Violence Against LGBTQ Persons- Reporter Tip Sheet

LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* and Queer. According to research by the leading LGBTQ anti-violence organization in the US, gay men, LGBTQ communities of color, LGBTQ youth and young adults, and trans* communities in particular experienced severe forms of intimate partner violence. (1) The reasons behind different experiences of violence in these communities, while all rooted in power and control on personal or systemic levels, may vary. In some cases, it may be as a result of not conforming to gender norms (i.e. hate crime). In other cases, for example, intimate partner violence, the causes are related to interpersonal relationship dynamics.

As with the other tip sheets, this tip sheet is part of an ongoing, collective process committed to engaging community voices in our work. This is the pilot version of the Media Hub, intended to initiate further conversation, and gather additional community sources in the project. This tip sheet mainly draws on relevant tips captured in the GLAAD Media Reference Guide

Get consent

Get consent from an individual before outing their trans* identity, surgical status, transition history, sexual orientation or same-sex relationship to the public, as this may put them in danger. (3)

Check with an individual/source about which details you are allowed to including in the story.

Many individuals don’t know what ‘off the record’ means. For example, some people think that asking a journalist to turn off their recorder is the same as asking to go off the record. Sometimes sources get a real shock when they read the published article and feel betrayed. Make sure to respect the wishes of the individual and include only what they are comfortable with.

Covering Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence

  • Provide insight into intimate partner violence by going to experts. The issue of sexual violence against queer or trans people often remains unacknowledged within the broader community (4). Interview advocates, service providers and researchers; they can offer important insight into these aspects of your story. You can also interview survivors/victims, who can offer their first-hand experiences. These voices should be included respectfully. For more information on how to respectfully interview survivors please read Femifesto’s 9 essential tips
  • Use a framework of power and control. Intimate partner violence is more than a single incident and is most frequently part of a pattern of escalating abuse over time. The assumption that a man is the abuser and a woman is the victim often cannot be used to determine who the victim or who the perpetrator is in same-gender or same-sex intimate partner violence. (6) Abuse that takes place in queer relationships cannot be generalized as “mutual.” “Mutual battering” rarely occurs (7). Gender doesn’t lead to violence. The urge toward power and control leads to violence. (8)
  • Don’t confuse the issue by merging sex and violence together. Abuse and violent behaviours are not the same as sexuality and sexual behaviours. Sexual violence and gender-based violence is about patterns of power and control, and not about sex. Bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism and masochism (BDSM) is not abuse; it is consensual sexual activity and should not be conflated with abuse. (9)

Covering Crimes Against LGBTQ Individuals

  • Consider whether reporting a person’s sexuality or gender identity is relevant to the story. GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide advice is that “if you would not report on the sexual orientation of a heterosexual suspect, please apply a consistent standard for LGBT suspects.” (10)
  • Avoid victim-blaming. GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide notes that “[i]mplying that an openly queer or trans victim is partly or wholly responsible for being attacked, or that an attack was justified because of an unwanted romantic or sexual advance…promotes discrimination and may bias criminal or legal investigations. (11)

Covering HIV, AIDS & the LGBTQ Community

Individuals with HIV & AIDS are at higher risk to experiencing gender-based violence and may face greater barriers to accessing support around issues of violence. GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide provides specific advice on this issue

  • “HIV transmission is tied to specific high-risk behaviours that are not exclusive to any one sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Avoid terms that may directly or indirectly undermine people living with HIV by positing queer people in opposition to others at risk for HIV – GLAAD suggests, “for example, references to “the general population” typically are used to suggest that gay men, bisexuals and/or MSM should be considered separate and apart from broader prevention and treatment strategies” (12)

Use Your Language carefully – terminology and self-identification

Self-identification: When describing people, use the terminology they use to describe themselves. For example, ask them which pronoun they use (e.g. he, she, they, ze, etc.). When telling trans people’s stories prior to their transition, be consistent in your use of pronouns:

  • Don’t use the person’s former pronoun (i.e.: the gender that the person was assigned at birth)
  • Instead, use the person’s current pronoun, even when talking about the past.
  • Don’t use quotations marks around pronouns: The GLAAD Media Reference Guide notes that “[i]t is never appropriate to put quotation marks around either a transgender person’s chosen name or the pronoun that reflects that person’s gender identity.” (13)

Glossary of terms

There are many different terms that journalists can use in order to be respectful of LGBTQ individuals and identities. The following chart is adapted from GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide. We encourage you to read GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide full Glossary of Terms and offensive terms to avoid. (14)

Glossary of Terms
Preferred Problematic
trans people, a transgender person, transgender (use as an adjective, not a noun) Transgenders, a transgenders, transgendered
Transition sex change, pre-operative, post-operative
trans person, trans woman, trans man she-male, tranny, it, gender-bender, hermaphrodite, transvestite, transman, transwoman, passing, pretending, posing
gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer Homosexual



  • 1) The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) annual reports on LGBTQH intimate partner violence are the only reports of their kind, and the most comprehensive data available on LGBTQH gender-based violence and intimate partner violence in the United States. This report offers findings, recommendations, and best practices. NCAVP (2013) Intimate Partner Violence in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ), and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2012. Retrieved from: p. 8.
  • 2) GLAAD Media Reference Guide GLAAD. (2010). Media reference guide.
  • 3) Patterson, L. (2004) Model Protocol on Working with Friends and Family of Domestic Violence Victims notes that it is important to always affirm confidentiality, including not disclosing information even to a friend or family member (p. 7)
  • 4) Albright, M. & Alcantara-Thompson, D. (2011)
  • 5) Femifesto Reporting on Sexual Assault: a Toolkit for Canadian Media, 2013
  • 6) Albright, M. & Alcantara-Thompson, D. (2011)
  • 7) Western Washington University Consultation and Sexual Assault Support – Same Sex Violence
  • 8) Ibid
  • 9) Ibid
  • 10) GLAAD Media Reference Guide, 2010, p. 31
  • 11) Ibid, p. 32.
  • 12) Ibid, p. 34
  • 13) Ibid, p. 11.
  • 14) Ibid, p.10-12
  • 15) GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide (2010) explains that “because of the clinical history of the word 'homosexual,' it is aggressively used by anti-gay extremists to suggest that gay people are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered – notions discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s" (p. 12). The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post restrict use of the term “homosexual.”

Works Cited & Consulted