Offensive Terminology to Avoid when presenting Pro-Gay pointers ………

In light of recent letters to the newspapers and the seemingly over zealous race to bring certain issues to light several mistakes have been presenting themselves to be problematic in our defense and almost playing to the hands of the homophobes while crashing our very points we wish to present, one such letter in the Gleaner recently started off with the term “homosexual lifestyle”

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 andWashington Post restrict usage of the term “homosexual”

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

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”

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

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.

Another disturbing twist the putting into “past tense” transgender to pronounce or write it as “transgendered” one cannot be past something of which they are in other words one cannot now say they are something after being diagnosed as transgender. The Jamaica Observer for example makes that mistake in a recent article

Other terms to remember to use properly

Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Glossary of Terms

Biphobia
Fear of bisexuals, often based on inaccurate stereotypes, including associations with infidelity, promiscuity and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Bisexual
An individual who is physically, romantically, emotionally and/or spiritually attracted to men and women. Bisexuals need not have had equal sexual experience with both men and women; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.

Civil Union
Legal recognition of committed same-sex relationships in Connecticut, New Jersey & Vermont (see IN FOCUS: Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships and Adoption).

Closeted
Describes a person who is not open about his or her sexual orientation.

Coming Out
A lifelong process of self-acceptance. People forge a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity first to themselves and then may reveal it to others. Publicly identifying one’s sexual orientation may or may not be part of coming out.

Domestic Partnership
Civil or legal recognition of a relationship between two people (domestic partners) that sometimes extends limited protections to them (see IN FOCUS: Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships and Adoption).

Gay
The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attractions are to people of the same sex (e.g., gay man, gay people). In contemporary contexts, lesbian (n.) is often a preferred term for women. Avoid identifying gay people as “homosexuals”

Heterosexual Man / Woman
A person whose enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction is to people of the opposite sex. Also straight.

Heterosexism
The attitude that heterosexuality is the only valid sexual orientation. Often takes the form of ignoring lesbians, gay men and bisexuals. For example: a feature on numerous Valentine’s Day couples that omit same-sex couples.

Homosexual
Outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many gay people. Gay and/or lesbian accurately describe people who are attracted to members of the same sex.

Homophobia
Fear of lesbians and gay men. Prejudice is usually a more accurate description of hatred or antipathy toward LGBT people.

Lesbian
A woman whose enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction is to other women. Avoid identifying lesbians as “homosexuals,” a derogatory term.

LGBT / GLBT
Acronyms for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.” LGBT and/or GLBT are often used because they are more inclusive of the diversity of the community.

Lifestyle
Inaccurate term often used by anti-gay extremists to denigrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lives. Avoid using. As there is no one heterosexual or straight lifestyle, there is no one lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender lifestyle.

Openly Gay
Describes people who self-identify as lesbian or gay in their public and/or professional lives. Also openly lesbian, openly bisexual, openly transgender.

Outing
The act of publicly declaring (sometimes based on rumor and/or speculation) or revealing another person’s sexual orientation without his or her consent. Considered inappropriate by a large portion of the LGBT community.

Queer
Traditionally a pejorative term, queer has been appropriated by some LGBT people to describe themselves. Some value the term for its defiance and because it can be inclusive of the entire LGBT community. Nevertheless, it is not universally accepted even within the LGBT community and should be avoided unless quoting someone who self-identifies that way.

Sexual Orientation
The scientifically accurate term for an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual orientations. Avoid the offensive term “sexual preference,” which is used to suggest that being gay or lesbian is a choice and therefore “curable.”

Sodomy Laws
Historically used to selectively persecute gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, the state laws often referred to as “sodomy laws” were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court inLawrence v. Texas (2003). “Sodomy” should never be used to describe gay, lesbian or bisexual relationships, sex or sexuality.

TRANSGENDER TERMINOLOGY TO AVOID

PROBLEMATIC TERMINOLOGY

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.

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.

PROBLEMATIC: “hermaphrodite”
PREFERRED: “intersex person”
The word “hermaphrodite” is an outdated, stigmatizing and misleading word, usually used to sensationalize intersex people.

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 people, or as “pretending” to be, “posing” or “masquerading” as a man or a woman. Such descriptions are extremely insulting.

Defamatory: “she-male,” “he-she,” “it,” “trannie,” “tranny,” “gender-bender”
These words only serve to dehumanize transgender people and should not be use

Transvestite
DEROGATORY see Cross-Dressing in US standards but locally the term has been used to separate a transgender person from a drag queen in our advancing culture in the mainstream.

TRANSGENDER-SPECIFIC TERMINOLOGY

Transgender
An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers, and other gender-variant people. Transgender people may identify as female-to-male (FTM) or male-to-female (MTF). Use the descriptive term (transgendertranssexualcross-dresser, FTM or MTF) preferred by the individual. Transgender people may or may not choose to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.

Transsexual (also Transexual)
An older term which originated in the medical and psychological communities. Many transgender people prefer the term “transgender” to “transsexual.” Some transsexual people still prefer to use the term to describe themselves. However, unlike transgendertranssexual is not an umbrella term, and many transgender people do not identify as transsexual. It is best to ask which term an individual prefers.

Transition
Altering one’s birth sex is not a one-step procedure; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition includes some or all of the following cultural, legal and medical adjustments: telling one’s family, friends, and/or co-workers; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) some form of surgical alteration.

Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS)
Refers to surgical alteration, and is only one small part of transition (see Transition above). Preferred term to “sex change operation.” Not all transgender people choose to or can afford to have SRS. Journalists should avoid overemphasizing the importance of SRS to the transition process.

Cross-Dressing
To occasionally wear clothes traditionally associated with people of the other sex. Cross-dressers are usually comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth and do not wish to change it. “Cross-dresser” should NOT be used to describe someone who has transitioned to live full-time as the other sex, or who intends to do so in the future.Cross-dressing is a form of gender expression and is not necessarily tied to erotic activity. Cross-dressing is not indicative of sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Disorder (GID)
A controversial DSM-IV diagnosis given to transgender and other gender-variant people. Because it labels people as “disordered,” Gender Identity Disorder is often considered offensive. The diagnosis is frequently given to children who don’t conform to expected gender norms in terms of dress, play or behavior. Such children are often subjected to intense psychotherapy, behavior modification and/or institutionalization. Replaces the outdated term “gender dysphoria.”

Intersex
Describing a person whose biological sex is ambiguous. There are many genetic, hormonal or anatomical variations which make a person’s sex ambiguous (i.e., Klinefelter Syndrome, Adrenal Hyperplasia). Parents and medical professionals usually assign intersex infants a sex and perform surgical operations to conform the infant’s body to that assignment. This practice has become increasingly controversial as intersex adults are speaking out against the practice, accusing doctors of genital mutilation.

GENERAL TERMINOLOGY

Sex
The classification of people as male or female. At birth, infants are assigned a sex based on a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, and genitals.

Gender Identity
One’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or a boy or girl.) For transgender people, their birth-assigned sex and their own internal sense of gender identity do not match.

Gender Expression
External manifestation of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through “masculine,” “feminine” or gender variant behavior, clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex.

Sexual Orientation
Describes an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be heterosexual, lesbian, gay, or bisexual. For example, a man who becomes a woman and is attracted to other women would be identified as a lesbian.

Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

1 thought on “Offensive Terminology to Avoid when presenting Pro-Gay pointers ………”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s