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Inclusive Language

Gender and Sexuality Terminology Guide

Terminology on gender identity and sexual orientation are fluid and ever-changing, so make sure you use accurate terms when referring to gender and sexual orientation. There is no one way to be an LGBTQ+ person, nor is there one way to describe LGBTQ+ people. Ask people how they describe themselves, ask people their pronouns, and identify them in your coverage as such. As with other identities, only refer to it if it’s relevant, and be as specific as possible.


Below are several commonly-used, out-of-date phrases and their replacements. For further reference, refer to the GLAAD Media Reference Guide or our LGBTQ+ Resource Guide. 


Instead of:


"homosexual" (n. or adj.)

Because of the clinical history of the word “homosexual,” it is aggressively used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that people attracted to the same sex are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered – notions discredited by 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." Many mainstream news outlets’ style guides restrict the use of the term "homosexual."

"gay" (adj.); "gay man" or "lesbian" (n.);

"gay person/people"; “queer people”;

When referring to non-straight individuals, be specific and use gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer. When referring to a group of multiple non-straight sexual orientations, use “LGBTQ+” or “queer” to describe all people attracted to members of the same or multiple genders.

"homosexual relations/relationship," "homosexual couple," "homosexual 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" should be avoided. These constructions are frequently used by anti-LGBTQ activists to denigrate LGBTQ people, couples, and relationships.

"relationship," "couple" (or, if necessary, "gay/lesbian/same-sex couple"), "sex," etc.

As a rule, try to avoid labeling an activity, emotion, or relationship gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer unless you would call the same activity, emotion, or relationship "straight" if engaged in by someone of another orientation. In most cases, your audience will be able to discern people's sexes and/or orientations through the names of the parties involved, your depictions of their relationships, and your use of pronouns.

"sexual preference"

The term "sexual preference" in terms to someone’s orientation is typically used to suggest that being attracted to the same sex is a choice and therefore can and should be "cured."

"sexual orientation" or "orientation"

Sexual orientation is the accurate description of an individual enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex and is inclusive of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and queer people, as well as straight men and women (see AP, Reuters, & New York Times Style)

"gay lifestyle," "homosexual lifestyle," or

"transgender lifestyle"

There is no single LGBTQ+ lifestyle. LGBTQ+ people are diverse in the ways they lead their lives. The phrases "gay lifestyle," "homosexual lifestyle," and "transgender lifestyle" are used to denigrate LGBTQ+ people suggesting that their sexual orientation and/or gender identity is a choice and therefore can and should be "cured".

"LGBTQ+ people and their lives"


the term “gay lifestyle” is used to stigmatize gay people and suggest that their lives should be viewed only through a sexual lens. Just as one would not talk about a “straight lifestyle,” one shouldn’t talk about a “gay lifestyle.”

"admitted homosexual" or "avowed


Dated terms used to describe those who self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer in their personal, public, and/or professional lives. The words "admitted," or "avowed" suggest that being attracted to the same sex is somehow shameful or inherently secretive.

"out gay man," "out lesbian," or "out queer person"

You may also simply describe the person as being out, for example: "Ricky Martin is an out pop star from Puerto Rico." Avoid the use of the word "homosexual" in any case.

"gay agenda" or "homosexual agenda"


Notions of a so-called "homosexual agenda" are rhetorical inventions of anti-LGBTQ+ extremists seeking to create a climate of fear by portraying the pursuit of equal opportunity for LGBTQ+ people as sinister.

Accurate descriptions of the issues (e.g.,

"inclusion in existing nondiscrimination laws," "securing equal employment protections")

LGBTQ+ people are motivated by the same hopes, concerns, and desires as other everyday Americans. They seek to be able to earn a living, be safe in their communities, serve their country, and take care of the ones they love. Their commitment to equality and acceptance is one they share with many allies and advocates who are not LGBTQ+.

"gay rights" or "special rights"


Anti-LGBTQ extremists frequently characterize equal protection of the law for LGBTQ people as "special rights" to incite opposition to such things as relationship recognition and inclusive nondiscrimination laws (see AP, Reuters, & New York Times Style). As such, the term should be avoided.

Equality for LGBTQ people. 


LGBTQ people are advocating to be treated equally.


"transgenders," "a transgender" 


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

"transgender people," "a transgender person", “person”


For example, "Tony is a transgender man," or "The parade included many transgender people." "Marisol is a trans woman," or "Mason is a trans man," or "Julio is a nonbinary transgender person". Generally, only refer to the fact they are a transgender person or transgender people, if it is relevant.



The adjective transgender should never have an extraneous "-ed" tacked onto the end. An "-ed" suffix adds unnecessary length to the word and can cause tense confusion and grammatical errors. Not using the "-ed" suffix also brings transgender into alignment with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer. You would not say that Elton John is "gayed" or Ellen DeGeneres is "lesbianed" therefore you would not say Laverne Cox is "transgendered."




This is not a term commonly used by transgender people. This is a term used by anti-transgender activists to dehumanize transgender people and reduce who they are to "a condition." 

Refer to being transgender instead, or refer to the transgender community. You can also refer to the movement for transgender equality and acceptance.

“Identifies as”


Avoid saying that transgender people "identify as" their gender. That implies that gender identity is a choice. Avoid "Marisol identifies as a woman."

Transgender people are their gender the same way cisgender people are their gender. For example, "Marisol is a transgender woman."

"sex change," "pre-operative," "post-operative" 


Referring to a "sex-change operation," or using terms such as "pre-operative" or "post-operative," inaccurately suggests that a person must have surgery in order to transition. Avoid overemphasizing surgery when discussing transgender people or the process of transition.


"biologically male," "biologically female," "genetically male," "genetically female," "born a man," "born a woman" 


Problematic phrases like those above are reductive and overly-simplify a very complex subject. As mentioned above, a person's sex is determined by several factors - not simply genetics - and a person's biology does not "trump" a person's gender identity. Finally, people are born babies: they are not "born a man" or "born a woman."

"assigned male at birth," "assigned female at birth," or "designated male at birth," "designated female at birth"

"passing" and "stealth" 


While some transgender people may use these terms among themselves, it is not appropriate to repeat them in mainstream media unless it is in a direct quote. The terms refer to a transgender person's ability to go through daily life without others making an assumption that they are transgender. However, the terms themselves are problematic because "passing" implies "passing as something you are not," while "stealth" connotes deceit. When transgender people are living as their authentic selves, and are not perceived as transgender by others, that does not make them deceptive.

“Perceived as transgender,” “not perceived as transgender,” “perceived as cisgender”


“opposite sex,”


Use different sex instead of “opposite sex” because this recognizes gender and sex as a spectrum rather than a binary.

“Different sex,” “different gender”

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