A-Z Index

Diversity and Inclusion Glossary

The Office for Diversity & Inclusion provides this glossary of terms and their basic definitions as a resource for the campus and community. To make a submission or revision to the glossary, please email Thank you for helping keep this resource current and relevant. This page was updated August 19, 2021.

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Gender and related terms

Gender: A social construct used to classify a person as a man, woman, or some other identity. Fundamentally different from the sex one is assigned at birth.

  • Cisgender: A gender identity, or performance in a gender role, that society deems to match the person’s assigned sex at birth.  The prefix cis- means "on this side of" or "not across." A term used to call attention to the privilege of people who are not transgender.
  • Gender expansive/ Gender non-conforming/ Gender variant/ Gender neutral/ Neutrois: Individuals who broaden commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms.
  • Gender Identity: A sense of one’s self as trans*, genderqueer, woman, man, or some other identity, which may or may not correspond with the sex one is assigned at birth.
  • Gender Fluid: A person whose gender identification and presentation shifts, whether within or outside of societal, gender-based expectations. Being fluid in motion between two or more genders.

Sex: A medically constructed categorization. Sex is often assigned based on the appearance of the genitalia, either in ultrasound or at birth.

MOGAI: stands for “marginalized orientations, gender alignments, and intersex.

Cissexism/Genderism: The pervasive system of discrimination and exclusion that oppresses people whose gender and/or gender expression falls outside of cis-normative constructs.  This system is founded on the belief that there are, and should be, only two genders & that one’s gender or most aspects of it, are inevitably tied to assigned sex. Within cissexism cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans*/ gender non-conforming people are the oppressed/target group.

Misgendering: Attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect/does not align with their gender identity.  Can occur when using pronouns, gendered language (i.e. “Hello ladies!”Hey guys”), or assigning genders to people without knowing how they identify (i.e. “Well, since we’re all women in this room, we understand…”).

Transition: An individualized process by which transsexual and transgender people “switch” from one gender presentation to another. There are three general aspects to transitioning: social (i.e. name, pronouns, interactions, etc.), medical (i.e. hormones, surgery, etc.), and legal (i.e. gender marker and name change, etc.).

Intersex: A person born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the criteria for being male or female. (PlannedParenthood)

LGBTQA and related terms

Sexual Orientation: Orientation is one’s attraction or non-attraction to other people.  An individual’s orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their orientation.  Some, but not all, types of orientation include: romantic, sexual, sensual, aesthetic, intellectual and platonic.

  • Gay/ Lesbian: People of the same sex who are attracted sexually and emotionally to each other.
  • Bisexual: A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people who identify as male or female.
  • Transgender: Someone whose behavior or expression does not “match” their assigned sex. Trans men may use the term FTM or F2M to describe their identity. Transwomen may use MTF or M2F to describe their identity.
  • Queer: A general all-inclusive term to represent a variety of sexual orientations and/or gender identities or anything that defies traditional definition or categorization.  
  • Asexual: A sexual orientation generally characterized by not feeling sexual attraction or a desire for partnered sexuality. Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity.

Coming Out: “Coming out" describes voluntarily making public one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Terms also used that correlate with this action are: "Being out" which means not concealing one's sexual orientation or gender identity, and "Outing, " a term used for making public the sexual orientation or gender identity of another who would prefer to keep this information secret.

  • Drag King:  A person (often a woman) who appears as a man. Generally, in reference to an act or performance.  This has no implications regarding gender identity.
  • Drag Queen:  A person (often a man) who appears as a woman. Generally, in reference to an act or performance. This has no implications regarding gender identity.

Pronouns: Linguistic tools used to refer to someone in the third person.  Examples are they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his. Pronouns are tied to gender and are a common site of misgendering (attributing a gender to someone that is incorrect).

Sexism: The cultural, institutional, and individual set of beliefs and practices that privilege men, subordinate women, and devalue ways of being that are associated with women.

  • Heterosexism: Social structures and practices which serve to elevate and enforce heterosexuality while subordinating or suppressing other forms of sexuality. (University of Maryland)
  • Homophobia: A fear of individuals who are not heterosexual. Often results in hostile, offensive, or discriminatory action against a person because they are LGBTQA+ or because they are perceived to be. These actions may be verbal or physical and can include insulting or degrading comments; taunts or ‘jokes’; and excluding or refusing to cooperate with others because of their sexuality. (The National Multicultural Institute)

Womyn/Womxn: Some womyn spell the word with a “y” or an “x” as a form of empowerment to move away from the “men” in the “traditional” spelling of women.

Racial and Ethnic Identities 

Ethnicity: Identification of an individual according to his or her national origin and/or distinctive cultural patterns.

BIPOC: An acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. BIPOC is meant to emphasize the particular hardships faced by Black and Indigenous people in the US and Canada and is also meant to acknowledge that not all people of color face the same levels of injustice.

Racism:  Individual and institutional practices and policies based on the belief that a particular race is superior to others. This often results in depriving certain individuals and groups of civil liberties, rights, and other resources, hindering opportunities for social, educational, and political advancement. (The National Multicultural Institute) 

  • Institutionalized racism: The combination of practices whereby people of color as a group or class receive differential treatment within schools, housing, employment, health care, and other social institutions. Unlike bias and prejudice, which are characteristics of individuals, institutionalized racism operates through the everyday rules and customs of social institutions.
  • Systemic racism: Racial discrimination in an array of major institutional areas, including employment, housing, education, health care, recreation, politics, policing, and public accommodations. Systemic racism involves the deep structures and surface structures of racial oppression including anti-other practices; unjustly gained economic/political power; economic and other resource inequalities along racial lines (unjust enrichment/unjust impoverishment); and the persisting racial hierarchy and racial framing to rationalize privilege and power. Systemic racism is a material, social, racially-framed reality manifested in all major institutions and over four-plus centuries of U.S. history. (Feagin, 2006)
  • Scientific racism: A specific body of knowledge about Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Whites, ad Latinos produced within biology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and other academic disciplines. Designed to prove the inferiority of people of color.
Anti-Racism: The work of actively opposing discrimination based on race by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach, which is set up to counter an individual’s racist behaviors and impact.

Race: A social construct that divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance, ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the political agenda at a given period of time. (Adams, Bell and Griffin, 2007)

  • American Indian or Alaska Native: Person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment. (National Institute of Health (NIH), 2015)
  • Asian: 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. (NIH, 2015)
  • Black or African American: Person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. Terms such as "Haitian" or "Negro" can be used in addition to "Black or African American." (NIH, 2015)
  • Hispanic or Latino/a/x: Person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race. The term, "Spanish origin," can be used in addition to "Hispanic or Latino." (NIH, 2015)
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. (NIH, 2015)
  • White: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. (NIH, 2015)

Intersectionality: A term coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s it is a framework for understanding how different aspects of a person’s social and political identities (e.g., gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, physical appearance, etc.) combine to create unique modes of discrimination and privilege. Intersectionality identifies advantages and disadvantages that are felt by people due to this combination of factors. (African American Policy Forum) Some terms that depict intersectionality are mentioned below:

  • BlaQ/BlaQueer: Folks of Black/African descent and/or from the African diaspora who recognize their queerness/LGBTQIA+ identity as a salient identity attached to their Blackness and vice versa.    
  • Two Spirit: This term stems from the Ojibwe phrase “niizh manidoowag” that aimed to describe the place of gay men in Native society in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
  • Same Gender Loving: A term used by some African American people who love, date, have attraction to people of the same gender.

Critical Race theory: An academic discipline focused upon the critical examination of society and culture and the intersections of race, law, and power. (Yosso, 2005)

Concepts and terms

Privilege: A set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group.  The concept has roots in WEB DuBois’ work on “psychological wage” and white people’s feelings of superiority over Black people.  

  • Ally: The action of working to end oppression through support of, and as an advocate with and for, a group other than one’s own. (Adams, Bell, & Griffin, 2007).
  • Bystander: A person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part. Similar to an onlooker, passerby, nonparticipant, observer, spectator.

Safe Space: A space in which an individual or group may remain free of blame, ridicule and persecution, and are in no danger of coming to mental or physical harm. (The National Multicultural Institute)

Stereotype: A positive or negative set of beliefs held by an individual about the characteristics of a certain group. (The National Multicultural Institute)

Beliefs: Inferences a person makes about reality that take one of three forms: descriptive, evaluative, or prescriptive.

Bigotry: An unreasonable or irrational attachment to negative stereotypes and prejudices. (Anti-Defamation League)

Bias: An inclination or preference either for or against an individual or group that interferes with impartial judgment. (Anti-Defamation League)

Prejudice: A negative attitude toward a group and persons perceived to be members of that group; being predisposed to behave negatively toward members of a group.

Racial profiling: People in authority taking actions against members of racial or ethnic groups based on assumptions that these groups are more likely to engage in criminal activity.

Racial solidarity: The belief that members of a racial group have common interests and should support those interest above the interests of members of other racial groups.

Color blindness: A view of the world that resists talking of race because to do so is believed to perpetuate racism. This rhetoric is necessary for tolerance to emerge as the way people should treat one another across differences.

Power (Social Power): Access to resources that enhance one’s chances of getting what one needs in order to lead a comfortable, productive and safe life. (National Conference for Community and Justice, Resources, Social Justice)

Microaggressions: Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults about one’s marginalized identity/identities.

Avoidance rationalization: A response to a social problem – such as injustice toward a minority group – that acknowledges the existence of a problem but avoids confronting the problem by offering partial or false solutions or by using arguments that do not address the situation as in “Yes, but you should have seen how bad it was last year.

Cultural Competence: An awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families. It is the ability to understand the within-group differences that make each individual unique, while celebrating the between-group variations that make our country a tapestry. (National Education Association)

Decentering: The unseating of those who occupy centers of power, as well as the knowledge that defends their power. Typically applied to elite White male power, the concept of decentering can apply to any type of group-based power.

Discrimination: Actions or practices carried out by a member or members of dominant groups or their representatives that have a differential and negative impact on a member or members of subordinate groups.

Inclusive Excellence- It is designed to help colleges and universities integrate diversity, equity, and educational quality efforts into their missions and institutional operations. It calls for higher education to address diversity, inclusion, and equity as critical to the well-being of democratic culture. It is an active process through which colleges and universities achieve excellence in learning, teaching, student development, institutional functioning, and engagement in local and global communities. (AAC&U)

  • Diversity: Individual differences, (e.g., personality, prior knowledge, and life experiences), group and social differences (e.g., race/ethnicity, indigeneity, class, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, country of origin, and (dis)ability), historically underrepresented populations, and cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations – Adapted from the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
  • Inclusion: The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity — in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect — in ways that increase awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions. (AAC&U)
  • Equity- The creation of opportunities for historically underrepresented populations to have equal access to and participate in educational programs that are capable of closing the achievement gaps in student success and completion. (AAC&U)

Standpoint theory: A social theory arguing that group locations in hierarchical power relations produces shared experiences for individuals in those groups, and that these common experiences can foster similar angles of vision leading to a group knowledge or standpoint deemed essential for informed political action.

  • Subjugated knowledge: The secret knowledge generated by oppressed groups. Such knowledge typically remains “hidden” because revealing it weakens its purpose of assisting oppressed groups in dealing with oppression. Subjugated knowledges that resist oppression become oppositional knowledge. (eg; Indigenous people’s storytelling, cultural knowledge)
  • Oppositional knowledge: A type of knowledge developed by, for, and/or in defense of an oppressed group’s interests. Ideally, it fosters the group’s self-definition and self-determination. (eg; Indigenous languages) 

Values: Combinations of attitudes that generate action or the deliberate choice to avoid action.

Victim-blaming rationalization: A response to a social problem – such as injustice toward a minority group – that identifies the problem as a deficiency in the minority group and not a society.

Multiculturalism- The practice of acknowledging and respecting the various cultures, religions, races, ethnicities, attitudes and opinions within an environment. (Davis, & Harrison, 2013)

Implicit Bias- when a person has attitudes towards a certain group or associate stereotypes with them without conscious knowledge.

White Fragility- it’s the defensive reactions so many white people have when our racial worldviews, positions, or advantages are questioned or challenged.  (Robin DiAngelo, 2018)


  1. Adams, M., Bell, L., & Griffin, P. (2007). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.
  2. Anti-Defamation League-
  3. Bivens, Donna. “Internalized Racism: A Definition.” Women’s Theological Center, 1995. 
  4. Davis, T., & Harrison, L. M. (2013). Advancing Social Justice: Tools, Pedagogies, and Strategies to Transform Your Campus (p. 2003). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  5. Feagin, J.R. (2006). Systemic racism: A theory of oppression. New York: Routledge.
  6. Lehman, JoAnne. "African American Policy Forum (AAPF)." Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources, vol. 36, no. 1-2, 2015, p. 24. Gale Academic OneFile, . Accessed 21 May 2021.
  7. National Conference for Community and Justice, Resources, Social Justice Definitions,
  8. National Education Association-
  9. Parvis, L. (2013). Understanding Cultural Diversity in Today's Complex World (5th ed., p. 168). Embrace Publications.
  10. The National Multicultural Institute, 2003
  11. University of Maryland. “Diversity Dictionary”. Moving Towards Community. (2001) 
  12. Yosso, T. J. (2005, March). Whose Culture has Capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69-91.