Appendix C – CMHR Research Notes on Terminology Used to Refer to Diverse Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities

In public discourse, the acronym LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and its cousin LGBTTQ* are commonly used. However, they are problematic for Museum usage because they are not fully inclusive. The acronym is frequently expanded to include more letters: T for trans, T or TS or 2S for two-spirited, Q for queer and/or questioning, A for asexual, A or SA for allies or straight allies, I for intersex, U for undecided or unsure, C for curious and so on.

In 2014, the national organization Egale Canada advocated this version of the acronym: LGBTTIQQ2SA. In early 2017, the organization’s website used “LGBTIQ2S” and “LGBTQ.” However, the Museum’s policy is to avoid the use of acronyms across all platforms because they are not widely accessible and prone to being misunderstood.

The term “queer” is another umbrella term for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and other sexual orientations and gender identities; however, terminological research suggests that it can be considered a derogatory expression by some groups, particularly older generations. Some of their views don’t align with younger groups who have reclaimed the word and embraced it. It also does not include the two-spirited groups from the Aboriginal community.

The term “transvestite” should be altogether avoided, as well as the term “transgendered” (the correct term is “transgender”).

The Museum also takes into account the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity as:

  • Sexual orientation (orientation sexuelle in French) describes an individual’s sexual or emotional attraction to others. Heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality are sexual orientations. So are pansexuality, polysexuality and asexuality. Sexual orientation is implicitly “read into” the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and explicitly mentioned as a ground of prohibited discrimination in the human rights acts of all provinces/territories.
  • Gender identity (identité de genre or identité sexuelle in French) is different from sexual orientation. It is a person’s internal sense of their own gender, which may or may not match the sex ascribed to them at birth.