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USING LANGUAGE EFFECTIVELY

As trainers in the Equal Opportunity field we would like to raise the debate about the use of sexual orientation, sexuality or sexual preference for the following reasons.

1. The words lesbians, gay men and bisexual people have great power and have been deliberately hidden and stigmatised, it is therefore vital that they appear in official documents, posters and policies in an organisation that is attempting to combat unfair discrimination. When the specific terms are used they signal an important change in attitude which is unequivocal.

2. To use the above euphemisms colludes with the 'invisibilising' of lesbians, gay men and bisexual people.

3. When those euphemisms are used the implication is that the policy is not fully supporting lesbians, gay men and bisexual people, as it appears the organisation is not comfortable with the words.

4. Such terms as sexual identity, sexual orientation and sexuality, can cover a variety of sexual practises and behaviour such as: pederasty, bestiality, and other abusive sexual practises that presumably the organisation does not wish the policy to cover.

5. We recommend an organisation uses the specific names of the people they mean and say so plainly, so that people know whether they are included or not. So for instance if they want to include transsexuals and transgendered people they also say that as well, if not, then don't mention them. Using vague generalist terms indicates a lack of clarity in the policy, and lays it open to misinterpretation.

6. As lesbians, gay men bisexual and transgendered people we have been forced to learn how to read between the lines, see ourselves where we are not depicted, make our own mirrors in a world where we are not reflected and demand a hearing where we are not mentioned or heard.

It seems to us that if we are attempting to redress this reality, we can hardly do so if the language we use, fails to clearly and specifically identify the very people we wish to include.