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Queer Terms

bulletTexts:  Queer Theory
bulletUsed Books:  LGBT Studies 
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The Gay Canon - Great Books Every Gay Man Should Read.  By Robert Drake

Better Know What You're Saying


AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, an activist organization with independent chapters in various cities. ACT UP acceptable in first reference. See 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.



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 orientation.

Coming out:

Short for coming out of the closet. Announcing by word or public action one's previously hidden sexual orientation. See closeted.



Wearing clothing most often associated with members of the opposite sex. See transvestite.



Visiting places where opportunities exist to meet people, specifically potential sexual partners.


Domestic Partner:

Unmarried partners who share living quarters. Typically used in connection with legal and insurance matters. See gay relationship terms.



Clothing of the opposite gender.


Drag queen:

A man who dresses in female attire for show, often in order to perform. Not synonymous with transvestite.



Pejorative term for a lesbian.


Fag, Faggot:

Pejorative term for a gay male.



Acceptable and preferable in all references as a synonym for homosexual. When possible, use gay and lesbian. In headlines where space is an issue, bay is acceptable to describe both.


Openly gay/lesbian:

Preferred over self-avowed, self-admitted, self-confessed or practicing in instances where the sexual orientation of the individual is germane to the story: The openly gay legislator voted against the measure denying civil rights to gays. She is the first openly gay CEO in Silicon Valley.


Gay 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.



Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered.



Presumption that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality. Also: prejudice, bias or discrimination based on that presumption.



Human immunodeficiency virus. The virus that causes AIDS. HIV-virus is redundant. HIV positive means infected with HIV.



Derogatory term for homosexual. Avoid.



Fear, hatred and dislike of homosexuality and persons of homosexual orientation.



Of or relating to sexual and affectional attraction to a member of the same sex (adj.). A person who is attracted to members of the same sex (n.). Appropriate in medical or sexual contexts; in all other usage, gay is preferred by many.


Lesbian (n. and adj.)

Preferred term for female homosexuals.



An inaccurate term sometimes used to describe gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Avoid. There is no gay lifestyle, just as there is no straight lifestyle.



A gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual person's sexual partner. See gay relationships.



Publicly revealing the sexual orientation of an individual who has chosen to keep that orientation a secret. (From out of the closet.) Some activists, political groups and media believe outing is justified and/or newsworthy when the person involved works against the interests of lesbians and gays. Others oppose it as an invasion of privacy. Also a verb: The magazine outed the Senator in a front-page story. See coming out and closeted.


Pink Triangle:

The symbol homosexual men were required to wear in Nazi concentration camps. (Lesbians were classified in various groups. Some wore black triangles.) Starting in the late 1970s, the downward-pointing, equilateral, pink triangle was adopted as a symbol of gay pride.


Pride (day/march):

Short for gay/lesbian pride, this term is commonly used to indicate the celebrations commemorating the Stonewall Inn riots. One marcher said, "The day of the Pride march is the one day of the year we can feel free."



An effeminate gay man. Usually derogatory.



Pejorative for some gays. Now being reclaimed by some gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people as a self-affirming umbrella term, especially in Academia.


rainbow flag

A flag of six equal horizontal stripes (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and lavendor or violet) adopted to signify the diversity of the lesbian and gay communities.



Scientifically observable alteration of blood or other bodily fluids from HIV-negative to HIV-positive. The verb is seroconvert.



Synonymous with HIV-positive.


Safe sex, Safer sex:

Sexual practices that minimize the transmission of infectious bodily fluids.


Sexual orientation:

Innate sexual attraction. In all instances, use this term instead of sexual preference or other misleading terminology.


Sexual preference:

Avoid. Sexual orientation is the correct term.



Collective term for various sexual acts (see dictionary) deemed illegal in some states. Not synonymous with homosexuality or gay sex.



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-rights demonstration, Stonewall is now regarded as the birth of the modern gay-rights movement.



A heterosexual; a non-gay person. Also adj.



An imprecise term for individuals who cross gender lines. Sometimes synonymous with transsexual and sometimes also including transvestites.



An individual who believes himself or herself to be 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.)



An individual - not necessarily gay - who dresses in garb most often associated with the opposite sex. Not synonymous with drag queen.


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