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

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

Bisexual, Bi An individual who is physically, romantically and/or emotionally attracted to men and women. Bisexuals need not have had 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 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 (see IN FOCUS: Civil Unions & Domestic Partner­ships, and Appendix A: Federal & State Laws & Protections).

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 orientation may or may not be part of coming out.

Domestic Civil/legal recognition of a committed relationship between two people that Partnership sometimes extends limited protections to them (see IN FOCUS: Civil Unions & Domestic Partnerships, and Appendix A: Federal & State Laws & Protections).

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). In contemporary contexts, lesbian (n. or adj.) is often a preferred term for women. Avoid identifying gay people as “homosexuals” an outdated term considered derogatory and offensive to many lesbian and gay people.

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Homosexual (see Offensive Terms to Avoid) Outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many gay and lesbian people.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. Prejudice is usually a more accurate description of hatred or antipathy toward LGBT 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).

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.

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.

Openly Gay Describes people who self-identify as lesbian or gay in their personal, 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 or gender identity without that person’s 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. However, it is not universally accepted even within the LGBT community and should be avoided unless quoting or describing someone who self-identifies that way.

Sexual Orientation The scientifically accurate term for an individual’s enduring physical, (also Orientation) 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 or lesbian is voluntary and therefore “curable.”

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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