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Gender and Sexuality


LGBTQ is an acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer” and is used to broadly reference nonheterosexual and transgender people. LGBTQIA adds “intersex” and “asexual” to the acronym for greater inclusivity. Using LGBTQ+ is maximally inclusive without lengthening the acronym, though, as with any identifier, being as specific as possible and following an individual’s preference whenever feasible ensures coverage reflects how someone self-identifies.

LGBTQ+ “panic” defense

The LGBTQ+ “panic” defense is a legal tactic used to justify violence against LGBTQ+ people, often trans women of color. It is illegal in several states. “LGBTQ+ panic” is used to be inclusive of all nonheterosexual and noncisgender people, whose members experience hate crimes and violence at significantly higher rates. Being as specific as possible is helpful for clarity; for instance, using the phrase “trans panic defense” when covering an instance of transphobic violence.

marriage equality

Marriage equality refers to the legalization of marriage between individuals of any genders. If it’s necessary to specify that a marriage is between two people of the same gender, using the term same-sex marriage rather than “gay marriage” is more precise (unless the individuals being discussed use the term).


Masculinity refers to the set of attributes and behaviors traditionally associated with men and boys. While many qualities of masculinity have been constructed within a patriarchal power structure, masculinity itself is not inherently negative or positive and has no fixed meaning. Certain negative manifestations of masculinity can be described as toxic masculinity, which can result in valorizing physical and mental “toughness,” suppressing emotion, violence as a precursor to power, internalizing misogyny, or being homophobic. Specifying the actions or behaviors being described and the context in which they occurred can clarify the meaning and impact of toxic masculinity. 

Me Too / #MeToo

Me Too/#MeToo is used to describe the social movement against sexual violence. The term is generally used with the hashtag when referring to relevant social media activities and without it when referring to the larger movement or specific allegations. While it can be commonplace in everyday conversation for people to use the term as a verb or in passive voice (e.g. “Person X was MeToo’ed,” “Person Y Shelly MeToo’ed Mr./Mrs. Person X”), this kind of phrasing leaves out context and specifics. The passive construction can also be read as positioning the abuser as the victim.

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.


Misogyny is a contempt for or ingrained prejudice against women and girls. Generally the adjective form, “misogynistic,” is more accurate to describe someone’s actions (e.g., “made misogynistic comments” instead of “is a misogynist”). It may be helpful to specify and define the particular type of misogyny being discussed (for instance, misogynoir is directed specifically toward Black women and girls, and transmisogyny is directed specifically at trans women and girls).


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.


Passing is a term that identifies someone as able to “pass,” or be perceived as a member of a dominant group. In the context of gender and sexuality, this could mean, for one example, the ability of nonbinary and trans people with more conventional gender presentations to pass for cisgender. The ability to pass is often considered a privilege. It offers safety and access to opportunities that people who can’t pass don’t have. However, a person’s ability to pass does not erase their identity, nor should the ability to pass be used to invalidate their gender or sexual orientation.


Pronouns are words that take the place of a noun and tend to correlate to gender identity in the third person: he, she, they, ze … Some individuals also use a combination of pronouns (e.g., he/they, she/they, she/xir). Providing brief explanation for some less common pronouns can be helpful for clarity. If someone’s pronouns are unknown, they/them/theirs can be used as a gender-neutral alternative instead of the binary he/she. Saying someone “uses she/they pronouns” (vs. “prefers she/they pronouns”) affirms that a person’s pronouns and gender identity are not a choice but a deeply felt part of their identity.

Last updated 08/05/22

Gender and sexuality are deeply felt and highly individual parts of everyone’s identity. Understanding of gender and sexuality has evolved over time, and with that evolution comes changing terminology. 

This section of the Language, Please style guidance aims to explore and explain this evolution and the myriad ways people can describe their experiences and identifications in these spaces.

This resource was informed by questions and discussions from our own newsrooms. It is a living document that will update and expand over time. It is not meant to be comprehensive or the definitive arbiter of language “rules” but instead aims to give context and inform thoughtful decision-making. Have a suggestion for an update, change, or addition? Please get in touch.

How to use: Browse the whole section or search for the term you need guidance on; click into any term for in-depth context, additional resources, and related terms. 

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