Recently I saw this article on the Diversity Inc website titled “5 Things Never to Say to Blacks” (link) and it inspired me to write my “Five Things Never to Say to Gay People.” In fact, I already created a power point chart with that title that I often use when I present LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) diversity sessions. (Link to a 2 minute video of me presenting this topic)
Here are my five:
1. Referring to my sexual orientation as my sexual preference or as my lifestyle. Being gay is who I am, not a preference I chose. It is at the core of my being. Always use the correct term “sexual orientation.”
2. Calling my spouse or “significant other” my pal or my room-mate, and therefore minimalizing or insulting my 21-year committed relationship. In fact now in several states and DC, same gender partners can legally marry, so even husband or wife may be the preferred terms. Best action is to always ask your gay friend how they like their life partner referred as.
3. Using certain charged words like queer, dyke or faggot unless you have built a level or trust or closeness with me.
4. Giving me that platitude that you “love me, you love the sinner but hate the sin” and you assume thatall LGBT people are faithless heathens. First, I do not agree that being gay is a sin – it is the way God made me. And second, there are many LGBT people of deep faith and many churches that are totally affirming of LGBT people.
5. Attributing broad societal issues such as AIDS or child molestation to the gay community. AIDS is a human disease, not a gay disease. More heterosexual people are now infected with the HIV virus than gay people. And the occurrence of child molestation among heterosexual and the gay population is proportionate to the population.
One other point to address. Being a gay man does not mean that I secretly wanted to be a woman, and a lesbiandoes not secretly want to be a man. Sexual orientation refers to the gender of the person I am attracted to; heterosexuals are attracted to people of the opposite gender, gays and lesbians are attracted to people of their own gender, and bisexuals are attracted to people of both genders. When a person feels they are not living within their current biological gender (such as Chas Bono), that falls under the transgender, or gender identity, umbrella. Click here to connect to a longer article on transgenderism which I authored.
Bottom line summary – the best bet in interacting with LGBT people is to all be respectful and not afraid to ask questions.