New Democracy Maps

Messaging Guides

The Talking About LGBTQ Issues series is a set of research-based resources designed to help shape discussions with conflicted or undecided Americans—and help them better understand key issues of importance to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people.

In conversations about marriage, employment protections and non-discrimination laws, adoption and parenting, military service or hate crimes, it can often be easy to fall back on abstract jargon or angry rhetoric that can derail discussions with those who are not familiar with the issues. These guides offer ways that LGBTQ organizations, community members and allies alike can build common ground with moveable audiences, show them how their actions (or inaction) can hurt gay and transgender people, and help them understand issues of LGBTQ equality through the lenses of their own values and beliefs.

Equality for LGBTQ people is really about basic human values and needs: the ability of everyday Americans to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, be safe in their communities, serve their country, and take care of the ones they love. And when we move away from abstract, technical language and toward discussions that connect people to common ground and common values, true understanding can take root. The Talking About LGBTQ Issues series is geared toward helping those who are conflicted or undecided better understand the issues, and toward helping them recognize the importance of and need for their support.

Related Resources


Talking About Anti-LGBTQ School Bills & False 'Groomer' Attacks

June 2022 - Far-right politicians are introducing state legislation to censor school curriculum and create a hostile school climate for LGBTQ students. Learn how to discuss these bills and the growing cultural attacks on LGBTQ people and those who support them.


Talking About Transgender People & Restrooms

Updated July 2021 - Explore approaches for talking about transgender people and restrooms in a variety of contexts, including: building support for (and calming concerns about) nondiscrimination protections, opposing harmful anti-transgender bathroom ban laws, and more.


Talking About Transgender Youth Participation in Sports

April 2021 - Young people learn important life lessons in sports: teamwork, leadership, confidence, and more. Sports are an important part of education—something no child, including transgender youth, should be denied simply because of who they are. As anti-LGBTQ opponents seek to ban transgender youth from participating in K-12 school sports, this resource provides conversation approaches for emphasizing shared values, addressing unfamiliarity and concerns, and more.


An Ally's Guide to Terminology: Talking About LGBTQ People & Equality

Updated August 2020 - The language we use to talk about LGBTQ people and issues can have a powerful impact on our discussions. The right words can open hearts and minds, while others can create confusion, distance or a sense of being overwhelmed.


Talking About Religious Exemptions

May 2019 - Read about approaches for effective conversations about a wide range of harmful religious exemptions that threaten public safety, access to health care (including women's reproductive health), the best interests of children in state care, laws protecting Americans from discrimination, and more.


Talking About Family Acceptance & Transgender Youth

February 2019 – Parents, family and friends of transgender youth can play a vital role in providing guidance to others who know or believe their child might be transgender—and that’s where this guide comes in. Talking About Family Acceptance & Transgender Youth, is designed primarily for use by parents, family and friends of transgender youth and provides an overview of conversation approaches that can help families and friends build and extend support for the transgender youth in their own lives.


Talking About Suicide & LgbtQ Populations, 2nd Edition

August 2017 - This second edition of Talking About Suicide & LGBTQ Populations provides facts about suicide and LGBTQ people, as well as ways to talk about suicide safely and accurately—and in ways that advance vital public discussions about preventing suicide among LGBTQ people and supporting their health and well-being.

En español: Conversaciones sobre el suicidio y las poblaciones LGBTQ


Talking About Transgender Students & School Facilities Access

January 2017 - As part of ongoing efforts to protect transgender people from discrimination, there is growing momentum to ensure that transgender students have a fair chance at educational success. This guide provides high-level messaging to help build support for policies and laws that protect transgender students and their ability to access school facilities that match their gender identity.


Talking About Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBTQ People

Updated January 2017 - Learn about conversation approaches that can help build and sustain solid, lasting support for LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws, and also factually and effectively address concerns that might be raised when discussing the need for such protections.
En español: Cómo hablar sobre protecciones antidiscriminatorias para personas LGBTQ


An Ally's Guide to Talking About Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

April 2014 - To build and sustain support for the freedom to marry, focus on the values of marriage, emphasize why caring people don't deny others the chance of happiness in marriage, share stories of the journey to support, and more.


Talking About LGBTQ Equality: Overall Approaches

September 2011 - The pursuit of equality is about everyday Americans who want the same chance as everyone else to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, be safe in their communities, serve their country, and take care of the ones they love.


Talking About LGBTQ Equality With African Americans

October 2011 - An overwhelming majority of African Americans agree that LGBTQ people experience discrimination. However using term “civil rights” to describe LGBTQ equality can hinder those conversations and that support.


Talking About LGBTQ Equality With Latinos & Hispanics

September 2011 - Latinos tend to be strong supporters of fairness and equality for LGBTQ people, and conversations that focus on shared values of family, respect, faith and opposition to discrimination can build even greater acceptance.


An Ally’s Guide to Talking About Adoption by LGBTQ Parents

June 2012 - Focus conversations about parenting, adoption and LGBTQ parents on how they create loving, stable homes for kids and help ensure that children have the nurturing environment that allows them to thrive and succeed.


Talking About Pro-Voter Policies

March 2018 - Learn about approaches for talking about pro-voter policies and the importance of connecting on shared values around voting; addressing concerns about the security of our elections; making the case for solutions rooted in fairness, accessibility and security; and illustrating how these solutions help everyday Americans make their voices heard.

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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