We’re here to help define some of the common terms you’ll hear related to the issues of diversity, bias, and inclusion. It’s important to make sure we fully understand them and the way they fit in our interactions with others.


Asian American Pacific Islanders. Sometimes also abbreviated as API (Asian Pacific Islanders) to be inclusive of non-American individuals.


Having the mental and/or physical capacity to engage in one or more major life activities, such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, or caring for oneself.


Appreciating and welcoming others for who they are as individuals without judgment. When we accept someone, it shows that we value and respect their identity (“who they are”).


Intentionally designing experiences (such as a building, recreational facility, program, activity, or online resource) to be easily usable for individuals with disabilities. For example, creating an accessible pool could include incorporating pool lifts or sloped entries.


A person from one identity group who speaks out or takes action in support of individuals from another group.

Anti-immigrant bias

The marginalization and/or oppression of people who are of immigrant origin, transnational, or outside the dominant national identity or culture.


The fear or hatred of Jews, Judaism, and related symbols.

ADAPTED FROM: Pacific University Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Glossary of Terms


Asexuality is a sexual orientation like gay, lesbian, bisexual, or pansexual. Asexual people may have little interest in sex and may still desire relationships.

ADAPTED FROM: The Trevor Project


A preference for or against an individual or group that interferes with or influences fair judgment. Bias can be both conscious and unconscious. For more information on unconscious bias, check out the definition for implicit bias.


BIPOC is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Black can refer to dark-skinned peoples of Africa, Oceania, and Australia or their descendants without regard for the lightness or darkness of skin tone and who were enslaved by white people. Indigenous, here, refers to ethnic groups native to the Americas, and who were killed en masse by white people. People of color is an umbrella term for non-white people, especially as they face racism and discrimination in a white dominant culture.


Cultural appropriation

The act of using elements of a culture that are not your own (e.g. clothing, symbols, and ideas) without demonstrating understanding, respect, or reverence for the culture’s history, experience, wishes, or traditions.

Cultural competence

The ability to interact effectively with people of diverse backgrounds and different identity groups by being sensitive, appreciative, respectful, and responsive to beliefs, practices, and cultural needs that are different from your own.


A mental or physical condition that restricts an individual’s ability to engage in one or more major life activities (e.g. seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, communicating, sensing, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, working, or caring for oneself). When discussing people with disabilities, it is important to use “person first” language that avoids defining an individual by their disability by placing the reference to a disability after the reference to a person (e.g. “a person with a disability,” rather than “a disabled person”).


Unfavorable or unfair treatment of an individual or group based on identity labels such as race, ethnicity, skin color, religion, age, gender, physical or mental ability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.



Differences in cultures, abilities, ideas, philosophies, backgrounds, and histories that exist among individuals.


Equity is when everyone gets what they need in order to have access, opportunities, and a fair chance to succeed. Equity recognizes that the idea of equality (“the same for everyone”) may not address widespread disparities and individual circumstances where individualized solutions are necessary.


A social construct about the roles, behaviors, and actions men and women perform in a society. The attitudes, customs, and values associated with gender are learned and are not something we are innately born with.

Gender identity

How a person defines and conceptualizes their own gender. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Gender non-conforming

A broad term referring to people who do not behave in a way that conforms to the traditional expectations of their gender or whose gender expression does not fit neatly into a category. Some gender-nonconforming individuals identify as a man or a woman, some identify as neither, and others identify as a mix of both.

Identity group

A group, culture, or community where an individual shares a sense of belonging based on physical, social, or philosophical characteristics. It is likely that each of us belongs to many identity groups based on gender, sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, ability, and age.

Implicit bias (unconscious bias)

The assumptions, stereotypes, and unintentional actions (positive or negative) we make towards others based on identity labels like race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or ability. Because our implicit associations are stored in our subconscious, we may act on our biases without even realizing it. Often, our implicit biases contradict our values.


Supporting and embracing diversity in a way that clearly shows all individuals are valued, recognized, and accepted for who they truly are. This involves demonstrating respect for the abilities, beliefs, backgrounds, and cultures of those around you and engaging those with diverse perspectives, so that others feel an unconditional sense of belonging for who they are.


The idea that people whose individual identities overlap with a number of marginalized groups experience multiple, overlapping threats of discrimination.


Intersex people are born with a variety of differences in their sex traits and reproductive anatomy, including differences in genitalia, chromosomes, internal sex organs, hormone production, and more.

ADAPTED FROM: Guide to Pride


"Latine" or "Latinx" refers to a person of Latin American origin or descent. It is used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina. The emergence of Latine or Latinx coincides with a global movement to introduce gender-neutral nouns and pronouns into many languages whose grammar has traditionally used male or female constructions. It is important to note that a recent Gallup poll found only 4% of Hispanic and Latino adults in the United States prefer the term Latinx to identify themselves primarily because Latinx does not fit into the conventional dynamic of the Spanish language. Identity and what people choose to be called is personal and can differ case by case – Latinx, Latine, Hispanic etc." The best term to use is best answered by the person or group of people you are referring to.


Acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. The term is often used to refer to the community as a whole. Other common variations of LGBTQ+ include LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQIA, and LGBTQIA+ which include individuals who identify as queer/questioning, intersex, asexual, and more.


The process of putting or keeping someone (or a group of people) in a powerless position within a society by not giving them an active voice, identity, or place within it. Marginalization can show up in subtle or overt actions, such as using derogatory language, assuming someone’s accomplishments are not based on merit, and expecting individuals to act a certain way based on stereotypes.


The everyday slights, put-downs, and insults that marginalized people experience in their daily interactions. Microaggressions are often linked to our implicit biases, occur outside of our consciousness, and may be unintentional. Microaggressions may occur verbally (“you speak good English”) or nonverbally (clutching one’s purse more tightly when passing someone on the street) and can make people feel ashamed and dehumanized.


Describes a person who does not identify exclusively as a man or a woman. Non-binary people may identify as being both a man and a woman, somewhere in between, or as falling completely outside these categories. Also referred to as gender queer and gender variant.


A system of mistreatment and exploitation where a dominant group benefits (socially, economically, or politically) at the expense of the marginalized group(s).


Pronouns are how we refer to each other in everyday conversation when not using names, for example: "This is Laura. She went to school with me." Preferred gender pronouns (or PGPs) are the pronouns that people ask others to use in reference to themselves. Because pronouns often express gender (his, hers), it is important to use the correct pronouns for people that align with their gender identity. Gendered pronouns include she and he, her and him, hers and his, and herself and himself. Gender neutral pronouns include they, them, their(s). Some people state their pronoun preferences as a form of allyship.

People of color (POC)

"People of color" broadly identifies individuals who belong to a racial or ethnic minority group. When referring to a specific minority group, it is best to use more specific terms, such as Black or African American. The best term to use is best answered by the person or group of people you are referring to.


Acronym for Queer People of Color. Refers to people of color who also identify as queer.


Acronym for Queer and Transgender People of Color. Refers to people of color who also identify as queer and/or transgender.


Refers to individuals who are exploring their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Questioning individuals may be looking for more information and support as their identity develops.


A term people use to express fluid gender identities and sexual orientations. It is often used interchangeably with LGBTQIA+. The term has and can still be used in a derogatory context, but many LGBTQIA+ individuals have worked to positively reclaim the term.

Racial injustice

Violation of a right or of the rights of another based on race.


Blaming an individual or group for something based on that person or group’s identity when the person or group is not responsible. Bias, prejudicial thinking, and discriminatory acts can lead to scapegoating.


A label that you’re assigned at birth based on medical factors, including your hormones, genetics, and physical anatomy. Most people are assigned male or female at birth, but when someone’s anatomy doesn’t fit traditional definitions of female or male, they may be described as intersex.

ADAPTED FROM: The Trevor Project

Sexual orientation

Refers to how an individual defines their emotional, physical, and/or romantic attractions. Categories of sexual orientation include, but are not limited to, gay and lesbian (attracted to some members of the same gender), bisexual (attracted to some members of more than one gender), and heterosexual (attracted to some members of another gender).


An oversimplified generalization about a group of people without regard for individual differences. Stereotypes often cause us to make assumptions (both negative and positive) about people based upon superficial characteristics. An example of a stereotype is any time you group individuals together based on an identity label and make a judgment about them without knowing them.

Structural racism

Structural racism is a combination of systems and factors that advantage white people. For people of color, structural racism causes widespread harm and disadvantages in access and opportunity. One person or even one group of people did not create structural racism. Structural racism:

  1. Is grounded in the history of our laws and institutions which were created on a foundation of white supremacy;
  2. Exists in the institutions and policies that advantage white people and disadvantage people of color; and
  3. Takes places in interpersonal communication and behavior (e.g. slurs, bullying, and offensive language)


Being accepting and open-minded to different opinions, beliefs, practices, and cultures from our own, even if we do not necessarily agree with the differences.



Often abbreviated as "trans." An umbrella term used to describe people whose true gender identity does not “match” the sex or gender they were assigned at birth. People who are transgender express themselves in many ways and do not necessarily need to alter their appearance in any way. When talking to or about someone who identifies as transgender, it is important to be respectful of how they identify and use their self-ascribed identity, name, and pronouns.

ADAPTED FROM: The Trevor Project

White guilt

The feelings of shame and remorse some white people experience when they recognize the legacy of racism and racial injustice and perceive the ways they have benefited from it.


White supremacy

Term used to characterize various belief systems that are built around the idea that white people should dominate society because they are superior to those of all other races, especially the Black race.


Dislike of or bias against people who are considered “strangers” or foreigners.