Are your LGBT communications unknowingly insulting and derogatory? Find out! Skip to the content

Are you insulting potential LGBT customers?

Welcome to part 5 of 7 of the “The 7 Deadly Sins of Ineffective LGBT Communications.” We are moving right along on all of the ways that you can improve your communication skills within the LGBT community. This whole series has been based on what simple idea – that I believe 98% of miscommunication blunders occur for one of 7 reasons. The 7 deadly sins as I like to call them. This is part 5, so we’ve already covered 1. Assumptions 2. Stereotypes, 3. Inappropriate Questions and 4. Mannerisms. Click the links to catch up on the last 4 posts.

If you’ve been following this series along you’ll note that there is overlap in many of these communications related issues. While in New York City conducting a client training for a sales staff, I realized during my two hour presentation how truly intermingled all of these ‘deadly sins’ are. When I was talking about assumptions – stereotypes and mannerisms came up. When talking about inappropriate questions – insinuations and assertions came up. So if you haven’t been reading this whole series I encourage you to check out the others. Regardless of where you are in your LGBT marketing process or in your communications skill building process, there is something new to be learned here. The last two parts of this series are 6. Implications and 7. Assertions.

This week we are going to talk about Deadly Sin #5: Insinuations. Merriam-Webster defines a Mannerism as –

 ”a usually bad or insulting remark that is said in an indirect way:  a sly, subtle, and usually derogatory utterance”

As you can see by the definition above we are talking about two ugly words insulting and derogatory. The last message you want to convey in your marketing materials or in your one-on-one communications with potential LGBT clients is insulting or derogatory, no?

So here are two of the most common phrases I hear that you should avoid saying in a business setting that are conveying undertones in a derogatory nature that you honestly may or may not have realized up until this moment.

1 The first is the phrase the ‘Gay Lifestyle’ or ‘Living the Gay Lifestyle.’    This is an insinuation that being LGBT is a choice.

Let me share with you an encounter I had. During a meeting the question “What is your knowledge and experience with the LGBT community?” came up. In the middle of this person’s response a reference to the ‘gay lifestyle’ was made. I had an immediate reaction. When I hear the term ‘lifestyle’ it sends a red flag that the person I am speaking with has little to no knowledge of the LGBT community or to go further, has a negative attitude towards the community. Fortunately it was the former this time.


So how does this demonstrate a negative attitude you might wonder? Let’s look just at the term ‘lifestyle’ – what comes to mind when someone is talking about a lifestyle? I think of terms like a healthy lifestyle, a sedentary lifestyle, an active lifestyle, or an extravagant lifestyle – just to name a few. Now what do these examples have in common? They are all based on choices. You can choose to be healthy. You can choose to be sedentary. You can choose to be active. You can choose to live extravagantly.

Now, how does this differ from the gay lifestyle? Oh yeah, being gay is NOT a choice. When I wrote my blog post titled “3 reasons you should never say homosexual. ever,” reason #2 was “Without getting too political here we lead into the second theme that pops up with the word homosexual and that’s the bible. There is a passage in Corinthians that uses the word homosexual. This is the passage that the anti-gay, right wing-nuts, grab a hold of to make their case against LGBT rights.” It is for very similar reasons that you should refrain from saying ‘gay lifestyle.’ No, the ‘gay lifestyle’ was not a passage in the bible. However, the connotations so deeply tied with the anti-gay movement and many right wing loonies (for lack of a better word) act as if the gay lifestyle was used in the bible and they say it with hate filled conviction. You don’t want to be associated with these kinds of folks. Trust me on this one – it will not do your LGBT marketing efforts any good!

2 The second phrase here is making reference to an “Alternative Family” or “Non-Traditional Family.” This is an insinuation that LGBT families are not part of the ‘norm.’

Before I get into what a “non-traditional family” is, let’s talk about the nuclear family. The nuclear family has evolved in many ways over the decades. Click here for a definition of Nuclear Family. In my undergraduate college days, when I was taking dozens of sociology classes, a nuclear family was simply thought to be an opposite sex married household with 2.5 full blooded biological children (with 1 dog, 1 cat and a white picket fence). An AdAge article from June 2011 notes the 2010 Census found 1.3 million fewer nuclear families. The more powerful statistic though is that this is the only household type to decline over the past decade.

Now let’s talk about what a Non-Traditional Family is. According to Wikipedia…

“the term blended family or stepfamily describes families with mixed parents: one or both parents remarried, bringing children of the former family into the new family.[19] Also in sociology, particularly in the works of social psychologist Michael Lamb,[20] traditional family refers to “a middleclass family with a bread-winning father and a stay-at-home mother, married to each other and raising their biological children,” and nontraditional to exceptions from this rule. Most of the US households are now non-traditional under this definition.[21]

Do you see that bold sentence above? Most of the US households are now non-traditional under this definition. It appears that the idea of a non-traditional family is on its way out because our society is very robust and blended now. We have families of all ethnic backgrounds, gender backgrounds, adopted children, biological children, divorced families, same sex couples – you name it.

Many companies and people fall victim to using this outdated phrase. The message you are sending to the LGBT community when saying this is – your family is different and we want to call you out on that. My family is a family just like anyone else’s. I personally don’t like being called non-traditional and know many others who don’t as well. I state quite frequently that communications and marketing must be inclusive. If you want a better handle on what inclusion based marketing is you can read my blog about it or listen to episode 11 of my podcast. Either will help you get a better perspective of why inclusion based is the way to go.

By saying the phrases gay lifestyle, living the gay lifestyle, alternative family or non-traditional family you are essentially segregating your LGBT audience which is exactly the opposite kind of message you are trying to send. All of your communications to LGBT clients or otherwise should be authentic. Just be yourself and be you. And most importantly be inclusive. If you’ve said one of these statements before, remember – it is okay. Just strike them from your vocabulary and you’ll be well on your way to not committing deadly sin #5! And remember to check out how to not commit deadly sin #6 as well!

Shorten your learning curve and get the book, The 7 Mistakes Preventing You From Selling to the $830 Billion LGBT Market, today!

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published nearly 200 books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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