Stylebook on LGBT Terminology

Judgment that assumes a subject’s sexual orientation or gender identity is deceptive or not genuine.

Example: He was straight-acting.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, a medical condition that compromises the human immune system, leaving the body defenseless against opportunistic infections. Some medical treatments can slow the rate at which the immune system is weakened. Do not use the term “full-blown AIDS.” Individuals may be HIV-positive but not have AIDS. Avoid terms such as “AIDS sufferer” and “AIDS victim” because they imply powerlessness. Use “person” or “people with AIDS” or, if the context is medical, “AIDS patients.”


Term for a person who is not lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and who actively supports the LGBT community. Can clarify when campaigns, groups or other LGBT-related activities may include non-LGBT participants.

Politically charged term for a measure that seeks to grant or deny public accommodations for transgender individuals. Opponents often focus on access to public restrooms. Acceptable in direct quotes.

See transgender

Fear, hatred or dislike of bisexuality or bisexuals. May be harbored by lesbians, gays and transgender people as well as heterosexuals.

See bisexual

As a noun, an individual attracted to both sexes. As an adjective, of or relating to sexual and affectional attraction to both sexes. Does not presume nonmonogamy.

See biphobia

Refers to a person whose gender identity is the same as the gender as that assigned at birth (i.e., not a transgender man/woman). Colloquially shortened to “cis” or combined as ciswoman or cisman. The word cisgender distinguishes without assuming that cisgender is the neutral or normal state.

See transgender, transgender man, transgender woman

Legal status that provides same-sex couples some rights available to married couples in areas such as state taxes, medical decisions and estate planning. Recognized by some states but not the U.S. government.

See commitment ceremony, domestic partner, marriage, relationships

Refers to a person who wishes to keep secret his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

See coming out

Short for “coming out of the closet.” Accepting and letting others know of one’s previously hidden sexual orientation or gender identity.

See closeted, in the closet


NLGJA's Stylebook Supplement on LGBT Terminology is intended to complement the prose stylebooks of individual publications, as well as the Associated Press stylebook, the leading stylebook in US newsrooms. It reflects the association's mission of inclusive coverage of LGBT people, includes entries on words and phrases that have become common and features greater detail for earlier entries.