Wikipedia:WikiProject Sexology and sexuality/Terminology

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The terminology section of the Sexology and Sexuality WikiProject should determine guidelines suggesting the least offensive most neutral (NPOV) terminology to use in naming and writing articles about sexuality including sexology. It should present pros and cons for various uses of various terms, this should be condensed from the talk page. These should be followed by different proposals by various users such as "Wikipedia should never use the word gay" or "Wikipedia should always use the word gay".

Articles should exist (or redirect and discussed on the redirected page) for all terms which are used (as there is an article for bitch, even though it is offensive). However, wikipedia may also discuss what those terms describe on a more neutral, general, accurate, and descriptive level with multi-word terms. Terms which are ordinarily non-offensive neutral and accurate may be used in ways which make them offensive, POV, and inaccurate. Thus guidelines may have to be established for the use of each term.

Principles to follow[edit]

  • Most neutral
  • Most accurate
  • Least offensive
    • Respects self-identification
  • Most specific possible or appropriately general
  • Least redundant, however, Wikipedia is not paper
  • Most complete

Any and all of these terms are politically charged. Neutrality would be determined by:

  • Term does not indicate cause or permanence of sexuality
  • Term does not indicate pro or con (sodomite is out then)
  • Term is used by most speakers possible, with preference given to those described

However, wikipedia must discuss even non-neutral terms, but should also do so according to the above principles.

See: Wikipedia:Naming conventions#Identity and Wikipedia:Style guide#Identity.

Term definitions[edit]

  • sexual orientation: 1. The dominant sexual behavior pattern of an individual: specifically, a preference for sexual activities with persons of the same or opposite sex, or both, or some paraphilia. 2. Refers to the gender, male or female, of the erotic-love-affectional partners, a person prefers. Usually referred to as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or ambisexual. Sometimes the expression "sexual preference" is used. This implies that there is choice involved. See AMBIPHILIC, ANDROPHILIC, GYNECOPHILIC.
  • sexual preference: 1. Choice of types of mates. 2. Choice of methods of sexual expression. Compare SEXUAL ORIENTATION.
  • heterosexism: an argument that male-female sexuality is the only correct, natural, proper, or moral mode of sexual activity. Also known as heterosexualism.
  • Heterosexism. This term was coined by analogy with sexism. The dictionary defines it as "discrimination or prejudice against gay or homosexual people by heterosexual people." As with racism and sexism, this book takes the view that it is structural or institutional forces that underpin social inequalities, rather than individual prejudiced attitudes. Thus, heterosexism would refer to the heterosexual ideology that is encoded into and characteristic of the major social, cultural, and economic institutions of our society. See Racism and Sexism.
    • Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader by Gail Dines, ISBN 076192261X.
  • heterosexist language usage: According to the standards set by the American Psychological Association, there should be an avoidance of terms that indicate that homosexuality is abnormal.
  • heterosociality: Relationships on a social level between members of the opposite sex.
  • heterosexism, heteronormativity Heterosexism is discrimination against lesbians and gays...In 1975 the Dutch lesbian feminist Purple Semptember staff named heteronormativity an instrument of perpetuating power. Both lesbian feminists and queer theorists address the compulsory nature of heterosexuality (see lesbian feminism; queer theory). However, 1990s queer theorists focused on transgression and deviance while lesbian feminists focused on structural analysis. The difference: lesbian feminists regard a heterosexual man buying a prostitute as normative heterosexuality, queer theorists regard it as transgressive/progressive. See also: heteropatriarchy; homophobia"
  • Heterocentrism. Heteronormativity. These terms were coined recently to refer to the placing of heterosexual experience at the center of one's attention, or the routine assumption that heterosexuality is "normal" and that any other sexuality is "deviant."
    • From Gender, Race, and Class in Media: A Text-Reader by Gail Dines, ISBN 076192261X

Term hierarchies[edit]

According to inclusiveness[edit]

  • Same-gender sexuality
    • Gayness/lesbianism/bisexuality
    • Homosexuality
      • Gayness/lesbianism
  • Men who have sex with men
    • Gay and bisexual men
    • Homosexual men
      • Gay men
  • Sexual
  • Homosexual
  • Heterosexual
  • Bisexual
    • Homosexual
    • Heterosexual

Term Pros and Cons[edit]

  • Sex
    • Pro
      • When used as a descriptor for biological (i.e. genetic) sex is precise
    • Con
      • Often inaccurately used to describe gender when that word is more accurate and precise in contex
      • Often can be read to describe behavior (coitis) when it is describing a persons state (i.e. gender)
  • Gender
    • Pro
      • Allows distinction between biological (i.e. genetic) sex and gender, which is critical when discussing trans, pressumptive gender roles and intersexed issues
    • Con
      • whether 'gender' or 'sex' is the more appropriate term in a given context may give rise to unnecessary disputes.


  • Straightness
    • Pro
      • People identify as straight.
    • Con
      • Implies non-straight people are crooked, bent or irregular.
      • Can be conflated with very contentious and loaded terms such as "morally straight"
      • At times identify as "straight" though their behavior is not exclusively heterosexual
  • Heterosexual(s)/Heterosexuality
    • Pro
      • Seemingly scientific
      • Is typically a clearly defined group
      • Describes a specific sexual identity (group) when used within the schema of heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual
    • Con
      • At times people identify as heterosexual though their behavior is not exclusively heterosexual
  • Different-sex sexuality
    • Pro
      • Not used by pro or anti gay proponents
    • Con
      • "Different" is sometimes used as a pejorative
      • "Sex" when used in most context is actually describing "gender"
      • Clumsy sounding syntax
      • Multi-word
      • Sex is less neutral more specific than gender
  • Different-gender sexuality
    • Pro
      • Not used by pro or anti gay proponents
      • Gender is more neutral and less specific than sex
    • Con
      • "Different" is sometimes used as a pejorative
      • Clumsy sounding syntax
      • Multi-word
  • Opposite-sex sexuality
    • Pro
      • Not used by pro or anti gay proponents
    • Con
      • "Sex" when used in most context is actually describing "gender"
      • Clumsy sounding syntax
      • Multi-word
      • Sex is less neutral more specific than gender
  • Opposite-gender sexuality
    • Pro
      • Not used by pro or anti gay proponents
      • Gender is more neutral and less specific than sex
      • More accurate as usually the context is referring to "gender", not "sex" and maps properly to gender (trans, intersexed) issues and topics
      • Describes discreet behavior regardless of sexual identity
    • Con
      • Multi-word


  • Gay/Gayness
    • Pro
      • People self identify as gay.
    • Con
      • Some people interpret the use of gay to be pro-gay
      • Often what is being described in non-heterosexuality and therefore excludes bisexuals
      • Usually only defines male homosexuality (i.e. gender-specific)
      • Use by anti-gay proponents
  • Homosexual(s)Homosexuality
    • Pro
      • Seemingly scientific
      • Common
      • Is typically a clearly defined group (though can be misused when non-heterosexual would be more accurate and thus often excludes bisexuals)
      • Describes a specific sexual identity (group) when used within the schema of heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual
      • Is non-gender specific
    • Con
      • People don't identify as homosexual.
      • Arose in negative clinical context.
      • Use by anti-gay proponents
      • Is often misused when non-heterosexual would be more accurate and thus not exclude bisexuals though it should be noted that with careful writing can be used precisely and accurately
  • Same-sex sexuality
    • Pro
      • Not used by pro or anti gay proponents
    • Con
      • "Sex" when used in most context is actually describing "gender"
      • Clumsy sounding syntax
      • Sex is less neutral more specific than gender
      • Multi-word
      • Shades of "same-sex attraction," a term used by those who refer to homosexuality as a disease
  • Same-gender sexuality
    • Pro
      • Not used by pro or anti gay proponents
      • More accurate as usually the context is referring to "gender", not "sex" and maps properly to gender (trans, intersexed) issues and topics
      • Describes discreet behavior regardless of sexual identity
    • Con
      • Multi-word
  • Queerness
    • Pro
      • Some people identify as queer.
      • Often used inclusively and succinctly for LGBT
    • Con
      • Many people don't identify as queer.
      • Those people feel excluded by its supposedly inclusive use
      • Historically used as a very charged pejorative, residual anguish from said use in older people
  • Non-heterosexuality (non-heterosexuals)
    • Pro
      • Non-biased term
      • Is inclusive and succinct for Lesbians, Gay (male), Bisexuals and pansexuality (often termed bisexuality) when used as such
    • Con
      • People don't usually self-identify as non-heterosexual.


  • Bisexual(s)/Bisexuality
    • Pro
      • Seemingly scientific
      • Common
      • People self-identify as such
      • Describes a specific sexual identity (group) when used within the schema of heterosexual, bisexual and homosexual
    • Con
      • Definition of what constitutes bisexuality is at times ambiguous
      • Arose in negative (some argue outmoded) clinical context


  • Homophobia
    • Pro
      • A term used by sociologists and the mental health community
      • Accurate when used only to describe bias, fear or antipathy towards same-gender sexuality
    • Con
      • Many people incorrectly assume it is an acute phobia or "fear" (ala arachnaphobia)
  • Biphobia
    • Pro
      • A term used by sociologists and the mental health community
      • Accurate when used only to describe bias, fear or antipathy towards bisexuals (from either the heterosexual or homosexual cultures)
    • Con
      • Many people incorrectly assume it is an acute phobia or "fear" (ala arachnaphobia)
  • Anti-gay bias
    • Pro
      • Does not imply fear/hatred
    • Con
      • Excludes bisexuals and anyone non-gender conforming, who are very often targets of such bias as well
  • bias against non-heterosexuals
    • Pro
      • Inclusive of most people (homosexual, bisexual and often people not conforming to gender roles, i.e. trans people) who are targeted by such bias
      • Non-biased term
    • Con
      • Multi-word


  • Pro-gay activist(s)
    • Pro
    • Con
      • Pro-gay implies no concern for straight people
      • Activist is hyperbole or carries negative connotations
      • Implies homosexuality alone when what is being described in non-heterosexuality and therefore excludes bisexuals
      • Used as pejorative, and in propaganda by people opposed to equal rights for non-heterosexuals
  • Civil rights proponent(s)
    • Pro
      • Most accurate descriptor for people seeking equal rights and status under the law
    • Con
  • Anti-gay activist(s)
    • Pro
      • Common term
    • Con
      • Activist is hyperbole or carries negative connotations
      • Implies homosexuality alone when what is being described in non-heterosexuality and therefore excludes bisexuals who are also usually tragets of bias and discrimination
  • Profamily proponent(s) (??)
    • Pro
      • Commonly used term by said groups
    • Con
      • Highly biased POV
      • Inaccurate as their are many same-gender and mixed-gender families who are being attacked by those using such a banner to descrobe their efforts
      • Implies that people seeking equal rights and status under the law are "anti-family", same sort of intentional bias and framing of language as the "pro-life" movement uses to frame debate

Proposals[edit]

Wikipedia article names and content should not use the terms gay or lesbian[edit]

  • As these terms are pro-gay.
    • Oppose. These terms are in common use among both supporters and opponents, and it's good to have a number of synonyms to rotate among, if you use them properly. -- Beland 03:35, 20 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Wikipedia article names and content should not use the term homosexual and its descendants[edit]

  • As the term arose in clinical context and with a negative connotation
  • As people do not identify as homosexual
  • As the term is badly coined from latin and greek
  • This includes heterosexual and bisexual, but not the articles homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality
  • Aye.Hyacinth 11:16, 13 Apr 2004 (UTC)
  • Support. -Sean Curtin 19:55, 22 Jun 2004 (UTC)
  • Oppose Sam [Spade] 15:42, 22 Jun 2004 (UTC)
    • Oppose. These terms are in common use among both supporters and opponents, and it's good to have a number of synonyms to rotate among, if you use them properly. -- Beland 03:35, 20 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Wikipedia articles dealing with Sexology and Sexuality should be pluralistic[edit]

  • As people self-identify according to various terms, and
  • As it is respectful and accurate to use these terms, and
  • As wikipedia is neutral and may not endorse any one term over others
  • Therefore, wikipedia should use many different terms for both article titles and in article content. Terms should be applied appropriately and this project would contains guidelines for the use of terms, including definitions, examples of use, and hierarchies as to most/least inclusive, offensive, used, used to self-identify.
  • Aye. Hyacinth
  • Well, I support using a variety of terms correctly, so, yay. -- Beland 03:35, 20 Feb 2005 (UTC)