The world is always changing and evolving, and that change is reflected in our language. It is not stagnant, and some changes are more important to note than others, one of the most important being language we use when talking about LGBTQ+ people.
PFLAG, known in the past as Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an organization of LGBTQ+ people, their parents and families, and their allies, just updated their glossary. Some words and phrases that were once thought affirming are now considered offensive or outdated, though there is some discrepancy among sources about certain terms.
A popular term when someone tells a person or a group about their gender identity or non-heteronormative sexuality is “coming out” or “disclosure.”
There are some people who find the term disclosure offensive, as it may imply something shameful, and prefer the term coming out. Some people do not like the term coming out, and instead prefer disclosure.
This is a term used to describe someone who does not experience sexual attraction, which is very different from people who choose to be abstinent or celibate. All asexual people have different feelings about sex, from people who are sex-positive to those who are more sex-repulsed. Asexuality does not mean that the person does not want a partner.
Abbreviated as aro and pronounced “ā-row,” this term refers to someone who doesn’t experience romantic attraction, although they still experience sexual attraction.
This is usually used in reference to someone who views their gender outside of strictly male or female. PFLAG National uses the term gender expansive instead, saying that gender nonconforming is outdated and assumes that male and female are the only correct genders available.
Assigned gender at birth
A person’s assigned gender is from that happy moment when a baby is born and the doctor says “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!”
These terms focus on whether or not someone has had gender affirming surgeries, which is considered invasive and a violation of privacy for that person. Additionally, it assumes that that person wants surgery, or has access to it. It also implies that surgery is needed to transition.
This term may be used to describe a transgender or gender-expansive person who does not disclose that part of themselves in certain aspects of their public or private lives, or in all aspects of one or both. More and more, this term is considered offensive because it implies that the person is being deceptive. Instead, the term “maintaining privacy” may be used.
Sex Reassignment Surgery/Sex change
These terms are sometimes used to apply to transgender people who want to and choose to undergo gender affirming surgery. While the term sex change is certainly offensive, sex reassignment surgery is offered up as an alternative on the glossary page of organizations like PFLAG, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and Planned Parenthood.
A government-released health document in Canada says both terms inaccurately give the impression that a person must have surgery to transition. Therefore, the terms gender confirming or gender affirming surgery should be used instead.
This term describes a person who doesn’t adhere to a specific gender. Some people feel more like a girl one day, and a boy another day, and neither on a third day.
The process by which society tells an individual “this is how boys behave, therefore you need to behave this way.” The specifics of the behavior depend on the culture you’re raised in, but the concept remains the same… at least until we all accept that there is no behavior reserved for only one gender.
To refer to a person by the wrong gender, particularly when you know them.
To refer to a person by a name other than the one they prefer – like calling your old friend Charles when you know she calls herself Tamera now.
Same-gender loving (SGL)
A term created by Cleo Manago and used by some people in the Black community to express their sexual orientation without relying on white terms and symbols.
A term used in Indigenous communities of the Americas, this refers to a person who identifies as having both a male and a female spirit within them, encompassing their sexual, cultural, gender, and spiritual identities.
Be A Part of the Change
While some things are considered only offensive, terms that are more ambiguous and dependant on the person may be worth discussing with individuals. Most people in the LGBTQ+ community are open to telling others how they prefer to be referred to – including the correct pronouns to use. And if there is confusion, it takes only a moment to ask and be respectful.
If you want to get involved, there is a Corvallis/Albany chapter of PFLAG, and many other organizations.