Please note that many of these definitions have been influenced by multiple sources. Some terms have specific roots in communities of color, the LGBTQ communities, and other marginalized groups. We thank everyone out there who does social justice work and has contributed to our understanding of the below terms.

Much of these terms and definitions are obtained from Suffolk University Boston, diversity talks, and other prevalent books in social justice.


Ableism: A system of oppression that includes discrimination and social prejudice against people with intellectual, emotional, and physical disabilities, their exclusion, and the valuing of people and groups that do not have disabilities.

AFAB: An acronym meaning Assigned Female At Birth, this is a term used to describe folks of all genders that were assigned the gender “female” at birth.

Ageism: A system of oppression that works against the young and the old and values individuals in their 30s to 50s.

Agender: someone who does not identify with any gender/does not have a gender.

Ally: a person who is a member of an advantaged social group who takes a stand against oppression, works to eliminate oppressive attitudes and beliefs in themselves and their communities, and works to interrogate and understand their privilege.

AMAB: an acronym meaning Assigned Male At Birth, this is a term used to describe folks of all genders that were assigned the gender “male” at birth.

Androgynous: Someone who reflects an appearance that is both masculine and feminine, or who appears to be neither or both a boy and a girl.

Anti-Blackness: a culture and mindset that actively works against the black community.

Anti-Semitism: the systematic discrimination against and oppression of Jews, Judaism, and Jewish culture and traditions.

Asexual: having little to no sexual attraction. This does not mean that intimacy cannot be enjoyed, but merely that they experience it at a much lower, if not at all, rate than those who do not identify as Ace.


Biphobia: the irrational hatred or fear of people who identify as bisexual, pansexual, or fluid.

Bisexual: an individual who is attracted to two or more genders.

Birth Assigned Sex: the designation that refers to a person’s biological, morphological, hormonal, and genetic composition. One’s sex is typically assigned at birth and classifed as either male or female.

Bribes: a term used in environmental discrimination discussions about the ways that corporations strategically enter lower income spaces, with higher polluting factories, knowing the community will provide the staff they need. This is a facet of environmental discrimination and racism.


Capitalism: the economic system implicated in the US that has been built on the backs of minorities and thus, seeks to serve against them. this includes

Cisgender: individuals whose gender identity and expression line up with their birth-assigned sex.

Cissexism: The system of oppression that values cisgender people, upholds the gender binary, and marginalizes, oppresses, and makes invisible the lives and experiences of transgender people.

Classism: The institutional, cultural, societal, and individual beliefs and practices that assign value to people based in their socio-economic class. Here, members of more privileged socio-economic classes are seen as having a greater value.

Collusion: Thinking and acting in ways that support dominant systems of power, privilege, and oppression. Both privileged and oppressed groups can collude with oppression.

Coming Out: the process by which LGBTQI individuals recognize, accept, typically appreciate, and often celebrate their sexual orientation, sexuality, or gender identity/expression. Coming out varies across culture and community.


Discrimination: When members of a more powerful group behave unjustly or cruelly to members of a less powerful group (Qkit: LGBTQ Residence Hall Programming Toolkit, UC Riverside)

Demiboy/Demiguy:is someone whose gender identity is only partly male, regardless of their assigned gender at birth. They may or may not identify as another gender in addition to feeling partially a boy or man. They may also define their identity as both male and genderless (agender)

Diversity: The wide variety of shared and different personal and group characteristics among human beings.


Ethnocentrism: judging another culture solely based on the standards and values of one’s own culture. Also, a belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own nation or ethnic group.

Environmental Racism: the strategic effect of lower income neighborhoods being placed around polluted areas, placing pollution in POC neighborhoods, declining environmental crises based on demographics/race, and the like. Environmental racism is environmental discrimination, based on race.

Extraction industries: Any processes that involve the extraction of raw materials from the earth to be used by consumers. The extractive industry consists of any operations that remove metals, mineral and aggregates from the earth. Examples of extraction processes include oil and gas extraction, mining, dredging and quarrying.


Feminism: a movement to end sexism and patriarchal oppression.


Gay: a an identity used to describe folks to do not identify as straight, male-identifying folks who are attracted to other male-identifying folks, G

Gender: Socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society deems masculine or feminine. This social construct is often linked to and confused with the biological construct of sex.

Gender Binary: a social construction of gender in which there are two distinct and opposite genders: male/masculine/men and female/feminine/women.

Gender Expression: a person’s presentation of their gender. These outward expressions of gender can be intentional or unintentional and involve one’s mannerisms, clothing, hair, speech, clothing, and activities (and more!).

Gendered: Having a denotative or connotative association with being either (traditionally) masculine or feminine.

Genderfluid: folks who may identify with one or more genders on the gendered spectrum, or not having a set gender to ascribe to. This also entails the fluidity that folks may experience, and that will vary per individual.

Gender Identity: a person’s innate sense of their own gender: being a man, a woman, a girl, a boy, in between, or outside of the gender binary.

Genderqueer: an identity commonly used by people who do not identify or express their gender within the gender binary. Often used to describe fluid gender identities, this identity, like many others, varies among many, individuals may identify and fall along different parts of the gender spectrum. This may mean fluctuation that varies in time, intensity, and thus, expression. G


Hate crime: 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: the individual, societal, cultural, and institutional beliefs and practices that that favor heterosexuality and assume that heterosexuality is the only natural, normal, or acceptable sexual orientation. This creates an imbalance in power, which leads to systemic, institutional, pervasive, and routine mistreatment of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. (UT Austin Gender and Sexuality Center)

Heterosexual: an identity term for a female-identified person who is attracted to male-identified people or a male-identified person who is attracted to female-identified people.

Homophobia: the fear, hatred, and intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as gay or lesbian.

Horizontal Oppression: When people from targeted groups believe, act on, or enforce dominant systems of oppression against other members of targeted groups.


Identity: A verb, used to describe a feature of an individual. This can range from physical and social traits, to other facets of life that contribute to this person’s individuality. Identities are ascribed or avowed, and socially constructed. Identities may have definitions, but due to the fact that no two people are the same, no two interpretations/execution of the word are the same.

Internalized Oppression: the fear and self-hatred of one’s own identity or identity group. Internalized oppression is learned and is based in the acceptance of oppressive stereotypes, attitudes, and beliefs about one’s own identity group.

Intersectionality: Coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, this is a sociological model and/or lens for critical analysis that focuses on the intersections of multiple, mutually-reinforcing systems of oppression, power, and privilege. Intersectional theorists look at how the individual experiece is impacted by multiple axes of oppression and privilege. Variables include, but are not limited to: race, gender, ethnicity, religion ability, education, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, gender expression, class, first language, citizenship, and age. (J. Beal 2011)

Intersex: A person whose genitals, secondary sex characteristics, chromosomes, and/or hormone levels do not fit into the medical/societal definition of male or female. This is the preferred term to hermaphrodite.

Islamophobia: the irrational fear or hatred of Islam, Muslims, Islamic traditions and practices, and, more broadly, those who appear to be Muslim.

Ism: A social phenomenon and psychological state where prejudice is accompanied by the power to systemically enact it.




Lesbian: an identity term for a female-identified person who is attracted to other female-identified people.

LGBTQ+: An acronym used to describe the gay/queer community, compiling identities that each describe a different way of/perception of attraction. The full acronym is as follows: LGBTQIQAP+. The “plus” dictates the other identities not listed, as the first nine are the most popular. They stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Questioning, Asexual (NOT ally), Pansexual.


Marginalized: Excluded, ignored, or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community. Model Minority: Refers to a minority ethnic, racial, or religious group whose members achieve a higher degree of success than the population average. This success is typically measured in income, education, and related factors such as low crime rate and high family stability.

Multiplicity: The quality of having multiple, simultaneous social identities; e.g., being male and Buddhist and working class.

Multiethnic: An individual that comes from more than one Ethnicity. An individual whose parents are born from more than one ethnicity

Multiracial: An individual that comes from more than one race. An individual who’s parent’s are born from more than one race.



Oppression: The systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspects of life in our society.

Oppression: 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.


People of Color (POC): A collective term for men and women of Asian, African, Latin and Native American backgrounds; as opposed to the collective “White” for those of European ancestry.

Polyamory: The practice of having multiple open, honest love relationships. Is not a synonym for cheating or harmful relationship practices. Folks who identify as polyamourous can engage in consensual relationships with one or more partners.

Power: the ability to get what you want (The GLSEN Jumpstart Guide: Examining Power, Privilege, and Oppression).

Prejudice: A pre-judgment or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members. Such negative attitudes are typically based on unsupported generalizations (or stereotypes) that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics. (Institute for Democratic Renewal and Project Change Anti-Racism Initiative. A Community Builder’s Tool Kit. Claremont, CA: Claremont Graduate University.)

Privilege: A group of unearned cultural, legal, social, and institutional rights extended to a group based on their social group membership. Individuals with privilege are considered to be the normative group, leaving those without access to this privilege invisible, unnatural, deviant, or just plain wrong. Most of the time, these privileges are automatic and most individuals in the privileged group are unaware of them. Some people who can “pass” as members of the privileged group might have access to some levels of privilege (J. Beal 2009).

Pronouns: a word that substitutes for a noun. Most people have pronouns that they expect others to use for them. Most cisgender individuals use pronouns that line up with their birth-assigned sex. Many GenderQueer and Trans folks have selected pronouns that best suit who they are and sometimes generate new terms.


Queer: a term for individuals whose gender identity/expression and/or sexual orientation does not conform to societal norms. This reclaimed term is increasingly being used as an inclusive umbrella term for the LGBTQIA community.

Questioning: folks who are unsure of their identity, queer or hetersexual. This may mean they are unsure of their gender, sexuality, romantic attraction, or all three. This identity does not have a time frame, and is just as valid as any other identity.


Racism: oppression against individuals or groups based on their actual or perceived racial identity.

Radical Black Feminism: feminism that is based around the black community, and intersects gender with race and class to further unravel the systems that seek to oppress them.

Religious Oppression: oppression against individuals or groups based on their religious beliefs and practices.

Reparations: demands and needs, made by marginalized communities, that indicate the “payment for crimes”, that promotes healing, reclamation of time, and restoration due to their group identity rights violation made by groups of power.


Sexism: a system of oppression that privileges men, subordinates women, and devalues practices associated with women.

Sexual Orientation: a person’s sexual and emotional attractions, not necessarily dependent on behavior. Terms associated with sexual orientation include: gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, heterosexual, and more

Social Justice: a process and a goal. A commitment to a socially just world and the committed actions to make that world a reality. Or, “The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure… Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others, their society, and the broader world in which we live.” (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice)

Social Identity: It 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 that one recognizes or accepts governing everyday behavior.


Transfemme: to describe a biological male who is feminine, or who is or is becoming a female or more feminine

Transgender: an umbrella term for people who do not identify with their birth-assigned sex and/or whose gender expression does not conform to the societal expectations. Trans* is used as an inclusive abbreviation. Important to note: not transitioning does not negate an individual’s transness, nor is it an expectation in order “to be trans”.

Transformative Justice: liberatory approach to violence that seeks safety and accountability without relying on alienation, punishment, or state or systematic violence, including incarceration or policing.

Transphobia: the fear and hatred of transgender people.

Transitioning– people who are in the process of changing their presentation to express their gender identity. Examples of these transitions might include: changing one’s name, pronouns, hair, or manner of dress, and medical transitions, like gender affirmation surgery, hormone replacement therapy.

Transmasculine: a term used to describe transgender people who were assigned female at birth, but identify with masculinity to a greater extent than with femininity.

Transmasculine reproduction: when an individual with a masculine gender identity, who was born with biologically female reproductive organs, conceives and births a child.




White Privilege: The concrete benefits of access to resources and social rewards and the power to share the norms and values of society that Whites receive, tacitly or explicitly, by virtue of their position in a racist society. (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, Routledge, 2007)


Xenophobia: the fear and hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.