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Friday, April 22, 2016

Style manual updates of terms about sexual orientation and gender identity

I recently updated gay, lesbian, sexual orientation, transgender and related terms in Garbl's Editorial Style and Usage Manual. I reviewed preferences of the Associated Press, New York Times, and GLAAD for using these terms.

cross-dresser Include hyphen. Use this term instead of transvestite to describe someone who sometimes dresses in clothing associated with the opposite sex. Cross-dressing does not necessarily indicate that someone is gay or transgender. See gay, lesbiantransgender.

gay, lesbian Identify a person's sexual orientation only when it is relevant. Do not refer to "sexual preference" or to a gay, homosexual or alternative "lifestyle." Use gay (adj.) to describe men and women attracted to the same sex, though women commonly prefer lesbian (adj, n.). Ask, if you can! Lesbian women is redundant. When the distinction is useful, consider using lesbians and gay men.

Avoid using the outdated homosexualexcept in clinical contexts or references to sexual activity. Lowercase gay and lesbian except in names of organizations. Don't refer to gays with disparaging, offensive terms. Use gay and queer carefully in other contexts. Do not use gay as offensive, incorrect adolescent slang meaning "stupid." See LGBT; sex, sexism; sexual orientation.

gay rights Advocates for gay issues prefer equal rights or civil rights for gay people. Though commonly used, gay rights inaccurately implies "special rights" that are denied other citizens.

gender Gender has become an acceptable term for writing about differences between males and females, especially their social, psychological and cultural traits--or who we are. Sex is more often used when writing about physical and biological traits--or what we do. Stay tuned. See sex, sexism.

homosexual Outdated clinical term considered derogatory and offensive by many lesbians and gay men. See gay, lesbiansex, sexismsexual orientation.

husband, wife Regardless of sexual orientation, husband or wife is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Or use spouse or partner if requested by individuals in the marriage. See sexual orientation.

LGBT Sometimes GLBT. Acceptable on first reference for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. But spell it out elsewhere in the document. See gay, lesbiansexual orientationtransgender.

same-sex marriage, gay marriage Both terms are acceptable, though the former clearly covers both lesbians and gay men. See husband, wife;sexual orientation.


sex, sexism Base communication on relevant qualities of men and women, not on their sex or sexual orientation. See gay, lesbiangendersexual orientation. ...

sexual orientation The scientifically accurate term for an individual's enduring physical, romantic or emotional attraction to members of the same or opposite sex. Don't use sexual preference, which implies that sexuality is a matter of choice. Cite a person's sexual orientation only when it is relevant. See gay, lesbianhusband, wifesame-sex marriage.


transgender (adj.) Use the names and pronouns (he, his, she, her, hers) preferred by transgender people whose physical characteristics or gender identity as male or female differ from their sex at birth. If that preference is not known, use the pronouns consistent with the way the individual lives publicly. Identify a person as a transgender man or transgender woman only when it is relevant. See transsexual.

transsexual (adj.) An older term preferred by some people who change their gender through medical procedures. Transgender is generally preferable. Ask when possible! See transgender.

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