12 LGBTQ Terms Straight People Need to Stop Using

Whenever our identities become “on trend,” y’all hop on the bandwagon.

Two women holding hands
Two women holding hands Photo by Shutterstock

Straight, cisgender people just can’t stand when something isn’t for them. They come to our bars for their bachelorette parties, they make-out at our Pride celebrations and they steal our terms and identities as if they were their own. Like having access to full rights for their gender expression and sexuality isn’t enough—they work their way into the LGBTQ world as allies and think they can co-opt our terms and identities. I think not. In case this wasn’t already crystal clear, this is a call out for straight people.

I’m not writing this to be funny or cute, I’m truly frustrated that I keep seeing this happen. Whenever our identities become “on trend,” y’all hop on the bandwagon. LGBTQ people have been fighting for our rights to have these very real identities recognized for decades. Many of whom have been attacked, verbally and physically, for outwardly owning these terms and identities in public. And most likely they were attacked by straight people. So no, you don’t get to use the word “dyke” because you heard your lesbian co-worker use it and now you think it’s OK. That’s not how this works, you don’t get to try on someone else’s identity for a day.

1. “Andro/androgynous”


Androgynous people are people who play with their gender expression through fashion. People who push the boundaries beyond what is menswear or womenswear. The ambiguity of androgyny is a beautiful thing that queer people, especially queer women, have been doing forever. They play with gender roles and social expectations in a way that challenges the conventions of what is beautiful or trendy. This world of in-between is something queer people have long perfected.

I’m not saying straight people can’t push the boundaries with fashion—but that doesn’t make your style “androgynous.” Queer women who identify as androgynous have been setting this standard of style for decades, with slicked-back hair, dapper suits and the rocking of a dark red lip. This mixture of femme and masc style is something that has inspired fashion designers (both gay and straight) and is at the core of how so many people identify.


2. “Boi”


This one maybe isn’t as common as the rest of the list but is still relevant to the conversation. I’ve seen straight, cis people throw this around as a cute way to spell boy. Within the LGBTQ community, boi is an identity for gay men, queer women, genderqueer people, studs, and the list goes on. It’s used as a subversive way of identifying with boyish masculinity while still standing outside of gender norms. It’s not yours to use in a cute way to describe you boyfriend.

3. “Coming out”


The process of coming out is filled with anticipation, anxiety, and fear for so many LGBTQ people. There is a long history of being shunned from our families, losing our jobs, our friends or even our housing over coming out. So when you tell us that you’re struggling to “come out” as a Poetry major to your parents; or your ex-boyfriend “outed” himself as an asshole when he cheated on you—what you’re really doing is erasing the very real experience of coming out as LGBTQ. You couldn’t possibly understand the nuance behind coming out because you never had to question your sexual or gender identity as outside of the cultural norms. So please, don’t use this term with such flippancy about things that are not actually coming out.

4. “Dyke”


Oh, the art of reclaiming words that have been used to hurt us. Queers are the masters of this art. The term dyke was originally used as a slang term against butch lesbian women to harass or bully them. “The word was considered crude and pejorative,” according to Wikipedia. “This may be related to the late-19th-century slang use of “dike” (“ditch”) for the vulva. “Bull” (“male cattle”) being used in the sense of “masculine” and “aggressive” (e.g., in bullish), a “bulldyke” would have implied (with similar levels of offensiveness) a “masculine c***”.”

Now the term and identity have been reclaimed by lesbians and queer folks alike. Taking back a word that was created to hurt us is such an amazing act of empowerment. It shows that we are resilient. However, when straight women hear us using the term and then think it’s OK for them to jostle around the word dyke jokingly in conversation, that just doesn’t sit right. As a straight person, you don’t get to reclaim words that were created by straight people to harm LGBTQ community. TL;DR: it’s still offensive when straight people use the word “dyke.”

5. “Fag/faggot/faggy”


This word is very controversial, even within the LGBTQ community. The term “faggot” was used as a derogatory word against gay men for decades and has a painful history for many of our LGBTQ elders. It’s still largely used by bigots who want to make a jab at someone who doesn’t conform to heteronormative standards. I remember the first time someone called me a faggot, I was walking down the street holding hands with my girlfriend at the time and this man yelled “FAGGOTS” as loud as he could. We were so embarrassed and hurt, living in a small town at the time it drew all eyes on us in a horrible way.

Just like dyke, some members of the LGBTQ community have taken to reclaiming the word as our own. When we reclaim words, we make a powerful statement about redefining what the word means to us in a way that can’t hurt our community. Just because we use the word in a positive light, doesn’t mean that straight people now get to use these terms to describe LGBTQ people and think it’s not loaded with homophobia.

6. “Femme”


Lately, you can walk into any fast fashion store (Urban Outfitters, H&M, Forever21, Top Shop, etc.) and see a graphic tee-shirt that says something along the lines of “Femme Forever,” and let me be clear: this is co-opting a queer gender identity. The femme identity has long been a part of the lesbian community with the butch/femme dichotomy. It’s also a queer gender identity, meaning queers who don’t identify as women can be femme. There is a very real and complex history of the work femmes have put into the LGBTQ community.

As a self-identified femme, when I see straight, cisgender women use the word femme to identify themselves or their group of friends—it really gets me going. This is an example of y’all seeing a trend and just hopping on without understanding any context. You take our style, our culture and our history when you co-opt our identities to try on for a moment. You have no understanding of the nuance behind identifying as femme in the queer community. Femme is a gender identity and is not something to wear on your tee-shirt or to talk about with ease as you’re out for brunch.

7. “Genderfluid” or using “they/them” pronouns


I know it was weeks ago but I’m still not over Gigi and Zayn saying that they’re “genderfluid” because they sometimes borrow each other’s clothes. And that’s not even the worst of it! I recently met someone who identifies and straight and cisgender who only uses they/them pronouns because that’s their form of “allyship.” I’m sorry, but no. People who are genderfluid have a hard enough time as it is: what with living in a binary world from bathrooms to clothes shopping to government IDs—their gender is constantly invalidated. You don’t get to use a very real gender identity as a chance to show your level of “wokeness.” Just no.

8. “Girl crush”


#WomanCrushWednesday wasn’t created by or for queer women, sadly. If it was, we would all be able to find each other so easily! When you use the term “girl crush” about a woman you think is beautiful or amazing, you’re invalidating the fact that some women love (and fuck) other women. It’s like you have to put a disclaimer out there that you don’t *actually* have a crush on her, making this term is loaded with homophobia.

Sexuality is fluid and not as strict as you straight people might think. It’s okay to have a crush or random attraction to someone who isn’t the opposite gender. But let’s be honest because when you use the term girl crush, what you really mean is that you admire this woman, you respect her beauty or knowledge, maybe you wish you were like her or you see traits in her you aspire to be. That’s okay and you should just say that! Because you don’t actually mean you have a romantic or sexual attraction to her, and when you use this language it hurts us queer ladies.

9. “Girlfriend”


We’ve written about this before, and we’ll likely write about it again. You are confusing poor lesbians every time you use the word “girlfriend” but don’t actually mean girlfriend. Are you getting dinner with your girlfriend and we can now bond over being gay in a workplace that’s super heteronormative or are you just going to dinner with your friend who is a girl?! Please help us out here and stop using girlfriend if you’re straight. Just call them your friends! Every lesbian who helplessly falls for straight women will thank you.

10. “Lesbian lover”


I remember the first time I heard my lesbian mentor use this term, and I was completely enamored with the historical and political context. Before the LGBTQ movement was even a thing—lesbians were using the term lover for their partners, girlfriends, and fuck-buddies. Leave it up to lesbians to romanticize literally everything in the most beautiful and empowering way. My mentor would describe her exes as her ex-lovers who she was still very much in touch with as friends and community members.

When straight, cis women say their close friends are their “lesbian lovers” you are yet again detracting from our history. I remember hearing this thrown around a lot in my college days—when college girls would have sleepovers in the same bed, they’d joke that they were each other’s lesbian lover. However, our community has used this term because we couldn’t use girlfriend or wife to describe our sexual partners. We got creative and found the term lover to fit perfectly for the types of relationships we have. It’s not the butt of your joke with your besties.

11. “Partner”


I’m really not sure why straight couples refer to each other as “partners”—you have boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, wife/husband, and fiancé. And you’ve had those terms forever. Are you trying to be gender ambiguous when you use “partner?” Are you using “partner” because you think it’s trendy? I just don’t understand. I hear straight married or engaged couples use “partner,” and I’m just like—why though? Queer people have had to use partner to refer to significant others because we couldn’t legally get married until 2014 in America. We didn’t have a way to refer to significant others who we lived with or were committed to since we couldn’t get married, and thus partner. So please, just stop.

12. “Queer(ing)”


You don’t get to use queer as an identity or a verb. You aren’t “queering” your relationship by going to a play party or exploring polyamory. You don’t get to say “That’s so queer” about… anything.

Yet again, queer is a very real identity and it’s also a reclaimed word that has been used against LGBTQ people.

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