You may be surprised to see that there is a section on sexuality in a style guide that we intend people to use in a professional environment. We thought a long time about what people are likely to get wrong, and sexuality was one of the things we knew we needed to cover.

All humans have sexuality. Not all humans choose to act on it, and certainly there are a variety of ways to express our inner feelings and desires, some more socially acceptable than others. How we feel about sexuality is a complex combination of culture, education, personal feeling, and experience.

When we set out to write a style guide, we wanted to make something that gave people of good intentions guidelines for how they could be honest, ethical, and accurate in writing and talking about people. We want you to have a resource that you can reach for when you’re trying to avoid scheduling something on a religious holiday, something you can use to keep from mis-identifying a non-binary person in your writing, something that helps you understand the difference between wheelchair-bound and wheelchair-using. We selected facets of the human experience we thought were under-described, and tried to describe them better, based on our research and personal experience in the community.

I’m a trained sex educator, and I’m a bisexual woman married to a trans woman. Sexuality and sexual identity matter a lot to me in both political and personal ways. It is almost magical to watch junior high kids learn that there are words and communities for “asexual” and “non-binary” and “agender” and “pansexual”. You can see their horizons expand from what is “normal” to “who I am”. People who are currently adults had a harder path to that understanding, and fewer resources. It may have taken longer and hurt more to get to a place where they could identify themselves.

The most respectful thing we can do as writers, and as humans, is give people room to identify themselves, not try to fit them into our categories without consent. Healthy sexuality is all about consent, and we can display that in our writing and our actions.