Style Guidance home
Race and Ethnicity, Disabilities, Neurodiversity, and Chronic Illness, Gender and Sexuality

medical gaslighting

“Medical gaslighting” describes situations in which a practitioner minimizes or dismisses a patient’s experience of their own symptoms or disorder. Medical gaslighting is frequently viewed as a symptom of implicit bias, a moment when a physician’s entrenched, unexamined prejudices undermine their ability to appropriately diagnose and provide care. Research has shown that women and people of color are far more likely to be misdiagnosed or have their symptoms dismissed, sometimes with fatal effects. Careful coverage may take into account an “official” diagnosis but will also consider the details of someone’s lived experience and systemic factors and entrenched biases that may affect diagnosis and quality of treatment.

Gender and Sexuality

childless / child-free

Childless and child-free refer to the experience of people who have no children. Social implications can differ between the terms when discussing an adult’s choice of whether to become a parent. Child-free often refers to people who consciously decide not to become a parent, while childless may refer to either those who don’t yet have children but want to at some point in the future or those who want to have children now but cannot. More neutral phrasing, if necessary and relevant to include in coverage, is something like “has no children,” though as with any identifier, taking into account a person’s preference when possible ensures coverage aligns with their lived experience.

Gender and Sexuality

asexual

Asexuality is a sexual orientation characterized by a lack of sexual attraction. It’s not a choice, nor is it sexual dysfunction. Because asexual individuals (“aces”) vary in their inclination toward sexual behavior, asexuality exists on a spectrum. Using the term as an adjective (“asexual person” vs. “an asexual”) recognizes that a person’s sexuality is just one aspect of their identity. “Ace,” however, can be used as a noun or adjective, though some explanation may be helpful if using the shortened term. As with any identifier, taking into account an individual’s preference wherever possible ensures coverage aligns with their lived experience.

Gender and Sexuality

aromantic

Aromanticism is a lack of inclination or an aversion to most or all romantic experiences, such as getting crushes and falling in love. Sexual and romantic desire are not always linked; an individual may be, say, aromantic and heterosexual. Aromanticism can be thought of as a romantic orientation, in contrast to a sexual orientation. Using the term as an adjective (e.g., “an aromantic person”) rather than a noun may be more humanizing, and including some explanation is helpful for clarity. As with any identifier, taking into account an individual’s preference wherever possible ensures coverage aligns with their lived experience.

Gender and Sexuality

bisexual

Bisexuality is a term used to describe a sexuality in which a person is attracted to more than one gender physically, romantically, and/or emotionally. Someone who is bisexual may be attracted to all genders equally, may have a preference for one or more genders over others, or can have different forms and degrees of attraction to people of various genders. Some people prefer to use terms like “pansexual,” “polysexual,” “omnisexual,” or “queer,” which can all refer to people who are attracted to more than one gender. Some instead use the term bi+ to encompass all those ideas. Not everyone defines or uses these terms in the same way, even to self-identify. For accuracy, it’s important to take into account an individual’s preference whenever possible; some explanation of the term(s) being used in specific contexts is helpful for clarity. If relevant to coverage to describe a romantic and/or sexual relationship, it’s important for accuracy to take into account how each member of that relationship identifies (e.g., “He is bisexual and his primary partner is a straight woman”).

Race and Ethnicity, Class and Social Standing, Gender and Sexuality

“woke”

The term “woke” originated as a slang term among Black American communities to describe the idea of waking up to systemic injustices and prejudices, and staying alert to how they manifest in everyday life. Use of the term dates back to as early as the 1930s, but the term by many accounts became popularized via Erykah Badu’s 2008 song “Master Teacher” and then spread into wider awareness via the #staywoke Twitter hashtag in the mid-2010s following the police killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. If using the term “woke,” it’s important to keep in mind both its origins in African American vernacular and its current popular use largely on the political right as a pejorative catch-all term pushing back against movements for racial justice and other civil rights efforts, as well as “cancel culture.

Gender and Sexuality, Race and Ethnicity

mpox

Mpox (“em-pox”) is a disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, which is related to smallpox. It has also been called monkeypox. It is primarily transmitted from human to human through prolonged close physical contact, including sexual contact, though it is not currently categorized as a sexually transmitted infection. To refer to the populations seeing the largest numbers of mpox cases as of August 2022, some organizations suggest phrasing such as “men who have sex with men and those in their sexual networks,” which emphasizes behavior rather than identity. However, being as specific as possible about the population(s) being discussed may be helpful for clarity. Some scientists have criticized the name “monkeypox,” saying it is stigmatizing and has racist connotations; alternatives in use in some places beyond mpox include MPX, hMPX, and MPV. As with reporting on any disease or diagnosis, it’s important to keep people’s right to privacy in mind, and to consider whether disclosing someone’s diagnosis or vaccination status is truly necessary and relevant to coverage.

Gender and Sexuality

sex assigned at birth (SAAB)

Sex assigned at birth (SAAB) is a term that refers to the sex label (e.g., male or female) an infant is assigned by doctors and/or parents at birth, based on biological and genetic factors like chromosomes and sexual anatomy. SAAB is not inherently connected to gender or gender identity, and the terms are not interchangeable. SAAB is also clearer than “biological sex,” which is scientifically imprecise and can be invalidating to trans and nonbinary people.

Gender and Sexuality

fluid / fluidity

“Fluid” is a term used generally to describe one’s sexual, romantic, and/or gender identity, with the understanding that it exists on a spectrum, isn’t permanent, and may shift over time. The term can be used to describe sexual or romantic attraction to multiple genders, as well as attractions that shift over time. Since the term doesn’t always point to a specific identity, specifying which orientation(s) or identity (or identities) are being discussed can be helpful for clarity.

Gender and Sexuality

heteronormativity

Heteronormativity is the belief that heterosexuality is the default or “normal” sexual orientation, which in turn implies that any other sexual orientation is abnormal or unnatural. It also assumes that binary genders are the norm and that anything else is an aberration. To avoid perpetuating heteronormativity, it’s helpful to apply identifiers equally across all sources; for instance, if identifying someone as queer (when relevant), also identify someone as straight (when relevant).