4 Overused Terms for Queer Founders to Avoid (and What to Say Instead!)

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Brands catering to queer people are gaining traction, and that’s great! Folks in the community and outside of it are realizing that the boxes we tend to put each other in as participants in capitalism (and as humans) are largely arbitrary. Unfortunately, because much of the language is being applied in a new context, sometimes the LGBTQ+ business space can sound like a broken record with the same overused terms on repeat.

This at best can start to feel monotonous, and at worst could feel patronizing or get you in trouble for copyright infringement!

Uh oh. 

If you feel stuck in a rut trying to figure out how to write a tagline for your business serving queer folks, or you’re struggling to accurately and respectfully define your target audience, check out this list of terms I keep coming across in the LGBTQ business niche,  plus a few alternatives for each!

1. Androgynous 

I chafe at this overused term, because it has come to refer to a specific kind of queer AFAB mascunilty that is often represented by mostly white, thin AFAB people. In actuality, the etymology of this word includes Latin roots for  both “man” and “woman,” and the (somewhat ironic) shortened form, “andro” has history in the lesbian community.

I have thoughts about the descriptor for a gender presentation that often encompasses a duality in women being shortened to a root that means, “man,” but that’s a topic for a different blog post.

If we take the word at face value, many people of various gender identities could be described this way. Glam rockers. Guys in your MFA with long hair. The cute nonbinary barista at your local Starbucks. Emo band members. As well as your hair stylist with the green undercut, Sinéad O’Connor,  dudes in kilts or kaftans, or any woman who chooses not to wear makeup or traditionally feminine clothing.  You get the idea. 

If you do choose to use this word, make sure you’re not limiting your visuals to skinny, white AFABs with coiffed hair (however much we may love them!)

Alternatives to “Androgynous” include: 

  • Gender-defying 
  • Unisex 
  • Balanced
  • Embracing duality

2. Everybody

This word is often used by brands that offer wearable products, and stylized as “every body” to suggest that the product is something you…put on your body. I’ve also seen this in fitness spaces as an attempt to be size- and ability-inclusive. The problem is, of course, that saying you’re for everyone isn’t enough. You have to be sure that you can really serve everyone. 

For brands like MeUndies, this almost works, even though they still separate their products into “Women’s” and “Men’s” sections. But the fact that I was able to double-check that off the top of my head shows you that it has been done!

This also doesn’t necessarily speak to the potential customer who assumes they have a really specific need. That person will read everybody and go, “Probably not me, though.” Because I can guarantee you, it’s happened to them before.

Alternatives to “____ for Everybody/ every body”

  • _____ for Diverse Bodies
  • _____for You
  • _____ for All

3. Neutral 

“Gender-neutral” is a huge buzzword in the space right now. Unfortunately, that often leads to products in similarly “neutral” colors, which are lacking style, shape, visual appeal, and are generally just blah. I’m not personally a product designer, so feel free to take my opinion (!) with a grain of salt, but may I present Old Navy’s gender-neutral hoodie from their new line (there’s now a gender neutral section in their primary menu) as evidence of my point. The women’s graphic tees seem to have achieved neutrality simply by not having cap sleeves, a slim fit or V-necks.

I…guess? 

Not to mention, not everyone who identifies as nonbinary, genderqueer, or otherwise not strictly man or woman considers their gender identity to be null or neutral. While some may eschew all gendered behaviors and aesthetics, many incorporate a mix of decidedly masculine and/or feminine things into their self-definition.

Alternatives to “neutral”

  • Unisex 
  • Versatile 
  • Multipurpose 
  • Unassuming 
  • Fluid
  • Ambiguous

4. Tomboy

While doing research to build out this post I found three brands within the niche that used this word. While it may be relatable to some, not every masculine-of-center person went through a tomboyish phase or would have ever been described that way. 

Me, for example. I was so wrapped up in performing femininity as a teen that I was never labeled boyish, even though that’s now one of my favorite ways to describe myself, albeit somewhat with tongue in cheek.

Plus, it has a juvenile connotation that at best may alienate grown adults and at worst may remind folks of a difficult time in their adolescence, no matter what they identify with now. 

Alternatives to “tomboy”

  • Masculine-/masc-of-center
  • Gender-nonconforming/GNC 
  • Sporty
  • Soft butch (this is definitely an intra-community term, I’d advise allies and non-sapphics to avoid it.)

I think, whether you’re trying to write inclusive copy or just be a good person, the best thing to do is say what you mean. If you’re not sure, ask around. See how folks identify themselves. All of these terms can be substituted for others, often ones that say more clearly what you’re trying to communicate.

I heard a piece of writing advice once: “The more specific it is, the more relatable it will be.” This was in a poetry workshop, but it works for copywriting too. You want your ideal customer to feel like you’re speaking their language, solving their problem, and seeing them for exactly who they are. 


Agonizing over how to reach your ideal customer and let them know they’re not alone? Well, neither are you! Reach out today and I can help you say exactly what you mean and connect with folks who want and need your offer!

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