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An Ally's Guide to Terminology: Talking About LGBTQ People & Equality

The Bottom Line

New allies who want to support LGBTQ Americans often face an array of confusing terminology and language. An Ally's Guide to Terminology: Talking About LGBTQ People & Equality offers an overview of essential vocabulary and some terms to avoid. It also includes general terminology and approaches for talking about LGBTQ issues using everyday language that emphasizes common values, beliefs, hopes and dreams—and which reminds audiences that LGBTQ people are everyday Americans who live everyday lives.

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project. August 2020. "An Ally's Guide to Terminology: Talking About LGBTQ People & Equality." 2020 edition. MAP's Talking About LGBT Issues series. (date of access).

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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