Common Language Glossary

An individual’s language is continually developed as a result of lived experiences and education. We acquire this language from our families, our friends, in school, and within our unique cultural contexts. Our college community strives to create an environment in which each of us is responsible for the words we use and to develop a vocabulary that is free of harmful terminology.

In its place, we seek to add inclusive, growth-oriented terms to our vocabulary, so our words become powerful tools to support and uplift those around us.

In order to productively engage with equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues, it is essential to have a shared understanding of important terms.

This glossary includes intentional, thoughtfully researched terminology to help minimize misunderstanding and misrepresentation. As language is ever-changing, this glossary is not exhaustive and will be regularly updated as terminology and definitions shift and expand.

The goals of this glossary are:

  • Develop an institutional common language baseline for our community to build upon.
  • Encourage each community member to be responsible for language usage, focusing on an accurate understanding of key terminology.
  • Encourage each community member to consider the intent AND impact of their words.
  • Use this common language throughout all college processes, messaging, and documents.

This glossary was developed in conjunction with Board Policy BP1025 and the State Board for Community & Technical Colleges (SBCTC).

Words Have Power

EDI: Glossary of Related Terms

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Term Definition Source
+ Not just a mathematical symbol, but a denotation of everything on the gender and sexuality spectrum that letters and words cannot yet describe. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Ableism / ablism Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental, and/or emotional ability; usually that of able‐bodied / minded persons against people with illness, disabilities, or less developed skills / talents. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Advocate Someone who speaks up for her/himself and members of his/her identity group; e.g., a woman who lobbies for equal pay for women. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Affinity groups (or caucus)

A body of people who are members of a particular social group or share a certain social identity. This can be a group formed around a shared identity, trait, ideology, interest or common goal, to which individuals formally or informally belong.

Caucus builds on the above by being a group that comes together around a shared purpose. For example, white staff might convene a white affinity group to explore what they have in common (e.g., white identity, white privilege, etc.), how they might experience these similarly or different from each other based on their identities, and how these commonalities impact their work; or they might convene a white caucus for anti racist action to organize and practice ways of interrupting systemic racism inside the organization.

Working definitions for use in diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in staff learning and development. Teach for America.
Affirmative action Any action taken by an employer, in compliance with federal law, to promote the employment and advancement of people who have been the traditional targets of discrimination. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Ageism Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in age. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Alaska Native or Native American Indian or Native Indian American A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. It includes people who classify themselves as described below:
A. Native American / Native Indian American: Includes people who indicate their race as “Native American,” entered the name of an Indian tribe, or report such entries as Canadian Indian, French-American Indian, or Spanish-American Indian.
B. Alaska Native: Includes written responses of Eskimos, Aleuts, and Alaska Indians as well as entries such as Arctic Slope, Inupiat, Yupik, Alutiiq, Egegik, and Pribilovian. The Alaska tribes are the Alaskan Athabaskan, Tlingit, and Haida.
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Ally A person who supports marginalized, silenced or less privileged groups without actually being a member of those groups. This person will often directly confront and challenge systems of oppression; e.g., a man who lobbies for equal pay for women. An ally can be a member of the advantaged group who works to dismantle oppression from which s/he benefits. Allies recognize the relative and unearned privilege or power they receive from society’s patterns of injustice and take responsibility for changing these patterns. Allies include men who work to end sexism, white people who work to end racism, heterosexual people who work to end heterosexism, and so on The Global Expression Oppression Reader; Working definitions for use in diversity, equity, and inclusiveness in staff learning and development. Teach for America.
Androgynous A person whose biological sex is not readily apparent, whether intentionally or unintentionally. The individual may reflect an appearance that is both masculine and feminine, or who appears to be neither or both; also can be a person who rejects gender roles entirely. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Anti-racism Anti-racism includes beliefs, actions, movements and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism. In general, anti-racism is intended to promote an egalitarian society in which people do not face discrimination on the basis of their race, however defined. Glossary of commonly used words and ideas. Fellowship for Race and Equity in Education.
Anti-Semitism The fear or hatred of Jews, Judaism, and related symbols. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Aromantic Experiencing a lack of romantic attraction towards other people. Aromantic people have varying preferences on relationships. Some enjoy participating in romantic relationships, some prefer queer-platonic partnerships, and some prefer not to be in a relationship. Can be combined with other terms (bisexual aromantic, etc.). This term should not be confused with “asexual” – aromantic people do not always identify as asexual, and vice versa. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Asexual / Ace Experiencing a lack of sexual attraction towards other people. Asexuality encompasses a wide range of experiences; asexual people can be sex repulsed, sex neutral, or sex positive, and can have varying sex drives. Commonly abbreviated to “ace.” Can be combined with other terms (asexual panromantic, etc.). This is not to be confused with “aromantic” – asexual people do not always identify as aromantic, and vice versa. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Asian A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. It includes “Asian Indian”, “Chinese”, “Filipino”, “Korean”, “Japanese”, “Vietnamese”, and “Other Asian”. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Assimilation The process whereby a group gradually adopts the characteristics, customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Benevolent sexism Sexism that is less obvious. It involves overall positive views of women, so long as they occupy traditionally feminine roles, and characterizes women as weak and needing protection, support and adoration. Organizational decision makers with more benevolently sexist attitudes are more likely to automatically associate men with high authority and women with low authority roles, and implicitly stereotype men as agentic and women as communal. Benevolent sexism – leading to discrimination from a desire to protect women – can take the form of overly protective attitudes towards women, shielding them from challenges at work that would serve as growth opportunities and/or not providing honest feedback. For example, managers who have benevolently sexist attitudes are more likely to give more positive verbal feedback to women than other managers give, but then give lower numerical evaluations to female employees. Smith, G., Rizzo, T., Glinski, A. (2018). Men and masculinities: A brief review of the literature. ICRW & EGAL.
Biracial A person who identifies as being of two races, or whose biological parents are of two different racial groups. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Bias Unconscious or conscious thoughts and feelings that influence seemingly objective actions or decisions. Biases can be contradictory to our explicit, consciously held beliefs. Greenwald, Brian Nosek, and Mahrzarin Banaji, creators of the Implicit Association Test
Bigotry Prejudice carried to the extreme of overt hatred, often carried to the point of violence. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Bisexual A person who is attracted to members of both the male and female sex. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Black or African American A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. It may include people who indicate their race as “Black” or “African American”, or as “Afro American”, “Kenyan”, “Nigerian”, or “Haitian”. The term “African American” is considered to be the more professional and accepted usage. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Bropropriating Stealing an idea from a woman and putting it into the world as your own. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Change Agents Change agents are individuals within an organization, at any level. They are educated about managing diversity, inclusion, and belonging, and committed to facilitating change by modeling appropriate behaviors. They also take every opportunity to ensure that systems, policies and practices are flexible enough to work for everyone, modifying them as appropriate. Change agents include top leadership, management and employees at every level. Because managing diversity represents a major change in the management of human resources, without multi-level change agents implementation will stall. It requires support from leaders with vision, credibility and authority — champions. A managing diversity champion actively supports the organization’s commitment to managing diversity and is seen by others as a valued member of the current culture and thus has credibility as the organization moves to the new vision. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Cisgender A term used to describe people who, for the most part, identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. (Cis is Latin for “on the near side of”, same side of) Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Cisnormativity 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. Comprehensive* List of LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Definitions.
Classism Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in socio‐economic status, income, class; usually by upper classes against lower. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Colourblind A term used to describe a disregard of racial characteristics or lack of influence by racial prejudice. The concept of colorblindness is often promoted by those who dismiss the importance of race in order to proclaim the end of racism. It presents challenges when discussing diversity, which requires being racially aware, and equity that is focused on fairness for people of all races. 2015 Race Reporting Guide. Race Forward, The Center for Racial Justice Innovation.

When people act to perpetuate oppression or prevent others from working to eliminate oppression.

Example: Able-bodied people who object to strategies for making buildings accessible because of the expense.

Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell and Pat Griffin, editors. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge.
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 Appendix of Portland, Oregan’s Racial and Equity Plan. Definitions created by the Office of Equity and Human Rights.
Community organizations Community-based organizations are public or private not-for profit resource hubs that provide specific services to the community or targeted population within the community. Rebecca Fielding-Miller, Sarah Kim, Jeanette Bowles, Samantha Streuli & Peter Davidson, “We’re already doing this work”: ethical research with community-based organizations, BMC Medical Research Methodology
Corporate social responsibility A self-regulating business model that helps a company be socially accountable — to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. By practicing corporate social responsibility, also called corporate citizenship, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society including economic, social, and environmental. To engage in CSR means that, in the normal course of business, a company is operating in ways that enhance society and the environment, instead of contributing negatively to them. Through CSR programs, philanthropy, and volunteer efforts, businesses can benefit society while boosting their own brands. Corporate Social Responsibility. Investopedia.
Cross dressing When someone wears clothing traditionally worn by the other gender. People who identify as CrossDressers typically do not want to transition their bodies or live full-time as the other gender. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Cross-cultural The interaction, communication, or other processes between people or entities from two or more different cultures. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Culture The ‘culture’ of a group (…) is the peculiar and distinctive ‘way of life’ of the group (…), the meanings, values and ideas embodied in institutions, in social relations, in systems of beliefs, in mores and customs, in the uses of objects and material life. John Clarke, Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson & Brian Roberts, “Subcultures, Cultures, and Class: A Theoretical Overview”, in: Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain, ed. Stuart Hall & Tony Jefferson, London: 1976, 9-74, here p. 10
Culturally appropriate The understanding of what is suitable given a particular context. Including awareness of norms, symbols, values, etc. EDIC Definitions from Seattle Colleges
Cultural appropriation Adoption of elements of a culture that has been subordinated in social, political, economic, status by a different cultural group. It may rely on offensive stereotypes, and is insensitive to how the culture of a group has been exploited by the culture in power, often for profit. 2015 Race Reporting Guide. Race Forward, The Center for Racial Justice Innovation.
Cultural conditioning The shared patterns of behavior and interactions, cognitive constructs and affective understanding that are learned through socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group. People within a culture usually interpret the meaning of symbols, artifacts, and behaviors in the same or similar ways. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Culturally competent The starting point is to understand your own cultural values and world view. Cultural competence is the ability to participate ethically and effectively in personal and professional intercultural settings. It requires knowing and reflecting on one’s own cultural values and world view and their implications for making respectful, reflective, and reasoned choices, including the capacity to imagine and collaborate in cross cultural contexts. Cultural competence is ultimately about valuing diversity for the richness and creativity it brings to society. “What is cultural competence?”, National Center for Cultural Competence at the University of Sydney.
Demisexual Someone who generally does not experience sexual attraction unless they have formed a strong emotional, but not necessarily romantic, connection with someone Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Disability Disability results from the interaction between individuals with a health condition, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and depression, with personal and environmental factors including negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social support. Disability, World Health Organization
Disability Owned Business Enterprise (DOBE) A disability-owned business enterprise (DOBE) is a for-profit business that is at least 51% owned, managed and controlled by a person with a disability regardless of whether or not that business owner employs person(s) with a disability. Disability:IN
Discrimination Different treatment for similarly situated parties, especially when no legitimate reason appears to exist.  An employer who rejects all male applicants and hires the first female applicant with the same qualifications might be discriminating on the basis of gender.  The more repugnant the discrimination, the more likely it is to be found unlawful under the U.S. Constitution or some other law. Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute definitions.
Diverse supplier A minority-owned business that is at least 51 percent owned managed and controlled by one or more African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Indian Americans/Native Americans, Asian Indian Americans, or Asian Pacific Americans. Acceptable certifications are provided by the National Minority Supplier Development Council and by Federal, State, and Local Governments. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Diversity Diversity is the similarities and differences of people found in our workforce, our customers, and in the community in which we serve. Diversity includes many characteristics that may be visible such as race, gender, and age, and it also includes less obvious characteristics like personality, style, ethnicity, ability, education, religion, job function, life experience, life style, sexual orientation, gender identity, geography, regional differences, work experience, and family situation that make us similar to and different from one another. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Diversity Debt Diversity debt is an initially skewed gender composition that persists thorughout the growth states of a startup. The more this diversity debt rises, the more costly the measures that are needed to deal with it. From an employer perspective, diversity debt can represent the future obligations and costs associated with growing a gender homogenous workforce (e.g., developing a toxic company culture, missing out on relevant talent, having more difficulties hiring, etc.). From the perspective of job seekers, diversity debt is also a signal that provides information about past hiring practices. It is an indicator of whether a potential hire might expect to encounter bias or discrimination once they join the organization. “Growing startups should worry about rising ‘diversity debt’, say researchers” from
Domestic partner Unmarried partners who share living quarters Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Dominant culture (hegemony) The cultural values, beliefs, and practices that are assumed to be the most common and influential within a given society. Dominant cultural practices are thought of as “normal” and therefore, can be perceived as preferred and right. These can be along lines of language, religion, behavior, values, rituals, and social customs. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Dominant social group A social group that controls the value system and rewards people in a particular society. Free dictionary by Farlex
EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) Basing terms and conditions of employment, as well as management decisions, on job-related factors without regard to age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion or sex. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Employee Resource Group (ERG) Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives. Other benefits include the development of future leaders, increased employee engagement, and expanded marketplace reach.
Equality The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities (see also gender equality) Adapted from Lexico ( and Oxford University Press).
Equity The process of being treated fairly and impartially (see also gender equity). For an example of equity see affirmative action. Adapted from Lexico ( and Oxford University Press).
Equity fluent leader An Equity Fluent Leader intentionally uses their power to drive positive change and build an inclusive and equitable world. Equity Fluent Leadership is an ongoing journey that begins with understanding your own and others’ lived experiences. Center for Equity, Gender & Leadership (EGAL). Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley.
Ethnicity The cultural characteristics that connect a particular group or groups of people to each other. “Ethnicity” is sometimes used as a euphemism for “race”, or as a synonym for minority group. While ethnicity and race are related concepts, the concept of ethnicity is rooted in the idea of societal groups, particularly marked by shared nationality, tribal affiliation, religious faith, shared language, or cultural and traditional origins and backgrounds. Race is rooted in the idea of biological classification of homo sapiens to subspecies according to feature such as skin color or facial characteristics. Glossary of commonly used words and ideas. Fellowship for Race and Equity in Education.
F to M/FTM/F2M Female to male. Abbreviation used to specify the direction of sex or gender role change, usually used by those who identify as transsexual. Diversity and social justice: A glossary or working definitions. Office of Multicultural Affairs
Feminazi A derogatory term for a radical feminist. Origination of this term traces to radio “shock jock” Rush Limbaugh. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
First Generation Immigrant A person who is a first-generation immigrant is defined as somebody born outside of the United States Immigration Initiative,
First Generation Student Students who are the first in their family to attend college and for whom neither parent has completed a college degree. Defining First-Generation, Center for First-Generation Student Success
First Nations People Individuals who identify as those who were the first people to live on the Western Hemisphere continent. People also identified as Native Americans. Diversity and social justice: A glossary or working definitions. Office of Multicultural Affairs
Folx A variation on the word “folks”, this term is used as a gender-neutral way of referring to members of / signaling identity in the LGBTQ community Levin, G. (2019). What Does folx Mean?
Gaslighting A phrase used to describe manipulative and psychologically abusive behaviour through which a person or a group undermines a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking cognitive dissonance and other changes including low self-esteem. Racial gaslighting is a tactic used to derail accusations of racism and shift the scrutiny onto the accuser – forcing them to question and re-asses their own response to the racism, rather than the racism itself. Morris, N. (2020, June 18). What is ‘racial gaslighting’ – and why is it so damaging for people of colour?
Gay A common and acceptable word for male homosexuals, but sometimes used for both genders. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Gender A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can and do change over time. They are also different between cultures. Common Terms from Emory University
Gender-based violence (GBV) Violence that is directed against a person on the basis of gender. It constitutes a breach of the fundamental right to life, liberty, security, dignity, equality between women and men, non-discrimination and physical and mental integrity. Council of Europe, 2012
Gender equality Requires equal enjoyment of socially-valued goods, opportunities, resources and rewards regardless of gender. Generally, where inequality exists, women are the one’s generally excluded or disadvantaged in relation to decision-making and access to economic and social resources. UNFPA, Kabeer, ICRW
Gender equity The process of being treated fairly regardless of one’s gender. To ensure fairness, strategies and fairness must often be able to compensate for women’s historical and social disadvantages that prevent women from being on a level playing field. Equity leads to equality. UNFPA, Kabeer, ICRW
Gender expression Refers to all of the external characteristics and behaviors that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine, such as dress, grooming, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions, often along the lines of race and class. Social or cultural norms can vary widely and some characteristics that may be accepted as masculine, feminine or neutral in one culture may not be assessed similarly in another. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Gender fluid A term used by people whose identity shifts or fluctuates. Sometimes these individuals may identify or express themselves as more masculine on some days, and more feminine on others. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Gender hierarchy The combination of formal and informal systems and attitudes that (a) reward men more than women, and (b) punish men and women who do not conform to the social and cultural expectations of their biological sex at birth, as well as all people who do not identify with one of two genders. Smith, G., Rizzo, T., Glinski, A. (2018). Men and masculinities: A brief review of the literature. ICRW & EGAL.
Gender identity An individual’s internal sense of their own gender, whether they identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, another gender or no gender. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Gender non-conforming A term for individuals whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Gender-neutral Someone who prefers not to be described by a specific gender, but prefers “they” as a singular pronoun (the American Dialect Society’s 2015 Word of the Year) or “Mx.”, a substitute for “Mr.” or “Ms.” that entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Genderqueer A term for gender identities that do not exclusively align with a gender category-identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Gender role Rules assigned by society that define what clothing, behaviors, thoughts, feelings, relationships, etc., are considered appropriate and inappropriate for members of a given sex. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Groupthink The practice of thinking or making decisions as a group, resulting typically in unchallenged, poor-quality decision-making. Lexico ( and Oxford University Press).
Harassment Words or conduct communicated with malice and with the intent to intimidate or harass another person in a way that is associated with that person’s race, ethnicity, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sex, or disability (mental/physical/sensory). Adapted from Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Heteronormative Cultural rules (including social, family, and legal) that pressure everyone to conform to a heterosexual
standard of identity.
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Heterosexual A person who is primarily attracted to members of other or the opposite sex (“straight”) Equity Fluent Leader Glossary
Hispanic or Latino People who identify with the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” are those who classify themselves in one of
the specific Hispanic or Latino categories – “Mexican”, “Puerto Rican”, or “Cuban” – as well as those who indicate that they are “other Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino”. Origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino may be of any race.
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Hispanic-Serving Institution Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) are federally defined as accredited two- or four-year, not-for-profit postsecondary education institutions that enroll at least 25% full time Hispanic students. Institutions that meet this definition are eligible for Title III and Title V funding through the Higher Education Act. Title III funding is focused on increasing the number of Hispanic students attaining degrees in STEM fields and/or improving transfer rates or articulation agreements between two-year and four-year institutions for STEM. Title V funding helps support HSIs to advance or expand educational opportunities to improve the degree attainment rates of their Latinx students. These funds can be used in a variety of ways to help support an institution’s intent on improving Latinx students’ success. According to the Department of Education, this grant can fund new equipment for teaching, facilities, faculty development, tutoring and other academic support programs, teacher education, student support services, and more. Garcia, N. & Martinez A. (2020). An overview of R1 Hispanic Serving Institutions: potential for growth and opportunity. Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.
Historically Marginalized Communities (see underserved communities) Historically marginalized communities are groups who have been relegated to the lower or peripheral edge of society. Many groups were (and some continue to be) denied full participation in mainstream cultural, social, political, and economic activities. Marginalized communities can include people of color, women, LGBTQ+, low-income individu- als, prisoners, the disabled, senior citizens, and many more. Many of these communities were ignored or misrepre- sented in traditional historical sources. Researching Historically Marginalized Communities, Heritage Bulletin
Homophobia Discrimination against people who are either lesbian or gay. Bisexual and pansexual people may also face homophobia in particular contexts. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Homosexual A person who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted or committed to members of the same sex. Gay is another common and more acceptable word for male homosexuals, but sometimes used for both genders. Smith, G., Rizzo, T., Glinski, A. (2018). Men and masculinities: A brief review of the literature. ICRW & EGAL.
Hostile sexism Involves antipathy and negative stereotypes about women (e.g., beliefs that women are incompetent, overly emotional, sexually manipulative), particularly when women do not conform to gender stereotypes. It also involves the belief that men should be more powerful than women and fears women will try to take power from men. Hostile sexism – leading to discrimination against women from a desire to keep them from positions of power – involves behaviors that demean or degrade women/femininity, such as sex-based harassment and explicit forms of discrimination in hiring, evaluation and promotion processes. Hostile sexism can have dramatic effects, even for behaviors that seem less overtly hostile. For example, some researchers propose that crude joking and making derogatory comments towards women and femininity may cause more distress over the long term than more extreme forms of sex-based harassment such as sexual coercion because people think these less extreme forms of harassment are normal, or not really a problem. Therefore, they do not make efforts to stop, change, or challenge them. This makes harassment a normal part of an organization’s culture, affecting all individuals to some degree. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Immigrant Anyone who has moved internationally into a destination country of which they are not natives. In the U.S., with the exception of Native Americans, everyone is immigrants. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Implicit bias (or unconscious bias) Prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person, or group as compared to another, in a way that is usually considered unfair. Many researchers suggest that unconscious bias occurs automatically as the brain makes quick judgments based on past experiences and background. As a result of unconscious biases, certain people benefit and other people are penalized. In contrast, deliberate prejudices are defined as conscious bias (or explicit bias). Although we all have biases, many unconscious biases tend to be exhibited toward minority groups based on factors such as class, gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, age, able-bodiedness, and other such traits. Unconscious bias. Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Vanderbilt University.
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.
Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Inclusion Providing equal opportunity to all people to fully engage themselves in creating an environment and a cultural attitude whereby everyone and every group fits, feels accepted, has value, and is supported by a foundation built on trust and mutual respect. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Institutional racism A variety of systems operating within an organization that have attitudes, behaviors, and practices
that subordinate persons or groups because of race or ethnic background.
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Internalized oppression The process by which a member of an oppressed group comes to oppression: accept and live out the inaccurate myths and stereotypes applied to the oppressed group. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Internalized sexism When the belief in women’s inferiority becomes part of one’s own worldview and self-concept. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Intersectionality The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a
given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Intersex A term for someone born with biological sex characteristics that aren’t traditionally associated with male or female bodies. Intersexuality does not refer to sexual orientation or gender identity. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Latinx The gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin@. Used by scholars, activists and an increasing number of journalists, Latinx is quickly gaining popularity among the general public. It’s part of a “linguistic revolution” that aims to move beyond gender binaries and is inclusive of the intersecting identities of Latin American descendants. In addition to men and women from all racial backgrounds, Latinx also makes room for people who are transgender, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid. Despite the growing popularity of the term, Latinx has been faced with criticism. Many opponents of the term have suggested that using an un-gendered noun like Latinx is disrespectful to the Spanish language and some have even called the term “a blatant form of linguistic imperialism”.
While Latinx can still be considered an imperfect general term for people of Latin heritage in countries like the U.S., it doesn’t work well in primarily Spanish-speaking countries. This is because the “x” can be hard to pronounce and makes gendered words (e.g., that use ‘os’, ‘as’) unconjugatable. To tackle this, some Spanish speakers are substituting “e” instead. For example, “amigos” becomes “amigues”, and “Latino” becomes “Latines”.
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
LBTQIA+ This is the acronym most commonly used in the United States to address the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. The acronym can vary in a number of ways, including LGBT, GLBT and GLB, and now includes additional letters, such as Q (queer; also questioning); A (asexual; or straight ally); and I (intersex) along with the + symbol to denote everything on the gender and sexuality spectrum that letters and words cannot yet describe. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Low-Income Communities “Low-income” is defined as 80 percent of the median family income for the area, subject to adjustments for areas with unusually high or low incomes or housing costs; Office of Policy Development & Research, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Lesbian A woman whose emotional, sexual, or romantic attractions are primarily to other women. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
M to F/MTF/M2F Male to Female. Abbreviation used to specify the direction of sex or gender role change, usually used by those who identify as transsexual. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
M.A.A.B./F.A.A.B./U.A.A.B. Male-assigned at birth/female-assigned at birth/unassigned at birth. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Mansplain When a man explains something to a woman in a condescending way when he either 1) doesn’t know anything about it or 2) knows far less than the woman he is talking to. Diversity and social justice: A glossary or working definitions. Office of Multicultural Affairs
Manterrupting When a man interrupts a woman, especially excessively. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Marginalized Excluded, ignored, or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community. Adapted from Lexico ( and Oxford University Press).
Micro-inequities Small, sometimes unspoken, often unconscious messages we constantly send and receive that have a
powerful impact on our interactions with others. They can be either positive or negative. Some common examples include a wink of understanding from across the table; a distracted glance at the ceiling or watch while someone is speaking.
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Microaggression A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, and/or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group. Lexico ( and Oxford University Press).
Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) “MBE is a company level ownership/diversity certification. MBE certifications are usually issued by the federal, state or local government. Eligibility for certification as a Minority Business Enterprise varies depending on the issuer but generally requires that a company be owned and operated by a member of a minority group such as African American, Native American, Asian or Hispanic American.” Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Owned Business Definition, Thomas.
Misandry Dislike of, contempt for or ingrained prejudice against men. Adapted from Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Misogyny Dislike of, contempt for or ingrained prejudice against women. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Multicultural The co-existence of many distinct cultures within a given context, such as community or nation. Diversity and Social Justice Glossary: Multicultural Affairs: Student Affairs & University Events.
Multiethnic An individual that comes from more than one ethnicity. An individual whose parents are born from more than one ethnicity. Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary, Cambridge University Press
Multiracial An individual that comes from more than one race. An individual whose parents are born from more than one race. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Nationality The state of belonging to a particular country or being a citizen of a particular nation. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. It includes people who indicate their race as “Native Hawaiian”, “Guamanian or Chamorro”, “Samoan”, and “Other Pacific Islander.” Adapted from Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary, Cambridge University Press
Non-binary A term for gender identities or expressions that fall outside the gender binary. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Oppression A situation in which people are governed or treated in an unfair and cruel way and/or prevented from having opportunities and freedom. Cox, Taylor Jr., Cultural Diversity in Organizations: Theory, Research & Practice, Berrett-Koehler: San Francisco, 1993, p. 161
Organizational assessment Organizational assessment involves discovering where the organization is today. This process examines systems, policies and practices to ensure they are flexible enough to support the future state environment. This phase is at the heart of “managing diversity”. It involves data collection to assess the organizational climate. It consists of surveys (Employee Opinion Surveys) which are attitudinal in nature to get a sense of what the work environment is like, cultural audits (which look at the organization’s roots that drive its systems), assessments of written and unwritten organization policies and procedures, and reviews of complaint and grievance data. Change to support the
effective management of diversity must take place at a root level to be lasting.
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Organizational culture Underlying values, beliefs and principles that serve as a foundation for the organization’s management system, as well as the set of management practices and behaviors that both exemplify and reinforce those principles. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Othering A set of processes, structures, and dynamics that denies full humanity and belonging across any of the full range of human differences. Othering and marginality can occur on a group basis or at the individual level. powell, john a. (2018, August 29). The Problem of Othering: Towards Inclusiveness and Belonging.
Outgroup homogeneity Outgroup is a group to which the person does not belong. People tend to see outgroup members as more alike than ingroup members. As a result, outgroup members are at risk of being seen as interchangeable or expendable, and are more likely to be stereotyped. Outgroup homogeneity. Understanding prejudice.
Pansexual A term referring to the potential for sexual attractions or romantic love toward people of all gender identities and biological sexes. The concept of pansexuality deliberately rejects the gender binary, and derives its origin from the transgender movement. (also referred to as omnisexuality or polisexuality) Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Patriarchy The control by men, rather than woman or both men and women, of most of the power and authority in a society. Patriarchy can also be defined as a form of social organization in which fathers or males control the family, clan, tribe, or larger social unit (or a society is organized in this way). Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Persons of color People of non-European ancestry. All persons self-identifying by the general categories of African American or Black; Hispanic, Latino or Chicano; Asian or Pacific Islander; American Indian or Native American or Alaskan Native. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Physical abilities Personal characteristics such as strength, speed, and agility that are associated with one’s physique or bodily attributes. Dictionary of the American Psychological Association
Pluralism A system that holds within it individuals or groups differing in a basic background experiences and cultures. It allows for the development of a common tradition, while preserving the right of each group to maintain its cultural heritage. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Polyamory The practice of having multiple open, honest love relationships. Adapted from Kabeer
Post-racial A term used to describe a time in which racial prejudice and discrimination no longer exist. There are deep racial disparities and divisions across our society, and some are even widening. Much like the notion of “colorblindness”, the idea of a “post-racial” society does not acknowledge that racism and inequity sit at the core of many of our nation’s deepest challenges. 2015 Race Reporting Guide. Race Forward, The Center for Racial Justice Innovation.

Power dynamics are socially constructed and implicit in all social, economic, cultural and political relations and structures. Power relations/structures often inhibit people of marginalized identities from being able to increase their own power. There are four categories of power:

  • Power over: ability to resist manipulation or control power over another person (interpersonal)
  • Power to: about creating new possibilities and being able to generate or produce power
  • Power with: collective power in a group
  • Power within: strength based on self respect and self acceptance (interpersonal)
Adapted from Kabeer

Implies a preconceived idea, judgment, or opinion, usually an unfavorable one marked by hatred, and is directed toward a racial religious, cultural, or ethnic group. This can include:

  • Judgments about others that reinforce superiority/inferiority belief systems.
  • Exaggerate value/worth of a particular group while diminishing worth for other group(s).
  • Reinforced supported by stereotypes.
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Privilege Privilege operates on personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels and gives advantages, favors, and benefits to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of target groups. Power & Privilege Definitions, Vanderbilt University.
Queer Originally harmful in its intent, the term is now used by some LGBTQ+ individuals to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, often also transgender, people. However, many LGBTQ+ people still live in contexts in which this term is violently weaponized against them. Some use queer as an alternative to “gay” in an effort to be more inclusive. The term has either a derogatory, when used by someone not part of the LGBTQ+ community, or an affirming connotation, as many have sought to reclaim the term that was once widely used against them in a negative way. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Questioning An individual who is unsure of and/or exploring their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Definitions, Vanderbilt University.
Race As a biological concept, it defines groups of human beings based on a set of genetically transmitted characteristics, i.e., physical characteristics, including color. The concept of race as a socio-cultural concept is being replaced by the more appropriate concept of ethnicity. The concept of race as used socio-politically by the U.S. Census Bureau reflects self-identification by people according to the race or races with which they most closely identify. The latter socio-cultural and socio-political categories include both racial and national-origin groups. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Racism Historically rooted system of power hierarchies based on race – infused in our institutions, policies and culture – that benefits white people and hurts people of color. Racism isn’t limited to individual acts of prejudice, either deliberate or accidental. Rather, the most damaging racism is built into systems and institutions that shape our lives. Most coverage of race and racism is not “systemically aware”, meaning that it either focuses on racism at the level of an individuals’ speech or actions, individual-level racism, dismisses systemic racism, or refers to racism in the past tense. Racial Justice in Education: Key Terms and Definitions, NEA
Sex Sex refers to the different biological and physiological characteristics of females, males and intersex persons, such as chromosomes, hormones and reproductive organs. Gender and sex are related to but different from gender identity. Sexual Health, World Health Organization
Sex-based harassment Sex-based harassment refers to behaviors that demean or degrade someone on the basis of their sex or gender. Sex-based harassment can take three forms: (1) Sexual coercion (i.e. pressure from a superior or manager that promises rewards for sexual compliance or punishment for non-compliance); (2) Unwanted sexual attention and (3) Gender harassment, including demeaning comments about women and or femininity. Smith, G., Rizzo, T., Glinski, A. (2018). Men and masculinities: A brief review of the literature. ICRW & EGAL.
Sexism Any act, gesture, visual representation, spoken or written words, practice, or behavior based upon the idea that a person or a group of persons is inferior because of their sex, which occurs in the public or private sphere, whether online or offline. Council of Europe, 2020, (Sexism: See It, Name It, Stop It), p.20
Sexual abuse Sexual abuse is any sexual activity that occurs without consent. Also referred to as sexual assault or sexual violence, it includes unwanted sexual touching, forced oral sex, and rape, among other sexual acts. No matter which act occurs, it’s not the survivor’s fault that they were assaulted – and help is available to begin healing from such abuse. Psychology Today
Sexual exploitation Actual or attempted abuse of a position of vulnerability, power, or trust, for sexual purposes, including, but not limited to, profiting monetarily, socially or politically from the sexual exploitation of another. Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Pamphlet from the World Health Organization
Sexual harassment

Unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors (quid pro quo) and other verbal or physical
conducts of a sexual nature when:

  • submission to such conduct is made either implicitly a condition of employment;
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
  • such conduct has the purpose of effect of unreasonably interfacing with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile working environment.
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Sexual orientation The direction of one’s sexual (erotic) and/or romantic attraction towards the same gender, opposite gender, or multiple genders. (Some sexual Orientation terms are gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, etc.). It is separate from gender identity and thus transgender persons also have a sexual orientation. Like gender, sexuality is on a spectrum, meaning some people may experience fluidity in their sexuality. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Shared value A particular kind of business strategy – one that that delivers competitive advantage by addressing societal challenges. It works explicitly within the business framework, seeking to engage business in addressing societal challenges. Shared value frames the response to societal challenges through the ‘win-win’ lens of business. Equity Fluent Leader Glossary
Solidarity Unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group. Lexico ( and Oxford University Press).
Stereotype Blanket beliefs and expectations about members of certain groups that present an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. They go beyond necessary and useful categorizations and generalizations in that they are typically negative, are based on little information, and are highly generalized. CalArts Equity and Diversity Terminology
Sustainability (sustainable development) Sustainability is a complex concept. The most often quoted definition comes from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Sustainable practices support ecological, human, and economic health and vitality. Brundtland Report, Science Direct
Systems thinking A set of synergistic analytic skills used to improve the capability of identifying and understanding systems, predicting their behaviors and devising modifications to them in order to produce desired effects. (A system is defined as a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole – Merriam Webster) Arnold, R., Wade, J. (2015). A definition of systems thinking: A systems approach. Procedia Computer Science, 44, 2015, 669-678.
Tokenism The practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to do a particular thing, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of sexual or racial equality within a workforce. Essentially, it gives the appearance of equality without achieving it, and can give a false sense of achievement. For example, many corporate boards may have only one woman director, which may be considered tokenism if there is not an inclusive environment on the board. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Tone policing A diversionary tactic used when a person purposely turns away from the message behind their interlocutor’s argument in order to focus solely on the way it is delivered. This is often deployed when a person feels like they are ‘under attack’ in a discussion — particularly on topics related to race or gender — especially if people of colour involved are passionate about the subject. This not only reiterates the damaging notion of ‘non-threatening’ versus ‘threatening’ people of colour, but it also serves to dismiss or undermine the individual experiences of the people telling their stories. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Trans or trans+ Used as shorthand for transgender, and on second reference after first using the word transgender. If you use trans without defining it, or without the first reference of transgender, mainstream audiences may not understand its meaning or what you are referencing. Glossary of terms – Transgender. GLAAD Media Reference Guide.
Transgender A term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth. Transgender can be used as a broad term to encompass various transgender and non-binary gender identities. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender”. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Transition Altering one’s birth sex is not a one-step procedure; it is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time. Transition can include some or all of the following personal, medical, and legal steps: telling one’s family, friends, and co-workers; using a different name and new pronouns; dressing differently; changing one’s name and/or sex on legal documents; hormone therapy; and possibly (though not always) one or more types of surgery. The exact steps involved in transition vary from person to person. Avoid the phrase “sex change”.  Transgender Terminology from The International Center for Transgender Care
Transphobia Prejudice arising from negative valuing and stereotyping resulting in discriminatory behavior defined by fear, hatred, disgust of transgender, transsexual and other people because of their (supposed) non-conforming gender presentation and/or status. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Transsexual An older term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth who seeks to transition from male to female or female to male. Many do not prefer this term because it is thought to sound overly clinical. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Two-Spirit A contemporary term that refers to the historical and current First Nations people whose gender identities fall outside of colonial notions of gender and the gender binary. This term has been reclaimed by some in Native American LGBT communities in order to honor their heritage and provide an alternative to the Western labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
Understanding differences Understanding differences is the awareness and acceptance of differences among and between people both on an interpersonal and personal level. It encompasses myriad dimensions such as race, sex, age, thinking style, religion, sexual orientation, professional degrees, and functionality. This can also refer to organizations and systems (for example, field offices versus headquarters). The objective is to enhance interpersonal or inter-functional relationships. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Undocumented immigrant Anyone residing in any given country without legal documentation. It includes people who
entered the U.S. without inspection and proper permission from the government, and those who entered with a legal visa that is no longer valid.
Defining undocumented, Immigrants Rising.
Values Acceptance and Commitment Therapy states that values are: “freely chosen, verbally constructed consequences of ongoing, dynamic, evolving patterns of activity, which establish predominant reinforcers for that activity that are intrinsic in engagement in the valued behavioral pattern itself”. In psychology the pursuit of values is the pursuit of self-actualization and increases overall well-being. Anal, Plumb, Stewart, Dahl, and Lundgren (2009) In “Search of Meaning: values in modern clinical behavior analysis”, in Behavioral Analysis
Valuing differences Refers to systemic, organizational and personal development work (not a program) that focuses on
all employees, clients, customers, and investors feeling valued (not just tolerated).
Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Veteran A person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable. US Department of Veteran Affairs definition
Veteran owned business A business that is at least 51 percent owned/operated/ controlled by a veteran. VOSB (Veteran Owned Small Business) is a company level ownership / diversity certification used in the USA. Adapted from Minority Ownership definition, Thomas.
Victim blaming When the victim of a crime or harmful act is held fully or partially responsible for it. If you hear someone questioning what a victim could have done to prevent a crime, that’s victim-blaming, and it makes it harder for people to come forward and report abuse. Wright, J. (2019). The Language of Inclusion.
Violence against women (VAW) Any act of GBV that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
White A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as “White” or as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish. US Census Bureau
Woke Rooted in Black activist culture, it means you’re educated and aware, especially about injustice
Woman business enterprise (WBE) A business that is at least 51 percent owned/operated/ controlled by a woman. WBE is a company level ownership / diversity certification used in the USA whereby the woman must be a female US citizen. Adapted from Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) Owned business definition, Thomas.
Women’s economic empowerment Requires a woman to have the ability to succeed economically and the power to act on economic decisions. Equity Fluent Leader Glossary
Women’s empowerment The expansion in one’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to her (or him). It is about identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives. Adapted from Kabeer, Resources, Agency, Achievements: Reflections on the Measurement of Women’s Empowerment (Kabeer alt link)
Workplace harassment Under federal law and Department of Labor (DOL) policy, harassment based on race (including dress and grooming), color, ancestry, national origin (including ethnicity, accent, and use of a language other than English), religion or religious creed (including reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs or practices), physical or mental disability (including reasonable accommodation of physical or mental disability), genetic information, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, abortion, and related medical conditions and procedures), sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, intersex conditions, age, parental status, marital status, political affiliation or any other prohibited factor, and/or retaliation for engaging in protected Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) activity (e.g., filing or participating in a complaint or otherwise opposing discrimination, including harassment; requesting a reasonable accommodation) is prohibited. The Department of Labor does not permit harassing conduct by anyone in the workplace, including co-workers, contractors and customers. Department of Labor
Xenophobia A global phenomenon. But there are also distinct national, and even regional and local, differences. This essay examines American xenophobia in order to identify some of its defining features. First, xenophobia in the United States has been built upon the nation’s history of White settler colonialism and slavery. It has become part of the systemic racism and other forms of bigotry and discrimination that have defined American society. Second, it has adapted to and shaped successive migrations and settlement of peoples from around the world. Lastly, it has defined American nationalism and nativism, and it has endured because it has helped some of the country’s most important institutions to function and thrive: American capitalism, American democracy, and American global leadership. Lee, E. (2021). Americans Must Rule America: Xenophobia in the United States. Social Research, 88(4), 795–825.

Terms to be aware of

Don’t Use Do Use Source

“Transgenders”, “a transgender” (noun)
Transgender should be used as an adjective, not as a noun. Do not say, “Tony is a transgender,” or “the parade included many transgenders.”

“Transgender people”, “a transgender person”
For example, “Tony is a transgender man”, or “the parade included many transgender people”.
Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
The adjective transgender should never have an extraneous “-ed” tacked onto the end. An “-ed” suffix implies that being transgender is something that happens to a person, rather than being used as an adjective. You would not say that someone is “gayed” or “lesbianed”.
“transgender” Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
This is not a term commonly used by transgender people. This is a term used by anti-transgender activists to dehumanize transgender people and reduce who they are to “a condition.”
“being transgender”
Refer to being transgender instead, or refer to the transgender community. You can also refer to the movement for transgender equality and acceptance.
Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
“sex change”, “pre-operative,” “post-operative”
Referring to a “sex-change operation,” or using terms such as “pre-operative” or “post-operative,” inaccurately suggests that a person must have surgery in order to transition. Avoid overemphasizing surgery when discussing transgender people or the process of transition.
Transition can have many different connotations for different individuals and is by no means a linear process. Transitioning is ongoing for many and there is no end goal or ideal way for an individual to transition.
Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
“biologically male”, “biologically female”, “genetically male”, “genetically female”, “born a man”, “born a woman”, “born a boy”, “born a girl”
Problematic phrases like those above are reductive and overly-simplify a very complex subject. As mentioned above, a person’s sex is determined by a number of factors – not simply genetics – and a person’s biology does not “trump” a person’s identity. Finally, people are born babies: they are not “born a man” or “born a woman.”
“assigned male at birth”, “assigned female at birth” or “designated male at birth”, “designated female at birth”
This language captures the ways in which the medical-industrial complex coercively assigns gender categories to babies before they are able to have a conception of how gender is socially constructed. False assumptions made by medical professionals at one’s time of birth, which are then reaffirmed by behaviors and actions of those surrounding the child, by no means determine the gender identity of said individual.
Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
“passing” and “stealth”
While some transgender people may use these terms among themselves, it is not appropriate to repeat them in mainstream media unless it’s in a direct quote. The terms refer to a transgender person’s ability to go through daily life without others making an assumption that they are transgender. However, the terms themselves are problematic because “passing” implies “passing as something you’re not,” while “stealth” connotes deceit. When transgender people are living as their authentic selves, and are not perceived as transgender by others, that does not make them deceptive or misleading.
“visibly transgender”, “not visibly transgender”
Keep in mind that it is inappropriate, especially for cisgendered individuals, to comment on whether or not they perceive someone to be visibly transgender. Making assumptions about someone’s gender identity based on their presentation serves to reinforce the cissexist notions that transgender people must aspire to present as cisgender women/men.
Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
“special rights”
Anti-LGBTQ extremists frequently characterize equal protection of the law for LGBTQ people as “special rights” to incite opposition to such things as relationship recognition and inclusive nondiscrimination laws.
“equal rights” or “equal protection” GLAAD Glossary of Terms: Transgender
“sexual preference”
The term “sexual preference” is typically used in an anti-LGBTQ context, to suggest that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is a choice and therefore can and should be “cured.”
“sexual orientation” or “orientation”
Sexual orientation is the accurate description of an individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex and is inclusive of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, as well as straight men and women
GLAAD Glossary of Terms: LGBTQ
The phrase “gay lifestyle” is used to denigrate the LGBTQ community, suggesting that their orientations are choices and therefore can and should be avoided
There is no single lesbian, gay or bisexual lifestyle. People within the LGBTQ community are diverse in the ways they lead their lives.
GLAAD Glossary of Terms: LGBTQ
“homosexual” (n. or adj.)
Because of the clinical history of the word “homosexual,” it is used by anti-LGBTQ extremists to suggest that people attracted to the same gender are somehow diseased or psychologically/emotionally disordered – notions discredited by the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association in the 1970s. We suggest avoiding using “homosexual” except in direct quotes. We suggest avoiding using “homosexual” as a style variation simply to avoid repeated use of the word “gay”. The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post restrict use of the term “homosexual” (see AP, Reuters, & New York Times Style).
“gay” (adj.); “gay man” or “lesbian woman” (n.); “gay person/people” Resources for classrooms and groups. UC Berkeley Division of Equity & Inclusion.
“Black”, “African American”
These terms are not necessarily interchangeable. “Black” is a more general term, seeing as many Black people from immigrant communities do not identify as “African American”. At the same time, immigrants who may have grown up in a society that was predominantly ‘black’ often don’t identify as such either, since they don’t believe that their race has defined the majority of their experiences. As a result, there is no absolute set of rules that dictates which term should be used in which context.

Use a few rules of thumb when trying to determine which of these two terms to use.

  1. Where possible, honor the subject’s preference, and be as specific as possible. For instance: “Caribbean American”.
  2. If completely unsure about preference, use “Black” since it is the more generic term
Style Guide A. National Association of Black Journalists
“minority”, “non-white”
These terms have historically been used to refer to people who are not White, and while they may be the statistically accurate ways to refer to people of certain races in census reports or surveys, they center all of us around whiteness as if it were a default against which people are determined. The words serve as a reinforcement of institutions that were built to exclude people of various racial identities, rendering them peripheral at best. By denoting a ‘smaller’ or ‘lesser’ status, they also fail to capture the need to shift educational experiences for children in an increasingly diverse community.
“people of color”
Defining people as “minorities” is not recommended because of changing demographics and the ways in which it reinforces ideas of inferiority and marginalization of a group of people. Defining people by how they self-identify is often preferable and more respectful. While “people of color” can be a politically useful term, and describes people with their own attributes (as opposed to what they are not), it is also important whenever possible to identify people through their own racial/ethnic group, as each has its own distinct experience and meaning and may be more appropriate.
2015 Race Reporting Guide. Race Forward, The Center for Racial Justice Innovation
By definition, an ethnic group is a category of people who identify with each other on the basis of a common language, religion, ancestral location, and history–which implies that all people are ethnic. However, the word tends to be used to refer to non-white groups. The political coinage (white ethnics) suggests a normalization of whiteness that excludes/marginalizes other identities.
Use the word freely as an adjective (“ethnic group”), but not as a noun except in direct quotations. “people of color” could also be a substitute It is considered a ‘lazy’ term that upholds the idea that white people don’t have an ethnicity, avoids specifics, and invokes a very homogenous, exotified sense of otherness. What Racial Terms Make You Cringe?
The term implies the very existence of an unauthorized migrant in America is criminal, dehumanizing them and generating animosity towards them. Use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Do not use the terms an illegal, or illegals.
“unauthorized immigrant,” “undocumented Immigrant”
According to the Justice Department, the term illegal immigrant is still considered legally correct, but it is important to note that it can offend or cause distress to people. As a result, “undocumented immigrant” is preferable in regular discourse.
2015 Race Reporting Guide. Race Forward, The Center for Racial Justice Innovation
Using “disabled” as a noun is a reductive approach that focuses on a method of categorization rather than on the people themselves. Adopting an adjective form (and preferably a more specific term) is an example of people-first language which ensures that people are not defined by their disabilities. However, some people consider their disability to be an inseparable part of who they are (in the autism and Deaf communities, for instance) and do endorse identity-first terms such as “disabled people” although less broad forms are preferred.
“people with disabilities” or “disabled people”
“Person-first example: “graduate student who has epilepsy”, instead of “graduate student who is an epileptic”
Identity-first example: “autistic” or “deaf” or “blind”
rule of thumb: use people-first language if unclear about preference”
2018 NCDJ Disability Language Style Guide
When used in reference to people without a disability, this incorrectly implies that all people with disabilities lack ‘able bodies’ or the ability to use their bodies well, or are in some way ‘abnormal’, deviant/strange.
“they do not have a disability”, or if necessary, “non-disabled”; “neurotypical individuals” if referring to mental state The California State University Diversity Style Guide
“confined to a wheelchair”, “suffers from”, “victim of”
Terms such as “wheelchair-bound” only describe a person in terms of their relationship to a piece of equipment and are often misleading–wheelchairs can liberate rather than restrict people, allowing them to have greater mobility. Instead of characterizing their conditions as afflictions, use more neutral terms that simply state facts about a person’s disability.
“uses a wheelchair”, “diagnosed with”
The AP style guide recommends avoiding descriptions that connote pity.
2018 NCDJ Disability Language Style Guide


Rules of Thumb

  1. Asking and correctly using someone’s pronoun/s is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity. When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun it can leave them feeling invisible, disrespected and dismissed.
  2. Some pronouns might sound strange or grammatically incorrect, e.g. ze, zim, zers, they, theirs. Using the pronouns is a show of respect for how individuals see and refer to themselves.
  3. When you do not know the pronoun, ask. Try “What are your pronouns?”, “Which pronouns do you use?”, “Can you remind me which pronouns you like for yourself?” “My pronouns are they/them, may I ask what pronouns you use?” If can feel awkward at first, but it is not half as awkward as getting it wrong or making hurtful assumptions.
  4. If you make a mistake about someone’s pronoun, correct yourself. Going on as if it did not happen is actually less respectful than making the correction. This also saves the person who was misgendered from having to correct an incorrect pronoun assumption that has now been planted in the minds of classmates or anyone else who heard the mistake.
  5. Avoid gendered directions, e.g. “All the men in one group and all the women in another”.
  6. Do not disclose the gender identity or sexual orientation of another without the express permission of that person.
  7. Do not engage in speculative conversations about someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
  8. Never ask personal questions of trans people that you would not ask of others. Never ask about body functions, anatomy or medical care.
  9. Never ask a transgender student their former name, why or how they know they are trans, their sexual orientation or practices, their family’s reaction to their gender identity or any other questions that are irrelevant to your relationship with them unless they invite you to do so or voluntarily share the information.

About Pronouns

  • A pronoun is a word that refers to either the people talking, or the people who are being talked about. Gender pronouns specifically refer to the people that you are talking about.

Preferred Gender Pronouns

  • A preferred gender pronoun (PGP) is the the pronoun that a person chooses to use for themself. For example: If J’s preferred pronouns are she, her, and hers, you could say “J ate her food because she was hungry.”

Commonly Used Pronouns & Use

  • She, her, hers and he, him, his are the most commonly used pronouns. Some people call these “female/feminine” and “male/masculine” pronouns, but many avoid these labels because, for example, not everyone who uses he feels like a “male” or “masculine.”
  • “There are lots of gender-neutral pronouns. Here are a few:
    • They, them, theirs (J ate their food, because they were hungry.)
    • Ze, hir (J at hir food, because ze was hungry). “
  • Some people prefer not to use pronouns at all, just use their name as a pronoun instead.
  • Never refer to a person as “it” or “he-she” (unless they specifically ask you to do so). These are offensive slurs used against trans and gender non-conforming individuals.
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