Updated: Jul 7
When talking about diversity or trying to be inclusive of diverse groups in our community, you may hear a number of terms that may be new or unfamiliar to you. In order to help further the conversation, below are 100 terms related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
This list is only the beginning of the conversation. It is not exhaustive, and many of the definitions below are still debated. If you have terms you would like added, changes you would like made, or questions about any of the terms used in this piece, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Negative attitudes and prejudice toward an individual based on physical, mental, or physical and mental disabilities.
A process in which members of one cultural group adopt the beliefs, patterns, and behaviors of another group. This concept is not to be confused with assimilation, where an individual, family, or group may give up certain aspects of its culture in order to adapt to that of their new host country.
Any action taken or required to correct effects of past discrimination, to eliminate present discrimination, or to prevent discrimination in the future.
Refers to people in the United States who have ethnic origins in the African continent. While the terms “African American” and “Black” are often used interchangeably in the United States, it is best to ask individuals how they identify. For example, some individuals in immigrant communities may identify as Black, but do not identify as African American.
A person with no (or very little) connection to the traditional system of gender, no personal alignment with the concepts of either man or woman, and/or someone who sees themselves as existing without gender. Sometimes called gender neutrois, gender neutral, or genderless.
Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice and equity.
Someone who commits to reducing their own complicity or collusion in oppression of those groups and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.
Noun : A gender expression that has elements of both masculinity and femininity;
Adjective : Occasionally used in place of “intersex” to describe a person with both female and male anatomy, generally in the form “androgyne.”
Anglo or Anglo-Saxon
Of or related to the descendants of Germanic peoples (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) who reigned in Britain until the Norman conquest in 1066. Often refers to white English-speaking persons of European descent in England or North America, not of Hispanic or French origin.
A person who identifies and challenges the values, structures and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism.
Experiencing little or no romantic attraction to others and/or has a lack of interest in romantic relationships/behavior. Aromanticism exists on a continuum from people who experience no romantic attraction or have any desire for romantic activities, to those who experience low levels, or romantic attraction only under specific conditions. Many of these different places on the continuum have their own identity labels. Sometimes abbreviated to “aro” (pronounced like “arrow”).
Experiencing little or no sexual attraction to others and/ or a lack of interest in sexual relationships/behavior. Asexuality exists on a continuum from people who experience no sexual attraction or have any desire for sex, to those who experience low levels, or sexual attraction only under specific conditions. Many of these different places on the continuum have their own identity labels. Sometimes abbreviated to “ace.”
The process by which one group takes on the cultural and other traits of a larger group; usually refers to the forced acculturation of a marginalized group by the dominant or White group.
A protection granted to foreign nationals already in the United States or arriving at the border who meet the international law definition of a “refugee,” a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. A person applying for asylum is known as an asylum seeker or an asylee. Distinct from a refugee primarily because a refugee receives their designation outside of the U.S., while an asylee receives their designation as part of an immigration court case conducted within the U.S.
Prejudice; an inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgement.
A person who fluctuates between traditionally “woman” and “man” gender-based behavior and identities, identifying with both genders (or sometimes identifying with either man or woman, as well as a third, different gender).
Intolerant prejudice that glorifies one's own group and denigrates members of other groups.
A medical term used to refer to the chromosomal, hormonal, and anatomical characteristics that are used to classify an individual as female or male or intersex. Often referred to as simply “sex,” “physical sex,” “anatomical sex,” or specifically as “sex assigned at birth.”
A person who experiences attraction to some men and women.
A person who experiences attraction to some people of their gender and another gender.
Bisexual attraction does not have to be equally split, or indicate a level of interest that is the same across the genders an individual may be attracted to. Can be shortened to “bi” (pronounced “bye”). Often used interchangeably with “pansexual”.
Of or related to persons having ethnic origins in the African continent; persons belonging to the African Diaspora. Some individuals have adopted the term to represent all people around the world who are not of white European descent, although this usage is not common. “Black” is often used interchangeably with “African American” in the United States.
A gender description for when someone’s sex assigned at birth and gender identity correspond in the expected way (e.g., someone who was assigned male at birth, and identifies as a man). A simple way to think about it is if a person is not transgender, they are cisgender. The word cisgender can also be shortened to “cis.”
The assumption, in individuals and in institutions, that everyone is cisgender, and that cisgender identities are superior to trans identities and people. Leads to invisibility of non-cisgender identities.
An individual who is not open to themselves or others about their (queer) sexuality or gender identity. This may be by choice and/or for other reasons such as fear for one’s safety, peer or family rejection, or disapproval and/or loss of housing, job, etc. Also known as being “in the closet.” When someone chooses to break this silence they “come out” of the closet.
The racial ideology that posits the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity. The term “colorblind” de‐emphasizes, or ignores, race and ethnicity, a large part of one’s identity.
The process of becoming aware of one’s queer sexual orientation or trans identity, accepting it, and telling others about it. LGBT+ people may come out in reference to both gender and sexuality and often have to come out repeatedly to new people. This is an ongoing process that may not include everybody in all aspects of one’s life. ‘Coming out’ usually occurs in stages and is a non-linear process. An individual may be ‘out’ in only some situations or to certain family members or associates and not others. Some may never ‘come out’ to anyone beside themselves.”
Communities of Color
A term used primarily in the United States to describe communities of people who are not identified as White, emphasizing common experiences of racism.
Someone who wears clothes of another gender/sex.
Theft of cultural elements for one’s own use, commodification, or profit — including symbols, art, language, customs, etc. — often without understanding, acknowledgement, or respect for its value in the original culture. Results from the assumption of a dominant (i.e. white) culture’s right to take other cultural elements.
A set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals to enable that system, agency or those professions to work effectively in cross-cultural situations. The word culture is used because it implies the integrated pattern of human behavior that includes thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of a racial, ethnic, religious, or social group. The word competence is used because it implies having the capacity to function effectively.
Five essential elements contribute to a system's, institution's or agency's ability to become more culturally competent which include:
having the capacity for cultural self-assessment;
being conscious of the dynamics inherent when cultures interact;
having institutionalized culture knowledge; and
having developed adaptations to service delivery reflecting an understanding of cultural diversity.
These five elements should be manifested at every level of an organization including policy making, administration, and practice. Further, these elements should be reflected in the attitudes, structures, policies, and services of the organization.
The unconscious process by which we are socialized to adopt the way of thinking of our own group.
The ability to maintain an interpersonal stance that is other-oriented (or open to the other) in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the person. Cultural humility focuses on taking responsibility for our interactions with others rather than achieving a state of knowledge or awareness. The approach of cultural humility goes beyond the concept of cultural competence to encourage individuals to identify and acknowledge their own biases. Cultural humility acknowledges that it is impossible to be adequately knowledgeable about cultures other than one’s own.
Principles that guide the cultural humility approach include:
lifelong learning and critical self-reflection;
recognizing and mitigating/challenging power imbalances; and
institutional accountability to model the principles.
Recognition of the contribution of each group to a common civilization. It encourages the maintenance and development of different lifestyles, languages and convictions. It is a commitment to deal cooperatively with common concerns. It strives to create the conditions of harmony and respect within a culturally diverse society.
A person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. This includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability.
The unequal treatment of members of various groups based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, national origin, age, physical/mental abilities, and other categories that may result in differences in provision of goods, services, or opportunities.
In constitutional law, discrimination is the grant by statute of privileges to a class arbitrarily designated from a sizable number of persons, where no reasonable distinction exists between the favored and disfavored classes. Federal laws, supplemented by court decisions, prohibit discrimination in such areas as employment, housing, voting rights, education, and access to public facilities. They also proscribe discrimination based on race, age, sex, nationality, disability, or religion. In addition, state and local laws can prohibit discrimination in these areas and in others not covered by federal laws.
Diversity describes the myriad ways in which people differ, including the psychological, physical, and social differences that occur among all individuals, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion, economic class, education, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, mental and physical ability, and learning styles. Diversity is all-inclusive and supportive of the proposition that everyone and every group should be valued. It is about understanding these differences and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of our differences.
Someone who performs (hyper-) masculinity theatrically.
Someone who performs (hyper-) femininity theatrically.
When target group members refuse to accept the dominant ideology and their subordinate status and take actions to redistribute social power more equitably.
Equality is the condition under which every individual is treated in the same way, and is granted same rights and responsibilities, regardless of their individual differences.
The proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes, and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts, and outcomes for all.
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 based on 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.
The belief that one group is right and must be protected and defended. The negative aspect involves blatant assertion of personal and cultural superiority.
Indigenous peoples of Canada who are not Inuit or Métis. The term “Aboriginal Peoples” can be used to refer to the first inhabitants of Canada as a group (including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in aggregate.) These are general terms; many First Nations people prefer to define or identify themselves by their specific tribal affiliation(s).
Experiencing attraction solely (or primarily) to some members of the same gender. Can be used to refer to men who are attracted to other men and women who are attracted to women.
An umbrella term used to refer to the queer community as a whole, or as an individual identity label for anyone who is not straight
The external display of one’s gender, through a combination of clothing, grooming, demeanor, social behavior, and other factors, generally made sense of on scales of masculinity and femininity. Also referred to as “gender presentation.”
The internal perception of one’s gender, and how they label themselves, based on how much they align or don’t align with what they understand their options for gender to be. Often conflated with biological sex, or sex assigned at birth.
A gender expression descriptor that indicates a non-traditional gender presentation (masculine woman or feminine man).
A gender identity label that indicates a person who identifies outside of the gender binary. Often abbreviated as “GNC.”
Someone whose gender presentation, whether by nature or by choice, aligns with society’s gender-based expectations.
Hate Crime (FBI)
A criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.
The assumption, in individuals and/or in institutions, that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities. Leads to invisibility and stigmatizing of other sexualities: when learning a woman is married, asking her what her husband’s name is. Heteronormativity also leads us to assume that only masculine men and feminine women are straight.
Experiencing attraction solely (or primarily) to some members of a different gender.
The U.S. Census Bureau defines Hispanics as “those people who classified themselves in one of the specific Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino categories listed on the Census 2000 questionnaire. "Hispanic" is term was instituted by federal agencies and some find the term offensive as it honors the colonizers and not the indigenous groups the term represents. The term Hispanic is typically used on the East Coast and in the South to describe persons from Latin America, whereas other parts of the country typically use the term Latino. Chicano is a term that describes someone of Mexican-American decent, in other words, those who are beyond first generation. Latinx is a gender appropriate term, which omits any masculine or feminine roots and is typically used by younger generation Latinos.
An umbrella term for a range of negative attitudes (e.g., fear, anger, intolerance, resentment, erasure, or discomfort) that one may have toward LGBTQ people. The term can also connote a fear, disgust, or dislike of being perceived as LGBTQ.
A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex/gender. This [medical] term is considered stigmatizing (particularly as a noun) due to its history as a category of mental illness, and is discouraged for common use (use gay or lesbian instead).
Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness. Many studies have indicated that implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Notably, implicit biases have been shown to trump individuals’ stated commitments to equality and fairness, thereby producing behavior that diverges from the explicit attitudes that many people profess.
Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power.
The idea that various biological, social, and cultural categories-- including gender, race, class, ethnicity and social categories-- interact and contribute towards systematic social inequality. This concept recognizes that individuals:
belong to more than one social category simultaneously; and
may experience either privileges or disadvantages on that basis depending on circumstances and relationships.
Exposing one’s multiple identities can help clarify the ways in which a person can simultaneously experience privilege and oppression. For example, a Black woman in America does not experience gender inequalities in exactly the same way as a white woman, nor is her racial oppression identical to that experienced by a Black man. Each intersection produces a qualitatively distinct life.
The combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs, and genitals that differs from the two expected patterns of male or female. Formerly known as hermaphrodite (or hermaphroditic), but these terms are now outdated and derogatory.
Women who are primarily attracted romantically, erotically, and/or emotionally to other women.
LGBTQ; GSM; DSG; TGNC
Abbreviations: shorthand or umbrella terms for all folks who have a non-normative (or queer) gender or sexuality, there are many different initialisms people prefer.
LGBTQ is Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer and/or Questioning (sometimes people add a + at the end in an effort to be more inclusive);
GSM is Gender and Sexual Minorities;
DSG is Diverse Sexualities and Genders.
QUILTBAG is Queer (or Questioning) Undecided Intersex Lesbian Trans Bisexual Asexual (or Allied) and Gay (or Genderqueer).
The process by which minority groups/cultures are excluded, ignored or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community. 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.
Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religious slights and insults to the target person or group.
Can be used to refer broadly to the indigenous peoples of North and South America, but is more commonly used as a general term for the indigenous peoples of the contiguous United States. This term has been used interchangeably with the term “American Indian,” although some Native Americans find this latter term offensive since “Indian” is a misnomer. These are general terms which refer to groups of people with different tribal affiliations; many Native American individuals prefer to identify themselves by their specific tribal affiliation(s).
An irrational prejudice against immigrants, and in favor of the native-born members of a culture. It is often associated with racism in that the targets of nativism typically belong to a different ethnic group than the perpetrators.
Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act.
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 that saturate most aspects of life in our society. Oppression also signifies a hierarchical relationship in which dominant or privileged groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.
Language that refers to them or others; typically used to identify a separation between and among groups. It has been used in social sciences to understand the processes by which societies and groups exclude others whom they want to subordinate or who do not fit into their society.
A person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical, and/or spiritual attraction for members of all gender identities/expressions. Often shortened to “pan.”
Any person not a citizen of the United States who is residing in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent residence as an immigrant. Also known as permanent resident alien, resident alien permit holder, and green card holder.
Person/People of Color
Used primarily in the United States to describe any person who is not white; the term is meant to be inclusive among non-white groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism.
Preferred Gender Pronouns (PGPs)
The pronouns by which a person refers to themselves. Often used during introductions, becoming more common as a standard practice. Many suggest removing the “preferred,” because it indicates flexibility and/or the power for the speaker to decide which pronouns to use for someone else.
An opinion, prejudgment or attitude about a group or its individual members. A prejudice can be positive, but usually refers to a negative attitude. Prejudices are often accompanied by ignorance, fear, or hatred. Prejudices are formed by a complex psychological process that begins with attachment to a close circle of acquaintances or an in-group such as a family. Prejudice is often aimed at out-groups. Typically based on unsupported generalizations (or stereotypes) that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics.
A special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to a person or group of people. It also refers to 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 homosexuals, adults with respect to children, and rich people with respect to poor people). Privilege tends to be invisible to those who possess it, because its absence (lack of privilege) is what calls attention to it. In other words, men are less likely to notice/acknowledge a difference in advantage because they do not live the life of a woman; white people are less likely to notice/acknowledge racism because they do not live the life of a person of color; straight people are less likely to notice/acknowledge heterosexism because they do not live the life of a gay/lesbian/bisexual person.
Abbreviations: Queer People of Color and Queer and/or Trans People of Color.
An umbrella term to describe individuals who don’t identify as straight and/or cisgender.
A slur used to refer to someone who isn’t straight and/or cisgender. Due to its historical use as a derogatory term, and how it is still used as a slur many communities, it is not embraced or used by all LGBTQ people. The term “queer” can often be used interchangeably with LGBTQ (e.g., “queer people” instead of “LGBTQ people”).
A dynamic set of historically derived and institutionalized ideas and practices that (1) sorts people into ethnic groups according to perceived physical and behavioral human characteristics; (2) associates differential value, power, and privilege with these characteristics and establishes a social status ranking among the different groups; and (3) emerges (a) when groups are perceived to pose a threat (political, economic or cultural) to each other’s world view or way of life; and/or (b) to justify the denigration and exploitation (past, current, or future) of, and prejudice toward, other groups.
Racial and Ethnic Identity
An individual's awareness and experience of being a member of a racial and ethnic group; the racial and ethnic categories that an individual chooses to describe him or herself based on such factors as biological heritage, physical appearance, cultural affiliation, early socialization, and personal experience.
In the U.S. refers to representations, messages, and stories conveying the idea that behaviors and values associated with white people or whiteness are automatically better or more normal than those associated with other racially defined groups.
The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
Refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.
Internalized racism is the personal conscious or subconscious acceptance of the dominant society’s racist views, stereotypes and biases of one’s ethnic group. It gives rise to patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that result in discriminating, minimizing, criticizing, finding fault, invalidating, and hating oneself while simultaneously valuing the dominant culture.
Interpersonal racism occurs between individuals. When private beliefs are put in interaction with others, racism resides in the interpersonal realm. Examples: public expressions of racial prejudice, hate, bias, and bigotry between individuals.
Refers to the system of social structures that produces cumulative, durable, race-based inequality. It is also a method of analysis that is used to examine how historical legacies, individuals, structures, and institutions work interactively to distribute material and symbolic advantages and disadvantages along racial lines.
Generally, any person outside his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on the person’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion.
A person who is designated as a refugee by the United Nations, the U.S. government, or an approved organization because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution, and is admitted into the U.S. with a temporary residence as a refugee. Distinct from an asylum seeker or “asylee” primarily because a refugee receives their designation outside of the U.S., while an asylee receives their designation as part of an immigration court case conducted within the U.S.
States have a legal duty to acknowledge and address widespread or systematic human rights violations in cases where the state caused the violations or did not seriously try to prevent them. Reparations initiatives seek to address the harms caused by these violations.
Sex Assigned at Birth (SAAB)
A phrase used to intentionally recognize a person’s assigned sex (not gender identity). Sometimes called “designated sex at birth” (DSAB) or “sex coercively assigned at birth” (SCAB), or specifically used as “assigned male at birth” (AMAB) or “assigned female at birth” (AFAB): Jenny was assigned male at birth, but identifies as a woman.
A system of beliefs or attitudes which relegates women to limited roles and/or options because of their sex.
The type of sexual, romantic, or emotional/spiritual attraction one has the capacity to feel for some others, generally labeled based on the gender relationship between the person and the people they are attracted to. Often confused with sexual preference.
The types of sexual intercourse, stimulation, and gratification one likes to receive and participate in. Generally when this term is used, it is being mistakenly interchanged with “sexual orientation,” creating an illusion that one has a choice (or “preference”) in who they are attracted to.
The mistreatment of or discrimination against people based upon their perceived (or self-perceived) body size or shape.
A person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to some people who are not their same sex/gender. A more colloquial term for the word heterosexual.
For a person who does not identify with either man or woman, but identifies with another gender. This gender category is used by societies that recognize three or more genders, both contemporary and historic, and is also a conceptual term meaning different things to different people who use it, as a way to move beyond the gender binary.
An umbrella term covering a range of identities that transgress socially-defined gender norms. Trans* with an asterisk is often used in written forms (not spoken) to indicate that you are referring to the larger group nature of the term, and specifically including non-binary identities, as well as transgender men (transmen) and transgender women (transwomen).
A gender description for someone who has transitioned (or is transitioning) from living as one gender to another.
An umbrella term for anyone whose sex assigned at birth and gender identity do not correspond in the expected way (e.g., someone who was assigned male at birth, but does not identify as a man).
The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of trans people, the trans community, or gender ambiguity. Transphobia can be seen within the queer community, as well as in general society.
A person who identifies psychologically as a gender/sex other than the one to which they were assigned at birth. Transsexuals often wish to transform their bodies hormonally and surgically to match their inner sense of gender/sex.
A person who dresses as the binary opposite gender expression (“cross-dresses”) for any one of many reasons, including relaxation, fun, and sexual gratification (often called a “cross-dresser,” and should not be confused with transsexual).
Feelings of discomfort or defensiveness a white person experiences when they witness discussions around racial inequity and injustice.
Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.
The belief that white people are superior to those of all other races and should therefore dominate society.
An historically-based, institutionally-perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent for maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.
A culturally based fear of outsiders. It has often been associated with the hostile reception given to those who immigrate into societies and communities. It could result from a genuine fear of strangers, or it could be based on things such as competition for jobs, or ethnic, racial, or religious prejudice.