How seven languages are bridging the LGBTIQA+ expression gap

By Our Reporter
Representational Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

The Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council (AGMC) and researchers from RMIT University have launched a pioneering online terminology resource aimed at breaking down language barriers within the LGBTIQA+ community. The innovative project, created in partnership between the two organisations, facilitates conversations around sexual orientation and gender identity by offering hundreds of terms translated into seven languages: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Korean, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.

Dr Miranda Lai, RMIT Senior Lecturer in Translating and Interpreting and project lead, noted that language difficulties can considerably affect an individual’s sense of belonging and social inclusion. She highlighted the scarcity of bilingual, let alone multilingual, resources that tackle the nuances of sexual orientation and gender identity. “The LGBTIQA+ Multilingual Terminology will help translators, interpreters, LGBTIQA+ community members and allies find the words to authentically represent identity in their own language,” Lai said.

This endeavour was first conceived in 2021, following insights from translators and interpreters struggling to articulate LGBTIQA+ terms in their native languages. Lai explained that practitioners often find the topic challenging due to unfamiliarity with the LGBTIQA+ lexicon and have limited resources to consult. With input from the LGBTIQA+ community, the project team successfully transformed these original English terms into publicly accessible multilingual glossaries.

Community participants were integral to the initiative, actively contributing in language-specific workshops. Ryan Tran, a participant who contributed to the Vietnamese glossary, remarked on the personal impact of the project. He previously struggled to find equivalent terms in Vietnamese and often resorted to using English. “Having to only use English terms to define who I am makes me question my own identity. I shouldn’t have to borrow foreign terms to talk about myself and my experiences,” Tran said.

The resource extends beyond mere glossaries. It also features a list of linguists certified by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI), who have undergone training in LGBTIQA+ terminology and are committed to using inclusive language. For Tran, the terminology resource serves a broader purpose: “This terminology resource is a valuable tool for education, advocacy, and empowerment,” he said, expressing hope that it becomes a standard reference to articulate the rich diversity of the LGBTIQA+ community.

Backed by Australia’s peak body for LGBTIQA+ individuals of multicultural and multi-faith backgrounds, the AGMC, this project paves the way for more inclusive dialogue across linguistic landscapes, fostering a sense of belonging and authenticity in conversations about identity.

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