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LGBTQUIA+ Inclusive Language

Using inclusive language is an important element of LGBTQUIA+ inclusive practice and allyship. This resource brings together guidance on key elements of LGBTQUIA+ inclusive language.

Element of inclusive language practice Notes and further resources
LGBTQUIA+ terminology best practice This introduction to key LGBTQUIA+ terms and concepts is suitable for those with little or no prior knowledge. There is also a glossary of LGBTQUIA+ terminology.
Using the correct pronouns This introductory resource on pronouns covers what pronouns are and how they're used, how to ask for someone's pronouns, how to share and normalise the sharing of pronouns, why pronouns are important, and what to do if you make a mistake.
Using appropriate gendered language (and avoiding misgendering)

This guide to challenging incorrect pronouns and misgendering covers what it means to misgender someone and how it happens in practice, how it feels to be misgendered, what you should do if you make a mistake, and how you can respond to misgendering by others.

Using gender-neutral language

If someone's gender identity has not been disclosed to us, we should use gender-neutral language such as 'they/them' pronouns to ensure that we do not misgender them.

The use of gendered language in relation to someone's partner(s), or potential partner(s), can display assumptions about someone's sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Gender-neutral language such as 'partner' and 'spouse' can be used, in place of gendered terms like 'girlfriend' or 'husband', where someone's gender identity and sexual orientation has not been disclosed.

Precision of language

Our use of gendered language in relation to certain experiences or traits can be exclusionary of trans and intersex people. For example, if we refer exclusively to women when talking about experiences such as menstruation and pregnancy, or use 'women' to be interchangeable in meaning with the group of people who have those experiences. This excludes trans men and non-binary people who also experience them, and also 'others' women who don't. More precise, inclusive language recognises that the experience is not unique to women, or universal for women. For example, in a parental leave policy we could refer 'pregnant employees' rather than 'women'.

Another common example is using gender in place of a more accurate description of anatomy, attributes or experiences under discussion. For example, using 'men' to refer to those who are at risk from a condition affecting the prostate, whereas it would be more accurate and inclusive to refer to 'people with a prostate', since not all men have a prostate and not everyone that has a prostate is a man. Similarly, a genetic condition might affect 'those with XY chromosomes' (rather than 'men'), since not all men have XY chromosomes and not everyone with XY chromosomes is a man.

Consider whether you actually mean 'men' or 'women', or whether you are using an imprecise proxy for a different subset of people. If the latter, take a moment to consider the more precise way of defining the group by their experience, or their traits.

Non-binary inclusive language

Some language contributes to non-binary erasure, where it implies that there are only two genders (male and female). This includes phrases such as:

  • "ladies and gentlemen" and "men and women", which can be replaced with terms like "everyone"
  • "either gender" or "both genders", which can be replaced with "any gender" or "all genders"
  • "the opposite gender" and "the other gender", which can be replaced with "another gender" or "a different gender"
LGBTQUIA+ inclusive data collection questions and response options This guide to data collection best practice covers LGBTQUIA+ inclusive data collection relating to gender, sexual orientation, trans identity, and titles.
Referring to non-LGBTQUIA+ people Avoid using 'heterosexual' or 'straight' to refer to non-LGBTQUIA+ people. There are heterosexual people within the LGBTQUIA+ community, including heterosexual trans people, heterosexual intersex people, and heterosexual aromantic people.

This resource was created as part of the Queering University programme.