Gay or LGBT... which do you use? Skip to the content

Gay or LGBT… which do you use?

Gay-or-LGBT…-which-do-you-use-Back in 2012, when I met with my mastermind group to discuss the release of my podcast (a.k.a. an online radio show), the primary topic of discussion was around what should I name my show. Out of the 4 people in the group, 3 are allies and 1 is LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), and all of them are business owners. As we were talking about the possible names for the show we reached an impasse (in the words of the great Dr. Sheldon Cooper.)

I am an advocate and a champion for the entire LGBT community. I don’t leave anyone behind in the work that I do. So naturally I wanted the name of my show to have LGBT in it. However the most genius phrase came out of that discussion.


"You have to speak our language to change our language."

Do you hear the beauty in that phrase? You have to speak our language to change our language.

Education around LGBT

I spend my days educating people on how to market to the LGBT community in an authentic and transparent way and often times I am talking with representatives within large companies who are allies. Never underestimate the power of straight allies to the LGBT community. They are super important in helping move the equality movement forward.

So what’s my point, you may be asking yourself? The one common thing stated over and over again in that meeting was, “…you can’t use LGBT because not enough people know what it means. You need to use gay.

The thought of titling my podcast with gay and potentially alienating the rest of the LGBT community made me cringe a bit.

But the statement of “You have to speak our language to change our language” – I cannot ignore. If I want to educate allies to the community on what LGBT stands for, I first need to get their attention with something they know – gay. Everyone knows the broad and encompassing word gay.


So I am here to get you thinking about what terminology you are using? Is your internal language different than your external language? If you are LGBT,  do you take offense when a company says gay when they mean the whole community? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


My intentions are to catch the attention of the business community with the word gay and educate them at the same time with LGBT, so they will soon begin to see one and associate it with the other. Some might view this as a Herculean effort and yes I might be just one small piece to a much larger puzzle, but we have to start somewhere, right?

So as you are planning your marketing efforts to reach the LGBT community, consider the following;

  • what terminology are you using?
  • are you saying gay or LGBT?
  • are you using the word transgendered (if yes, read my blog post on why you shouldn’t)
  • is your messaging to the community authentic?

Also, if you haven’t read my 3 part series on marketing to the LGBT community, I highly recommend taking a look.

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.

14 comments to " Gay or LGBT… which do you use? "

  • Selling to the LGBT community in a gay world.

    I do not like using “Gay” when you mean LGBT because trans-people and lesbians get lost in history. When people hear that the Stonewall Uprising was the beginning of the “Gay” movement it totally dismisses the trans-people and the lesbians who were there and most likely started the uprising.

    • Hi Diana,

      I like your idea of “Selling to the LGBT Community in a Gay World.” It sums it up very nicely. Being a lesbian myself it’s hard to want to use the word gay as well since as you said it looks past lesbians and trans people. I think that’s why there is such a big job to do. It’s a matter of being able to change the language and the information in which the straight allied world sees things. Our straight allies need to know that the trans people and the lesbians were out there on the front line of Stonewall and probably did start the ball rolling but history has grouped the whole lump as gay and that is what mainstream society knows and understands. Going back to that quote, we have to speak their language to change their language and that’s the mission I’m on! 😉

  • Jessie


    Great blog post! I see the point here, mainly because I am already so familiar with the LGBT phrasing that it doesn’t phase me. But I have said, in conversation with people of the LGBT community that I am an ally, and for some reason even that terminology isn’t known. I have to explain that I am straight, but advocate for the community.

    So to your question, I think, possibly at the risk of alienating your market that you are trying to use as a demographic, it may make sense to use “Gay”.

    Maybe; “Marketing to the Gay(LGBT)Community” or “Marketing to the Gay(LGBT) Community in Business” .

    Or from your list; How to Market and Do Business with the Gay (LGBT) Community

    • Hi Jessie,

      I like your personal example that in conversations with people saying you are an ally to the LGBT community likely sounds like another language to people. It didn’t even cross my mind that ally might not be a term that people are familiar with. It’s a very tricky situation because I don’t want to alienate my own community but at the same time I want to educate a large number of people on the appropriate usage and terminology, LGBT.

      Thanks for your input. I do like using Gay(LGBT) so they are seen as a unit of terms rather than stand alone.

  • Great message again. I prefer LGBT community because you talk about two items: sexual orientation and gender identity. The main problem is what do you use : LGBT, LGBTQ or LGBTIQ ? L and G are popular names in West Europe. B and T are quite unknown, you have to explain it.

    • Thank you for your insight Catherine. You are right LGBT is all encompassing to cover sexual orientation and gender identify versus gay just covering sexual orientation. I want to be as inclusive as possible. I think LGBT still has a long way before it is a recognized acronym in mainstream society so to me adding the Q and IQ on the end just adds another layer of complication in getting people to adopt using the approrpiate terms. I address this a little bit in my “What is LGBT?” blog post.

  • George

    As a man who struggled in coming out to anyone at all, I realized that our community is far larger than what Gay would represent or what Lesbian would represent. I saw GLBT and LGBT all over the place, among other expressive acronyms, and wondered how I could best state the community I reside in. I remember reading that LGBT seemed to be taking hold, and I’ve grasped that and use it in my communications.

    • Hi George – thanks for your thoughts on the topic. It’s tricky to make sure you are including everyone. I use LGBT all over the place but will often use Gay to get people’s attention who don’t really know what LGBT stands for. Honestly, it’s a delicate balance. I’m happy to hear you are using LGBT in your communications. 😉

  • Julien

    Hi Jenn,
    I would not use the “gay” word as being a crossdresser or transgender has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Should a shemale be considered as a gay? I am not quite sure about that. That is why I would say that “gay” does not cover the entire LGBT community.

  • Carla Vale

    This has been a hot topic amongst friends and colleagues for a while now. As a transgendered woman and local business owner I always prefer LGBT so as to include the entire community. The “trans” market is a larger than than we think because so much of it remains underground but is growing. I understand the theory behind the use of the term “gay” while talking to older people but I believe that it is our responsibility to educate the populous also. Our sosciety is ripe for the opportunity to expand their thoughts and move forward with their bias. We now live in a world with transgender people in the news, getting Emmys and the phrase even being used by the President. Let’s seize this moment and as a generation of people make an effort to change society for the better.

    • Jenn T. Grace

      Thank you, Carla! I love your comments here. So happy you took the time to provide your comments. Seize the moment is absolutely right! Rock on’!

  • […] people how to market themselves.” I do this intentionally. I intentionally use the term gay, which I go into more detail in this blog post , if you are interested. However, more often than not when I am using the term gay I am educating […]

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