GLAAD Media Reference Guide - Offensive Terms To Avoid
GLAAD's Media Reference Guide: A Resource for Journalists, Updated May 2010
Offensive: "homosexual" (n. or adj.)
Preferred: "gay" (adj.); "gay man" or "lesbian" (n.); "gay person/people"
Please use "gay" or "lesbian" to describe people attracted to members of the same sex. Because of the clinical history of the word "homosexual," it is aggressively used by anti-gay extremists to suggest that gay people 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." The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post restrict use of the term "homosexual" (see AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).
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 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 orientation. In most cases, your readers, viewers or listeners 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.
Offensive: "sexual preference"
Preferred: "sexual orientation" or "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 and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex and is inclusive of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and straight men and women (see AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).
Offensive: "gay lifestyle" or "homosexual lifestyle"
Preferred: "gay lives," "gay and lesbian lives"
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 orientation is a choice and therefore can and should be "cured" (See AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).
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 (see AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).
Offensive: "gay agenda" or "homosexual agenda"
Preferred: Accurate descriptions of the issues (e.g., "inclusion in existing non-discrimination and hate crimes laws," "ending the ban on openly gay service members")
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are motivated by many of 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 is one they share with many allies and advocates who are not necessarily LGBT. Notions of a so-called "homosexual agenda" are rhetorical inventions of anti-gay extremists seeking to create a climate of fear by portraying the pursuit of equal opportunity for LGBT people as sinister (see AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).
Offensive: "special rights"
Preferred: "equal rights" or "equal protection"
Anti-gay extremists frequently characterize equal protection of the law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as "special rights" to incite opposition to such things as relationship recognition and inclusive non-discrimination laws (see AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style).
Media Reference Guide Home | Introduction: Fair, Accurate & Inclusive | Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual | Transgender | Offensive Terms To Avoid | Defamatory Language | AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style | Marriage | Civil Unions & Domestic Partnerships Adoption & Parenting | Public Opinion & Polls | Religion & Faith | Covering Crime Stories | Hate Crimes | HIV, AIDS & The LGBT Community | "Ex-Gays" & "Conversion Therapy" | Sports & Homophobia | Directory Of Community Resources | Appendix | GLAAD Contacts