Ableism: A system of oppression based on the social construction of superior and inferior physicality, which is expressed in individual, institutional as well as cultural forms and functions for the benefit of those deemed able-bodied.

Ally: Someone who advocates for and supports members of a community other than their own. Reaching across differences to achieve mutual goals.


Bias: Prejudice; an inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment. A preference for or tendency towards a particular viewpoint or outcome. Bias can co-exist unconsciously with good intentions, but can still result in favoring some groups over another.

Bisexuality: Also bi. A person who is attracted to two sexes or two genders, but not necessarily simultaneously or equally. This used to be defined as a person who is attracted to both genders or both sexes, but since there are not only two sexes (see intersex and transsexual) and there are not only two genders (see transgender), this definition is inaccurate.


Cisgender: A person who by nature or by choice conforms to gender/sex based expectations of society (also referred to as “Gender-straight” or “Gender Normative”)

Cisgenderism: Assuming every person to be cisgender therefore marginalizing those who identify as trans* in some form. It is also believing cisgender people to be superior, and holding people to traditional expectations based on gender, or punishing or excluding those who don’t conform to traditional gender expectations.

Class: Definition of class vary across disciplines, class is a relative social ranking based on income, wealth, status and/or power

Classism: A system of oppression based on the social construction of superiority and inferiority based on class, which is expressed in individual, institutional as well as cultural forms and functions for the benefit of the dominant class at the expense of the rest.

Color Blindness: The claim to not see racial distinctions. Critics of this ideology argue that in the US that refusal to see race denies the often important aspect of personal and collective identity as well as the socio-historical forces that structure disparate outcomes based on race. One must see race and understand its impact in order to correct the effects of past and present racial oppression.

Crossdresser: Someone who wears clothes associated with another gender part of the time.  This term has replaced “transvestite,” which is now considered outdated and offensive.


Discrimination: The act of showing partiality or prejudice; a prejudicial act. While prejudice refers to biased thinking, discrimination is based on actions against a group of people. Can be based on race, gender, age, religion, health, etc.

Dominant Culture: The cultural values, beliefs, and practices that are assumed to be the most common and influential within a given society.


Equity: The proportional distribution or parity of desirable outcomes across groups. Sometimes confused with equality. Equity refers to outcomes, while equality connotes equal treatment.

Ethnicity: Relates to cultural factors such as nationality, culture, ancestry, language and beliefs. You can claim multiple ethnic affiliations. Ethnic differences are not inherited; they are learned.


Gay: Men attracted to men. Colloquially used as an umbrella term to include all LGBTIQ people.

Gender: A socially constructed system of classification that ascribes qualities of masculinity and femininity to people. Gender characteristics can change over time and are different between cultures. See “Gender Identity” and “Gender Expression” for more on gender.

Gender Identity: An individual’s internal sense of gender, which may or may not be the same as one’s gender assigned at birth.  Some gender identities are “woman,” “transman” and “agender” but there are many more. Since gender identity is internal it isn’t necessarily visible to others. Additionally, gender identity is often conflated with sex, but they are separate concepts

Gender-Neutral/Gender-Inclusive: Inclusive language to describe relationships (“spouse” and “partner” instead of “husband/boyfriend” and “wife/girlfriend”), spaces (gender-neutral/inclusive restrooms are for use by all genders), pronouns (“they” and “ze” are gender neutral/inclusive pronouns) among other things.

Gender Non-Conforming: A person who doesn’t conform to society’s expectations of gender expression based on the gender binary, expectations of masculinity and femininity, or how they should identify their gender.

Genderqueer: A person whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between or beyond genders, or is some combination of genders. This identity is usually related to or in reaction to the social construction of gender, gender stereotypes and the gender binary system. Some genderequeer people identify under the transgender umbrella while others do not.


Heterosexuality: Sexual, emotional, and/or romantic attraction to a sex other than your own. Commonly thought of as “attraction to the opposite sex” but since there are not only two sexes (see “Intersex” and “Transsexual”), this definition is inaccurate.


Implicit Bias: refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily without the individual’s awareness or intentional control.

Institutional Racism: The way in which racial distinctions are used to organize policy (whether it be educational, economic, judicial) that results in systematically reproducing inequalities along racial lines.

Intersectionality: Complex cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination, including but not limited to racism, sexism, classism, combine, overlap or intersect especially with the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups. Please read Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw for more information.

Intersex: Intersex is a set of medical conditions that feature congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system. That is, intersex people are born with “sex chromosomes,” external genitalia, or internal reproductive systems that are not considered “standard” for either male or female. The existence of intersexuals shows that there are not just two sexes and that our ways of thinking about sex (trying to force everyone to fit into either the male box or the female box) is socially constructed.

Invisible Minority: A group whose minority status is not always immediately visible, such as some disabled people and LGBTIQ people. This lack of visibility may make organizing for rights difficult.


LGBTIQ: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer.


Marginalized: Excluded, ignored, or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community


Prejudice: Refers to beliefs, thoughts, feelings and attitudes that someone holds about a group. Not based on experience, it is a prejudgment, originating outside of actual experience. Racism is a type of prejudice.



  • An umbrella term to refer to all LGBTIQ people.
  • A political statement, as well as a sexual orientation, which advocates breaking binary thinking and seeing both sexual orientation and gender identity as potentially fluid.
  • A simple label to explain a complex set of sexual behaviors and desires. For example, a person who is attracted to multiple genders may identify as queer.
  • Many older LGBT people feel the word has been hatefully used against them for too long and are reluctant to embrace it.

Racism: Oppression based on racial hierarchy. A system of group privilege by those who have a disproportionate share of society’s power, prestige, property, and privilege

Race: It is determined biologically, with genetic traits such as skin color, eye color, hair color, bone/jaw structure etc. You have one race. Socially imposed.


Stereotypes: Oversimplified ideas about groups of people. Can be based on race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, gender. Generalizations that don’t take the individual into account.



  • Transgender (sometimes shortened to trans or TG) people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. To understand this, one must understand the difference between biological sex, which is one’s body (genitals, chromosomes, etc.), and social gender, which refers to levels of masculinity and femininity. Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. But, gender and sex are not the same thing.Transgender people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity”) differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with. For example, a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man.
  • An umbrella term for transsexuals, cross-dressers (transvestites), transgenderists, gender queers, and people who identify as neither female nor male and/or as neither a man or as a woman. Transgender is not a sexual orientation;transgender people may have any sexual orientation. It is important to acknowledge that while some people may fit under this definition of transgender, they may not identify as such.

Transvestite: Individuals who regularly or occasionally wear the clothing socially assigned to a gender not their own, but are usually comfortable with their anatomy and do not wish to change it (i.e. they are not transsexuals). Cross-dresser is the preferred term for men who enjoy or prefer women’s clothing and social roles. Contrary to popular belief, the overwhelming majority of male cross-dressers identify as straight and often are married. Very few women call themselves cross-dressers.


White Privilege: Refers to the fact that dominant groups often accept their experiences as the “normative” and hence superior. For future readings on white privilege. See more: Dr. Peggy McIntosh (1988) “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”


Ze: Gender neutral pronouns that can be used instead of he/she.

Zir: Gender neutral pronouns that can be used instead of his/her.

The above definitions were adopted from the following sources:

  • UC Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center
  • Xavier University Office of Diversity and Inclusion
  • Ohio State’s Kirwan Institute For The Study Of Race And Ethnicity