the distinct label Ursula.

WOMYN/WOMXN

some womyn spell the word with a “y” or an “x” as a form of empowerment to move away from the “men” in the “traditional” spelling of women

Recommendations & links

Terminology recommendations

  • While some LGBTQI groups and individuals have in an intentionally subversive manner adopted words generally regarded as demeaning if not downright hateful, such as “queer” and “dyke”, you should only include them in your work if they are used by the person being reported or quoted. Even then, use such terms with due consideration of context and audience.
  • Take care when using the word “homosexual”. Outside of scientific and clinical discourse, the word has outdated and discredited connotations of psychological disorder. When discussing homosexuality and transgender issues in social contexts, the preferred and more widely accepted terms are “LGBTQI”, “gay”, “bisexual”, “lesbian” and “transgender”.
  • The words “gay” and “transgender” should not be used as nouns. Another example: “lesbian” is gender specific, so while “lesbian couple” is grammatically correct, the term “lesbian woman” is both unnecessary and tautological.
  • “Admitted homosexual” and “avowed homosexual” are loaded with subjective judgement. To those concerned, the terms are downright offensive, given that the words “admitted” and “avowed” suggest that being gay is somehow shameful or secretive. If one must qualify the description of a person's sexuality with its degree of public visibility, the preferred terms are “openly lesbian”, “openly gay”, “openly bisexual”, or simply “out”, as in “an out gay man”. However, the latter assumes an appreciation of the term “come out of the closet”.
  • Care should be taken in the use of "sex change”, “pre-operative” and “post-operative”. Unless, that is, you are referring specifically to the personal impact of surgical gender reassignment on the individuals concerned. Otherwise use “transition”.
  • When referring to gender identity, use unambiguous terms. That is, a person who is born male and transitions to become female is a “transgender woman”, whereas a person who is born female and transitions to become male is a “transgender man”. Within the transgender community, members often refer to themselves using the shorthand ‘trans’.”
  • As with lesbian, gay and bisexual word “transsexual” should not be used as a noun. Also, take care when using it in adjectival form. Its contemporary relevance is restricted largely to scientific and medical discourse.

Research recommendations

  • Stop writing the same story. The coming out narrative is often framed in the same way, and by concentrating on it journalists may ignore other issues that affect the transgender community.
  • Pursue the ordinary. When journalists focus too much on the “heavy” issues and get stuck on medical transitions, they miss the opportunity to show that most transgender people live full lives that don’t revolve around these issues.
  • A journalist should not investigate a transgender personal life just because they have declared themselves to be transgender. The same respect for privacy and the relevance of a person’s personal life in investigating and reporting should be applied to transsexual people as other members of society.
  • Stop asking transgender people for before and after photos.

Content recommendations

  • Before any reporting of LGBTQI people and issues ask yourself whether labels such as “gay”, “lesbian” or “bisexual” are appropriate. If they are not necessary and relevant to the story, do not include them. As with lesbian, gay and bisexual people, a person's transgender status should only be mentioned in journalistic reporting if it is pertinent.
  • Strive for diversity, balance and accuracy in reporting, especially when it comes to sensitive social issues.
  • The term “sexual preference” is discouraged, as it does not reflect the scientific consensus on the balance between nurture and nature in sexual development. The preferred term is “sexual orientation”. The term "sexual preference” suggests that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is a free choice. In some cases this may be true, but the term has been adopted by anti-LGBTQI individuals and organisations seeking to "cure” LGBTQI people of their “preference”.
  • “Gay lifestyle” and “homosexual lifestyle” are most often used in a pejorative sense. The lifestyles of LGBTQI people are as diverse as those of other folk, in which case the above terms are nonsensical.
  • Don’t assume that a transgender person has undergone or intends to undergo sex-change surgery. It is also inappropriate to emphasise surgery when reporting on transgender people, as to do so underplays the breadth of their real-life stories.
  • In your reporting, always refer to a transgender person's chosen name, and ask them which personal pronoun they would prefer to be used to describe them. If this is not possible, use the pronoun consistent with the person's appearance and gender self-expression. Avoid putting quotation marks around a transgender person's name or pronoun.
  • While ever mindful of the need to facilitate free and open public debate, avoid publishing letters, online comments or phone-in contributions that contain gratuitously offensive and possibly illegal statements and attitudes concerning LGBTQI people.

Recommendations concerning sources

  • Giving voice to LGBTQI people: The LGBTQI collective continues to be poorly represented in the media. They should be consulted as sources and the organizations in which they are grouped, as references. They cannot be "spoken by others". Traditionally, there have been others (doctors, psychologists, officials, journalists) who spoke of LGBTQI people. They are protagonists of their stories, they can speak for themselves. On the other hand, it is important to give them a voice outside the facts of the situation, that is not the news that imposes the news, but it is the journalists who bring the LGBTQI collective to the media agenda.
  • Remember that not all organisations campaign for all LGBTQI people.

Ethical and systemic recommendations

  • Avoid using such terms as “homosexual relationship”, “homosexual couple”, etc. Better to simply use “relationship”, or if necessary and directly relevant to the story, “sexual relationship”. Likewise, “couple”, or again if necessary and relevant, “gay couple”. -> Sometimes, it might be important for the relevant context, to add information on the partners genders. Then and only then can this information be added. Please ask yourself if you would frame the sentence in the same way when talking about a heterosexual couple – and always respect any couple’s privacy.
  • Try to avoid political shorthand such as “gay agenda”, “homosexual agenda”, or even “LGBTQI agenda”. These terms are used by some to create the perception of a co-ordinated, negative and sinister conspiracy, rather than the pursuit of equality for LGBTQI people. Better to use specific descriptions of the social issues concerned, such as the promotion of civil equality, and the tackling of workplace bullying and discrimination. This applies similarly to terms such as “special rights”, when “equal rights” or “equal protection” is a more accurate description of the LGBTQI issues involved.
  • Note that this is not an issue of political correctness. Rather, it is about the need to relate personal stories in ways that are clear and unambiguous, and reflect as far as possible the prevailing social consensus.
  • Some anti-LGBTQI people and organisations (including governments) continue to peddle a false association between LGBTQI people and child abuse. This is deeply offensive and dangerous, and on a logical level entirely inaccurate.

Bibliography / Links