GLAAD Media Reference Guide - Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual Glossary Of Terms

Sexual Orientation
The scientifically accurate term for an individual's enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual (straight) orientations. Avoid the offensive term "sexual preference," which is used to suggest that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is voluntary and therefore "curable." People need not have had specific sexual experiences to know their own sexual orientation; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all.
Gay
The adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions are to people of the same sex (e.g., gay man, gay people). Sometimes lesbian (n. or adj.) is the preferred term for women. Avoid identifying gay people as "homosexuals" an outdated term considered derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people.
Lesbian
A woman whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay (adj.) or as gay women. Avoid identifying lesbians as "homosexuals," a derogatory term (see Offensive Terms to Avoid).
Bisexual, Bi
A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attractions to those of the same gender or to those of another gender. People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. Bisexual people need not have had specific sexual experiences to be bisexual; in fact, they need not have had any sexual experience at all to identify as bisexual.
Transgender, Transsexual
(see next section)
LGBT / GLBT
Acronym for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender." LGBT and/or GLBT are often used because they are more inclusive of the diversity of the community. Care should be taken to ensure that audiences are not confused by their use. Ensure that the acronym is spelled out on first usage.
Queer
Traditionally a pejorative term, queer has been appropriated by some LGBT people to describe themselves. However, it is not universally accepted even within the LGBT community and should be avoided unless describing someone who self-identifies that way or in a direct quote. When Q is seen at the end of "LGBT," it typically means queer and/or questioning.
Heterosexual
An adjective used to describe people whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to people of the opposite sex. Also straight.
Homosexual
(see Offensive Terms to Avoid) Outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many gay and lesbian people. The Associated Press, New York Times and Washington Post restrict usage of the term. Gay and/or lesbian accurately describe those who are attracted to people of the same sex.
Homophobia
Fear of lesbians and gay men. Intolerance or prejudice is usually a more accurate description of antipathy toward LGBT people.
Biphobia
Fear of bisexuals, often based on stereotypes, including inaccurate associations with infidelity, promiscuity, and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Intolerance or prejudice is usually a more accurate description of antipathy toward bisexual people.
Coming Out
A lifelong process of self-acceptance. People forge a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity first to themselves and then they may reveal it to others. Publicly sharing one's identity may or may not be part of coming out.
Out
A person who self-identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender in their personal, public, and/or professional lives. For example: Ricky Martin is an out pop star from Puerto Rico. Preferred to openly gay.
Openly Gay
Describes people who self-identify as gay in their personal, public, and/or professional lives. Also openly lesbian, openly bisexual, openly transgender. While accurate and commonly used, the phrase still implies a confessional aspect to publicly acknowledging one's sexual orientation or gender identity. See out above.
Closeted
Describes a person who is not open about his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. Better to simply refer to someone as not out about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Outing
The act of publicly declaring (sometimes based on rumor and/or speculation) or revealing another person's sexual orientation or gender identity without that person's consent. Considered inappropriate by a large portion of the LGBT community.
Lifestyle
(see Offensive Terms to Avoid) Inaccurate term used by anti-gay extremists to denigrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lives. As there is no one straight lifestyle, there is no one lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender lifestyle.
Marriage
Many states now recognize the marriages of same-sex couples. Because a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, passed by the federal government in 1996, was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June 2013, legally married couples are now recognized by the federal government. However, the status of couples who marry in a state where it is legal, and then move to a state where it is not legal remains unclear. Furthermore, the majority of states still do not allow same-sex couples to legally marry.
Civil Union
State-based relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples that offers some or all of the state (though none of the federal) rights, protections and responsibilities of marriage
Domestic Partnership
Civil/legal recognition of a committed relationship between two people that sometimes extends limited protections to them.
Sodomy Laws
Historically used to selectively persecute gay people, the state laws often referred to as "sodomy laws" were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas (2003). "Sodomy" should never be used to describe gay, lesbian or bisexual relationships or sexuality.

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