Dictionary of equality language

What follows is a brief, not comprehensive, dictionary of preferred equality terminology.

Bisexual: a person with a sexual orientation towards both men and women

Black and Minority Ethnic: people of an origin or country who may or may not be black but are statistically and visibly fewer in number that the majority white population either locally or nationally.

The term 'black' is acknowledged as a positive all-inclusive descriptor for people who are not white. Referring to people as black is not offensive even though some, particularly elderly people, still use the term 'coloured' seeing it as less harsh. Most black people will now find the term 'coloured' offensive.

'Coming out': People who acknowledge their sexual identity to themselves, and then tell others. Revealing your sexuality is a life-long process.

Cruising: looking for casual sex. Not all men who cruise identify as gay. Some may be in a heterosexual relationship and are just looking for casual sex with other men.


Diversity: The difference in values, attitudes, cultural perspective, beliefs, ethnic background, sexual orientations, skills, knowledge and life experiences of each individual in any group of people.

Civil Partnership: The legal recognition of a same-sex relationship. It's not 'marriage' in the religious sense of the word, but it awards lesbian and gay couples the same legal rights and responsibilities as heterosexual married couples.

Gay: An umbrella term for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. It is best to avoid using this word to cover all LGB people as it can render lesbians and bisexual people invisible.

Gay man: a man with a sexual orientation towards other men.

Gay lifestyle/homosexual lifestyle: a term used to denigrate the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. It ignores diversity in the LGB community, and defines LGB people by their sexuality.

Gay agenda: A homophobic term used to denigrate the LGB equality movement. It suggests a conspiracy to promote 'homosexuality' while threatening the 'norm' of heterosexual society.

Gay sex: A derogatory term used to define gay men by the sex they have, and ignores the emotional aspects of being gay. Often used in the media to imply a certain sleaziness to a story.

Gender: A concept that refers to the social differences between women and men that have been learned are changeable over time and have wide variations both within and between cultures.

Gender Identity: A person's self-identification of being male or female.

Gender Reassignment: A medical process whereby an individual undertakes medical treatment to enable transsexual people to alter their bodies to match their gender identity.

Heterosexism: An attitude that assumes heterosexuality is the only valid sexual identity, and makes product, policy or practice on this basis.

Homosexual: Considered by some in the LGB community to be a derogatory and offensive term. It was used when same-sex attraction/relationships were construed as a mental illness. Use gay, lesbian, gay man/woman, bisexual, bisexual man/woman or the acronym LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual).

Homophobia: literally defined as fear of 'the other'. The beliefs and actions of people who hold these views and act upon them are based around a hatred of, or intolerance for, and/or a refusal to accept or acknowledge the equal rights of any lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Invisible Barriers: Attitudes and their traditional assumptions, norms and values which prevent a person's empowerment/full participation in society.

Lesbian: a woman with a sexual orientation towards another woman.

LGB: Acceptable acronym for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

LGBT: Acceptable acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Outing: Publicly declaring another person's sexuality without their permission. A lesbian, gay or bisexual person may 'out' themselves.

Prejudice: many people have prejudices or a faint dislike of people or groups. However, being prejudiced against a person or persons becomes very serious if that prejudice has an effect on the way that person is treated. Once a prejudicial thought is translated into a deed it becomes an act of discrimination.

Racism: Racism is when a person holds beliefs or attitudes that people from a different race, ethnic group or skin colour from themselves is either biologically, intellectually, or physically inferior to themselves.

Sexual Orientation: the term that indicates sexual attraction to person's of the the same, opposite or same and opposite sex.

Stereotyping: Stereotyping occurs when a person or organisation has pre-conceived ideas and notions about an individual or a group of people. For example, 'All gay men are camp' or 'All lesbians wear DM's and shave their heads.'

Transgender:  an all encompassing term to cover transsexuals, transvestites and cross-dressers. More specifically it can refer to someone who experiences 'gender disphoria' between their sexed body and society's construction of gender role. Can also refer to someone who consciously 'plays with' gender/sex role norms. A transgender person may or may not choose to alter their bodies with hormone therapy or surgery.

Transsexual: an older, more medical term for a person who feels a consistent and overwhelming desire to fulfill their life as a member of the opposite sex.

Transvestite: A clinical term for a cross-dresser. A person who dresses in the clothing of the opposite gender. Generally, these persons do not wish to alter their body.


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