Diversity Terminology

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The Center for Transformative Justice strives to provide up-to-date terminology and we also understand that terms are ever-evolving as we move forward. Please be in this work with us and reach out to us in CTJ if you find any outdated terms or terms we should add to the list. 

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Systemic and cultural power awarded to able-bodied/minded people at the expense of people who identify as disabled and/or are socially defined as having a disability

The act or process of accepting. The state of being accepted or acceptable. Favorable reception; approval. Belief in something; agreement.


The extent to which a building or other facility is readily approachable and does not inhibit the mobility of individuals with disabilities. Accessibility can also refer to the extent to which curriculum and programming have been designed to accommodate the needs of individuals of all abilities, including cognitive, learning, and sensory. Also pertaining to the capability of being used or seen, accessibility to information.

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Accessible. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/accessible

Asexual is an adjective or noun describing someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction. The level of sexual attraction varies from asexual person to asexual person. Some asexual individuals may describe themselves as "ace," a general nickname, or "Grey A," which refers to asexual people who experience some sexual attraction. (For more information: https://www.uwlax.edu/pride-center/lgbtq-101/terminology/) 

Proactive efforts to achieve equal employment opportunity and eliminate the effects of past and present discrimination, particularly on the basis of race and gender. The intent is to identify barriers to equal opportunity, eliminate the effects of bias (both conscious and subconscious), and achieve parity with workforce demographics among available and qualified individuals. Affirmative action is not: quota systems, lowering of job standards, selection of unqualified candidates, or reverse discrimination.

  • Taking on the traits of another culture, leaving the culture of origin behind.
  • The process whereby individuals or groups of differing ethnic heritage are absorbed into the dominant culture of a society.

Pauls, E. P. (2019, August 21). Assimilation. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/assimilation-society

An overall learned core disposition which guides an individual's thoughts, feelings and actions towards specific others and objects.

An inclination or preference either for or against an individual or group that interferes with impartial judgment. Bias can be conscious or unconscious and is a product of socialization and life experiences that shape our perceptions and judgments.

To learn more about your unconscious bias, Click Here

BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) 

The BIPOC Project aims to build authentic and lasting solidarity among Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), in order to undo Native invisibility, anti-Blackness, dismantle white supremacy and advance racial justice.

We use the term BIPOC to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context. We unapologetically focus on and center relationships among BIPOC folks.

A person who has romantic, emotional, physical and/or sexual attractions to two or more genders. 

A person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part.

Phenomenon in which someone is less likely to intervene in an emergency situation when others are present than when they are alone.

The development of awareness, skills, and courage needed to intervene in a situation when another individual needs help. 

A measure - real or perceived - of the campus environment as it relates to interpersonal, academic, and professional interactions. The events, messages, symbols, core beliefs, feelings, and so, so much more - which make this a welcoming environment - or not - for all. Behaviors within a workplace or learning environment, ranging from subtle to cumulative to dramatic, that can influence whether an individual feels personally safe, listened to, valued, and treated fairly and with respect

Refers to an individual who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth. There is a match between their assigned gender at birth, their bodies, and their personal gender identity.

At its most basic level, civility refers to showing others kindness, courtesy, and respect. Digging a little deeper, civility is about constantly being open to listen, to learn, to teach and to change. It seeks common ground as a beginning point for dialogue when differences occur, while at the same time recognizing that differences enrich our community.

Classism is differential treatment based on social class or perceived socio-economic class. It is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups (this includes systems of policies and practices that are set up to benefit the upper classes at the expense of the lower classes, resulting in drastic wealth and income inequality). It is also the systematic assignment of characteristics of worth and ability based on social class.

The prevailing attitudes, standards, or environmental conditions of a group, period, or place; the living, learning and working conditions. The atmosphere or ambience of an organization as perceived by its members. An organization's climate is reflected in its structures, policies, and practices; the demographics of its membership; the attitudes and values of its members and leaders; and the quality of personal interactions.

The process by which people's beliefs or behaviors are influenced by others, via subtle even unconscious processes or by direct and overt peer pressure. It is a group behavior. Factors such as group size, cohesion, status, prior commitment, presence of authority, and public opinion all help determine the level of conformity an individual will reflect toward his/her group.

A shared frame of reference consisting of learned patterns of behavior, values, assumptions and meaning; they are shared to varying degrees of interest, importance and awareness with members of a group. Culture is expressed in what we do, how we do it, what we say, and how we say it; it is how we identify ourselves and each other. These patterns can be seen in language, governing practices, arts, customs, holiday celebrations, food, religion, dating rituals, and clothing, but culture extends deep beneath these surface-level manifestations, and includes systems of belief, thought, perception, and interaction with the world.

A life-long commitment to self-evaluation and self-reflection to learn more about identities, systems, and influences of power, privilege, and oppression. Cultural humility also embodies the desire to fix power imbalances, while developing partnerships with people and groups who advocate for others. (http://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/newsletter/2013/08/cultural-humility.aspx) 

Phenomenon whereby each bystander's sense of responsibility to help decreases as the number of witnesses increases. People incorrectly assume that someone else will help, but then nobody helps.

A mental, physical, cognitive, developmental impairment which substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual. Under applicable laws, a person who has a past record of having had a disability, or who is regarded by others having a disability, qualifies for protection.

Unfair treatment or denial of rights based on a person's race, skin color, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, pregnancy, marital or parental status, religion, age, arrest record, conviction record, military service, veteran status or other legally protected identity/status. Different state and federal laws may not grant the same protections to all individuals in all circumstances based on all of the above identity characteristics.

Reflecting variety among a group. The opposite of "homogenous". A descriptor for a group or organization that contains individuals or subgroups that are in some way different from one another. The word "diverse" is sometimes used incorrectly to refer to individuals or groups that are in the minority: persons of color, persons with disabilities, or persons who identify as LGBTQ+. (For example, the term "diverse faculty" as a euphemism for just faculty members of color.) When we refer to just these individuals, or these groups, as "diverse," we perpetuate the assumption that there is a "norm" - white, heterosexual, cis-, non-disabled - that is not "diverse".

Synonym for "difference": the sum total of all of the dimensions of difference that exist among people, including our identities, experiences, abilities, and worldviews. Diversity may be visible or invisible, but it exists in every interaction between people. Dimensions of diversity include: gender identity or expression, age, ethnicity, language, class, culture, sexual orientation, race, ability, size, etc.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a government agency established to enforce non-discrimination laws.

Ethnicity is not just a person's race. Ethnicity is about tradition, history, language, culture, customs, and learned behavior.

A system of employment or educational practices under which individuals are not excluded from any participation, advancement or benefits due to race, color, creed, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, ancestry, disability, pregnancy, marital or parental status or any other action which cannot lawfully be the basis for limiting equal access.

Fairness and justice in allocating resources, opportunity, treatment and success. This is different from equality. Equality means getting the same, equity means getting what is fair.

Three people looking over a fensce at a baseball game. On one side (Equality) the three people are given the same box to stand on and cannot all see over the fence. The other side (Equity), all three people can see over the fence because the shortest person got two boxes, the second shortest got one and the tallest didn't need a box.


A man who is attracted sexually and/or romantically to other men. Some women also describe themselves as "gay."

One's inner sense of their gender(s) or lack thereof. 

Unwelcome verbal, written, graphic or physical conduct that: (a) Is directed at an individual or group of individuals on the basis of the individual or group of individuals’ actual or perceived protected status, or affiliation or association with person(s) within a protected status (as defined herein above); and (b) is sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to interfere with an individual’s employment, education or academic environment or participation in institution programs or activities and creates a working, learning, program or activity environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, offensive or hostile. (c) To constitute prohibited harassment, the conduct must be both objectively and subjectively harassing in nature. Harassment may include but is not limited to verbal or physical attacks, threats, slurs or derogatory or offensive comments that meet the definition set forth herein. Harassment does not have to be targeted at a particular individual in order to create a harassing environment, nor must the conduct result in a tangible injury to be considered a violation of this policy. Whether the alleged conduct constitutes prohibited harassment depends on the totality of the particular circumstances, including the nature, frequency and duration of the conduct in question, the location and context in which it occurs and the status of the individuals involved. (For more information, click Here). 

A criminal act-such as vandalism, arson, assault, or murder-committed against someone because of his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability, age, gender, or other protected status, real or perceived. Hate crime laws typically increase the punishment applicable to the underlying criminal act, on the grounds that the act was motivated by bias. Hate crime laws vary by state.

Any physically or verbally harmful act that is motivated by (or appears to be motivated by, in whole or in part) any of the following factors: race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, or other personal identity characteristic, real or perceived.

All hate crimes are hate incidents, but not all hate incidents qualify as hate crimes-the act may not be a violation of law, or the targeted identity may not be protected under the state's hate crime laws.

Heteronormativity pertains to the practices and institutions that legitimize and privilege heterosexuality, heterosexual relationships and traditional gender roles as fundamental and "natural" within society. (For more information, Click Here). 

Negative feelings, attitudes, actions or behaviors towards anyone who LGBTQ+ or perceived to identify as any of the above. 

When members of diverse social and cultural groups are actively included and the dignity of all people is respected so everyone can thrive and reach their fullest potential. Inclusive organizations fully value different perspectives and reflect the interests of diverse members throughout all levels and aspects of the organization. Full inclusion implies dialogue and sharing of power between members of all subgroups.

The internalization of misinformation and negative beliefs about one's self by members of oppressed groups.

Negative terms surrounding and inside of outline of a person


Is a general term used to refer to individuals born with genitalia, anatomy, or chromosomes that do not match society's strict definitions of "female" or "male." 

A woman whose primary romantic, emotional, physical and/or sexual attractions are to other women.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, +. This acronym represents the queer community, with the Q enveloping lesser-known identities. Some people may also use GSM or LGBT, the former of which stands for Gender and Sexuality Minority.

Microaggressions are brief and commonplace everyday exchanges that communicate hostile, derogatory, denigrating or negative slights and insults to certain individuals because of their group membership. They are often automatic and well intended. There are three categories of microaggressions: microassaults, microinsults, microinvalidations. The term was first coined by African-American Harvard psychiatrist Chester Pierce in 1970.

Conscious, deliberate, and either subtle or explicit attitudes, beliefs or behaviors that are communicated to marginalized groups through environmental cues, verbalizations, or behaviors. These behaviors are intended to threaten, intimidate, and make individuals or groups feel unwanted and unsafe because they are deemed inferior, subhuman, and lesser beings.

Interpersonal or environmental communications that convey stereotypes, rudeness and insensitivity which demeans a person's racial/gender/sexual (etc) identity.

Communications or environmental cues that exclude, negate or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of certain groups (people of color, individuals who identify as LGBTQ, women).

Usually a marginalized group of people distinctive by ethnicity, race, color, economic class, gender identity or expression, nationality, sex, ability,  or religion. While a minority in strictly numerical terms is any subgroup that constitutes less than half of the whole group. In practice, a minority is any group disadvantaged directly or indirectly by existing policies and social practices, or having little power or representation relative to other groups within a society. (For example, even if women constitute a numerical majority in an organization or classroom, men may still exercise greater power in that space as a result of male privilege.) Under certain laws, "minority" is defined with reference to specific racial/ethnic groups: black, Hispanic, Asian or Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaskan Native.

A state of individual psychological well-being, as exhibited by confidence, usefulness, self-efficacy, and sense of purpose. The spirit of a group which makes the members want the group to succeed.

The multidimensionality of people based on different cultural attributes. In diversity work it means valuing the differences of others and creating an environment that does not require assimilation. Like "diverse," this term should ideally not be used to single out those individuals who are different from a perceived "norm" (e.g. "multicultural students" as a synonym for "students of color"). However, "multicultural" may be be used to refer to organizations or groups that explicitly embrace the values of multiculturalism in their work.

The belief that several different cultures (rather than only one dominant culture) can coexist peacefully and equitably in a single country (place, organization, institution). It is the acceptance or promotion of multiple cultures, applied to the demographic make-up of a specific place, usually at the organizational level, e.g. schools, businesses, neighborhoods, cities or nations.

The systematic subjugation of one social group by another sanctioned by cultural beliefs and institutions. Examples are racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ageism, ableism. Oppression = prejudice + power.

A personal gender pronoun, or PGP, is simply the pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual would like others to use when talking to or about that individual (i.e. she/her/hers, he/him/his, they/them/theirs, zie/zim/zir, etc...) One way to be more inclusive and welcoming for all genders is to incorporate PGPs into regular intro activities.

(Source: www.gsafewi.org)

Attitudes and beliefs, without basis in facts or just grounds, held toward a particular group of people. Prejudgment on inadequate information.

A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by members of a given category of people (based on race, color, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc.) that is not available to people outside that category; an exemption in many cases from certain burdens or liabilities.

Queer can be used to encompass the entire LGBTQ community. It may also be used as a specific identity. 

Click here for a video that illustrates these points

Someone who is questioning their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

A local, geographic or global human population distinguished as a more or less distinct group by physical and cultural characteristics that are perceived to be similar. Race is a social construction with no basis in biology, but which nonetheless has real social and cultural impact on the lives of people. Has also been defined as a group of people united or classified together on the basis of common history, nationality or geographic distribution.

Prejudice PLUS power; the systematic mistreatment of any group of people which isolates and divides human beings from each other; the systematic discrimination and exploitation of human beings on the basis of race

A resource or position that everyone has equal access or availability to regardless of their social group membership.

Sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender. It's a system of attitudes, beliefs, stereotypes, and other types of bias that perpetuate the idea that women are somehow lesser than men. 

One's sexual attraction toward certain gender(s). This does not speak to romantic attraction; for instance, one may be romantically attracted to women and sexually attracted to another gender.

Social justice generally refers to the idea of creating an egalitarian society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being.

A preconceived or oversimplified generalization usually resulting in negative beliefs about a particular group. We may pick this up from what we hear other people say, what we read, and what people around us believe.

The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others. The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. Tolerance is one step on the progression from ignorance/rejection to acceptance/embrace.

Used both as an umbrella term and as an identity. Broadly, transgender is an adjective used to describe those whose gender identity does not match their assigned sex. 

The fear, hatred, or intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as transgender. 

"Two-Spirited" refers to a person who has both masculine and feminine spirit and is used by some First Nations people to describe their sexual, gender, and/or spiritual identity. Some may title this a third gender, although Two Spirit experience varies from individual to individual. "Two Spirit" is a term coined by First Nations communities, and is thus reserved for First Nations peoples' usage. 

(For more information: lgbtqhealth.ca/community/two-spirit.php

Someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right. When an upstander sees or hears about someone being bullied, they speak up.

Upstander Flyer

A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by white persons beyond the common advantage of all others; an exemption in many particular cases from certain burdens or liabilities.