Johns Hopkins University removed an online glossary of LGBTQ terms and identities this week after its definition of the word “lesbian” used the term “non-men” to refer to women and some nonbinary people and fueled an online uproar.
Screenshots of the glossary before it was taken down showed that the university defined the word “lesbian” as a “non-man attracted to non-men.” It added that while past definitions have referred to lesbians as women who are sexually attracted to other women, the “updated definition” is intended to include nonbinary people who may identify with the label.
“The LGBTQ Glossary serves as an introduction to the range of identities and terms that are used within LGBTQ communities, and is not intended to serve as the definitive answers as to how all people understand or use these terms,” Megan Christin, the university’s director of strategic communications, said in a statement Wednesday. “While the glossary is a resource posted on the website of the Johns Hopkins University Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), the definitions were not reviewed or approved by ODI leadership and the language in question has been removed pending review.”
Christin did not respond to questions regarding when the online glossary was first uploaded.
Screenshots of the glossary sparked an online firestorm in recent days, with many women, including some lesbians, calling the definition “misogynistic” and noting that the definition for “gay man” did not use similar language, such as “non-women.”
“Lesbian was literally the only word in English language that is not tied to man- as in male- feMALE, man- woMAN,” tennis star Martina Navratilova, who is a lesbian, tweeted Monday. “And now lesbians are non men?!? Wtf?!?”
J.K. Rowling — who has widely been accused of being transphobic for years — also chimed in on the matter, tweeting to her 14 million followers Tuesday.
“Man: no definition needed. Non-man (formerly known as woman): a being definable only by reference to the male,” she wrote on Twitter. “An absence, a vacuum where there’s no man-ness.”
And on Wednesday, Nikki Haley, a Republican 2024 presidential contender and a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the glossary’s definition “infuriating,” weeks after she suggested that transgender girls in sports are leading to suicidal ideation in teenage girls.
“This war on women has to stop,” she wrote on Twitter. “First, allowing biological boys to play girls’ sports. Now, defining a woman as a ‘non-man.'”
Haley and Navratilova did not respond to a request for further comment, and Rowling declined to comment further.
The university’s glossary represents the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle over the integration of gender-neutral language, as more people around the world neither identify as male nor female.
A global survey released by Ipsos this month found that 1.3% of the 22,514 participants — who were surveyed in 30 countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia in February and March — identify as nonbinary, gender-nonconforming or gender fluid.
However, new research shows that the majority of Americans do not believe in gender neutral identities.
A new national poll from Public Religion Research Institute, a nonpartisan research group, found that 65% of all Americans believe there are only two gender identities — male and female.
The poll also showed that views on gender identity are deeply divided by party affiliation. Among Republicans, 90% say there are just two genders, compared with 66% of independents and 44% of Democrats.
Over the last handful of years, Rowling and others have mocked gender-neutral terms, including “people who menstruate,” “pregnant people” or “chestfeeding.”