Collecting survey data from Millennials and Gen Z can provide valuable insight into their thought processes, how they spend their time and money, and what is most important to them. However, with a social landscape filled with diversity, it’s essential to know what terms are appropriate (and which are NOT). We’ve broken down some of today’s language when approaching topics of gender identification and sexual orientation.
The words we use to talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and issues can have a powerful impact on our conversations. The right words can help open people’s hearts and minds, while others can create distance or confusion. For example, the abbreviation “LGBT” is commonly used within the movement for lesbian, gay, bi and transgender equality, but it can be confusing and alienating to people who don’t understand what it means (for many media and mainstream audiences, the term gay and transgender is more accessible without being overwhelming).
GAY, LESBIAN, & BI
The term transgender refers to people whose gender identity (the sense of gender that every person feels inside) or gender expression is different from the sex that was assigned to them at birth. At some point in their lives, transgender people decide they must live their lives as the gender they have always known themselves to be, and often transition to living as that gender.
From the moment a child is brought into the world, we start imprinting the idea that genders have assigned colors. From the balloons in the hospital room to the cap the nurse places on his or her tiny head, to the first outfit he or she wears home, everything is divided into one of two camps: pink or blue.
Why is it a problem?
As a country, we’re moving toward becoming an all-inclusive society. Every day, our ideas on race, religion, cultural norms, gender identity and sexual orientation are changing, yet we still find ourselves raising our children to be subconsciously sexist. By reinforcing negative gender stereotypes, we’re doing far more harm than we might imagine.
While we cannot, of course, “sanitize” the artifacts and media transporting traditional gender roles, we can make sure, through our own behavior as parents, employers and leaders to set a different example and serve as role models for the younger generation. This is relevant for women as much as men.
Addressing gender identification and sexual orientation can be tricky, especially as a brand. But keeping your surveys, public communications, and advertising available to a diverse audience will show your effort to connect and empower all humans, regardless of their gender or sex.