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LGBTQI+ inclusive language guide

LGBTQI+ inclusive language guide

This LGBTQ+ inclusive language guide explains how to use language respectfully and inclusively when working with and referring to LGBTQ+ individuals. By using inclusive language and by embedding it throughout delivering activities, policies, programs and services, we demonstrate respect in our community and recognise diversity.

LGBTQ+ is a frequently used, shorter version of a variety of longer acronyms that describe sexuality and gender identity-based communities. The letters stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and the + indicates other categories such as Questioning, Asexual, Intersex, Pansexual, thus alluding to the variety of sexuality and gender-based identities that have been or are being defined (see Glossary section below). It is not necessary to utilise the full acronym, as new identities are constantly defined or updated. Individuals may identify with one or multiple letters of the acronym.

Every university policy may affect LGBTQ+ EHU employees and students, and every service may have LGBTQ+ clients. As a public sector institution, we have a responsibility to make Edge Hill a safer and more inclusive place for people from diverse backgrounds. Using inclusive language is just one aspect of this.

Inclusive language, in the current context, represents a means of acknowledging and respecting the diversity of bodies, genders and relationships. This refers to both when we are communicating directly with someone, when describing someone who is not physically present, as well as throughout policies, services and virtual communications. This practical guide seeks to give an understanding of the key concepts and common terms for LGBTQ+ people.

Using LGBTQ+ inclusive language is an important steppingstone in constructing a welcoming and trusting environment and in addressing the prejudice and discrimination that LGBTQ+ people face. Words and expressions that discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity are unacceptable. The enduring prejudice in society against LGBTQ+ people contributes to them feeling invisible, marginalised and inferior to others, and they often experience direct and/or indirect discrimination through the insensitive, language of others.

The language around sex, gender and sexuality changes constantly and it is an area that people hold strong and differing opinions about. Insofar as it is possible, this guide gives general advice on current thinking. However, it’s always best to ask someone how they describe themselves and use those terms when referring to them.

Frequently asked questions

What can I ask and LGBTQI+ person?
How should I use pronouns?
How do I ask for pronouns when inviting people for a job interview?
What does the law say?

General principles

  • Language used to describe different LGBTQ+ people and by different parts of the LGBTQ+ communities changes over time and can differ across cultures and generations. There will also be differences in how people individually use or define particular terms. You may also encounter outdated or even offensive terms in medical, psychological or legal contexts.
  • Ensure that the language you use to refer to people’s sexual orientation and gender identity are accurate and appropriate. Acceptable and frequently used terms are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer, though some people may use more specific terms. Outdated and generally perceived as offensive terms are sometimes used by people within these groups as a means of claiming their identity but can be seen as derogatory when used by people outside of the group.
  • Avoid creating invisibility. LGBTQ+ people are often rendered invisible in conversation, in public discourse and cultural and media representation. Language that reinforces the assumption that all personal relationships are heterosexual denies the reality of gender diverse relationships.
  • Avoid stereotyping LGBTQ+ people. Placing limitations or expectations on individuals because they belong to a certain group is damaging, hurtful and discriminatory. Challenging queerphobic jokes and derogatory comments by speaking up and naming them as such contributes toward creating an environment inclusive of gender and sexual diversity.
  • Avoid expressions that disparage or trivialise the diverse sexual experiences and desires of LGBTQ+ people.
  • Avoid stereotyping that could be considered ‘positive’ but still places unfair expectation and limits on others.
  • Practice makes perfect, so keep trying – it is perfectly normal to make mistakes and even members of the LGBTQ+ communities do not always use the correct terms. If you make a mistake, simply apologise and continue the conversation or amend your work, where this is applicable.
  • Avoid asking people what terms they ‘prefer’. Having a ‘preference’ can sound as if it is merely a choice and most people do not feel as if they have a choice in these matters. If you need to, you can simply ask what terms they ‘use’.
  • Don’t ask if you don’t have to: we all have a right to privacy. We should only have to bring as much of our private selves into workplace and education environments as we want and feel safe in doing so. Allow yourself to be led by how someone talks about themselves, their family and their relationships.
  • Often LGBTQ+ people from different cultures or faith traditions have different family or workplace traditions around disclosure or ‘coming out’. Do not assume every
    person who may be comfortable being ‘out’ in the workplace is ‘out’ in other settings – people have the right to disclose about their sexuality or gender identity in their own
    time and on their own terms.




  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Inclusive Language Guide, City of Glasgow College
  • (2018) LGBTIQ Inclusive Language Guide, Victorian Government(2019)
  • Inclusive language guidelines, Chartered Insurance Institute (2018)
  • Inclusive Language Guidelines, Faculty for Social Wellbeing, University of Malta
  • (2018) NHS guidelines,