DEI Terms & Definitions
The dialogue around diversity, equity and inclusion is broad and growing. This introduces the need for common vocabulary to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Words often have different meanings; depending on lived experiences words might hold different meanings for different people.
Diversity is more than a word, more than an ideal and more than the attainment of a particular quantifiable goal. Diversity is the realization of difference and of inequity and understanding of power and privilege. It is balanced by inclusion, the desire to create equal opportunity and further, realize that a diverse community is stronger, richer and more sustainable than one which actively, or passively, excludes people who are different. Diversity and inclusion create excellence.
We invite students, faculty, and staff to come together in dialogue through an exchange of ideas and debate. Inclusion is the journey we travel to understand the roots of our identities and disciplines, and recognize how our scholarship both affects and is shaped by society and culture. We believe that unbounded inclusion is foundational to effective interdisciplinary scholarship.
As we broaden our community, we strengthen our ability to identify key issues, frame questions and address issues that span earth sciences, natural resources and human dimensions. Diversity, in all its forms, is not only desirable, but also required for advancing our understanding of the environment and arriving at solutions that allow science to more effectively serve all of humanity.
The following is a reference guide; a glossary of terms and language commonly used in dialogue regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. It is by no means a comprehensive list and, in every context, the meaning of these words may change and evolve. 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
Ableism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental, and/or emotional ability
Accessibility: Refers to the intentional design or redesign of technology, policies, products, and services (to name a few) that increase one's ability to use, access, and obtain the respective item. Each person, regardless of ability status, is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. Although this might not result in identical ease of use, any person with a disability must be able to obtain information, to which they are otherwise permitted to access, in a timely manner as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability.
Accommodation: The process of adapting or adjusting to someone or something. Accommodations can be religious, physical, or mental. A reasonable accommodation specifically is an alteration in process or environment that allows a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy equitable access within employment, public entities, or education.
Accomplice: The actions of an accomplice are meant to directly challenge institutionalized racism, colonization, and white supremacy by blocking or impeding racist people, policies, and structures.
Accountability: In the context of racial equity work, accountability refers to the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions and acknowledge the values and groups to which they are responsible. To be accountable, one must be visible, with a transparent agenda and process. Invisibility defies examination; it is, in fact, employed in order to avoid detection and examination. Accountability demands commitment. It might be defined as “what kicks in when convenience runs out.” Accountability requires some sense of urgency and becoming a true stakeholder in the outcome. Accountability can be externally imposed (legal or organizational requirements), or internally applied (moral, relational, faith-based, or recognized as some combination of the two) on a continuum from the institutional and organizational level to the individual level. From a relational point of view, accountability is not always doing it right. Sometimes it is really about what happens after its done wrong (Berman et al., 2010).
Acculturation: The general phenomenon of persons learning the nuances of or being initiated into a culture. It may also carry a negative connotation when referring to the attempt by dominant cultural groups to acculturate members of other cultural groups into the dominant culture in an assimilation fashion.
Active listening: A process of hearing and understanding what someone is saying by empathizing with the speaker(s) and considering their perspective(s).
Adverse impact: A substantially different rate of selection in hiring, promotion, transfer, training, or other employment-related decisions for any race, sex, gender, or ethnic group in comparison with other groups.
Advocate: A person who actively works to end intolerance, educate others, and support social equity for a marginalized group; to actively support or plea in favor of a particular cause, the action of working to end intolerance or educate others.
AFAB/AMAB: Assigned Female At Birth / Assigned Male At Birth.
Affirmative action: A set of policies and practices designed to eliminate unlawful discrimination among applicants, remedy the results of such prior discrimination, and prevent such discrimination in the future.
Ageism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions, such as referring to someone’s age in a context in which age is not relevant, based on differences in age; usually those of younger persons against older persons.
Agency: The ability to act independently and make free choices; the ability to make conscious decisions for oneself.
Agender: A person with no (or very little) connection to the traditional gender binary, no personal alignment with the concepts of either man or woman, and/or someone who sees themselves as existing without gender.
Agent: The perpetrator of oppression and/or discrimination; usually a member of the dominant, non‐target identity group.
Agnostic: Someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of a deity; the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that a deity exists or the belief that a deity does not exist.
Ally: Someone who supports a group other than one’s own (in terms of multiple identities such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.). An ally acknowledges oppression and actively commits to reducing their own complicity, investing in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.
Allyship: An active verb; leveraging personal positions of power and privilege to fight oppression by respecting, working with, and empowering marginalized voices and communities; using one’s own voice to project others’, less represented, voices.
American: A native or inhabitant of any of the countries of North, South, or Central America. Widely used to denote a native or citizen of the United States.
Androgyne / androgynous / androgyny: Someone who reflects an appearance that is both masculine and feminine, neither or both.
Anti-blackness: The Council for Democratizing Education defines anti-Blackness as being a two-part formation that both voids Blackness of value, while systematically marginalizing Black people and their issues. The first form of anti-Blackness is overt racism. Beneath this anti-Black racism is the covert structural and systemic racism which categorically predetermines the socioeconomic status of Blacks in this country. The structure is held in place by anti-Black policies, institutions, and ideologies.
Anti-racist: An anti-racist is someone who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing antiracist ideas. This includes the expression or ideas that racial groups are equals and do not need developing and supporting policies that reduce racial inequity. "To be antiracist is to think nothing is behaviorally wrong or right -- inferior or superior -- with any of the racial groups. Whenever the antiracist sees individuals behaving positively or negatively, the antiracist sees exactly that: individuals behaving positively or negatively, not representatives of whole races. To be antiracist is to deracialize behavior, to remove the tattooed stereotype from every racialized body. Behavior is something humans do, not races do." (Kendi, 2019)
Anti‐Semitism: The fear or hatred of Jews, Judaism, and related symbols.
Aromantic: Experiencing little or no romantic attraction to other people. Aromanticism exists on a continuum.
Asexual: Refers to a person who does not experience sexual attraction or has little interest in sexual activity.
Assigned sex: The sex that is assigned to an infant at birth based on the child’s visible sex organs, including genitalia and other physical characteristics.
Assimilation: The gradual process by which a person or group belonging to one culture adopts the practices of another, thereby, becoming a member of that culture. Assimilation can be voluntary or forced.
At-risk: Describes students or groups of students who are considered to have a higher probability of struggling academically or dropping out of school due to coming from social conditions that have not prepared them adequately or serve as hurdles in their way to success. Some challenges that at-risk students may face include poverty, homelessness, serious health issues, domestic violence, transiency, or learning disabilities.
Autism: Also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.
Bias: A form of prejudice that results from our need to quickly classify individuals into categories.
Bias incident: An intentional or unintentional act targeted at a person, group, or property expressing hostility on the basis of perceived or actual gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability. Bias incidents may consist of name-calling, epithets, slurs, degrading language, graffiti, intimidation, coercion, or harassment directed toward the targeted person or group. Acts qualify as bias acts even when delivered with humorous intent or presented as a joke or a prank.
Bicultural: A person who functions effectively and appropriately and can select appropriate behaviors, values, and attitudes within either of two cultures; a person who identifies with two cultures.
Bigot: A person who is obstinately devoted to their own opinions and prejudices and is intolerant towards other diverse social groups.
BIPOC: An acronym used to refer to black, Indigenous and people of color. It is based on the recognition of collective experiences of systemic racism. As with any other identity term, it is up to individuals to use this term as an identifier.
Biphobia: The fear or hatred of persons perceived to be bisexual.
Biracial: A person who identifies coming from two races. A person whose biological parents are of two different races.
Bigender/dual gender: A person who possesses and expresses a distinctly masculine persona and a distinctly feminine persona. Is comfortable in and enjoys presenting in both gender roles either simultaneously or alternately.
Bisexual: A person who experiences attraction to some men and women, or identifies as experiencing an attraction to people of varying genders.
Blind: A term most frequently used to describe a severe vision loss. Either blind or low vision are acceptable terms to describe all degrees of vision loss.
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.
Capitalism: An economic and political order that relies on a mostly-private, unequal market system of production and consumption.
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).
Cisgender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior aligns with those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.
Cisnormativity: The belief that being cisgender is normal. This belief feeds into a system of oppression that privileges cisgender individuals and denies equality to transgender people.
Cissexism: The assumption that all people are cisgender. Because this assumption is so deeply ingrained in our society through socialization, many people say and do things that are cissexist without realizing it or intending to.
Citizen: A legally recognized subject or national of a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.
Civil rights: The rights established and ensured by a state government regarding political and social equality.
Civil union: A relationship between a couple that is legally recognized by a governmental authority andas many of the rights and responsibilities of marriage.
Class: 1. Relative social rank in terms of income, wealth, status, and/or power. 2. Category or division based on economic status; members of a class are theoretically assumed to possess similar cultural, political, and economic characteristics and principles.
Classism: Any attitude or institutional practice which subordinates people of a certain socioeconomic class due to income, occupation, education, and/or their economic status; a system that works to keep certain communities within a set socioeconomic class and prevents social and economic mobility.
Climate: Refers to the way that an organization is perceived and experienced by its individual members. Climate influences whether individuals feel valued, listened to, personally safe and treated with fairness and dignity within an organization.
Closeted / in the closet: A term used to describe gender and sexual minorities who do not want or cannot reveal their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
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 target groups code-switch to minimize the impact of bias from the dominant group.
Codification: The capture and expression of a complex concept in a simple symbol, sign, or prop; for example, symbolizing “community” (equity, connection, unity) with a circle.
Collusion: When people act to perpetuate oppression or prevent others from working to eliminate oppression.
Colonialism: The exploitative historical, political, social, and economic system established when one group or force takes control over a colonized territory or group; the unequal relationship between colonizer and the colonized.
Colonization: The action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area. The action of appropriating a place or domain for one's own use.
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 the same.
Colorism: A form of prejudice or discrimination in which people are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin color.
Coming out: The process by which LGBTQI individuals recognize, accept, typically appreciate, and often celebrate their sexual orientation, sexuality, or gender identity/expression. Coming out varies across culture and community.
Conscious bias (explicit bias): Refers to the attitudes and beliefs we have about a person or group on a conscious level. Much of the time, these biases and their expression arise as the direct result of a perceived threat. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to draw group boundaries to distinguish themselves from others.
Co-option: A process of appointing members to a group, or an act of absorbing or 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.
Counter-narrative: Refers to the narratives that arise from the vantage point of those who have been historically marginalized. The idea of “counter-” itself implies a space of resistance against traditional domination. A counter-narrative goes beyond the notion that those in relative positions of power can just tell the stories of those in the margins. Instead, these must come from the margins, from the perspectives and voices of those individuals. A counter-narrative thus goes beyond the telling of stories that take place in the margins. The effect of a counter-narrative is to empower and give agency to those communities. By choosing their own words and telling their own stories, members of marginalized communities provide alternative points of view, helping to create complex narratives truly presenting their realities. (Mora 2014).
Critical analysis: A self-conscious critique that contains within it the need to develop a discourse of social transformation and emancipation that a) does not cling dogmatically to its own doctrinal assumptions, and b) demonstrates and simultaneously calls for the necessity of ongoing critique, one in which the claims of any theory must be confronted with the distinction between the world it portrays, and the world as it actually exists.
Critical media literacy: An approach to media literacy that emphasizes the examination of media to understand the relationship between language and the power it can hold. Individuals critically analyze and evaluate the meaning of media as they relate to topics on equity, power, and social justice.
Critical Race Theory: A framework or set of basic perspectives, methods, and pedagogy that seeks to identify, analyze, and transform those structural and cultural aspects of society that maintain the subordination and marginalization of People of Color. There are at least five themes that form the basic perspectives, research methods, and pedagogy of critical race theory in education: The centrality and intersectionality of race and racism. The challenge to dominant ideology. The commitment to social justice. The centrality of experiential knowledge. 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, and 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.
cultural competence: The ability to use critical-thinking skills to interpret how values and belief influence conscious and unconscious behavior; the understanding of how inequity can be and has been perpetuated through socialized behaviors and the knowledge and determined disposition to disrupt inequitable practices to achieve greater personal and professional success; the ability to effectively and empathetically work and engage with people of different cultural identities and backgrounds in order to provide safe and accountable spaces for dialogue and discourse; cultural competence is relevant in all fields of work, education, and informal social interactions.
Cultural encapsulation: A lack of contact with cultures outside of our own, which may promote insensitivity to cultural differences. Being encapsulated is akin to living in a cultural bubble. This bubble alters our view, making it difficult to transcend our cultural assumptions or even realize how culture shapes those assumptions.
Cultural fluency: The ability to understand norms and perspectives of diverse cultures, recognize the context and cues, and respond in ways to achieve shared meaning.
Cultural humility: A process of reflection and lifelong inquiry involving self-awareness of personal and societal biases as well as awareness of aspects of identity that are most important to others we encounter leading to continuous learning in an accepting and thoughtful manner.
Cultural landscape: The different lifestyles, traditions, and perspectives that can be found in regions or countries.
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.
D.A.C.A (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals): An American immigration policy that allows some individuals who were brought to the United States without inspection as children to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the U.S.
Deaf: Used to describe a person with total or profound hearing loss.
Note: Many only have mild or partial loss of hearing. Use person with hearing loss, partially deaf, or hearing impaired. Do not use deaf-dumb or deaf-mute
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.
Demigender: Having a partial connection to one or more genders. Often used as demigirl, demiboy, etc.
Demisexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction to someone until a greater, often emotional, bond is formed.
Democracy: A governmental system whose actions and principles value and reflect the people’s views through their votes.
Denial: Refusal to acknowledge the societal privileges that are granted or denied based on an individual's ethnicity or other grouping.
Dialogue: Communication that creates and recreates multiple understandings; it is bidirectional, not zero‐sum and may or may not end in agreement; it can be emotional and uncomfortable, but is safe, respectful and has greater understanding as its goal.
Disability: Physical or mental impairment that affects a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities (including major bodily functions).
Note: Major life activities include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
Major bodily functions include, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.
Diaspora: A historical dispersion of a group of people deriving from similar origins.
Dimensions of diversity: The specific traits viewed as distinguishing one person or group from another.
Direct threat: A significant risk to the health, safety, or well-being of individuals with disabilities or others when the risk cannot be eliminated by reasonable accommodation.
Disadvantaged: 1. A historically oppressed group having less than sufficient financial, political, and social resources to meet all of basic needs. 2. A group characterized by disproportionate economic, social, and political disadvantages.
Discrimination: Actions / behaviors, based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favor one group over others in the provision of goods, services, or opportunities. Discriminatory behavior, ranging from slights to hate crimes, often begins with negative stereotypes and prejudices.
Disenfranchised: Being deprived of power and/or access to rights, opportunities, and service
Diversity: Socially, it refers to the wide range of identities. It broadly includes race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, veteran status, physical appearance, etc. It also involves different ideas, perspectives and values.
Diversity consciousness: The awareness, understanding, and skills that allow us to think through and value human differences. As our awareness and understanding expand, so do our diversity skills. Similarly, developing and refining our diversity skills increases our awareness and understanding.
Diversity skills: The competencies (e.g., communication, critical analysis, media literacy, teamwork, leadership, and social networking) that allow people to interact with others in a way that respects and values differences.
Domestic partner: Either member of an unmarried, cohabiting, straight and same-sex couple that seeks benefits usually available only to spouses.
Dominant culture: The cultural values, beliefs, and practices that are assumed to be the most common and influential within a given society.
Domination: The ability of a particular social identity group to marshal social resources toward one’s own group and away from others. This process can often be rendered invisible and seen as a “natural order.”
Double consciousness: A person’s awareness of their own perspective and the perspective of others.
Drag queen / king: A person who takes on the appearance and characteristics associated with a certain gender, usually for entertainment purposes and often to expose the humorous and performative elements of gender.
Dysmorphism: A dysmorphic feature is a difference in body structure. It can be an isolated feature in an otherwise “healthy” individual, or it can be related to a congenital disorder, genetic syndrome, or birth defect.
elitism: The belief that a select group of individuals with a certain ancestry, intrinsic quality, high intellect, wealth, special skill, or experience are more likely to be constructive to society, and therefore deserve influence or authority greater than that of others.
emotional intelligence: The ability to acknowledge, value, and manage feelings so that they are expressed appropriately and effectively.
empathy: A learned skill that allows one to recognize and deeply listen to another’s story or experiences, and connect them to common understandings and emotions; differs from sympathy.
enculturation: The gradual acquisition of the characteristics and norms of a culture or group by a person, another culture, etc. Societal norms are learned through socialization.
equality: A state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in certain respects, including civil rights, freedom of speech, property rights and equal access to certain social goods and services.
Equity: The fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent the full participation of some groups. 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.
equity (social): Freedom from bias or favoritism; impartiality; fairness. Social equity seeks to address the underlying and systemic differences of opportunity and access to social resources. Differs from “equality” in that we are not all the same, some people need more help than others.
ESL: Acronym for “English as a Second Language,” a method of teaching English in the United Sates to non-English speaking people.
essential functions of the job: This term refers to those job activities that are determined by the University to be essential or core to performing the job; these functions cannot be modified.
ethnicity: A dynamic set of historically derived and institutionalized ideas and practices that (1) allows people to identify or to be identified with groupings of people on the basis of presumed (and usually claimed) commonalities including language, history, nation or region of origin, customs, ways of being, religion, names, physical appearance and/or genealogy or ancestry; (2) can be a source of meaning, action and identity; and (3) confers a sense of belonging, pride, and motivation.
ethnocentrism: The emotional attitude that one's own race, nation, or culture is superior to all others.
Euro-Centric: The inclination to consider European culture as normative. While the term does not imply an attitude of superiority (since all cultural groups have the initial right to understand their own culture as normative), most use the term with a clear awareness of the historic oppressiveness of Eurocentric tendencies in U.S and European society.
female-bodied: A person who was assigned female at birth.
Note: Though still occasionally used this term is very problematic as it genders bodies non-consensually and plays into cissexism (in that breasts or a vulva, for example, are considered inherently female).
femme: A person who expresses and/or identifies with femininity.
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
feminism: The valuing of women and the belief in and advocacy for social, political, and economic equality and liberation for both women and men. Feminism questions and challenges patriarchal social values and structures that serve to enforce and maintain men's dominance and women's subordination.
first generation: An individual, neither of whose parents completed a baccalaureate degree.
fluid(ity): Describes an identity that may change or shift over time between; generally attached with another term, like gender-fluid or fluid-sexuality.
FTM/F2M/F to M: Abbreviation for a person who was assigned female at birth (AFAB) but identifies as male and transitioned to a masculine appearance that is consistent with their gender identity. This term is problematic to some FAAB trans people as they feel they were never female and because X to Y terms can put too much focus on traditional means of physical transition.
fundamental attribution error: A common cognitive action in which one attributes their own success and positive actions to their own innate characteristics ('I’m a good person') and failure to external influences ('I lost it in the sun'), while attributing others' success to external influences ('He had help and got lucky') and failure to others’ innate characteristics ('They’re bad people'). This operates on group levels as well, with the in-group giving itself favorable attributions, while giving the out-group unfavorable attributions, as a way of maintaining a feeling of superiority, i.e., “double standard.”; does not take into consideration the external factors that can, and often do, impact an individual’s behavior.
fundamentalism: Movement with strict view of doctrine: a religious or political movement based on a literal interpretation of and strict adherence to doctrine, especially as a return to former principles.
gatekeeping: When an individual or group controls access to goods and services but particularly to information and people with power.
gay: Used to describe people who are emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to people of the same gender.
gender: Refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ.
gendered: Having a distinct association with being masculine and/or feminine, man or woman.
gender affirming surgery: Surgical procedures associated with altering the genitals or secondary sex characteristics to be consistent with a person’s gender identity. What was formerly referred to as a “sex change” (an outdated and often offensive term).
gender binary: The idea that there are only two genders: man and woman. This idea is challenged by individuals who identify as non-binary (e.g., genderqueer, agender).
gender diversity: Refers to the extent to which a person's gender identity, role or expression differs from the cultural norms prescribed for people of a particular sex.
gender dysphoria: The distress that a person experiences when the sex they were assigned at birth (by way of anatomy) does not match their gender identity. A person may experience various degrees of dysphoria with respect to different parts of their anatomy. For example, a female-bodied person may experience dysphoria with their breasts and voice but not genitalia.
gender expression: External manifestations of gender, expressed through a person's name, pronouns, clothing, haircut, behavior, voice, and/or body characteristics. Society identifies these cues as masculine and feminine, although what is considered masculine or feminine changes over time and varies by culture.
gender fluid: A gender identity characterized by fluctuation between masculine/feminine/other (gender expression) and/or man-ness/woman-ness/other (gender identity). Some gender fluid people experience shifts on a frequent basis (within a day), others may go long periods of time.
Gender Identity: Distinct from the term “sexual orientation,” refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.
gender-neutral / gender-inclusive: Inclusive language to describe relationships (spouse and partner instead of husband/boyfriend and wife/girlfriend), spaces (gender-neutral/inclusive restrooms are for use by all genders), pronouns (they and ze are gender neutral/inclusive pronouns) among other things.
gender-neutral pronouns: Pronouns that do not adhere to the he:she and his:her binary, and can refer to a number of different gender identities. Some examples are ze/hir/hirs, and they/them/their but there are many others. Gender neutral pronouns are recognized by the Chicago Style Manual and AP.
Gender Non-conforming: An individual whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.
gender normative: A person who conforms to gender-based expectations of society.
gender pronouns: The pronouns that a person prefers and reflects their gender identity (e.g., she/her/hers; they/them/theirs; he/him/his). A variety of gender-neutral pronouns exist, most commonly they/them/theirs.
gender role: Refers to a pattern of appearance, personality, and behavior that, in a given culture, is associated with being a boy/man/male or being a girl/woman/female.
genderqueer: A person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions, but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of masculine and feminine genders. Includes a non-binary gender identity. May use gender-neutral pronouns.
genocide: The intentional attempt to completely erase or destroy a peoples through structural oppression and/or open acts of physical violence.
gentrification: Demographic shifts that usually occur in big cities in which upper-middle class and/or racially privileged individuals and businesses move into historically working class and poor and/or racially oppressed neighborhoods and communities.
glass ceiling: Barriers, either real or perceived, that affect the promotion or hiring of protected group members.
global competency: The knowledge, skills, and abilities that help people from cross disciplinary domains to understand global events and respond to them effectively. As described by Reimers (2009), Global competency has three interdependent dimensions. The first approach considers cultural differences and a willingness to engage those differences (an important component of which is empathy for people with other cultural identities, an interest in seeking understanding of various civilizations and their histories, and the ability to see potential differences as opportunities for constructive and respectful interactions). Some argue that there is also an ethical dimension of global competency which includes a commitment to basic equality and the rights of all persons as well as an obligation to uphold those rights. The second dimension of global competency is the pragmatic aspect, which is the ability to speak, understand, and think in different languages. The third dimension involves extensive knowledge of world history, geography, and the global aspects of common issues such as: health care, climate change, economics, politics, education, among other issues.
global perspective: A viewpoint that tries to understand the place or places of individuals, groups, cultures, and societies in the world and how they relate to each other.
globalization: Worldwide flow and integration of culture, media, and technology due to advances in communication systems and economic interests.
glocalization: A culture’s openness to diverse influences and ability to blend foreign ideas and best practices with one’s own traditions.
group identity: A category of differences that describes a set of common physical traits, characteristics, or attributes. Everyone has multiple group identities including, age, ability, class, education level, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, language, religion, and sexual orientation. In organizations and society, the extent to which one is aware of the meaning and impact of these identities is key to understanding the impact of diversity and changing the status quo.
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 the victim.
HBCU: Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
hegemony: One group or community holding all authoritative power or dominance over other groups in a given society, geographical region, and/or political system.
heteronormativity: The societal assumption and norm that all people are heterosexual.
heterosexism: The belief or assumption that everyone is, or should be heterosexual; the idea that being heterosexual is normal, natural, and healthy, and all other people are somehow unnatural, abnormal and unhealthy.
heterosexual: Refers to a person who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to a person of the opposite gender. Also referred to as straight.
heterosexual privilege: Those benefits derived automatically by being heterosexual that are denied to homosexuals and bisexuals. Also, the benefits homosexuals and bisexuals receive as a result of claiming heterosexual identity or denying homosexual or bisexual identity.
homophobia: On a personal level, homophobia is an irrational fear, aversion, or dislike of homosexualities and people who identify as homosexual; on a social level, homophobia is the ingrained structural discrimination against homosexuality and those who identify as homosexual that prevents access to certain resources or opportunities and inhibits individuals from feeling safe or able to be socially recognized as homosexual.
homosexual: A male whose sexual orientation is toward other men or a female whose sexual orientation is toward females.
Note: This is not a preferred term. Homosexual males typically prefer the term gay and homosexual females typically prefer the term lesbian.
horizontal hostility / horizontal oppression: When people from targeted groups believe, act on, or enforce dominant systems of oppression against other members of targeted groups.
HSI: Hispanic Serving Institution
identity sphere: The idea that gender identities and expressions do not fit on a linear scale but rather on a sphere that allows room for all expression without weighting one expression as better than another.
immigrant: A person who moves out of their country of birth, supposedly for permanent residence in a new country.
Implicit Bias: Negative associations expressed automatically that people unknowingly hold and that that affect our understanding, actions and decisions; also known as unconscious or hidden bias.
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.
in‐group bias (favoritism): The tendency for groups to “favor” themselves by rewarding group members economically, socially, psychologically, and emotionally in order to uplift one group over another.
in-groups and out-groups: An in-group is a social group to which a person psychologically identifies as being a member. By contrast, an out-group is a social group with which an individual does not identify.
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. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces and respects differences.
inclusive excellence: The recognition that a community or institution's success is dependent on how well it values, engages, and includes the rich diversity of students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni constituents.
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: Ethnic groups who are the original inhabitants of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied, or colonized the area more recently. In the United States, this can refer to groups traditionally termed Native Americans (American Indians), Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. In Canada, it can refer to the groups typically termed First Nations.
institutional oppression: The systematic mistreatment and dehumanization of any individual based solely on a social identity group with which they identify that is supported and enforced by society and its institutions; based on the belief that people of such a social identity group are inherently inferior.
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.
Intersectionality: A social construct that recognizes the fluid diversity of identities that a person can hold such as gender, race, class, religion, professional status, marital status, socioeconomic status, etc.
intercultural competency: A process of learning about and becoming allies with people from other cultures, thereby broadening our own understanding and ability to participate in a multicultural process. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is respect for the ways that others live in and organize the world and an openness to learn from them.
intergroup conflict: Tension and conflict which exists between social groups. And which may be enacted by individual members of these groups.
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).
intersex: Refers to people who are biologically between the medically expected definitions of male and female. This can be through variations in hormones, chromosomes, internal or external genitalia, or any combination of any or all primary and/or secondary sex characteristics.
invisible minority: A group whose minority status is not always immediately visible, such as disabled people and LGBTQ+ people. This lack of visibility may make organizing for rights difficult.
Islamophobia: The irrational fear or hatred of Islam, Muslims, Islamic traditions, and practices, and, more broadly, those who appear to be Muslim
“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), older age (ageism), religion (e.g., anti-Semitism), sexual orientation (heterosexism), language/immigrant status (xenophobism), 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.
Latinx: A person of Latin American origin or descent (gender-neutral version of Latino or Latina).
lesbian: An identity term for a female-identified person who is attracted to other female-identified people.
LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQIAA+: Acronyms referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, agender, and asexual/ally.
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.
linguicism: Refers to discrimination based particularly on language. Language oppression is often tied to discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and/or class.
lookism: Construction of a standard for beauty and attractiveness, and judgments made about people based on how well or poorly they meet the standard.
male-bodied: A person who was assigned male at birth.
Note: Though still occasionally used this term is very problematic as it genders bodies non-consensually and plays into cissexism (in that a flat chest or a penis, for example, are considered inherently male).
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.
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.
micro-insults: 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.
micro-invalidation: Communications that subtly exclude, negate, or nullify the thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of a person of color. For instance, white individuals often ask Asian-Americans where they were born, conveying the message that they are perpetual foreigners in their own land.
minority / minority groups / minorities: Refer to categories of people who are differentiated from a social majority due to having less social power. They can sometimes be underrepresented in particular majors, careers, or societies but can also be in majority numerically and yet lack social power or the ability to influence. Historically, minority is often associated with people of color (e.g., Asians, Latinos, and Blacks) but it actually can be applied to other identities like gender, sexuality, and religion.
misogyny: Hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.
mobility: The ability to move through society, both physically and socioeconomically.
model minority: Refers to a minority ethnic, racial, or religious group whose members achieve a higher degree of success than the population average. This success is typically measured in income, education, and related factors such as low crime rate and high family stability.
MSI: Minority Serving Institutions.
MTF/M2F/M to F: Abbreviation for a person who was assigned male at birth (AMAB) but identifies as female and transitioned to a feminine appearance that is consistent with their gender identity. This term is problematic to some MAAB trans people as they feel they were never male and because X to Y terms can put too much focus on traditional means of physical transition.
MTM/FTF: A transgender individual who has medically transitioned and feels their birth sex was never an identity to which they could relate. In other words, a person with a birth sex of female may have lived as female for many years, but never identified as a woman. Instead, they always identified as male and transitioned to become outwardly visible as male. The social identity of female (FTM) to male is an inappropriate description of their experience with gender.
multicultural: 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.”
Multicultural Competency: A process of embracing diversity and learning about people from other cultural backgrounds. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is respect for the ways that others live in and organize the world and an openness to learn from them.
multiethnic: An individual that comes from more than one ethnicity. An individual whose parents are born from more than one ethnicity (See Ethnicity).
multiplicity: The quality of having multiple, simultaneous social identities (e.g., being male, Buddhist and wealthy).
multiracial: A person who identifies as coming from two or more racial groups; a person whose biological parents come from different racial groups.
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.
Patriarchy: Actions and beliefs that prioritizes 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 men and women of Asian, African, Latinx and Native American backgrounds, as opposed to the collective “White”.
Prejudice: A preconceived judgement or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment and can be rooted in stereotypes, that denies the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized.
Privilege: Exclusive access or access to material and immaterial resources based on the membership to a dominant social group.
Queer: An umbrella term that can refer to anyone who transgresses society’s view of gender or sexuality. The definitional indeterminacy of the word Queer, its elasticity, is one of its characteristics: “A zone of possibilities.”
Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly race), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time
Safe Space: Refers to an environment in which everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule or denial of experience.
Sexual Orientation: An individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Social Justice: 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.
Stereotype: A form of generalization rooted in blanket beliefs and false assumptions, a product of processes of categorization that can result in a prejudiced attitude, critical judgment and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Stereotypes are typically negative, based on little information and does not recognize individualism and personal agency.
Structural inequality: 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.
System of Oppression: Conscious and unconscious, non-random and organized harassment, discrimination, exploitation, discrimination, prejudice and other forms of unequal treatment that impact different groups. Sometimes is used to refer to systemic racism.
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 her/himself.
White Supremacy: A power system structured and maintained by persons who classify themselves as White, whether consciously or subconsciously determined; and who feel superior to those of other racial/ethnic identitie\s.