Terms & Definitions
ACT UP: AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, an activist organization with independent chapters in various cities. ACT UP acceptable in first reference. See AIDS.
AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a serious, often fatal medical condition that compromises the human immune system leaving the body defenseless against opportunistic infections. Individuals may be HIV-positive but not have AIDS.
ARC: (Obsolete) AIDS-Related Complex. Replaced by HIV disease. See HIV.
bisexual: An individual sexually attracted to members of both sexes. Does not presume non-monogamy.
closeted, in the closet: Refers to a person who hides his or her sexual orientiation.
coming out: Short for coming out of the closet. Announcing by word or public action one's previously hidden sexual orientation. See closeted.
cross-dressing: Wearing clothing most often associated with members of the opposite sex. See transvestite.
domestic partner: Unmarried partners who share living quarters. Typically used in connection with legal and insurance matters. See gay/lesbian relationships.
don't ask, don't tell: Shorthand for "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue," the military policy on gay men and lesbians. Acceptable in headlines but in text the full phrase adds important balance.
drag: Attire of the opposite gender.
drag queen: A man who dresses in female attire for show, often in order to perform. See also transvestite (not synonymous).
dyke: Pejorative term for a lesbian.
fag, faggot: Pejorative term for a gay male.
gay: Preferable in all references as a synonym for male homosexual. For female, use lesbian. To include both, use gay men and lesbians. In headlines where space is an issue, gay(s) is acceptable to describe both.
gay/lesbian relationships: Gay, lesbian and bisexual people use various terms to describe their commitments. Ask the individual what term he or she prefers, if possible. If not, partner is generally acceptable.
heterosexism: Presumption that heterosexuality is universal and/or superior to homosexuality. Also: prejudice, bias or discrimination based on such presumptions.
HIV: Human immunodeficiency virus. The virus that causes AIDS. HIV virus is redundant. HIV-positive means infected with HIV. See AIDS.
homo: Derogatory term for homosexual. Avoid.
homophobia: Fear, hatred or dislike of homosexuality, gay men and lesbians.
homosexual: (n. and adj.) A person who is attracted to members of the same sex. Of or relating to sexual and affectional attraction to a member of the same sex. Appropriate in medical or sexual contexts. For other usages, see gay and lesbian.
lesbian: (n. and adj.) Preferred term for female homosexuals.
lifestyle: An inaccurate term sometimes used to describe gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Avoid. There is no one gay lifestyle, just as there is no one straight lifestyle.
lover: a gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual person's sexual partner. See gay/lesbian relationships.
openly gay/lesbian: Preferred over self-avowed, self-admitted, self-confessed, or practicing in instances where the sexual orientation of the individual is germane: The openly gay legislator supported the measure guaranteeing civil rights to gays. Or: She is the first openly lesbian CEO in Silicon Valley.
outing: Publicly revealing the sexual orientation of an individual who has chosen to keep that orientation private (from out of the closet). Also a verb: The magazine outed the Senator in a front-page story. See coming out and closeted.
pink triangle: Now a gay pride symbol, it was the insignia homosexual men were required to wear in Nazi concentration camps.
Pride (Day and/or march): Short for gay/lesbian pride, this term is commonly used to indicate the celebrations commemorating the Stonewall Inn riots. One marcher said, "The Pride March is the one time each year we can all feel free." See Stonewall.
queen: An effeminate gay man. Usually derogatory.
queer: Originally pejorative for gay, now being reclaimed by some gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons as a self-affirming umbrella term. Caution: still extremely offensive when used as an epithet.
rainbow flag: A flag of six equal horizontal stripes (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet) signifying the diversity of the lesbian and gay communities.
seroconversion: Scientifically observable alteration of blood or other bodily fluids from HIV-negative to HIV-positive. The verb is seroconvert. See HIV.
seronegative: Synonymous with HIV-negative. See HIV.
seropositive: Synonymous with HIV-positive. See HIV.
safe sex, safer sex: Sexual practices which minimize the transmission of infectious bodily fluids.
sexual orientation: Innate sexual attraction. Use this term instead of sexual preference. See also lifestyle.
sexual preference: Avoid. See sexual orientation.
sodomy: Collective term for various sexual acts (see dictionary) deemed illegal in some states. Not synonymous with homosexuality or gay sex.
Stonewall: The Stonewall Inn tavern in New York City's Greenwich Village was the site of several nights of raucous protests following a police raid on June 28, 1969. Although not the nation's first gay civil-rights demonstration, Stonewall is now regarded as the birth of the modern gay civil-rights movement.
straight: (n. and adj.) Heterosexual; a non-gay person.
transgender: An imprecise term for individuals who cross gender lines. Sometimes synonymous with transsexual and sometimes also including transvestites.
transsexual: An individual who identifies him/herself as a member of the opposite sex and who, by surgery or therapy, acquires the physical characteristics of the opposite sex. (See AP Stylebook entry sex change for correct usage of pronouns).
transvestite: An individual not necessarily gay who dresses in attire most often associated with the opposite sex. See also drag queen (not synonymous).