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Sound Writing

Subsection 6.2.5 Language Toward LGBTQ+ Inclusivity

LGBTQ+ spans a wide and complicated range of sexual orientations, gender identities, and diverse bodies. The acronym itself stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning and others. Even this list does not cover the full range of identities represented by the acronym— indeed, some advocate for an extended LGBTQQIAP2S, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, and Two-Spirit. Other terms for the community of people who do not identify within the dominant forms of sexuality and gender (heterosexuality or cisgenderism) include GSM (Gender and Sexuality Minorities) or GSD (Gender and Sexuality Diverse). These last two terms, in particular, indicate that members of this community do not all identify as one particular identity at all times; many individuals within the community choose not to identify or to identify as fluid. The amorphous nature of the name portends the difficulty writers may have when referring to individuals within the community: the language of the LGBTQ+ community is ever-evolving, so it may not always be clear to you which term to use. To be as respectful and inclusive as possible, you may want to use people-first language (for example, saying “a person who is Queer” rather than “a Queer person”). To learn more about deciding when to use people-first language, read Section 6.1. What follows is a list of basic terms and definitions that describe diverse genders and sexualities.
List 6.2.16. Terms
is the classification of people (usually as infants) as male, female, or intersex based on biological, chromosomal, and anatomical features.
Gender identity
is the internal, personal sense that people have of their own gender, and
Gender expression
encompasses the ways in which individuals choose to express their gender based on sociocultural ideas of masculinity and femininity.
refers to individuals whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.
Gender non-conforming
refers to individuals whose gender does not neatly fit into the dominant notions of gender within their particular cultural context.
refers to people whose gender is outside of the male/female binary and who therefore challenge the idea that gender is a static binary.
refers to individuals who were born with components of both “male” and “female” sexual anatomy or chromosomes.
is an adjective and umbrella term that describes individuals whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Many people take hormones and some undergo surgery, but neither of these medical treatments is requisite for a transgender identity.
It is inappropriate to use transgender as a noun (e.g., a transgender) or to use the term transgendered.
is an older term that is not an umbrella term and is preferred mostly by individuals who have changed (or seek to change) their bodies through medical procedures. It is best not to use this term unless someone has indicated it as their preference.
Trans or trans*
are shortened versions of “transgender” and the spectrum of identities that accompany that term. The asterisk in trans* represents the multitude of identities that “trans” encompasses. Be careful when using this term around audiences that may not understand exactly what it means.
Transgender woman and transgender man (also MTF and FTM)
are ways some transgender individuals choose to identify themselves. MTF stands for male-to-female, and FTM stands for female-to-male. Only use these terms if the individual has indicated their preference for them, as some people choose to identify as man or woman without any modifier.
refers to the period of time in someone’s life during which they make an inward and outward transition to the gender with which they identify. This period and what occurs within it differ from person to person. Do not use the term “sex change,” as it obscures the difference between sex and gender and does not represent all transition experiences. “Sex reassignment surgery” (SRS) and “gender-affirming surgery” are two (among many more) acceptable alternative terms.
can be used to refer to a specific person when it is unwieldy to keep repeating that person’s name. Since pronouns are gendered in English, pronouns can also communicate information about the person’s gender identity. When referring to a person, use the person’s chosen pronouns. See Subsection 6.3.2 for a more extensive discussion of pronouns and identity.