Diversity Dictionary

General Terms

Intersectionality: n.

Refers to the interconnected and overlapping nature of social identities. Individual identities cannot be isolated, as it is the combination of identities, especially marginalized identities, that cause a person to experience the world the way they do. When used in the context of social justice, “intersectionality is the acknowledgement that everyone has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression.” Therefore, when discussing marginalization, it is important to consider not only the individual identities a person holds but also the interaction of those identities.

Implicit Bias: n.

Unconscious, internalized preferences and attitudes held by individuals. In the context of social justice, implicit bias refers to the unconscious stereotypes (racist, sexist, heteronormative, etc) a person holds. Even if a person is not aware that they are discriminatory, they may do, say, or think discriminatorily. By nature, every person has implicit biases. In order to navigate an extremely complex world, our brains process and react to most incoming information unconsciously and with the use of shortcuts. Though the development of implicit biases is inevitable, they are not always correct. In order to combat discrimination and prejudice, people must address their incorrect implicit biases, especially as they refer to marginalized identities.

Social Identity: n.

Involves the ways in which one characterizes oneself, the affinities one has with other people, the ways one has learned to behave in stereotyped social settings, the things one values in oneself and in the world, and the norms one recognizes or accepts that govern everyday behavior. Also referred to as “identity.”


Ability: n.

Refers to a person’s physical and/or mental capabilities. Physical and mental health are major components of ability, and ability is not always explicitly visible to other people.


The concept that all brains operate in different ways, and no two brains are exactly the same. Broadly, neurodiversity acknowledges that all people are unique as a result of biological differences within the brain.

NEURODivergent: ADJ.

A person who identifies as neurodivergent has a brain that diverges significantly from what is considered “normal” by societal standards. Neurodivergence is a broad term that encompasses the experiences of many different people, including people with autism, dyslexia, and ADHD. Neurodivergence can also include depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health conditions.

NEUROTypical: ADJ.

A person who identifies as neurotypical has a brain that functions within what is considered “normal” by societal standards. “Neurotypical” is opposite to “neurodivergent.”

Person-first language: n.

Person-First Language emphasizes the person instead of a person’s identity. Instead of saying “disabled people,” PFL would be “people with disabilities.” PFL is an attempt to combat the dehumanization of differently abled people. Not everyone in disabled communities prefers Person-First Language, however. It is important to respect each individual’s preference on how they would like to be referred.

Gender & Sexuality

Asexual: adj.

An asexual person does not experience sexual attraction. Commonly shortened to “ace,” as in “ace community.” “Asexual people have the same emotional needs as everybody else and are just as capable of forming intimate relationships.” People who identify as asexual can be sex-favorable (willing to have sex, open to finding ways for sex to be enjoyable for themselves and/or their partner(s)), sex-indifferent (may not enjoy sex or pursue sex, but not distressed by sex and/or the thought of sex), sex-averse/repulsed (possibly distressed by the thought of having sex, may not be willing to compromise with partner(s)), and/or anywhere in between.

Allosexual: adj.

An allosexual person does experience sexual attraction. This category is also referred to as “sexual.”

aromantic: adj.

People who identify as aromantic typically do not experience romantic attraction (or may experience romantic attraction at a reduced degree and/or only in specific situations.) They may or may not desire a romantic relationship.

Bigender/dual gender: adj.

A person who is bigender/dual gender possesses and expresses two distinct gender identities, and/or may slide between the two on a spectrum. The two genders a person may identify with can be any two genders, including binary and nonbinary genders.

bisexual: adj.

A person who is bisexual is commonly described as being attracted to people of their own gender as well as another gender. However, depending on an individual’s social and cultural background, it can also mean that a person is attracted to men and women, all sexes/genders, and/or that a person is attracted to others regardless of sex/gender.

cisgender: adj.

A description for a person whose gender identity, gender expression and sex assigned at birth align (e.g., man, masculine and male).

Consent: n.

Consent is a clear, enthusiastic agreement between participants to engage in sexual activities. It is important to always obtain consent from all parties before participating in any sexual activity. Consent cannot be obtained from people who are under the age of 18, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, unconscious, under pressure of intimidation/threat/social influence, and/or if there is a power imbalance between parties (e.g. teacher/student, supervisor/employee). It is important to obtain consent for any and all sexual activities, as individuals may consent to some sexual acts and not others, and individuals may change their mind at any point. Finally, the absence of a “no” is not consent. Consent must be enthusiastically, clearly, and freely given.

Deadname: n.

Commonly used in transgender and nonbinary communities, a deadname refers to an individual’s given name at birth, which they no longer use or identify with. This can be because the deadname is associated with a gender different from the gender(s) with which the individual identifies. Individuals with a deadname usually prefer to use a different, chosen name.

demisexual: adj.

A person who identifies as demisexual may only feel sexual attraction towards a person with whom they have a strong emotional bond. Like any sexual orientation, this does not mean that a demisexual person will be sexually attracted to every person with whom they have an emotional bond. Demisexual people may also hold other modifying identities, such as demi-heterosexual, demi-bisexual, and others.

Gender: n.

The societal norms, expectations, beliefs, and formal/informal rules associated with binary genders. These norms vary between cultures, groups, and individuals, and may or may not correspond with their gender identity.

Gender expression: n.

The way in which an individual outwardly expresses their gender(s). This can be through clothing, mannerisms, patterns of speech, behavior, activities, and more. The way in which a person expresses their gender varies by personal preference, and as such there is no right or wrong way to express gender. Additionally, a person’s gender expression may or may not correspond with their gender identity.

Gender identity: n.

Refers to a person’s internal, deeply felt sense of being a man or woman, or something other or in between, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth; because gender identity is internal and personally defined, it is not visible to others. Gender identity exists separately from a person’s physical characteristics, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Gender identity may also change throughout a person’s life, and those who identify as genderfluid may experience frequent changes in their gender identity.

Heterosexual: adj.

A person who is heterosexual is attracted to members of another sex or gender. Heterosexuality is most commonly defined within the gender binary, with heterosexual men attracted to women, and heterosexual women attracted to men.

intersex: adj.

A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with reproductive organs, sexual anatomy, and/or chromosomes that do not fit the traditional definitions of male and female. Though “intersex” is defined using biological markers, it is not any less a social construct than other identities. Intersex (and non-intersex) people exist on a spectrum, and do not necessarily fall within the gender binary.

lgbtqia: adj.

An inclusive term for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual. Other forms of the acronym include, LGBT, LGBTQ, and LGBTQIA+, where the “+” signifies other identities that are not explicitly represented within the acronym.

Nonbinary: adj.

An individual who identifies as nonbinary holds a gender identity that does not conform to the gender binary model of male/female. As such, nonbinary is a term that encompasses many different gender identities. Enby is a slang term within the nonbinary community, meaning “nonbinary person.” It comes from N.B., the shorthand version of nonbinary.

Pansexual: adj.

(Also referred to as omnisexual or polysexual).

A person who identifies as pansexual has the potential for sexual attraction and/or romantic love toward people of all gender identities, and/or regardless of gender identity. Pansexuality is not limited by the gender binary, and generally falls under the bisexual umbrella.

partner: n.

Originally adopted by the LGBTQIA community, a partner refers to a person who is romantically significant to an individual. Importantly, the term “partner” does not refer to any gender, and is meant to be an inclusive term. Many people refer to their significant other(s) as their partner(s), regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

pronouns: n.

Pronouns are a part of speech used to refer to someone or something without a proper noun. Different languages and cultures have different kinds of pronouns, not all of which are limited to the gender binary. In English, when referring to a person, traditionally the only acceptable pronouns have been “she/her” and “he/him.” However, there are now gender-neutral pronouns within the English language, like using “they/them” to refer to an individual. Some individuals prefer other pronouns, some have no preference for pronouns, and some people prefer to use different pronouns at different times.

queer: adj.

A reclaimed anti-gay slur, “queer” is now used as an umbrella term that can refer to anyone who transgresses society’s view of gender, sexual orientation or sexuality. The “Q” in LGBTQIA stands for “queer.”

questioning: adj.

Refers to an individual who is uncertain of their sexual orientation, gender or identity. Importantly, the “Q” in LGBTQIA does not stand for questioning.

sex: n.

Separate from gender, this term refers to the cluster of biological, chromosomal, and anatomical features associated with maleness and femaleness in the human body. Sex is often used synonymously with gender in Western culture. Although the two terms are related, they should be defined separately to differentiate the biological (“sex”) from the sociocultural (“gender”). Additionally, a person’s gender identity, gender expression, preferred pronouns, and sexual orientation may or may not align with their biological sex, and in fact exist outside of biological sex.

sexual orientation: n.

Refers to the gender(s) that a person is emotionally, physically, romantically and/or sexually attracted to. Examples of sexual orientation include homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual and asexual. Sexual orientation, like many other identities, exists on a spectrum, and may change throughout a person’s life. Sexual orientation is not related to gender, biological sex, gender identity, or gender expression.

transgender: adj.

Commonly shortened to “trans.” It is frequently used as an umbrella term to refer to all people who deviate from their assigned sex at birth and/or the binary gender system. This term can include transsexual people, genderqueer/nonbinary people, drag kings, drag queens, two-spirit people and others. Some transgender people feel they exist not within the gender binary but rather somewhere between, beyond or outside of those two genders.


bipoc: adj.

An acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. As an alternative to “POC” (People of Color), “BIPOC” is a more specific descriptor of the experiences of Black and Indigenous people. “POC” has been criticized for overgeneralizing the experiences of racial minorities, and “BIPOC” is a reaction to this criticism. However, “POC” does have value in some communities, as it can serve as a unifying phrase to describe racial marginalization. “POC” is also a useful descriptor for people who may identify with more than one racial minority.

biracial: adj.

A biracial person identifies as coming from two races; a person whose biological parents are of two different races. A biracial person may identify more strongly with one race or culture over another, and their racial identity may change over time. A biracial person may also identify as being bicultural, meaning they may understand, feel comfortable in, and identify with two distinct cultures.

  • Biracialism – Sociology of Race – iResearchNet

Ethnicity: n.

The culture of people in a given geographic region, including their language, heritage, religion and customs. Ethnicity is not the same as race or nationality.

First Nations people: adj.

Individuals who identify as those who were the first people to live on the North and South American Continents; people also identified as Native Americans.

indigenous: adj.

A person who identifies with those who inhabited or existed in a land from the earliest times or from before the arrival of people from different cultures or ethnic origins arrived with the intention to colonize. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means. Indigenous peoples hold their own diverse concepts of development, based on their traditional values, visions, needs and priorities.

multiracial: adj.

A person who identifies as multiracial identifies with two or more races; a person whose biological parents are of two or more different races. “Multiracial” is sometimes used interchangeably with “biracial” and “mixed race.”

multiethnic: adj.

A person who identifies as multiethnic may identify with two or more ethnicities; a person whose biological parents are of two or more ethnicities.

people of color (poc):

Used primarily in the United States to describe any person who is not white; the term is meant to be inclusive among non-white groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism.

Race: n.

Refers to the concept of dividing people into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of physical characteristics that result from genetic ancestry. Sociologists use the concept of race to describe how people think of and treat groups of people, as people very commonly classify each other according to race (e.g., as African-American or as Asian). Most sociologists believe that race is not biological or scientific, in the sense that there are no distinctive genetic or physical characteristics that truly distinguish one group of people from another; instead, different groups share overlapping characteristics.


Agnosticism: n.

Belief that there may or may not be a higher power/god/deities. People who identify as agnostic may or may not prescribe to a particular religion, and prescribe to the idea that a higher power and the afterlife is unknowable.

atheism: n.

Belief that there is no higher power/god/deities and/or , often a rejection of religion and theology in general.


Religion and philosophy that developed from the teachings of the Buddha (Sanskrit: “Awakened One”), a teacher who lived in northern India between the mid-6th and mid-4th centuries BCE (before the Common Era)


Is an umbrella term for multiple different faiths that all believe in the life, teachings, and death of Jesus of Nazareth (the Christ, or the Anointed One of God) in the 1st century CE. Its largest groups are the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox churches, and the Protestant churches.


Refers to a rich cumulative tradition of texts and practices, some of which date to the 2nd millennium BCE or possibly earlier.


Also called Islamic world or Islamdom, the complex of societies and cultures in which Muslims and their faith have been prevalent and socially dominant. Adherence to Islam is a global phenomenon: Muslims predominate in some 30 to 40 countries, from the Atlantic eastward to the Pacific and along a belt that stretches across northern Africa into Central Asia and south to the northern regions of the Indian subcontinent.


Monotheistic religion developed among the ancient Hebrews belief in one transcendent God who revealed himself to Abraham, Moses, and the Hebrew prophets and by a religious life in accordance with Scriptures and rabbinic traditions. Judaism is the complex phenomenon of a total way of life for the Jewish people, comprising theology, law, and innumerable cultural traditions.


Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), also called Mormonism, church that traces its origins to a religion founded by Joseph Smith in the United States in 1830. The term Mormon, often used to refer to members of this church, comes from the Book of Mormon, which was published by Smith in 1830; use of the term is discouraged by the church.

religion: n.

A system of beliefs, usually spiritual in nature, and often in terms of a formal, organized denomination. Religion often provides people with a sense of morals, purpose, and community. Some religions are referred to as “major” religions — Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Mormonism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. — but there are many belief systems around the world that similarly combine aspects of philosophy, theology, and culture. Some of these are classified as religions, and others are referred to simply as schools of thought or ways of living.

Satanism/the satanic temple: n.

Not to be confused with the Church of Satan, The Satanic Temple is both a religion and a sociopolitical movement. The Satanic Temple does not subscribe to the idea of a higher power, does not have religious texts, and can be seen as a reaction to conservative, traditionalist, organized religion. The Satanic Temple does not worship Satan (as is popularly believed), but rather promotes equity, empathy, and social justice.

Trigger Warnings

trigger warnings/content warnings: n.

Trigger warnings (also referred to as content warnings) are commonly used to flag content that may be triggering, traumatic, and/or distressing. Trigger warnings are somewhat controversial, as critics fear that trigger warnings will shelter students and allow them to opt out of content that would challenge their beliefs, provide exposure to new ideas and schools of thought, and discourage attempts to leave one’s comfort zone. However, the benefits of providing trigger warnings in regards to potentially sensitive content include creating a space in which students can express their thoughts, questions, and concerns in a validating, safe, and inclusive environment.

The following terms have the potential to be triggering and distressful. Many of the terms refer to and describe discrimination, violence, and systemic oppression. Please use discretion when reading through the following, and if you are triggered in the process, please remember to take breaks, debrief, and take the necessary steps to feel safe.

ableism: n.

Discrimination against people with physical, intellectual, and/or psychiatric disabilities. Ableism, like many forms of discrimination, occurs in many different ways. The assumption that people with disabilities are completely helpless, for example, can manifest in strangers constantly offering help to those with visible disabilities, referring to people as “suffering” from their condition(s), and using the term “wheelchair-bound” to refer to someone in a wheelchair. Often, attempts to make systems, architecture, technology, etc. more disability friendly either fall short or overcompensate, because yet another form of ableism excludes people with disabilities from positions of power, adequate resources, and the ability to make decisions for themselves and their community.

antisemitism: n.

The fear or hatred of Jewish people, Judaism and related symbols. Antisemitism has a long history, dating back to the founding of Judaism, through the birth of Christianity, the Roman Empire, Hitler’s Germany, and into today. Proponents of antisemitism (referred to as “antisemites”) often argue that Jewish people are a separate, inferior race to white, non-Jewish people. Antisemites in WWII also believed that Jewish people secretly controlled the world, and that Jewish people were to blame for everything that was wrong in modern society. Today, antisemitism and Jewish stereotypes still exist, and, though there are more obvious/violent examples, antisemitism also takes the form of microaggressions. Jewish stereotypes still find their way into mainstream media (Harry Potter, for example), and are just as harmful today as they have been throughout history.

biphobia: n.

Dislike of or prejudice against persons perceived to be bisexual. People who identify as bisexual may experience biphobia from both heterosexual people and the LGBTQ community. The heterosexual majority often assumes that people are either “straight” or “gay,” forgetting that there are a wide range of identities and sexualities outside of this perceived binary. As a result, people who are bisexual are often accused of being confused or simply “going through a phase,” which is not true for most people. Another incorrect stereotype for bisexual people claims that bisexual people have a difficult time remaining monogamous, and that bisexual people are especially promiscuous. People who identify as bisexual are no more likely to engage in promiscuous behavior or cheat on their partner than anyone else. Finally, bisexual people sometimes experience biphobia from the LGBTQ community itself, as they are often criticized for still engaging in heteronormative attraction. However, bisexual people are just as valid in their sexuality as other parts of the LGBTQ community and heterosexual people.

classism: n.

Class Action defines Classism as “differential treatment based on social class or perceived social class. Classism is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups. It’s the systematic assignment of characteristics of worth and ability based on social class.” Systematic classism can manifest in policies that favor upper classes over lower classes, which furthers the wealth gap between upper and lower classes and makes mobility between classes less possible. Classism can also be internalized by lower classes, leading to feelings of shame over a person’s heritage/family line, blaming a person’s own socioeconomic status on themselves instead of inherited wealth and systematic classism, and feeling inferior to those of a higher class. People of lower classes have just as much value as people of higher classes. Socioeconomic status does not determine a person’s worth, and systematic classism perpetuates these myths.

discrimination: n.

Actions based on conscious or unconscious prejudice that favor one group over others in the provision of goods, services and/or opportunities. Discrimination is related to prejudice, but they are not synonyms. Where prejudice describes unfair feelings towards other people on the basis of race, sexuality, gender, and other identities, discrimination occurs when people act on prejudice to exclude, harm, and/or target others.

gender binary: n.

The gender binary refers to the idea that all people identify as one of two genders, traditionally male and female. Within this model, there are only two options for gender, and there is no scale or spectrum in between or a way to exist outside of these two genders all together. This binary model exists predominantly in Western culture, and is incredibly harmful and invalidating to those whose gender does not fit the gender binary model. This model is not an encompassing model of gender, and in fact promotes discriminatory behavior.

hate crime: n.

Hate crime legislation often defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation of any person.

heterosexism (heteronormativity?): n.

Viewing the world only in heterosexual terms, thus denigrating other sexual orientations. Examples?

homophobia: n.

The fear or hatred of homosexuality (and other non-heterosexual identities) and persons perceived to be gay or lesbian.

implicit bias: n.

Occurs when someone consciously rejects stereotypes and supports anti-discrimination efforts but also holds negative associations in their mind unconsciously. Everyone has implicit bias.

in-group bias: n.

The tendency for groups to “favor” themselves by rewarding group members economically, socially, psychologically and emotionally in order to uplift one group over another. Add Out-group bias?

involuntary celibate (Incel):

Are heterosexual men who blame women and society for their lack of romantic success. The incel ideology is rooted in the belief that women have too much power in the sexual/romantic sphere and ruin incels’ lives by rejecting them.

islamophobia: n.

The fear or hatred of Muslims (Muslim people?), Islam and related symbols.

marginalized: adj.

Excluded, ignored or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community. Why is this relevant?

microagression: n.

Everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to historically marginalized groups by well-intentioned members of the majority group who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent. Example?

oppression: n.

Results from the use of institutional power and privilege where one person or group benefits at the expense of another; oppression is the use of power and the effects of domination.

prejudice: n.

A preconceived judgment about a person or group of people, usually indicating negative bias. Differentiate from discrimination.

racism: n.

Prejudiced thoughts and/or discriminatory actions based on difference in race/ethnicity, usually by white/European descent groups against people of color.

sexism: n.

Prejudiced thoughts and/or discriminatory actions based on difference in sex/gender, usually by men against women. What about other genders?

sexual assault: n.

Also referred to as rape, sexual misconduct, interpersonal violence (a broader term that also includes domestic abuse), and sexual abuse.

silencing: v.

The conscious or unconscious processes by which the voice or participation of particular social identities is excluded or inhibited.

stereotype: n.

Blanket beliefs, unconscious associations and expectations about members of certain groups that present an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude or uncritical judgment. Stereotypes go beyond necessary and useful categorizations and generalizations in that they are typically negative, are based on little information and are highly generalized. Positive stereotypes are still harmful (e.g. women are nice), differentiate from prejudice & discrimination.

system of oppression: n.

Conscious and unconscious, nonrandom, and organized harassment, discrimination, exploitation, discrimination, prejudice and other forms of unequal treatment that impact different groups. How is this a system? Unclear definition, needs more context.

transphobia: n.

The fear or hatred of persons perceived to be transgender and/or transsexual.

xenophobia: n.

The fear or hatred of foreigners.

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