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Pride glossary: Here's how to talk about LGBTQIA+ issues (and why pronouns are so important)

PHOTOS: Cincinnati Pride 2016
Posted at 5:30 AM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 19:46:23-04

You've heard the expression, "Knowledge is power." There's also power in language; it identifies who we are.

So as we round out Pride month, WCPO is taking you to school to explain some of the LGBTQIA+ terms you've probably seen and heard but might not know.

LGBTQIA+

It's an acronym that's grown over the years as the spectrum of non-normative gender and sexual identities has widened.

The letters stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer, intersex, and asexual or ally/advocate. The plus is added to represent anyone else who feels their gender or sexual identity doesn't fit into any of these categories.

Sex vs. gender

While sex refers to a person's biological characteristics, gender is a social construct.

The LGBTQ Association of Journalists (NLGJA) puts it this way: "Gender is usually assigned to a person at birth by an attendant or parent who bases the decision on visible genitalia of the infant. That assignment may not match the person's actual gender, knowledge of which may emerge later.

Queer

The term was once considered a slur but since has been reclaimed by the LGBTQIA+ community as one of empowerment to describe folks who do not comply with sexual or gender norms.

NLGJA advises caution with the term, however, as it can still be used as an epithet or viewed as offensive by LGBTQIA+ communities regardless of intent and may require explanation or contextualization.

Intersex

According to NLGJA, the term intersex refers to "people born with sex chromosomes, genitalia and/or a reproductive system not considered standard for either males or females." People born intersex often have their gender and sexual identity chosen for them but later might decide to alter one or both of those identities.

PFLAG — the largest coalition for LGBTQIA+ folks and their families and allies in the U.S. — qualifies the term further: "Formerly, the medical terms hermaphrodite and pseudohermaphrodite were used; these terms are now considered neither acceptable nor scientifically accurate."

Asexual

Asexual — sometimes abbreviated as "ace" — refers to "someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction" and is more closely associated with sexual orientation than with gender, per NLGJA.

PFLAG adds: "Each asexual person experiences relationships, attraction, and arousal differently. Asexuality is distinct from chosen behavior such as celibacy or sexual abstinence."

Ally/Advocate

The A in the LGBTQIA+ acronym also applies to allies and advocates, those who do not identify as part of these communities but offer their support and alliance in political and social issues.

Cisgender

"'Cis' in Latin means 'the same,'" said Tristan Vaught, who works with school districts on equity, inclusion and belonging. "You were assigned a gender at birth and you still identify with assigned." Being cisgender does not necessarily indicate one's sexuality (i.e. homosexual or heterosexual), only that their gender identity (i.e. man or woman) aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Pansexual

"It does not mean I’m attracted to pots and pans," Vaught said. "It actually pushes against the term bisexual because bi means 'binary.' According to NLGJA, the term "(d)escribes someone who experiences attraction without regard to sex, gender identity or gender expression."

"A person who identifies as pansexual might be attracted to many different gender identities or all gender identities," said Dr. Sarah Pickle, who specializes in family and community medicine at the University of Cincinnati.

Non-binary

This term refers to anyone whose sexual and/or gender expression doesn't align with male, female, man or woman.

"So non-binary is I don’t feel like a man or a woman," Vaught said. "I’m kind of in the middle. I’m close to being a trans man, but I’m in that non-binary space. My assigned sex was female," they said.

Deadnaming

According to PFLAG, deadnaming "(o)ccurs when an individual, intentionally or not, refers to the name that a transgender or gender-expansive individual used at a different time in their life."

And what's the big deal with pronouns?

The NLGJA, Associated Press and other organizations have offered guidance that the pronouns they/them/their are now equally acceptable as he/him/his or she/her/hers when referring to a single person whose gender or sexual identity does not fit within the traditional binary.

But why are pronouns so important?

"Language is really powerful," Pickle said. "It’s a cultural phenomenon and a way to show respect" to those who don't identify as the pronoun others might expect to use when interacting with them.

"Nonbinary individuals may identify as somewhere between male and female or reject a binary categorization of gender altogether," according to the NLGJA guide.

For the NLGJA full style guidelines, click or tap here.

For PFLAG's full glossary of LGBTQIA+ terms, click or tap here.