Stonewall 50th Anniversary Topical Guide

The Associated Press compiled a list of essential words, phrases and definitions for coverage of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, a major catalyst for the LGBTQ rights movement. Most terms are from the AP Stylebook. Others are in common usage in AP coverage or may be encountered during coverage of the anniversary.


Not synonymous with sex. Gender refers to a person’s social identity, while sex refers to biological characteristics. Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people. When needed for clarity or in certain stories about scientific studies, alternatives include men and women, boys and girls, males and females.
Language around gender is evolving. Newsrooms and organizations outside AP may need to make decisions, based on necessity and audience, on terms that differ from or are not covered by the AP’s specific recommendations. For instance, the AP recommends the terms sex reassignment or gender confirmation for the medical procedures used for gender transition, while some groups use other terms, such as gender affirmation or sex realignment.
Some terms and definitions:
cisgender May be used if necessary to refer to people who are not transgender, as a means to distinguish people from one another. Use only with explanation. Do not use terms like normal to describe people who are not transgender. Cisgender refers to gender and is not synonymous with heterosexual, which refers to sexual orientation.
gender-nonconforming (adj.) Acceptable in broad references as a term for people who do not conform to gender expectations. The group is providing scholarships for gender-nonconforming students. When talking about individuals, be specific about how a person describes or expresses gender identity and behavior. Roberta identifies as both male and female. Not synonymous with transgender. Use other terms like bigender (a term for people who identify as a combination of two genders) or agender (people who identify as having no gender) only if used by subjects to describe themselves, and only with explanation.
identify, identity Terms often used when describing gender or gender expression. They can help convey personal connections to gender while capturing the nuance that a person’s identity may contradict expectations. James identifies as female. Deborah’s family accepted her gender identity.
intersex This term can be used, when relevant, to describe people born with genitalia, chromosomes or reproductive organs that don’t fit typical definitions for males or females. Gonzalez is an intersex person who identifies as female. Zimmerman is intersex. Do not use the outdated term hermaphrodite.
nonbinary People are nonbinary if their gender identity is not strictly male or female. Not synonymous with transgender. Explain in a story if the context doesn't make it clear.
sex reassignment or gender confirmation The treatments, surgeries and other medical procedures used by transgender people to match their sex to their gender. The preferred term over gender reassignment; do not use the outdated term sex change. Sex reassignment or gender confirmation surgery is not necessary for people to transition their gender. Balducci considered having sex reassignment surgery during his transition.
transgender (adj.) Describes people whose gender identity does not match the sex they were identified as having at birth. Does not require what are often known as sex reassignment or gender confirmation procedures. Identify people as transgender only if pertinent, and use the name by which they live publicly. Generally, avoid references to a transgender person being born a boy or girl, since it’s an unnecessary detail and excludes intersex babies. Bernard is a transgender man. Christina is transgender. The shorthand trans is acceptable on second reference and in headlines: Grammys add first man and first trans woman as trophy handlers.
Do not use as a noun, such as referring to someone as a transgender, or use the term transgendered. Not synonymous with terms like cross-dresser or drag queen, which do not have to do with gender identity. See cross-dresser, drag performer. Do not use the outdated term transsexual. Avoid derogatory terms such as tranny. Follow guidelines for obscenities, profanities, vulgarities as appropriate.
Use the name by which a transgender person now lives. Refer to a previous name, sometimes called a deadname, only if relevant to the story.
transition, gender transition The processes transgender people go through to match their gender identity, which may include sex reassignment or gender confirmation procedures, but not necessarily. Washington is transitioning while helping his daughter consider universities. Chamberlain’s family offered support during her transition.


Describes people who don’t experience sexual attraction, though they may feel other types of attraction, such as romantic or aesthetic. Not synonymous with and does not assume celibacy.


Describes people attracted to more than one gender. Some people prefer pansexual, which describes people attracted to others regardless of their gender. The shortened version bi is acceptable in quotations.

conversion therapy

The scientifically discredited practice of using therapy to “convert” LGBTQ people to heterosexuality or traditional gender expectations. Either refer to it as so-called conversion therapy or put quotation marks around it. Do not do both. Gay conversion therapy should take no hyphen. Always include the disclaimer that it is discredited. See so-called.


Use this term instead of the outdated transvestite for someone who wears clothing associated with a different gender, and only when the subject identifies as such. Not synonymous with drag performer or transgender.


A previous name, often of a transgender person from before a gender transition. Use previous name or similar phrasing unless in a quotation, and explain if necessary.

drag performer, drag queen, drag king

Entertainers who dress and act as a different gender. Drag queens act as women; drag kings act as men. Male impersonator or female impersonator is also acceptable. Not synonymous with cross-dresser or transgender.

"don't ask, don't tell"

The law barring lesbians, gays and bisexuals from serving in the U.S. military if they acknowledged their sexual orientation. The 1993 law was repealed by Congress in 2010, effective in 2011. They now may serve openly.

fiance (man) fiancee (woman)

Generally acceptable to describe anyone who is engaged to be married, regardless of sexual orientation. If a couple requests not to use those terms or if a gender-neutral option is needed, describe couples as engaged or planning to marry or use similar phrasing.

gay, lesbian

Used to describe people attracted to the same sex, though lesbian is the more common term for women. Preferred over homosexual. Include sexual orientation only when it is pertinent to a story, and avoid references to sexual preference or to a gay or alternative lifestyle. Gays is acceptable as a plural noun when necessary, but do not use the singular gay as a noun. Lesbian is acceptable as a noun in singular or plural form. Sexual orientation is not synonymous with gender.

heterosexual (n. and adj.)

In males, a sexual orientation that describes attraction to females, and vice versa. Straight is acceptable. Transgender people can be of any orientation, including heterosexual.

homophobia, homophobic

Acceptable in broad references or in quotations to the concept of fear or hatred of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. The governor denounced homophobia. In individual cases, be specific about observable actions; avoid descriptions or language that assumes motives. The leaflets contained an anti-gay slur. The voters opposed same-sex marriage. Related terms include biphobia (fear or hatred specifically of bisexuals) and transphobia (fear or hatred of transgender people).

homosexual (adj.), homosexuality (n.)

Refers to the sexual orientations of gays and/or lesbians. Gay and lesbian is preferred as an adjective; homosexuality is acceptable when an umbrella term is needed. Avoid homosexual as a noun. See gay, lesbian.

husband, wife

Regardless of sexual orientation, husband for a man or wife for a woman is acceptable in all references to individuals in any legally recognized marriage. Spouse or partner may be used if requested or as a gender-neutral option.

LGBT, LGBTQ (adj.)

Acceptable in all references for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning and/or queer. In quotations and the formal names of organizations and events, other forms such as LGBTQIA and other variations are also acceptable with the other letters explained. I generally stands for intersex, and A can stand for asexual (a person who doesn't experience sexual attraction), ally (some activists decry this use of the abbreviation for a person who is not LGBT but who actively supports LGBT communities) or both. Use of LGBT or LGBTQ is best as an adjective and an umbrella term. Don't use it, for instance, when the group you're referring to is limited to bisexuals. Walters joined the LGBTQ business association. Queer is an umbrella term covering people who are not heterosexual or cisgender and is acceptable for people and organizations that use the term to identify themselves. Do not use it when intended as a slur. Follow guidelines for obscenities, profanities, vulgarities as appropriate.

name changes

In general, use the name by which a person currently lives or is widely known. Include a previous name or names only if relevant to story.

out, outing

Refers to public knowledge of a person’s homosexuality, bisexuality or gender transition. Brianna McSmith came out as lesbian; Gus Rubenstein came out of the closet; Sam Robinson came out as transgender. Outing or outed is usually used when a person’s status is revealed against one’s knowledge or will. Do not use terms like avowed or admitted. Use the term openly only if needed to draw a distinction. Don’t assume that because news figures address their sexuality publicly, it qualifies as coming out; public figures may consider themselves out even if they haven’t previously addressed their orientation publicly.

Pride, pride

Capitalize Pride when referring to events or organizations honoring LGBTQ communities and on subsequent references. Twin Cities Pride. “Are you going to Pride?” she asked. It’s Pride day. Several cities are holding Pride events this weekend. Lowercase pride when referring to generic events or the general concept of LGBTQ pride. He attended a gay pride parade.



same-sex marriage

The preferred term over gay marriage, because the laws generally don’t address sexual orientation. In places where it’s legal, same-sex marriage is no different than from other marriages, so the term should be used only when germane and needed to distinguish from marriages between male-female heterosexual couples. Gertrude Boxer and Savannah Boxer dated for several years before their marriage in 2014. The Boxers petitioned for same-sex marriage before it was legalized in Hawaii in 2013. Sex is not synonymous with gender.


Acceptable in all references to the uprising by New York’s LGBTQ communities that began on June 28, 1969, in response to the police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay tavern in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. It is considered a catalyst for the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Can also be described as the Stonewall riots or the Stonewall rebellion. The museum created a Stonewall exhibit. The parade commemorated the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.

they, them, their

In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and/or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze.
Usage example: A singular they might be used when an anonymous source's gender must be shielded and other wording is overly awkward: The person feared for their own safety and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Arguments for using they/them as a singular sometimes arise with an indefinite pronoun (anyone, everyone, someone) or unspecified/unknown gender (a person, the victim, the winner). Examples of rewording:
All the class members raised their hands (instead of everyone raised their hands).
The foundation gave grants to anyone who lost a job this year (instead of anyone who lost their job).
Police said the victim would be identified after relatives are notified (instead of after their relatives are notified or after his or her relatives are notified).
Lottery officials said the winner could claim the prize Tuesday (instead of their or his or her prize).
In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person's name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person. Examples of rewording:
Hendricks said the new job is a thrill (instead of Hendricks said Hendricks is thrilled about the new job or Hendricks said they are thrilled about the new job).
Lowry's partner is Dana Adams, an antiques dealer. They bought a house last year (instead of Lowry and Lowry's partner bought a house last year or Lowry and their partner bought a house last year).
When they is used in the singular, it takes a plural verb: Taylor said they need a new car. (Again, be sure it's clear from the context that only one person is involved.)
The singular reflexive themself is acceptable only if needed in constructions involving people who identify as neither male nor female. Again, it’s usually possible and always best to rephrase. Dana Adams was not available for comment yet (instead of Dana Adams did not make themself available for comment).
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