Tales of a wandering lesbian

Do you prefer the terms– gay or lesbian? And is that an okay question to ask “da gay” person?

Thanks Nat!  Any question is an okay question to ask.

Language can be a big roadblock to even beginning discussion about these issues.  And, because definitional terms like “gay” and “lesbian” can be so very personal, this is a perfect way to start the discussion.  Let’s take a minute to define some terms:

GLBT:  This stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgender.  It can also be expressed LGBT.

Homosexual:  someone who is sexually attracted to people of the same gender.

Gay man:  homosexual man.

Lesbian:  homosexual woman.

Bi-sexual: someone who is sexually attracted to both men and women.

Transgender person: generally someone who identifies as a different gender than the gender assigned to them at birth.

It’s important to know that, while there are some terms that have specific definitions, the language around GLBT issues is constantly changing and evolving.  Especially the language around transgender and gender-identity issues.

For me, “gay” is a general term.  Sure, it can be used in a more male centered manner, but I use it often to describe all homosexual people.  Much the way it’s used in the term “gay marriage.”  We know gay marriage also includes lesbians, and it’s an easy shorthand.

I will say, however, that I was schooled one evening by a room of older activists who had cut their teeth in the women’s rights movement, when I referred to them as “gay.”  They didn’t like it.  It wasn’t comfortable for them, and wasn’t the term they chose to use to define themselves.    Which was funny, because I didn’t like the word “lesbian” for a long time.  It made me feel uncomfortable.  Even though it was a proper term for what I was, I didn’t use it to describe myself.  And that’s really what it’s about.  Self-definition.

For now, I prefer the word, “queer” to define myself and my community.  Which makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  For me, it’s the most inclusive word we can use to describe a very diverse community.  And it reclaims a word that has been used for a long time as a marginalizer.

So while there are some words that mean really specific things, the best rule is to ask.  If you want to know how someone defines themselves, just ask.  It’s a great place to start a conversation.

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