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The MRCagney Blog

Queer language tips for planners and researchers

Mon, February 1, 2021  |  Inclusion 

This post from Kiri Crossland, a Transport Planner at MRCagney, was originally posted on LinkedIn.

But I thought “queer” was derogatory?!

If you want to begin engaging with queer or LGBTQIA+ communities but are anxious about using the wrong language, this compilation is for you. I’ve included resources which provide you with an introduction to terms you might hear in your engagement and places you can go for in-depth exploration of different identities.

“Queer” has a complex history due to its origins as a slur used against LGBTQIA+ people, particularly people of colour and HIV+ people. As is explored in Gender Minorities Aotearoa’s glossary, the term “queer” has been reclaimed by queers of colour and Black, disabled, HIV+ and trans queers. It is more radical than “LGBT” and rejects the whiteness which dominates mainstream gay culture and is more palatable to heterosexuals. Bear in mind this history if you choose to use “queer” and remember not every LGBTQIA+ identifying person will identify as queer or feel comfortable with the term. It is the term I am most comfortable with, which is why I use it.

If you’re not sure about how someone identifies it is better to ask, rather than make assumptions. However, questions should be part of information sharing between you and your queer participants – not an interrogation. If you’re expecting queer people to share information about themselves and their experiences, you need to be prepared to do the same. Start your sessions by sharing your name and pronouns. It is also important for you to be open and explain how the information you are collecting will be used. It goes without saying that your questions should be respectful and related to your research, rather than from a place of personal curiosity.

If your research requires you record detailed sexual orientation and/or gender information about each participant, then it’s appropriate to ask participants about the exact wording they would like you to use. If not? Keep it general and allow people to share the information they feel comfortable sharing. If you are a straight, cis person doing this detailed kind of research ask yourself: am I the appropriate researcher for this topic?

Gender Minorities Aotearoa has produced a comprehensive glossary of sexual orientations and gender identities with a specific focus on trans identities. What makes this glossary great is its intersectionality and nuance when discussing the contested meanings of certain identities. I recommend starting here, as it is the broadest glossary I have been able to find so it serves as a useful place to start from.

You can find the full-colour document here:


Or a screen-reader compatible version here:


Once you’ve identified the terms you’re less familiar with, take a look at Rainbow Youth’s comprehensive resource pages. There’s a separate page for gender and sexuality which provide links to more information which can’t be captured in a single glossary. This is also a good idea for getting a deeper understanding of terms which have contested or multiple meanings.