LGBTQIA Faculty/Staff Resources

Understanding Language

Using inclusive language is an essential part of building inclusive environments for the Queer community. Language is a habitual practice that can be changed with intentional effort and being cognizant of word choice and word placement. Likewise, language is constantly changing, and it's important to be up to date and open-minded about changing definitions and terminology.

Below offers suggestions for how to change some common phrases or words as well as provides a list of terms that may be helpful for understanding the Queer community. Understanding and being knowledgeable about common terms may provide some assistance in navigating inclusive language and understanding gender diverse identities and individuals.


LGBTQIA+ Common Terms

Allyship: The action of working to end oppression through support of, and as an advocate with and for, a group other than one’s own. Definition:

Gaytekeeping:A kind of gatekeeping specifically found within the LGBTQ+ community (this could relate to either gender or sexual orientation). Definition:

Gender Expression: Aspects of behavior and outward presentation that may (intentionally or unintentionally) communicate gender to others in a given culture or society, including clothing, body language, hairstyles, voice, socialization, relationships, career choices, interests, and presence in gendered spaces (restrooms, places of worship, etc).

Gender Identity: An individual’s internal view of their gender. Their own innermost sense of themselves as a gendered being and/or as masculine, feminine, androgynous, etc. This will often influence name and pronoun preference.

Gender transition: The process through which a person modifies his or her physical characteristics and/or gender expression to be consistent with his or her gender identity. Gender transition may, but does not necessarily, include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgeries and/or other medical or surgical components. The process may also include telling one’s family, friends and/or co-workers, and changing one’s name and/or gender on legal documents. As each person’s transition is unique to that individual’s needs, there is no defined set of steps which add up to a “complete” transition. (VA Anti-Violence Project;

GRSM: an acronym that stands for Gender, Romantic, and Sexual Minorities. It's an alternative acronym to LGBTQ+. Some people like it because it's all-encompassing, short, and avoids the term Queer, which some still consider a slur. Definition:

Non-binary:  Refers to individuals who identify as neither man or woman, both man and woman, or a combination of man or woman. It is an identity term which some use exclusively, while others may use it interchangeably with terms like genderqueer, gender creative, gender nonconforming, gender diverse, or gender expansive. Individuals who identify as nonbinary may understand the identity as falling under the transgender umbrella, and may thus identify as transgender. Sometimes abbreviated as NB or Enby. Definition:

Pansexual: Refers to a person whose emotional, romantic, and/or physical attraction is to people inclusive of all genders and biological sexes. People who are pansexual need not have had any sexual experience; it is the attraction and self-identification that determines the orientation. Definition:

Passing: Describes a person’s ability to be accepted as their preferred gender/sex or race/ethnic identity or to be seen as heterosexual. Definition:

Polyamory: Refers to having honest, usually non-possessive, relationships with multiple partners and can include: open relationships, polyfidelity (which involves multiple romantic relationships with sexual contact restricted to those), and sub relationships (which denote distinguishing between a ‘primary” relationship or relationships and various “secondary” relationships). Definition:

Queer: A political and sometimes controversial term that some LGBT people have reclaimed, while others still consider it derogatory. Used most frequently by younger LGBT people, activists, and academics, the term can refer either to gender identity, sexual orientation, or both and can be used by people of any gender.

Safe Space: a place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations. Definition:

Sexual Orientation: The culturally-defined set of meanings through which people describe their sexual attractions. Sexual orientation is not static and can shift over time.


*Note these definitions are general and do not align with all individuals' definitions of these terms. Be open-minded and cognizant of variation when hearing these terms.


LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Switch Ups

  • Alternatives for Hey guys / Hey girls

    • Hey, everyone

    • Hey, y’all

    • What's up, folks / folx

    • Hey, Seahawks

    • Hey, class

  • Alternatives for You guys / You girls 

    • You all

    • Y’all

    • You folks

    • Your table

    • Your group

  • Alternatives for How are you guys doing? 

    • How are y’all doing? 

    • How's everyone doing?

    • How are you all today?

    • How are you folks / folx today?

  • Alternatives for Ladies and Gentlemen

    • Distinguished Guests

    • Honorable Guests

  • Alternatives for That woman / man

    • That person

    • That individual

    • That student

    • That worker

Gender Neutral Language Examples

  • Mankind to 

    • Humankind

  • Chairman to 

    • Chair

  • Congressman to 

    • Legislator

  • Businessman to

    • Representative

  • Policeman to 

    • Police Officer

  • Landlord to

    • Owner

  • Boyfriend / Girlfriend to 

    • Partner

  • Salesman to

    • Salesperson

  • Manpower to

    • Workforce

  • Maiden Name to

    • Family Name

  • Fireman to 

    • Firefighter

  • Husband / Wife to 

    • Spouse

  • Man-Made to 

    • Artificial

  • Sister to 

    • Sibling

  • Son / Daughter to

    • Child

  • Mom / Dad to 

    • Parent / Guardian

  • Waitress to 

    • Server

  • Mailmen to 

    • Mail Carrier

School Terms

  • Freshman to 

    • First-Year

  • Upperclassman to 

    • Upper-Level

  • Boys / Girls to 

    • Students

    • Kiddos

    • Everyone

  • Mr / Miss /Ms / Mrs to 

    • Mx

  • Latina / Latino to 

    • Latine / Latinx