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Eight Words to Avoid in LGBT PR

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Fleishman-Hillard SVP Ben Finzel has a problem with vocab, gay vocab.

As head of the FH Out Front gay and lesbian practice, Finzel sees that words like “choice,” “preference,” and “tolerance,” are used as sly digs to undermine the LGBT community. And, communicators and media use them too in flatfooted attempts to be sensitive.

Fleishman is as far as Finzel knows, and I know, the only large firm with a global LGBT practice. Their client have included included Ernst & Young, UPS and Motorola.

Finzel breaks the grates down to a manageable list of eight on the Out Front blog, all with a consistent theme–gay people are people. Equal, normal, born that way.

So next time you communicate to a particular community, make an effort to speak the speak correctly, and have someone within said community check your work.

The Eight Words and Phrases to Avoid in LGBT Communications (with paraphrasing by PRNewser in the interest of brevity) are after the jump:


Lifestyle or “the gay lifestyle” — Terminology commonly used by anti-gay groups, and even mistakenly in materials designed to attract LGBT consumers–the most grating according to Finzel, implying that choice over characteristic.

Sexual preference, or preference — Implying that people choose to be LGBT which undermines equality efforts, yet marketers and media often make the mistake of using it in outreach and coverage

Choice — A word that often follows “lifestyle” or “preference,” as if being LGBT was a choice in the first place.

Homosexual — Finzel explains that anti-gay organizations slyly use “homosexual” to denigrate the LGBT community as somehow odd, strange or uncomfortable.

Alternative — The most overused marketing term. Though less offensive than other than other anti-gay code words such as “preference,” alternative should be applied to things like music, not people.

Tolerance — An antiquated, anachronistic term. What merely “tolerate” the equally acceptable?

Special rights — As in by giving an LGBT person rights you’re somehow awarding an undeserved prize, rather than equal footing.

Friend — A term used to half-acknowledge a significant, same-sex relationship.

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