Foundational Terms and Affirming Language

We welcome your input!

If there is a term/language that you feel should be referenced in the glossary, please feel free to submit it for consideration by emailing the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement at

The dialogue around Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging is broad and are ever-expanding and changing. Here at UHart, we are committed to fostering a campus climate and culture where everyone can thrive. To achieve this goal, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement has developed a glossary of foundational terms and affirming language to provide a basic framework around these conversations. We believe that common language is crucial for creating greater understanding and inclusivity. The following is a reference guide; a glossary of terms and affirming language commonly. This glossary and its definitions provide a starting point for engaging in open and honest conversation, and is a tool meant to build a shared language of understanding.

Aligned with the University’s Mission, Values, Civility Statement, and the UHart Start strategic plan, this glossary will:

  • Serve as a resource for all members of the UHart campus community
  • Promote dialogue through exchange of ideas and debate
  • Ground our discourse in mutual understanding
  • Aid in facilitating difficult conversations and encourage constructive dialogue
  • Hinder the spread of misinformation and outdated terminology
  • Foster a campus culture where all members of the community feel safe, welcome, and that they belong

This glossary of foundational terms and affirming language was created using several resources and in consultation with members of our community. It is not intended to be exhaustive, since language is continuously evolving. Because language reflects the lived experience, many of these words and terms will continue to evolve, as the lived experience evolves. As such, this is a fluid document and will be regularly updated to reflect the evolution of the terminology.

Christine Grant
Assistant Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement

Glossary of Terms


Ability: Power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, financially, etc.

Ableism: A set of beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities and often rests on the assumption that people with disabilities need to be ‘fixed’ in one form or another.

Access: Creating the necessary conditions so that individuals and organizations desiring to, and who are eligible to, use our services, facilities, programs, and employment opportunities.

Accessibility: The "ability to access" the functionality of a system or entity and gain the related benefits. Universal design ensures that an environment can be accessed, understood, and used to the greatest extent possible by all people.

Access Barriers: Any obstruction that prevents people with disabilities from using standard facilities, equipment and resources.

Accomplice (s): A person who knowingly, voluntarily, intentionally or directly challenges institutionalized racism, colonization and white supremacy by blocking or impeding racist people, policies and structures. The actions of an accomplice are coordinated, and they work to disrupt the status quo and challenge systems of oppression.

Acculturation: The general phenomenon of persons learning the nuances of or being initiated into a culture. This concept is not to be confused with assimilation, where an individual or group may give up certain aspects of its culture to adapt to that of the prevailing culture. Under the process of acculturation, an individual will adopt new practices while still retaining their distinct culture.

ADA: An acronym that stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is a civil rights law signed in 1990 that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

Affirm: To acknowledge, respect and support a person's identity regarding race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, experiences, ideas, or beliefs or encouraging the development of an individual.

Ageism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory action based on differences in age; usually that of younger persons against older.

Ally: A person of one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another group; typically, a member of dominant identity advocating and supporting a marginalized group. An ally acknowledges oppression and actively commits to reducing their own complicity, investing in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.

Androgyne: A person whose biological sex is not readily apparent, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Androgynous: Someone who reflects an appearance that is both masculine and feminine, or who appears to be neither both a male and a female.

Antiracism: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas. Practicing antiracism requires constantly identifying, challenging, and upending existing racist policies and structures to replace them with antiracist policies and structures that foster equity between racial groups.

Antiracist: A person who actively opposes racism and the unfair treatment of people who belong to other races. They recognize that all racial groups are equal (i.e. nothing inherently superior or inferior about specific racial groups) and that racist policies have caused racial inequities. They also understand that racism is pervasive and has been embedded into all societal structures. An antiracist challenges the values, structures, policies, and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism, and they are also willing to admit the times in which they have perpetuated racism. Persons are either antiracist or racist.

Antisemitism: Beliefs and/or behaviors hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews.

APIDA: Stands for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American, as a pan-ethnic classification that intentionally includes South Asians (Desi) as part of the community. There is a great diversity of identities and ethnicities encompassed under the APIDA umbrella, including East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander. This term ultimately includes all people of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander ancestry who trace their origins to the countries, states, jurisdictions and/or the diasporic communities of these geographic regions.

Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction. They may or may not experience romantic attraction. Asexuality is a sexual orientation, and is different from celibacy, in that celibacy is the choice to refrain from engaging in sexual behaviors and does not comment on one's sexual attractions.


Belonging: The feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group. It is when an individual can bring their authentic self to a space.

Bias: An inclination or preference, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned and interferes with impartial judgement. Biases can be implicit (unconscious or hidden) or explicit.

Bigotry: An unreasonable or irrational attachment to negative stereotypes and prejudices.

Biological Sex: Refers to anatomical, physiological, genetic, or physical attributes that determine if a person is male, female, or intersex. These include both primary and secondary sex characteristics, including genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes, and genes. Often also referred to as “sex,” “physical sex,” “anatomical sex,” or specifically as “sex assigned at birth.” Biological sex is often conflated or interchanged with gender, which is more societal than biological, and involves personal identity factors.

Bi-Phobia: The fear or hatred of homosexuality (and other non-heterosexual identities), and persons perceived to be bisexual.

BIPOC: Stands forBlack, Indigenous, and People of Color. Pronounced “bye-pock,” this is a term specific to the United States, intended to center the experiences of Black and Indigenous groups and demonstrate solidarity between communities of color. 

Bisexual: Refers to an individual who has the capacity for attraction—sexually, romantically, emotionally, or otherwise—to people with the same, and to people with different, genders and/or gender identities as themselves. People who identify as bisexual need not have had equal experience—or equal levels of attraction—with people across genders, nor any experience at all: it is attraction and self-identification that determine orientation. Sometimes referred to as bi or bi+.

Brave Space: Honors and invites full engagement from people who are vulnerable while also setting the expectation that there could be an oppressive moment that the facilitator and allies have a responsibility to address.


Categorization: The natural cognitive process of grouping and labeling people, things, etc. based on their similarities. Categorization becomes problematic when the groupings become oversimplified and rigid (e.g. stereotypes).

Chicano/a/e: Used to describe people of Mexican descent. This term should not be used to refer to people or cultural of other Latin American or Spanish-speaking countries.

Cis-Gender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior aligns with those traditionally associated with their assigned sex at birth. Sometimes, the shortened “cis” is used.

Classism: The institutional, cultural, and individual set of beliefs and discrimination that assigns differential value to people according to their socio-economic class; and an economic system which creates excessive inequality and causes basic human needs to go unmet.

Climate: The way an organization is perceived and experienced by its individual members. Climate influences whether individuals feel valued, listened to, personally safe, treated with fairness and dignity and experiences belonging within an organization.

Coalition: An alliance or union of different people, communities, or groups working for a common cause.

Code-switching: The conscious or unconscious act of altering one's communication style and/or appearance depending on the specific situation of who one is speaking to, what is being discussed, and the relationship and power and/or community dynamics between those involved. Often members of minoritized groups code-switch to minimize the impact of bias from the dominant group.

Color Blind: The belief that everyone should be treated “equally” without respect to societal, economic, historical, racial, or other difference. No differences are seen or acknowledged; everyone is considered the same.

Colorism: A practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin. It can occur both within a specific racial or ethnic group or across groups.

Co-Option: A process of appointing members to a group, or an act of absorbing of assimilating.

Co-Optation: Various processes by which members of the dominant cultures or groups assimilate members of target groups, reward them, and hold them up as models for other members of the target groups. Tokenism is a form of co-optation.

Coming Out: For people who are LGBTQ+, the process of self-identifying and self-acceptance that continues throughout one’s life, and the sharing of their identity with others. Sometimes referred to as “disclosing.” Individuals often recognize a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/gender-expansive, or queer identity within themselves first, and then may choose to reveal it to others. There are many different degrees of being out: Some may be out to friends only, some may be out publicly, and some may be out only to themselves. It’s important to remember that coming out is an incredibly personal and transformative experience. Not everyone is in the same place when it comes to being out, and it is critical to respect where each person is in that process of self-identification. It is up to each person, individually, to decide if and when to come out or disclose.

Critical Race Theory: Critical race theory in education challenges the dominant discourse on race and racism as they relate to education by examining how educational theory, policy, and practice are used to subordinate certain racial and ethnic groups. There are at least five themes that form the basic perspectives, research methods, and pedagogy of critical race theory in education:

  1. The centrality and intersectionality of race and racism
  2. The challenge to dominant ideology
  3. The commitment to social justice
  4. The centrality of experiential knowledge
  5. The interdisciplinary perspective

Culture: A social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors, and styles of communication.

Cultural Appropriation: The non-consensual/misappropriate use of cultural elements for commodification or profit purposes – including symbols, art, language, customs, etc. – often without understanding, acknowledgment or respect for its value in the context of its original culture. This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities, often converting culturally significant artifacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different/less nuanced than they would originally have had.

Cultural Competence: The ability of an individual or organization to understand how inequity can be (and has been) perpetuated through socialized behaviors and using that knowledge to disrupt inequitable practices; the ability to function effectively and empathetically as an individual and/or as an organization within the context of the cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by another’s culture.

Cultural Humility: An interpersonal stance that is open to individuals and different cultural communities and experiences in relation to aspects of one’s own cultural identity. Maintaining cultural humility requires learning and understanding the complexity of identities and how they evolve over time.

Cultural Identity: The identity or feeling of belonging to a group based on nationality, ethnicity, religion, social class, generation, locality or other types of social groups with their own distinct culture.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Culturally responsive pedagogy facilitates and supports the achievement of all students. In a culturally responsive classroom, reflective teaching and learning occur in a culturally supported, learner-centered context, whereby the strengths students bring to school are identified, nurtured and utilized to promote student achievement.


Dead naming: Occurs when an individual, intentionally or not, refers to the name that a transgender or gender-expansive individual used at a different time in their life. Avoid this practice, as it can cause trauma, stress, embarrassment, and even danger. Some may prefer the terms birth name, given name, or old name. 

Decolonize: The active and intentional process of unlearning values, beliefs and conceptions that have caused physical, emotional or mental harm to people through colonization. It requires a recognition of systems of oppression.

Deficit-Minded Language: Language that blames individuals for their inequitable outcomes instead of examining the systemic factors that contribute to their challenges. It labels individuals as inadequate by focusing on qualities or knowledge they lack, such as the cognitive abilities and motivation needed to succeed, or shortcomings socially linked to the individual, such as cultural deprivation, inadequate socialization, or family deficits or dysfunctions. This language emphasizes “fixing” these problems and inadequacies in individuals. Examples of this type of language include “at-risk” or “high-need,” “underprepared” or “disadvantaged,” “non-traditional” or “untraditional,” “underprivileged,” and “achievement gap.”

DEI Filter: The process of critically examining, revising, and recommending the use of inclusive text, imagery, cultural appreciation, personal pronouns, and person-first language. The DEI filter supports the organization’s commitment to dismantle inequities that support a monocultural structure.

Disability: Physical or mental impairment that affects a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities. Includes visible and “invisible” disabilities.

Discrimination: The unequal treatment of members of various groups based on race, ethnicity, gender identity and/or expression, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, national origin, age, physical/mental abilities, and other identities that may result in disadvantages and differences in provision of goods, services, or opportunities.

Disparate Impact: Disparate impact occurs when policies, practices, rules or other systems that appear to be neutral result in a disproportionate impact on a protected group.

Diversity: Individual differences (e.g., personality, prior knowledge, and life experiences) and group/social identities (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, gender, age, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, socioeconomic status, and ability as well as cultural, political, religious, other affiliations). It also involves different ideas, perspectives and values.

Drag Queen/King | A man or woman dressed as the opposite gender, usually for the purpose of performance or entertainment. Many times, overdone or outrageous and may present a “stereotyped image.”


Environmental Justice: The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Environmental Racism: The disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color.

Equality: The condition under which every individual is treated in the same way, and is granted the same access, rights, and responsibilities, regardless of their individual differences. People who support equality believe that different circumstances and identities do not prescribe social disadvantage; therefore, equality is the elimination of this disadvantage. Equality can actually increase inequities in communities, as not every group of people needs the same resources or opportunities allocated to them in order to thrive.

Equity: The creation of opportunities for historically oppressed populations that provide access, opportunities, and resources that eliminate barriers and structural inequalities. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is necessary to provide equal opportunities to all groups. Being equitable means acknowledging and addressing structural inequalities—historic and current—that advantage some and disadvantage others. Equal treatment results in equity only if everyone starts with equal access to opportunities.

Equity-Mindedness: The perspective or mode of thinking exhibited by practitioners who call attention to patterns of inequity in student outcomes. These practitioners are willing to take personal and institutional responsibility for the success of their students, and critically reassess their own practices. It also requires that practitioners are race-conscious and aware of the social and historical context of exclusionary practices in American Higher Education (Center for Urban Education).

Equity Prime: A prompt or reminder to direct your attention towards center racial equity and BIPOC. It can often take the form of a simple visual image, some key words, provocative questions, or a checklist.

Ethnicity: The social identity and mutual belongingness that defines a group of people on the basis of common origins, shared beliefs, and shared standards of behavior (culture). Not to be confused with race.


Femme: A person who expresses and/or identifies with femininity.

First-Generation Student: An individual both of whose parents did not complete a baccalaureate degree; or in the case of any individual who regularly resided with and received support from only one parent, an individual whose only such parent did not complete a baccalaureate degree. The term “first-generation” implies the possibility that a student may lack the critical cultural capital necessary for college success because their parents did not attend college. While first-generation students are often quite academically skilled and contribute in many ways to a campus community, navigating the tangled web of college policies, procedures, jargon, and expectations can be a challenge. Frequently referred to as “first-gen.”

First Nation People: Individuals who identify as those who were the first people to live on the Western Hemisphere continent. People also identified as Native Americans.


Gaslighting: First popularized in the 1944 movie Gas Light, it means a deliberate attempt to undermine a victim’s sense of reality or sanity. In a work context, it usually means behaviors that undermine the success, self-confidence, self-esteem, or wellbeing of the target. For people in underrepresented or less powerful groups, it is more likely to occur, with more severe and harmful cumulative effects. Tactics can include withholding (critical information, meeting invitations, silent treatment), isolation (exclusion, causing conflict with coworkers), and discrediting (consistently shooting down the target’s ideas, ignoring or taking credit for them).

Gay: A term used to describe (trans or cis) boys/men who are attracted to (trans or cis) boys/men, but often used and embraced by people with other gender identities to describe their same-gender attractions and relationships. Sometimes referred to as “homosexual,” though this term is no longer used by the majority of people with same-gender attractions. 

Gender Binary: The disproven concept that there are only two genders, man and woman, and that everyone must be one or the other. Also implies that gender is biologically determined. (Watch Beyond the Binary: Gender as a Constellation by the Harvard College Women’s Center)

Gender Expression: External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, body characteristics, and/or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being masculine or feminine.

Gender Identity: Distinct from the term “sexual orientation,” refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or somewhere else on the gender spectrum. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others and may or may not align with their gender expression.

Gender Non-Conforming: An individual or identity characterized by traits that do not conform to conventional gendered behavior, expression, or gender roles.

Gender Spectrum: The concept that gender exists beyond a simple man/woman binary model, but instead exists on a continuum. Some people fall towards more masculine or more feminine aspects, some people move fluidly along the spectrum, and some identify off the spectrum entirely.


Harassment: The use of comments or actions that can be perceived as offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning, and unwelcome.

Hate Crime: Hate crime legislation often defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.

Hate Speech: Any kind of communication in speech, writing or behavior, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, color, descent, gender, sexual orientation, or other identity factor.

Heteronormativity: The assumption that everyone is heterosexual, and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities.

Heterosexual: Refers to a person who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to a person of the opposite gender. This is often referred to as “straight.”

Hispanic: Describes people, descendants, and cultures of Spanish-speaking countries, including many Latin American countries and Spain. The term is not synonymous with Latino/Latina/Latinx. See also Latinx.

Homophobia: An aversion to lesbian or gay people that often manifests in the form of prejudice and bias. Homophobia is also a structural form of discrimination manifesting in policies and institutions. Similarly, biphobia is an aversion to people who are bisexual. Collectively, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia are referred to as anti-LGBTQ+ bias.

Homosexual: An outdated clinical term often considered derogatory and offensive, as opposed to the generally preferred terms gay, lesbian, or queer.

Horizontal Prejudice: The result of people of targeted racial groups believing, acting on, or enforcing the dominant (White) system of racial discrimination and oppression. Horizontal racism can occur between members of the same racial group or between members of different targeted racial groups.


Impostor Syndrome: Refers to individuals' feelings of not being as capable or adequate as others. Common symptoms of the impostor phenomenon include feelings of phoniness, self-doubt, and inability to take credit for one's accomplishments. The literature has shown that such impostor feelings influence a person's self-esteem, professional goal directed-ness, locus of control, mood, and relationships with others.

Inclusion: The act of creating an environment in which any individual or group will be welcomed, respected, supported and valued as a fully participating member. This may be achieved through the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity—in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect—in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.

Inclusive Excellence: Inclusive excellence is the recognition that an organization or community’s success is dependent on how well it values, engages and includes the rich diversity of its community members, including its students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and affiliates.

Inclusive Language: Refers to non-sexist language or language that “includes” all persons in its references. For example, “a writer needs to proofread his work” excludes females due to the masculine reference of the pronoun. Likewise, “a nurse must disinfect her hands” is exclusive of males and stereotypes nurses as females.

Indigenous Peoples: Also known as first peoples, aboriginal peoples, native peoples, or autochthonous peoples, indigenous people are ethnic groups who are descended from and identify with the original inhabitants of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied, or colonized the area more recently. In the case of the United States and its territories, this includes Native Hawaiians, Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans.

Internalized Homophobia: Among lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, internalized sexual stigma (also called internalized homophobia) refers to the personal acceptance and endorsement of sexual stigma as part of the individual's value system and self-concept. It is the counterpart to sexual prejudice among heterosexuals.

Internalized Oppression: The process whereby individuals in the target group make oppression internal and personal by coming to believe that the lies, prejudices, and stereotypes about them are true. Members of target groups exhibit internalized oppression when they alter their attitudes, behaviors, speech, and self-confidence to reflect the stereotypes and norms of the dominant group. Internalized oppression can create low self-esteem, self-doubt, and even self-loathing. It can also be projected outward as fear, criticism, and distrust of members of one’s target group.

Internalized Racism: When individuals from targeted racial groups internalize racist beliefs about themselves or members of their racial group. Examples include using creams to lighten one’s skin, believing that white leaders are inherently more competent, asserting that individuals of color are not as intelligent as white individuals, believing that racial inequality is the result of individuals of color not raising themselves up “by their bootstraps”. (Jackson & Hardiman, 1997).

Intersectionality: The complex, cumulative intertwining of social identities which result in unique experiences, opportunities, and barriers. People may use “intersectionality” to refer to the many facets of our identities, and ow those facets intersect. Some use the term to refer to the compound nature of multiple systemic oppressions.

Institutional Racism: Institutional Racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes and opportunities for different groups based on racial discrimination.

Intercultural Competence: A set of cognitive, affective, and behavioral skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts.

Intersectionality: The acknowledgement that within groups of people with a common identity, whether it be gender, sexuality, religion, race, or one of the many other defining aspects of identity, there exist intragroup differences. In other words, each individual experience social structures slightly differently because the intersection of their identities reflects an intersection of overlapping oppressions. Therefore, sweeping generalizations about the struggle or power of a particular social group fail to recognize that individuals in the group also belong to other social groups and may experience other forms of marginalization. Unfortunately, institutions and social movements based on a commonly shared identity tend to disregard the presence of other marginalized identities within the group.

Intersex: An umbrella term used to describe a variety of conditions in which a person is born with reproductive and/or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the medical definitions of female or male.

Islamophobia: An exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility towards Islam and Muslim that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political, and civic life.

“Isms”: A way of describing any attitude, action, or institutional structure that oppresses a person or group because of their target group. For example, race (racism), gender (sexism), economic status (classism), age (ageism), religion (e.g., antisemitism), sexual orientation (heterosexism), language/immigrant status (xenophobes), etc.


Justice: The establishment or determination of rights according to rules of law and standards of equity; the process or result of using laws to fairly judge crimes and criminality.


Land Acknowledgement: a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories.

Latinx/o/a/e: A gender-neutral or nonbinary term that refers to a person of Latin American origin or descent (gender-neutral version of Latino or Latina).

Lesbian: Used to describe (trans or cis) girls/women who are attracted to (trans or cis) girls/women. Sometimes referred to as “homosexual,” though this term is no longer used by the majority of women with same-gender attractions. 

LGBTQ+: An acronym that collectively refers to individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. It is sometimes stated as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender), GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender), or LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual). The addition of the Q for queer is a more recently preferred version of the acronym as cultural opinions of the term focus increasingly on its positive, reclaimed definition, which recognizes more fluid identities; and as a move towards greater inclusivity for gender-expansive people (see Queer below). The Q can also stand for questioning, referring to those who are still exploring their own sexuality and/or gender. The “+” represents those who are part of the community, but for whom LGBTQ does not accurately capture or reflect their identity.

Lines of Difference: A person who operates across lines of difference is one who welcomes and honors perspectives from others in different racial, gender, socioeconomic, generational, regional groups than their own. [Listing is not exhaustive]

Look-ism: Discrimination or prejudice based upon an individual’s appearance.


Marginalize / Marginalization: The systematic disempowerment of a person or community by denying access to necessary resources, enforcing prejudice through society’s institutions, and/or not allowing for that individual or community’s voice, history, and perspective to be heard. A tactic used to devalue those that vary from the norm of the mainstream, sometimes to the point of denigrating them as deviant and regressive.

Marriage Equality: The state of having the same rights to marriage as others, regardless of one's sexual orientation or gender identity; unlike the term “same-sex marriage,” it does not marginalize the LGBTQ+ community and privilege heterosexual unions.

Mattering: The feeling that others depend on us, are interested in us, are concerned with our fate, or experience us as an ego-extension.

Microaffirmations: Small gestures of inclusion, caring, or kindness, directed toward people who may feel isolated or invisible in an environment. These acts may include listening; providing comfort and support; making concerted efforts to use peoples’ correct names, pronunciations, and pronouns; affirming peoples’ feelings and experiences; being an ally; and explicitly valuing the contributions and presence of all.

Microaggression: The verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, insults, or actions, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon discriminatory belief systems.

Microassaults: Overt and conscious-explicit or subtle slights and insults expressed to marginalized groups. Microassaults can be verbal, nonverbal, and/or environmental (examples include: name-calling, avoidant behavior, or purposeful discriminatory actions).

Microinsults: Verbal and nonverbal communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity and demean a person's racial heritage or identity. An example is an employee who asks a colleague of color how she got her job, implying she may have landed it through an affirmative action or quota system.

Microinterventions: Concrete action steps and dialogues that targets, allies, and bystanders can perform to address microaggressions.

Minoritized: Describes the process of “minoritization” whereby individuals are afforded less power and representation based on their social identities. These social identities such as race and ethnicity, are socially constructed concepts that are created and accepted by society.

Misgender: To refer to someone, especially a transgender or gender-expansive person, using a word, especially a pronoun or form of address, which does not correctly reflect the gender with which they identify.

Misogyny: Derived from the Ancient Greek word “mīsoguníā,” which means hatred towards women. Misogyny has taken shape in multiple forms such as male privilege, patriarchy, gender discrimination, sexual harassment, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification.

Multi-Cultural | This term is used in a variety of ways and is less often defined by its users than terms such as multiculturalism or multicultural education.

One common use of the term refers to the raw fact of cultural diversity: “multicultural education … responds to a multicultural population.” Another use of the term refers to an ideological awareness of diversity: “[multicultural theorists] have a clear recognition of a pluralistic society.” Still others go beyond this and understand multicultural as reflecting a specific ideology of inclusion and openness toward “others.” Perhaps the most common use of this term in the literature is in reference simultaneously to a context of cultural pluralism and an ideology of inclusion or “mutual exchange of and respect for diverse cultures.”

When the term is used to refer to a group of persons (or an organization or institution), it most often refers to the presence of and mutual interaction among diverse persons (in terms of race, class, gender, and so forth) of significant representation in the group. In other words, a few African Americans in a predominantly European American congregation would not make the congregation “multicultural.” Some, however, do use the term to refer to the mere presence of some non-majority persons somewhere in the designated institution (or group or society), even if there is neither significant interaction nor substantial numerical representation.

Multi-Cultural Feminism: The advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes within cultural/ethnic groups within a society.

Multi-Ethnic: An individual that comes from more than one ethnicity. An individual whose parents are born with more than one ethnicity.

Multiplicity: The quality of having multiple, simultaneous social identities (e.g., being male and Buddhist and working-class).

Multi-Racial: An individual that comes from more than one race.


National Origin: The political state from which an individual hail; may or may not be the same as that person's current location or citizenship.

Neo-Liberalism: A substantial subjugation and marginalization of policies and practices informed by the values of social justice and equity.

Neurodiversity: The idea that neurological differences, such as autism or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are the result of normal, natural variation among humans.

Non-Binary/Gender Queer/Gender Variant: Terms used by some people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman.


Oppression: The systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures.

Othering: The perception or intentional/unintentional placement of a group in contrast to the societal norm. The identifying of a group as a threat to the favored dominant group.


Pan-Sexual: A term referring to the potential for sexual attractions or romantic love toward people of all gender identities and biological sexes. The concept of pan-sexuality deliberately rejects the gender binary and derives its origin from the transgender movement.

Patriarchy: Actions and beliefs that prioritize masculinity. Patriarchy is practiced systemically in the ways and methods through which power is distributed in society (jobs and positions of power given to men in government, policy, criminal justice, etc.) while also influencing how we interact with one another interpersonally (gender expectations, sexual dynamics, space-taking, etc.).

People of Color: A collective term for individuals of Asian, African, Latinx, and/ or Native American descent, as opposed to the collective “White.”

Person-First vs Identity-First Language: Person-first language is preferred by many when speaking about persons with disabilities. Person-first language, such as saying “Person with a Disability” rather than using expressions like “handicapped,” or “challenged,” emphasizes that the person is more important than the disability. This can be applied to other aspects of identity as well (e.g. people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, etc.).

Polyamory: Polyamory is the desire, practice, or acceptance of having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time, with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved. Unlike cheating and adultery, all polyamorous relationships are characterized by honesty, open and frequent communication, and mutually agreed-upon boundaries. While some people briefly experiment with polyamorous relationships, many people identify as polyamorous for most of their lives. (UC Berkley, 2021)

Prejudice: A set of negative beliefs about a social group that leads individuals to prejudge people from that group or the group in general, regardless of individual differences among members of that group.

Pronouns: Words to refer to a person after initially using their name. "Personal gender pronouns" (or PGPs) are the pronouns that people ask others to use in reference to themselves. Some examples of commonly used pronouns include: she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, per/per/pers, xe/xem/xyr, and zie/hir/hirs. Some people state their pronoun preferences as a form of allyship.

Privilege: Unearned social power (set of advantages, entitlements, and benefits) accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to the members of a dominant group (e.g., White/Caucasian people with respect to people of color, men with respect to women, heterosexuals with respect to the LGB community, adults with respect to children, etc.). Privilege tends to be invisible to those who possess it, because its absence (lack of privilege) is what calls attention to it. The privilege or oppression experienced as a result of one identity does not negate the privilege or oppression experienced as a result of another.  

PWI: Stands for Predominantly White Institution; used to describe institutions of higher learning in which White students account for 50% or greater of the student enrollment.


Queer: A term people often use to express a spectrum of identities and orientations that are counter to the mainstream. Queer is often used as a catch-all to include many people, including those who do not identify as exclusively straight and/or folks who have non-binary or gender-expansive identities. This term was previously used as a slur, but has been reclaimed by many parts of the LGBTQ movement.

Questioning: Describes those who are in a process of discovery and exploration about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or a combination thereof. For many reasons, this may happen later in life and does not imply that someone is “choosing” to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer.


Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly skin color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic, and political needs of a society at a given period of time.

Race-consciousness: Signifies being mindful of the impact of policies and practices on different racialized groups in our society. Race-consciousness can motivate a desire to become informed about how injustice occurs and to be intentional about seeking redress. Race-consciousness contradicts color-blindness through actively seeking to perceive, understand, and challenge racism. It also paves the way for imagining a more just and inclusive society that affirms diversity rather than reducing it to a white normative ideal.

Race lighting: An act of psychological manipulation where Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) receive racial messages that distort their realities and lead them to second-guess themselves.

Racial Equity: The condition that would be achieved if one's racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. When this term is used, the term may imply that racial equity is one part of racial justice, and thus also includes work to address the root causes of inequities, not just their manifestations. This includes the elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race or fail to eliminate them.

Racism: Systematic oppression of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States by members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power. It can take several forms, including representational, ideological, discursive, interactional, institutional, structural, and systemic. View the Four Dimensions of Racism Diagram.

Racially Coded Language: Language that is seemingly race-neutral but is a disguise for racial stereotypes without the stigma of explicit racism.

Rainbow Flag: The Rainbow Freedom Flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker to designate the great diversity of the LGBTIQ community. It has been recognized by the International Flag Makers Association as the official flag of the LGBTIQ civil rights movement.


Safe Space: A place for marginalized communities to be free of discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm.

Safer Space: A supportive, non-threatening environment that encourages open-mindedness, respect, a willingness to learn from others, as well as physical and mental safety.

Saliency: The quality of a group identity in which an individual is more conscious, and plays a larger role in that individual's day‐to‐day life; for example, a man's awareness of his "maleness" in an elevator with only women.

Sexual Orientation: An individual’s physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same; transgender people identify with any sexual orientation.

Sizeism: Discrimination or prejudice directed against people because of their size and especially because of their weight. 

Social Justice: Constitutes a form of activism, based on principles of equity and inclusion that encompasses a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others.

Social Oppression: This condition exists when one social group, whether knowingly or unconsciously, exploits another group for its own benefit.

Social Power: Access to resources that enhance one's chances of getting what one needs or influencing others in order to lead a safe, productive, fulfilling life.

Socioeconomic Status: The social standing or class of an individual or group. It is often measured as a combination of education, income, and occupation. Examinations of socioeconomic status often reveal inequities in access to resources, plus issues related to privilege, power, and control. 

Structural/Systemic Oppression: Systemic disadvantage(s) of one social group compared to other groups, rooted and perpetuated through discriminatory practices (conscious or unconscious) that are reinforced through institutions, ideologies, representations, policies/laws, and practices. When this kind of inequality is related to racial/ethnic discrimination, it is referred to as systemic or structural racism.

Structural/Systemic Racism: Structural racism or systemic racism in the U.S. is the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics—historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal—that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. It is a system of hierarchy and inequity, primarily characterized by white supremacy—the preferential treatment, privilege, and power for white people at the expense of Black, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Indigenous, Arab, and other racially oppressed people.


Tokenism: Performative presence without meaningful participation. For example, a superficial invitation for the participation of members of a certain socially oppressed group, who are expected to speak for the whole group without giving this person a real opportunity to speak for themselves.

Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth (i.e. the sex listed on their birth certificates). Transgender people may identify with any sexual orientation. Use "transgender," not "transgendered."

Transgressive: Challenging the accepted expectations and/or rules of the appropriateness of “polite society”.

Trans Misogyny: The negative attitudes, expressed through cultural hate, individual and state violence, and discrimination directed toward trans women and transfeminine people. 

Transition: A term sometimes used to refer to the process—social, legal, and/or medical—one goes through to discover and/or affirm one’s gender identity. This may, but does not always, include taking hormones, having surgeries, and changing names, pronouns, identification documents, and more. Many individuals choose not to or are unable to transition for a wide range of reasons both within and beyond their control. The validity of an individual’s gender identity does not depend on any social, legal, and/or medical transition; the self-identification itself is what validates the gender identity.

Transphobia: The fear or hatred of transgender people or people who do not conform to society’s gender role expectations.

Trigger: Something that an individual says or does or an organizational policy or practice that makes members of social groups feel diminished, offended, threatened, stereotyped, discounted, or attacked. Triggers do not necessarily threaten physical safety. Individuals often feel psychologically threatened. People can also be triggered on behalf of another social group. Though they do not feel personally threatened, their sense of social justice feels violated.

Two-Spirit: A term used within some Indigenous communities to refer to a person who identifies as having both a male and a female essence or spirit. The term--which was created in 1990 by a group of Indigenous activists at an annual Native LGBTQ conference--encompasses sexual, cultural, gender, and spiritual identities, and provides unifying, positive, and encouraging language that emphasizes reconnecting to tribal traditions.


Unconscious Bias: (see definition of bias)

Underrepresented: Group identities whose numbers are demographically fewer than the larger majority groups. A historically oppressed group characterized by lack of access to the full benefits of economic, social, and political opportunity, and often used as a replacement term for minority.

Underserved: Describes people who have limited or no access to acceptable and affordable resources or services, including disaster behavioral health services. The term should be used carefully and, where possible, specifics should be provided (e.g., people who are medically underserved, people living in Health Professional Shortage Areas). 

Undocumented (Immigrant): A foreign-born person living in the United States without legal citizenship status. These immigrants either entered the United States without inspection according to immigration procedures, or entered the United States on a temporary visa and stayed beyond the expiration date of the visa.

Undocumented Students: School-aged immigrants who entered the United States without inspection or overstayed their visas and are present in the United States with or without their parents. They face unique legal uncertainties and limitations within the US education system.

Undocumented Workers: A term used to describe the populations of laborers in the United States who do not possess legal documentation of residence and/or who did not receive proper authorization to enter into the country.

Undue Hardship: An action by a university creating significant difficulty or expense for students or employees.

Universal Design: The process of creating products and processes that are usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest possible range of situations; whereas, accessibility primarily refers to design for people with disabilities.

Upstander: A person who chooses to take positive action in the face of injustice in society or in institutions in which individuals need personal assistance; the opposite of bystander.


Veteran Status: Whether or not an individual has served in the nation’s armed forces (or other uniformed service).


WASP: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. A term used in the United States to refer to the demographic of people who are of this ancestry.

White: People of European origin. In the United States, “European American” can also be used; some prefer terms that identify their country of origin, such as “Italian American,” “Greek American,” etc. This term is not synonymous with “Caucasian,” which refers specifically to people with origins in the region lying between the Black Sea (west) and the Caspian Sea (east) and occupied by Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

White Supremacy: The racial ideology of white supremacy describes the belief system that rationalizes and reproduces white advantage in the political, social, and cultural institutions of society. This belief system holds that white people, white culture, and things associated with whiteness are superior to those of other racial groups. It assumes as normal and rational that the interests and perceptions of white individuals are central in society. Unlike overt white supremacist groups, this racial ideology may be unexamined or unconscious. Relations of white dominance and subordination of others are reenacted daily throughout institutions and social settings in a society where whites overwhelmingly control material resources, and ideas about entitlement are widespread.

Whiteness: A broad social construction that embraces the white culture, history, ideology, racialization, expressions, experiences, epistemology, emotions, and behaviors and reaps material, political, economic, and structural benefits for those socially deemed white.

Workplace Diversity: A common term for increased racial/ethnic/gender representation in a company’s entire workforce.


Xenophobia: Dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.

The terms contained in this glossary have been reproduced from the following resources: