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5 Words That May Offend the LGBTQ Community

by JESSICA MAHMOUD

Originally published on queersmatter and Uloop.

Sometimes things people say to others aren’t meant to be offensive, but really are. This is easy to do with communities you may not know much about, such as the LGBTQ community.

But luckily, it is easy to avoid this mistake if you know what specific words can be offensive. Here are five words that should be used with caution to everyone, but especially within the LGBTQ community.

1. Dyke 

First of all, this is a derogatory term to begin with, so it may be known to be disrespectful already. However, sometimes derogatory words can become second nature. This term is meant to describe a masculine lesbian, and may be okay with some who identify this way.

But unless you’re told they’re okay with it, it’s best not to describe them as such. Instead, opt to just say lesbian or even just same-gender loving individual. That said, if you’re not sure how someone identifies, don’t guess or assume.

2. Gender Neutral 

If you haven’t heard, not all individuals identify within the gender binary of male and female. I’ll save that for another article, but this term can easily be misunderstood. It does not refer to one sex or the other, but can be compared to saying “color blind” when referring to race, as if someone is “not seeing” race.

It is often offensive to trans individuals, as if their identity is not seen in an effort to be inclusive of genders or gender nonconformity. Instead, a better term is gender inclusive, which refers to including all genders. This term is often used within the LGBTQ Community.

3. Homosexual 

You might be a little confused by this being on the offensive list. The word homosexual is the clinical term that was actually coined as a mental disorder until 1973, so it is often associated that way. Claiming someone is a homosexual might make them think you feel they have an illness. Instead, you may opt to say they identify within the LGBTQ community or are same-gender loving.

4. Lifestyle 

Please understand that it is not a choice to identify as same-gender loving. A lifestyle has nothing to do with one’s orientation. Lifestyle is a word to describe one’s hobbies or jobs, and it is offensive to say the “homosexual lifestyle” or say it’s a “lifestyle choice.”

This is a big one that is oftentimes used by those who are outside of the LGBTQ community, and can really be a big mistake, and offensive. Members within the LGBTQ community have hobbies and jobs and are more than their sexuality and gender identity and everyone should recognize that.

5. Transsexual

A transsexual is specific to trans individuals who have transitioned their sex through hormones and/or surgery. However, it can be hard to know if an individual has undergone surgery to transition, and since this term is specific to that, it can be offensive to make that assumption and label a person this way.

Instead, transman and transwoman are more commonly used. It all really depends on what the individual is going by and this label should not be assumed. It is similar to transgender.

Bonus: Adding “ed” to an Identity

One of the other big mistakes someone can make is adding “ed” to an identity, such as transgender or gay or even the word gender. This makes people think that an identity or gender is assigned. But these words are all adjectives, not verbs. An individual did not transgender or gender just like I ran on the treadmill today.

I hope this helps you out and that you take these tips into consideration. I think we can all agree that we are out in the world to make people happy and not offend anyone on purpose. The LGBTQ community can be a little confusing and new to people outside of it, but the community are people just like everyone else.


Jessica Mahmoud is a Journalism major with a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Studies minor. Her pronouns are she, her, hers, herself. As an aspiring activist, she hopes to use writing as an outlet to educate others.

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