General Guidelines

Please review GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide for an extensive glossary of terms with notes on appropriate usage. The guide also contains explanations and suggestions for writing about the LGBTQIA+ community. For example, writers should take care not to play into common stereotypes about LGBTQIA+ people and/or include details related to LGBTQIA+ identity that are not relevant and would not otherwise be included. 

Please ask your sources the pronouns that person uses and use it. Some people are able to obtain a legal name change from a court. However, many cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to legally change their name. They should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone else who uses a name other than their birth name (e.g., Lady Gaga, Demi Moore, Cardi B).

The following list are terms to avoid: 

• Lifestyle/preference: Implies that LGBTQIA+ sexual orientations are not authentic and simply optional.
• Homosexual: A term generally regarded as outdated and carrying connotations related to problematic psychological diagnoses (people used to be diagnosed as homosexual).
• Biological male/female: When it is relevant and necessary to reference a subject's non-cisgender status, you might instead refer to that person as transgender (used as an adjective). If assigned sex related to a person's gender identity is truly relevant, use constructions like "assigned female/male at birth."
• Normal: If referring to dominant identities, instead use the relevant term (for example, cisgender, straight, etc.).

Reasons to Ask, Or Not to Ask

When is it appropriate to ask a subject to disclose his/her/their sexual orientation for a story? Is it ever?

Reasons to ask:
• If it adds context to the story. Are you interviewing the person specifically because s/he/they is a member of the LGBTQIA+ community? If so, ask to confirm and ask how s/he identifies or they identify.
• If it is central to the story. Would it seem out of place if you didn't mention it? For example, if you're covering same-sex marriage, anti-discrimination laws, and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," it's relevant to include that the person is or could be directly affected by the events.
• If it isn't central to the story, what is your motivation for asking? Are you trying to add diversity to your story or highlight how different populations might be affected differently?

Reasons to avoid asking or telling:
• If it would cause harm to the subject.
• If it's merely for prurient reasons or to sensationalize the story.
• Would you include the information if the subject were straight? If yes, include it for an LGBTQIA+ person. If not, think about why you want to include it; it must be relevant.

** Main Source: GLAAD Media Reference Guide

Terms to Avoid

• Closeted (preferred: not out)

• Gay community (preferred: LGBTQIA+ community)

• Homosexual (preferred: gay or lesbian)

• Openly gay (preferred: out)

• Lifestyle

• Sexual preference (preferred: sexual orientation)

• Tranny or any other slur or nickname

• Transgenders, a transgender (Use transgender, and on second reference, trans)

• Transvestite (preferred: cross-dresser; cross-dressing does not necessarily indicate someone is gay or transgender)

** For more terms, visit GLAAD Media Reference Guide

Page last modified December 8, 2022