When I hear "lifestyle," I immediately think of the condom brand. Anyone else?
One of my pet peeves is when someone refers to a person's lifestyle. Especially when the person is trying to describe a non-chosen aspect of someone else. I think this is because the word used to be used in a way that was not positive toward many people who are not the 'typical' heterosexual, white persons. The word lifestyle also implies that a person chose to embrace that identity on purpose - that they had another option and still chose to be 'different.' Now, I know, many people use the word lifestyle to describe many positive aspects of a person's identity - such as the person who works out regularly, eats healthy, etc. These are legitimate lifestyles because the person who embraces the idea of working out regularly is choosing to do so, it is not an inherent component of who they are. Unfortunately, many people still use the word in a derogatory way...
The reason many people use this word is not from a negative place - it is a common vernacular within American culture; it became popular over many years, and changing it is not something that will be accomplished easily. Nor am I advocating that the word should no longer be used; I am simply advocating that maybe the word should be used appropriately.
I myself have used this word inappropriately. Many times, and for a significantly larger portion of my life than I care to admit. This is mostly due to my own ignorance, not having been exposed to basically any amount diversity for the first 18-20 years of my life. It wasn't until I used it (innocently, I thought) in a conversation with a friend of mine that I learned that words like this can have negative meanings and could be used poorly.
I was shocked he had been offended when I asked him that. I was honestly coming from a place of trying to connect with him... Regardless, I had made many assumptions here, including that he had received some kind of backlash because he was gay (which is the 'lifestyle' I was in fact asking about). It through me for a loop, and I ended up salvaging the conversation, but I realized at this point that maybe I was using the word wrong - and I was determined to figure out when and how it should be used so that it is not marginalizing.
Here are some helpful suggestions and questions I asked myself to figure out if I was using this and other words correctly;
Well... what about you all? Have you had similar experiences with this word or other words? What are your pet peeves? Any other suggestions on how to work toward more inclusive language?
Thanks for listening, and as always... Keep sexin'!
This page is a blog and repository of Dr. B - a sex therapist, educator, researcher, activist and speaker. Interested in all things sexual, social justice, LGBTQQIA+, and mental health.