Academic LGBTQ+ terminology 1900-2021: Increasing variety, increasing inclusivity?

Mike Thelwall, Tracey Jayne Devonport, Meiko Makita, Kate Russell, Lois Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


LGBTQ+ labels and terminology in society embed ideological assumptions and affect who gains community support and protection. In academia, terminology is also needed to help define study objects, methods, and goals. Academics therefore need to choose their words to be both precise and appropriate, adjusting to changes in societal language. This article assesses the evolution of LGBTQ+ terminology in the titles and abstracts of academic journal articles since 1900 to identify the main trends. Based on a search of 74 LGBTQ+ terms in Scopus, LGBTQ+ related journal articles have almost continually increased in prevalence since 1900. In parallel, the concept of homosexuality that dominated early research has almost disappeared, being replaced by the word gay or more specific terms, such as lesbian or bisexual. Transexual terminology has also been supplanted by transgender and trans* terminology. At various points in time other LGBTQ+ terms have emerged with activist, health professional and academic origins. These include multiple acronyms, inclusive phrases, and activity-specific phrases (e.g., men who have sex with men) that are not used by the LGBTQ+ community. Currently, no terminologies are dominant, with this plurality probably reflecting differing research needs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2514-2538
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Homosexuality
Issue number11
Early online date27 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

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