Equity Glossary

Developing a shared language for thoughtful discussion about issues surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is critical to our mission here at Holy Cross. This glossary of acronyms and key terms includes many words and concepts that are foundational and relevant. This is a living document and feedback from the Holy Cross community is welcomed. Just as our institution has evolved over our history, so too does language and thinking on race, equity, and justice evolve over time. We will update this document as our thinking evolves and changes, and will note any time that we have made changes.

This glossary of terms was compiled and edited by the Office of Justice, Equity, Belonging, and Identity (JEBI) in collaboration with the Office of Title IX and Equal Opportunity and the Office of Student Accessibility Services.

A person who identifies as Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color. The LGBTQIA+ community has added to the term, with QTBIPoC, standing for Queer and Trans* Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color, helping to identify and acknowledge the intersectionality between these two identities.

Stands for English as a Second Language

Historically Black Colleges and Universities

The Higher Education Act of 1965 established an institution as a HBCU if it was accredited and established before 1964 and had a principal mission of educating Black Americans.

List of HBCUs

Hispanic Serving Institution

As establish by the Higher Education Act, an HSI is a non-profit institution with at least 25% of undergraduate student enrollment being Hispanic/Lantinx students.

List of HSIs

Acronym referring to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual or Allies, plus all other gender and sexual identities. 

Predominantly White Institution

The US Dept. of Education considers any university with student enrollment of 50% or more white students as well as any institution that is considered historically white to be a PWI.


Tribal College and Universities

Any higher education public institution that is charted by federally recognized American Indian or Alaskan Native tribes or the federal government with a majority of American Indian or Alaskan Native student enrollment. 

List of TCUs 

Prejudiced thoughts, speech, and/or discriminatory actions against people with disabilities or perceived to be disabled.

The extent to which a facility, technology, or program is readily approachable and usable by individuals with all levels of physical, emotional, or mental ability. Example would be having self-opening doors, elevators for upper levels, or raised lettering on signs and business cards.

For more information on accessibility at Holy Cross please visit the Office of Student Accessibility Services.

Accommodations can be religious, physical, or mental. A reasonable accommodation specifically is an alteration in process or environment that allows an individual with a disability to enjoy equitable access within employment, public entities, or education.

Prejudiced thoughts, speech, and/or discriminatory actions based on differences in age; usually directed against older people by younger people.

A person with no or very little connection to the traditional gender binary. They may  have no personal alignment with the concepts of either man or woman and/or see themselves as existing without gender. Agender is different from Nonbinary because many Nonbinary people do experience gender somewhere within the gender spectrum.

Someone who possesses power and privilege and stands in solidarity with, and is supportive of, marginalized groups and communities. Allies include folks of all racial backgrounds, sexualities, physical and mental abilities, and gender identities. 

'Ally' is not an identity and cannot be claimed. Rather, allyship is an ongoing process of learning in which action is not only critical, but necessary.

Someone who reflects an appearance that is both masculine and feminine, neither or both, and can be expressed through sex, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual identity.

Never assume someone's identity based on their appearance, mannerism, or these definitions. Instead, let the person self-identify if they so choose.

Someone who experiences little or no romantic attraction to other people. Aromanticism exists on a spectrum of romantic attraction. Aromantic people can  experience sexual attraction.

A person who does not experience sexual attraction or has little interest in sexual activity. Asexuality exists on a spectrum.

Asexuality is distinct from chosen behavior such as celibacy or sexual abstinence; asexuality is a sexual orientation.


The gradual process by which a person or group that belong to one culture adopts the practices of another, then becoming a member of that culture. 

Assimilation can be voluntary or forced, either overtly or subtly, while navigating the other cultures' societal norms and expectations. The United States has a legislative history supporting assimilation for most immigrants or indiginous people, i.e. the Dawes Act.

An intentional or unintentional act targeted at a person, group, or property expressing hostility on the basis of perceived or actual gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or disability. Bias incidents may consist of name-calling, epithets, slurs, degrading  language, graffiti, intimidation, coercion, or harassment directed toward the targeted person or group. Acts qualify as bias acts even when delivered with humorous intent or presented as a joke or a prank.

More information on how to report a bias incident at Holy Cross can be found here

Bias is an inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment. Biases can be negative or positive (affinity bias) and can be innate or learned. People may develop biases for or against an individual, a group, or a belief. Bias also can be either conscious (explicit) or unconscious (implicit).

Explicit Bias refers to the attitudes and beliefs we have about a person or group on a conscious level. This can also be consider as overt racism or discrimination. Usually the individual with explicit bias is aware of the harm of the attitudes or beliefs at play. Sexual Harrasment is an example of explicit bias.

Implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. Microagressions are often the result of implicit bias that remains unchecked. 



An unreasonable or irrational attachment to negative stereotypes and prejudices about other groups of people.

A person who experiences physical and/or emotional attraction to both men and women, and may also experience attraction to people of varying gender identities.

A bisexual person does not stop being bisexual if they enter into a relationship. For example, a bisexual woman does not 'become' straight if she has a partner that identifies as male or lesbian if she has a partner that identifies as female.

Honors and invites full engagement from people who are vulnerable while also setting the expectation that there could be an oppressive moment that the facilitator and allies have a responsibility to address. We encourage you to create a brave space rather than a safe space when navigating discussions, because safety is often related to comfort. However when we have these difficult conversations, oftentimes you will feel uncomfortable. That is okay and is expected, we encourage you to lean into the discomfort and step into this brave space with us.

A term for people whose gender identity and expression matches their sex assigned at birth. The word cisgender is sometimes shortened to "cis", similarly to how transgender is often shortened to "trans".

The belief that being cisgender is 'normal' and the default state of being. This belief feeds into a system of oppression that privileges cisgender individuals and denies equality to transgender people by promoting the pervasive idea that something is wrong with or has been done to them.

The assumption that all people are cisgender. Because this assumption is so deeply ingrained in our society through socialization, many people say and do things that are cissexist without realizing it or intending to. An example is not having gender options beyond Male or Female on personal information forms such as a job application. 

A legally recognized subject or national or a state or commonwealth, either native or naturalized.

Any attitude or institutional practice which holds people of a certain socioeconomic class due to income, occupation, education, and/or their economic status as inferior; a system that works to keep certain communities within a set socioeconomic class and prevents social and economic mobility.

A term used to describe gender and sexual minorities who do not want or cannot reveal their sexual identity and/or gender identity. 

It is considered an act of violence to 'out' a closeted person as well as being extremely traumatizing for the individual. If someone shares their sexual or gender identity with you, be sure to ask who else they are 'out' to in order to avoid accidental outing.

The conscious or unconscious act of altering one's communication style and/or appearance depending on who one is speaking to, what is being discussed, and the relationship and power and/or community dynamics between those involved. Often members of target groups code-switch to minimize the impact of bias from the dominant group. 

A term referring to the disregard of racial characteristics, the belief in treating everyone “equally” by treating everyone the same, and based on the presumption that differences are by definition bad or problematic, and therefore best ignored. An example would be "I don't see race".

Proponents of color-blind practices believe that treating people equally inherently leads to a more equal society and/or that racism and race privilege no longer exercise the power they once did. Opponents of color-blind practices believe that color-blindness allows those in power to disregard or ignore the history of oppression and how it is experienced today.


A form of prejudice or discrimination in which people are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin color. Colorism can and often exists within minority groups. For example in the US there is an idea within all groups but also within the Black and Hispanic communities that the lighter your skin color the more beautiful. As a result individuals with lighter skin are granted privileges from both the majority group and minority group.

The process by which LGBTQIA+ individuals recognize, accept, appreciate, and celebrate their sexual or gender identity/expression. Coming out varies across culture and community and there is no one way to come out.

Outing someone before they are ready is considered an act of violence. If someone comes out to you, be sure to clarify who else they are out to in order to avoid accidental outing.

Critical race theory is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.

There are at least five themes that form the basic perspectives, research methods, and pedagogy of critical race theory in education:

  • The centrality and intersectionality of race and racism.
  • The challenge to dominant ideology.
  • The commitment to social justice.
  • The centrality of experiential knowledge.
  • The interdisciplinary perspective.


A social system of meaning that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors, and styles of communication. In today's society culture is often used as a dividing line.

The adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another. It is generally applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to appropriating culture.

This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities, often converting culturally significant artifacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different/less nuanced than they would originally have had.

An example would be how some adopt traditionally Black hairstyles like locs or cornrows when they do not identify as Black. If we contrast this example with how often Black women might hear they need to change their own natural hair to look “more professional” in a work setting. This double standard casts the power dynamics of cultural appropriation in stark contrast.

The ability to use critical-thinking skills to interpret how values and belief influence conscious and unconscious behavior and the understanding of how inequality can be and has been perpetuated through socialized behaviors combined with the knowledge and determined disposition to disrupt inequitable practices.

Cultural Competence has now shifted to Cultural Humility because no person can be truly competent in another culture especially one in which they are not a member.

A process of reflection and lifelong inquiry involving self-awareness of personal and societal biases, as well as, awareness of aspects of identity that are most important to others we encounter leading to continuous learning in an accepting and thoughtful manner. Cultural Humility acknowledges that no person can be a true expert in another culture and that instead this type of learning and empathy comes from a change in thought and a lifelong commitment to engage in this work.


Culturally responsive pedagogy facilitates and supports the achievement of all students, from all backgrounds and experiences. In practice in the classroom, this pedagogy promotes reflective teaching and learning to occur in a culturally supported, learner-centered context, whereby the strengths students bring to school are identified, nurtured, and utilized to promote student achievement.

Name a transgender person no longer uses; mat also be referred to as a trans* person's birth name. 

You should NEVER refer to someone by their dead/birth name. In cases where the dead/birth name is still the legal name, explain to the individual for recordkeeping and legal documents you will need to use the dead/birth name while being sure to affirm that you will utilize their name* when directly addressing or referring to them.

The community has shifted away from utilizing the terms "preferred" or "chosen" when referring to an individuals name that is not the legal name or pronouns. When we say prefer we are implying we like one more than the other but both options are valid. The dead/birth name are never a valid option to a trans* individual.

When someone uses the dead/birth name of a trans* individual after being asked not to is what we refer to as deadnaming. 

Deadnaming is considered an act of violence against a trans* person.

The active and intentional process of unlearning values, beliefs, and conceptions that have caused physical, emotional, or mental harm to people through colonization. It requires a recognition of systems of oppression

A gender identity that involves feeling a partial, but not a full, connection to a particular gender identity or just to the concept of gender. Demigender people often identify as non-binary but not always.

A sexual identity in which an individual does not experience sexual attraction with another person until they have developed an emotional connection. It is generally categorized on the asexuality spectrum.

Never assume someone's identity based on their appearance, mannerism, or these definitions. Instead, let the person self-identify if they so choose.

Communication that creates and recreates multiple understandings; it is bidirectional, not zero‐sum and may or may not end in agreement. This communication can be emotional and uncomfortable, but is safe, respectful and has greater understanding as its goal.

A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Note: Major life activities include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.

Actions and/or behaviors based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favor one group over others in the provision of goods, services, or opportunities. Discriminatory behavior, ranging from slights to hate crimes, often begins with negative stereotypes and prejudices that have been left unchecked.

The wide variety of shared and different personal and group characteristics among human beings. The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance, civility, and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique and that our individual differences contribute towards a more flourishing work and living environment. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio- economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

A person who takes on the appearance and characteristics associated with a certain gender, for entertainment purposes and often to expose the humorous and performative elements of gender. While drag is deeply embedded in the LGBTQIA+ community, it is considered to be a form of art to many and is now being embraced by heterosexual and cisgender men and women.

A Drag Queen would be an individual that identifies as male or masculine and takes on the drag persona of a women. Drag King, on the other hand, is an individual that identifies as female or feminine taking on the drag persona of a man.

Additionally dressing in drag is different from being transgender. While many transgender individuals first turned to drag for a safe place to explore their sexuality outside the heterosexual norms of society, the vast majority of individuals that partake in drag go home and remove this persona to live cisgender lives, while a transgender individual is the gender they identify as all the time. Drag is a performance or art, while Transgender is a gender identity.

The ability to acknowledge, value, and manage feelings so that they are expressed appropriately and effectively. The ability to navigate through your internal bias is a form of emotional intelligence.

A learned skill that allows one to recognize and deeply listen to another’s story or experiences, and connect them to common understandings and emotions. Empathy is a crucial skill needed to safely navigate and hold difficult conversations.

Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents, regardless of their individual needs.

Equity is when an individual's race, gender, socio-economic status, sexual identity, etc. do not determine their educational, economic, social, or political opportunities. Equity focuses on the proportional distribution of desirable outcomes across groups based on the needs of each individual. Equity is often confused with equality, however they are distinct terms with equality connoting equal treatment and equity refer more so to outcomes. 

The valuing of women and the belief in and advocacy for social, political, and economic equality and liberation for both women and men. Feminism questions and challenges patriarchal social values and structures that serve to enforce and maintain men's dominance and women's subordination. True feminism acknowledges intersectionality and advocates for all individuals that identify as female or feminine regardless of their sex assigned at birth.

A person who expresses and/or identifies with femininity.

An individual, neither of whose parents completed a baccalaureate degree.

Describes an identity that may change or shift over time; generally attached with another term, like gender-fluid or fluid-sexuality.

When an individual or group controls access to goods and services, but particularly to information and people with power.

Individuals who are emotionally, romantically, and /or physically attracted to people of the same gender. Sometimes considered to be an umbrella term refer to both men and women that are attracted to people of the same gender. Typically it is an individual that identifies as male or masculine and is attracted to an individual that is also male or masculine.

Never assume someone's identity based on their appearance, mannerism, or these definitions. Instead, let the person self-identify if they so choose.

Refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ.

Never assume someone's gender identity based on their appearance, mannerism, or these definitions. Instead, let the person self-identify if they so choose.

Surgical procedures associated with altering the genitals or secondary sex characteristics to be consistent with a person’s gender identity. What was formerly referred to as a “sex change” (an outdated and often offensive term). 

There is no one way to transition and pursue Gender Affirming Surgery. Also there is no one procedure that encompasses Gender Affirming Surgery.

The severe mental distress that a person experiences when the sex they were assigned at birth (by way of anatomy) does not match their gender identity. A person may experience various degrees of dysphoria with respect to different parts of their anatomy. For example, a female-bodied person may experience dysphoria with their breasts and voice but not genitalia. Gender Dysphoria is not a requirement of being trans* and some individuals may experience little to no dsyphoria.

A person's internal, deeply held knowledge of their own gender. Everyone has a gender identity. For most people their gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. For transgender people, their gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Many people have a gender identity of man or woman (or, for children, boy or girl). For other people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two binary genders. 

Gender Identity is typically affirmed or identified between the ages of 2 & 5, while sexual identity isn't usually recognized until middle school or the start of puberty.

Please note that Gender Identity is not visible to others. You cannot look at someone and "see" their gender identity.


Pronouns that do not adhere to the he:she and his:her binary, and can refer to a number of different gender identities. Some examples are ze/hir/hirs, and they/them/their but there are many others.  Gender neutral pronouns are recognized by the Chicago Style Manual and AP.

Refers to the social constructed pattern of appearance, personality, and behavior that, in a given culture, is associated with being a boy/man/male or being a girl/woman/female.

An identity commonly used by people who do not identify or express their gender within the gender binary. Those who identify as genderqueer may identify as neither male nor female, may see themselves as outside of or in between the binary gender boxes, or may simply feel restricted by gender labels. Not everyone who identifies as genderqueer identifies as trans or nonbinary.

Never assume someone's identity based on their appearance, mannerism, or these definitions. Instead, let the person self-identify if they so choose.

Unwanted conduct with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive evironment based on their race, color, sex, sexual identity, religion, national origin, disability, and/or age, among other things.

The FBI defines hate crimes as "criminal offense[s] against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual identity, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity".

Most states and U.S. territories have hate crime statutes enforced by state and local law enforcement; however, the laws and definitions vary widely across jurisdictions with regard to bias motivations. For example, 47 states and the District of Columbia include race/color as a bias category, while 15 states and the District of Columbia including gender identity.

Hate crimes are recognized as a distinct category of crimes that have a broader effect than most other kinds of crimes because the victims are not on the crime's immediate target but also others like them.

One group or community holding all authoritative power or dominance over other groups in a given society, geographical region, and/or political system.

The societal assumption and norm that all people are heterosexual. 

The belief or assumption that everyone is, or should be heterosexual.

The idea that being heterosexual is normal, natural, and healthy, and all other people are somehow unnatural, abnormal, and unhealthy.

Refers to a person who is emotionally, romantically, and/or physically attracted to a person of the opposite gender. Also may be referred to as straight.

The irrational hatred and fear of LGBTQIA+ people. Homophobia includes prejudice, discrimination, harassment, and acts of violence brought on by fear and hatred. It can and does occur on personal, institutional, and/or societal levels.

When people from targeted groups believe, act on, and/or enforce dominant systems of oppression against other members of targeted groups.

The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a person is definitively recognized or known.

The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.

A person who moves out of their country of birth, usually in order to establish permanent residence in a new country.

An in-group is a social group to which a person psychologically identifies as being a member. By contrast, an out-group is a social group with which an individual does not identify.

With in-groups there is a tendency for these groups to favor themselves by rewarding group members economically, socially, psychologically, and/or emotionally in order to uplift one group (In-Group) over another (Out-Group)

Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities and decision/policy making in a way that shares power. Inclusion promotes broad engagement, shared participation, and advances authentic sense of belonging through safe, positive, and nurturing environments. Inclusion is key to eliminating systemic inequality.

The recognition that a community or institution's success is dependent on how well it values, engages, and includes the rich diversity of students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni constituents.

Inclusive Excellence 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  safe and thriving campus culture.

Refers to non-sexist language or language that “includes” all persons in its references. For example, “a writer needs to proofread his work” excludes females due to the masculine reference of the pronoun. Likewise, “a nurse must disinfect her hands” is exclusive to males and stereotypes nurses as females.

Ethnic groups who are the original inhabitants of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied, or colonized the area more recently. In the United States, this can refer to groups traditionally termed Native Americans (American Indians), Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. In Canada, it can refer to the groups typically termed First Nations.

Refers to an individual's racist assumptions, beliefs or behaviors and is "a form of racial discrimination that stems from conscious and unconscious, personal prejudice". Individual racism is connected to/learned from broader socio-economic histories and processes and is supported and reinforced by systemic racism.

The systematic mistreatment and dehumanization of any individual based solely on a social identity group with which they identify that is supported and enforced by society and its institutions; based on the belief that people of such a social identity group are inherently inferior.

When individuals from targeted minority groups internalize the prejudicial or stereotypical beliefs about themselves or members of their minority group. Examples include using creams to lighten one’s skin, believing that white leaders are inherently more competent, or asserting that individuals of color are not as intelligent as white individuals.

Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LGBTQIA+ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things. It recognizes the fluid diversity of identities that a person can hold such as gender, race, class, religion, professional status, marital status, socioeconomic status, etc.

Intersex is a general term used for a variety of situations in which a person is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the boxes of “female” or “male.” It was common practice for doctors to do surgeries on intersex babies and children to make their bodies fit binary ideas of “male” or “female”. Doctors always assign intersex babies a legal sex (male or female, in most states), but, just like with non-intersex people, that doesn’t mean that’s the gender identity they’ll grow up to have. This brings up questions about whether or not it’s OK to do medical procedures on children’s bodies when it’s not needed for their health

The establishment or determination of rights according to rules of law and standards of equity; the process or result of using laws to fairly judge crimes and criminality.

In the DEI context, Justice is about dismantling barriers to resources and opportunities in society so that all individuals & communities can live a full & dignified life.

A person of Latin American origin or descent. Latinx is the gender-neutral version of Latino or Latina making the term more inclusive of all gender identities.

Individuals who are emotionally, romantically, and /or physically attracted to people of the same gender. Typically it is an individual that identifies as female or feminine and is attracted to an individual that also identifies as female or feminine.

Never assume someone's identity based on their appearance, mannerism, or these definitions. Instead, let the person self-identify if they so choose.

Refers to the systematic disempowerment of an individual or community by denying them access to essential resources, perpetuating prejudice through societal institutions, and silencing their voice, history, and perspective. It is a tactic employed to devalue those who differ from the mainstream norm, often leading to their denigration as deviant and backward.

Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual orientation and religious slights and insults to the target person or group.

These messages may be sent verbally, ("You speak good English"), non-verbally (clutching one's purse more tightly around people from certain race/ethnicity) or environmentally (symbols like the confederate flag or using Native American mascots). Such communications are usually outside the level of conscious awareness of perpetrators. Despite the term, Microaggressions often have a long lasting impact on the mental health and safety of marginalized community members that navigate them on a daily basis.


Hatred of, aversion to, or prejudice against women. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.

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. In the US, Asian Americans are often held to this cultural expectation

Prejudiced thoughts or discriminatory actions that benefit or show preference to individuals born in a territory over those who have migrated into said territory.

A viewpoint that brain differences are normal, rather than deficits and can have benefits for people with learning and thinking differences. used especially in the context of autistic spectrum disorders.

A spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine‍—‌identities that are outside the gender binary.

Never assume someone's identity based on their appearance, mannerism, or these definitions. Instead, let the person self-identify if they so choose.


The systemic use of institutional power and ideological and cultural hegemony, resulting in one group benefiting at the expense of another; the use of power and the effects of domination.

The act of publicly revealing (sometimes based on rumor and/or speculation) another person's sexual or gender identity without that person's consent. Considered inappropriate and potentially dangerous by a large portion of the LGBTQIA+ community.

A person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, and/ or emotional attractions to any person, regardless of gender identity. This is one of several terms under the bi+ umbrella.

The concept that transgender people face less prejudice when they are perceived as cisgender, including less risk of harassment and violence, as well as better employment opportunities; the benefits that come with being taken for cis by cis people.

A social system and institution in which men have primary power in the political, social, economic, legal, and familial spheres; patriarchy favors male-dominated thought, and is centralized on the male narrative or perspective of how the world works and should work.

A collective term for men and women of Asian, African, Latinx, and Native American (non-White) backgrounds; as opposed to the collective "White" for those of European ancestry.

Any person not a citizen of the United States who is residing in the U.S. under legally recognized and lawfully recorded permanent resident as an immigrant. Also known as permanent resident alien, resident alien permit holder, and green card holder.

The practice of, or desire for, romantic relationships with more than one partner at the same time, with the informed consent of all partners involved.

People who identify as polyamorous may believe in open relationships with a conscious management of jealousy and reject the view that sexual and relational exclusivity are prerequisite for deep, committed, long-term, loving relationships.

An opinion, prejudgment or attitude about a group or its individual members. A prejudice can be positive but usually refers to a negative attitude.

Prejudices are often accompanied by ignorance, fear, or hatred. Prejudices are formed by a complex psychological process that begins with attachment to a close circle of acquaintances or an in-group such as a family. Prejudice is often aimed at out-groups.

Privilege operates on personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional levels and gives advantages, favors, and benefits to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of target groups.

Privilege is characteristically invisible to people who have it. People in dominant groups often believe that they have earned the privileges that they enjoy or that everyone could have access to these privileges if only they worked to earn them. In fact, privileges are unearned and they are granted to people in the dominant groups whether they want those privileges or not, and regardless of their stated intent. Unlike targets of oppression, people in dominant groups are frequently unaware that they are members of the dominant group due to the privilege of being able to see themselves as persons rather than stereotypes.

A pronoun is a word that refers to someone or something that is being talked about (like she, it, them, and this).

Gender pronouns (like he and hers) specifically refer to people that you are talking about. You cannot always know what pronoun (she/her, he/him, they/them, she/they, he/they, ze/zir, etc.) someone uses by looking at them. Asking and correctly using someone’s personal pronoun is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity.

A characteristic that, in accordance with federal and state law, is protected from discrimination and harassment:

  • age,
  • color,
  • disability,
  • gender,
  • gender expression,
  • gender identity,
  • genetic information
  • national origin,
  • race,
  • religion,
  • sex,
  • sexual orientation,
  • veteran status

An adjective used by some people, particularly younger people, whose sexual identity is not exclusively heterosexual (e.g. queer person, queer woman). Typically, for those who identify as queer, the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual are perceived to be too limiting and/or fraught with cultural connotations they feel do not apply to them.

Once considered a pejorative term, 'queer' has been reclaimed by some LGBTQIA+ people to describe themselves. However, it is not a universally accepted term even within the LGBTQIA+ community, so use caution when using it outside of describing the way someone self-identifies or in a direct quote. When Q is seen at the end of LGBT, it typically means queer. In a setting for support, particularly for youth, it may mean questioning. Ask people how they describe themselves before labeling their sexual orientation.

An adjective used by some people who are in the process of exploring their sexual identity and/or gender identity.

A term used to identify and define individuals as part of a distinct group based on physical characteristics and some cultural and historical commonalities

Once used to denote differentiations in humankind based on physiology and biology, race is now understood as a social construct that is not scientifically based, though is still commonly associated with notions of biological difference; race is still sometimes perceived as innate and inalterable.

An ideology and institution that reflects the racial worldview in which humans are divided into racial groups and in which races are arranged in a hierarchy where some races are considered innately superior to others.

Racism is the effect of domination of certain racial groups by other racial groups, historically the domination of people of color by white/European peoples.

 A theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime and conflict. It places decisions in the hands of those who have been most affected by wrongdoing, and gives equal concern to the victim, the offender, and the surrounding community.

Restorative responses are meant to repair harm, heal broken relationships, and address the underlying reasons for the offense. Restorative Justice emphasizes individual and collective accountability. Crime and conflict generate opportunities to build community and increase grassroots power when restorative practices are employed.

Refers to the label a medical professional gives to a baby when it is born. A medical professional may say a baby is male, female or intersex, depending on what the medical professional observes about the baby’s external genitalia.

Sex assigned at birth is about how someone else sees our bodies and does not take into consideration how we feel inside.


Refers to the range of attitudes, beliefs, policies, laws and behaviors that discriminate on the basis of sex or gender.

Sexual identity is your sense of self in relation to your sexuality. As such, it encompasses many components, including gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Sexual orientation is the term used in regard to who you are attracted to, sexually and romantically. For example, sexual orientation includes terms such as heterosexual, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, queer, or questioning.

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

The mistreatment of or discrimination against people based upon their perceived (or self-perceived) body size or shape.

The notion that patterns of human interaction (often deemed to be normal, natural, or universal) are, in fact, humanely produced and constructed by social expectation and coercion but is presented as “objective.” For example, the erroneous assumption of women being better at housework is not at all connected to their female anatomy, but to social expectations and pressures imposed on women.

It gives an in-depth look at social identity and how it plays a role in our lives through social categorization, identification, and comparison. Check out this video to learn more.

Dominant Group (In-Group): A social group that is systematically advantaged by society because of group membership. The dominant identity seems to set the subordinates' rules and standards to follow.
Subordinate Group (Out-Group): A social group that is systematically disadvantaged. The group is looked down upon as being incapable of performing their preferred roles.


A broad term that connotes the practice of allyship and coalition work in order to promote equality, equity, respect, and the assurance of rights within and between communities and social groups. 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 and the society as a whole.

The process of altering how one socially presents their gender. This may involve using different pronouns and minor or significant alteration of gender expression. Social transition may happen before or even without medical transition. There is not one way to socially transition and the journey can differ for each individual.

Social transition, is often but not always, the first step and doctors, specializing in trans* care, recommend children experiencing gender dysphoria undergo a social transition until they are of the legal age to make decisions on medical and/or legal transition.

This refers to a person who has socially, legally, and/or medically transitioned from their sex assigned at birth and does not disclose their past, presenting only as their affirmed gender. Often this involves disassociating from people who know their history.

An exaggerated belief, image, or distorted truth about a person or group that is widespread - a generalization that allows for little or no individual differences or social variation.

Stereotypes are based on images in mass media or representations passed on by parents, peers, and other members of society. Though stereotypes can be positive and negative, they all have negative effects because they support institutionalized oppression by validating oversimplified beliefs that are often not based on facts.

Hiring or seeking to have representation such as a few women and/or racial or ethnic minority persons so as to appear inclusive while remaining mono-cultural.

The practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups, especially by recruiting people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or gender equality within a workplace or institution.


Acceptance and open‐mindedness to different practices, attitudes, and cultures; does not necessarily mean agreement with the differences.

An adjective to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. People who are transgender may also use other terms, in addition to transgender, to describe their gender more specifically. Some of those terms are defined in this equity glossary.

Use the term(s) the person uses to describe themself. It is important to note that being transgender is not dependent upon physical appearance or medical procedures. A person can call themself transgender the moment they realize that their gender identity is different than the sex they were assigned at birth.

The process trans* people may go through to become comfortable in terms of their gender. Transitioning may include social, physical, legal, mental, and emotional components. This is no correct way to transition, each journey is unique just like the person.

Refers to an indigenous person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity. As an umbrella term it may encompass same-sex attraction and a wide variety of gender variance, including people who might be described in Western culture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, gender queer, cross-dressers or who have multiple gender identities. Two-spirit can also include relationships that could be considered poly. 

According to the Indian Health Service (IHS), "Traditionally, Native American two-spirit people were male, female, and sometimes intersexed individuals who combined activities of both men and women with traits unique to their status as two-spirit people. In most tribes, they were considered neither men nor women; they occupied a distinct, alternative gender status."

The role a Two Spirit person had in their community varied by tribe; in addition to wearing "opposite gender" clothes, they were often healers, name-givers, ceremony leaders, or matchmakers. In precolonial Cree society, "men lived in one camp while women lived in a different camp, with neither permitted to enter the others’." But a Two Spirit person could move between these two worlds. They were often held in high esteem and given a special role by their tribe.

Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white; an exemption of social, political, and/or economic burdens placed on non-white people; and benefitting from societal structuring that prioritizes white people and whiteness. Generally, white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.

A culturally based fear of outsiders. It has often been associated with the hostile reception given to those who immigrate into societies and communities. It could result from genuine fear of strangers or it could be based on things such as competition for jobs, or ethnic, racial, or religious prejudice.

If you would like to recommend any edits or additions to this document, please email the Office of Justice, Equity, Belonging, and Identity (JEBI) at jebi@holycross.edu.