Openly Gay/Lesbian: As a modifier, “openly” is usually not relevant; its use should be restricted to instances in which the public awareness of an individual’s sexual orientation is germane. Examples: Harvey Milk was the first openly gay San Francisco supervisor. “Ellen”was the first sitcom to feature an openly lesbian lead character. “Openly” is preferred over “avowed,” “admitted,” “confessed” or “practicing.”
Gay/Lesbian Relationships: Gay, lesbian and bisexual people date, court, and sometimes make homes together. They use various terms to describe their commitments (e.g., boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, lover, husband, wife). Ask the individual what term he or she prefers, if possible. If not, partner is generally acceptable. [Note: On June 26, 2015 same-sex marriage became legal in the United States, so we will now see more gay people using the terms husband/husband and wife/wife.]
Domestic Partner: Unmarried partners who live together. Domestic partners may be of opposite sexes or the same sex. They may register in some counties, municipalities and states and receive some of the same benefits accorded married couples. The term is typically used in connection with legal and insurance matters. [Note: The fate of domestic partnerships benefits may be in question after the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land.]
Lover: A gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual person’s sexual partner. “Partner” is generally acceptable. See gay/lesbian relationships. [Note: “Lover” is a term used by many same-sex couples in longer-term relationships, (or individuals from such past relationships) as that term was the accepted term in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Today, the term “Partner” is being used by more and more same-sex couples as some are not comfortable using the term “Lover”, as they feel it implies a sex-only relationship as opposed to a full loving, emotionally bonding and sexual relationship. When in doubt, simply ask the couple in question what term they prefer.]
Lifestyle: An inaccurate term sometimes used to describe the lives of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Implies that the homes, careers, and relationships of all sexual minorities are identical. There is a GLBT culture, with its own performing arts and body of literature. There is a GLBT community, with gay- and lesbian-identified businesses, publications and holidays. But the degree to which people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender take part in this culture and community varies from not-at-all to almost exclusively. There is no gay lifestyle, just as there is no straight lifestyle.
Commitment Ceremony: A formal, marriage-like gathering that recognizes the declaration of members of the same sex to each other, but now that same-sex marriages are now legally recognized in the United States, we may be seeing less and less of these ceremonies.
Homophobia: Originally coined to mean, in classic psychological terms, irrational fear of homosexuality. Now refers usually to bias against or dislike of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people or of stereotypically gay/lesbian behavior, or discomfort with one’s own same-sex attractions, or of being perceived as gay or lesbian. A less inflammatory term is anti-gay (as in anti-gay harassment).
Heterosexism: Presumption that heterosexuality is universal and/or superior to homosexuality. Also: prejudice, bias or discrimination based on such presumptions.
Pride (Day and/or March): Short for gay/lesbian pride, this term is commonly used to indicate the celebrations commemorating the Stonewall Inn riots June 28, 1969. Pride events typically take place in June. [Note: In Phoenix, the annual outdoor Pride parade and festival have been moved to April due to the excessive summer heat here.]
Special Rights: Politically charged term used by opponents of civil rights for gay people. Avoid. “Gay civil rights,” “equal rights” or “gay rights” are alternatives.
“Ex-Gay”: (adj.) The movement, mostly rooted in conservative religions, that aims to change the sexual attraction of individuals from same-sex to opposite-sex.
Co-parents: Grown-ups who are raising a child together, who may or may not be biologically related to the child. Sometimes refers to the
partner of a biological parent. Sometimes refers to both (or all) parents, step-parents, partners and other guardians.
Failure-to-report: The crime committed by certain professionals who are required by law to contact child protective services and/or law enforcement when they know or suspect that a child or teen has been neglected or physically or sexually assaulted, when they fail to do so.
Failure-to-protect: Refers to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This clause states that all citizens are due equal protection under the law and cannot be discriminated against through selective enforcement. This means that schools are responsible for equally protecting all students. Sexual harassment policies, for instance, must be applied consistently, regardless of a student’s (or an employee’s) gender or race or religion or sexual orientation or gender expression.
Inclusive language: The use of terms such as family or parents/guardians, instead of mother-and-father in a letter about an upcoming open-house. Or of gender-neutral terms (e.g., partner, instead of boyfriend or girlfriend) in a lesson on communication. Terms that allow every child and family to feel they belong at school, including those who are gay or lesbian (as well as children who live with a single parent or grandparents, etc.).
Sexual minorities: Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.