Glossary of TermsTo help all of us communicate better during the ONA process, it is important that we use a common language. Provided below are lists of terms and definitions - ones we recommend using and ones we recommend avoiding.
Terms to Use
Bisexual: Individual who is physically, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to both men and women.
Gay: Adjective describing a person whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to a person of the same sex. (e.g. gay man, gay person). Lesbian is often the preferred term for women.
Lesbian: Woman whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to other women.
LGBT or GLBT: Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (Terms and letters may be in any order.)
Sexual Orientation: Scientifically accurate term for an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex.
Straight: Adjective describing a person whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to people of the opposite sex.
Transgendered Person: Individual whose gender identity (person’s internal sense of gender) and/or gender expression (external manifestation of that identity) differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Use the name and pronoun the person would like you to use.
Offensive Terms to Avoid (and Why)
Homosexual: Because of its clinical history, this term is now often used to suggest that gay people are somehow psychologically disordered, even though this idea was discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970’s.
Sexual Preference: This phrase is now often used to suggest that being lesbian, gay, or bisexual is a choice and therefore gay people can and should change (be “cured”). Numerous medical and mental health organizations (including the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association,
of Pediatrics, and others) condemn such efforts because they are unlikely to work and may be harmful.
Gay Agenda: Gay people share the hopes and concerns of other Americans – to be able to earn a living, be safe, serve their country, and take care of their families. The goal of equality is shared with many people who are not gay. This phrase is often used to generate fear and political opposition to laws and other efforts that offer equal opportunity to gay people.
Gay/Lesbian Lifestyle: Like the phrase “sexual preference” this term is sometimes used to insult gay people and to imply that being gay is a choice that should be “cured.” Gay people are as diverse as our society and there is no one gay way of living one’s life, just as there is no one straight way.
Special Rights: A phrase often used to oppose anti-discrimination and other laws that would allow gay people to have equal protection under the law.
Very Offensive and Defamatory Terms
Vulgar slurs (epithets) aimed at LGBT people include: “fag,” “faggot,” “dyke,” “homo,” “she-male,” “he-she,” “it.”
Derogatory and dehumanizing descriptions include: “deviant,” “disordered,” “dysfunctional,” “diseased,” “perverted,” “destructive.” The idea that gay people are somehow psychologically disordered was discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970’s.
Associating LGBT people with pedophilia, child abuse, sexual abuse, bestiality, bigamy, polygamy, adultery, and/or incest - Being GLBT does not indicate a proclivity toward any of these behaviors, just as being straight does not indicate a proclivity.