Glossary of Definitions
Ally: A person who supports marginalized, silenced, or less privileged groups without actually being a member of those groups. An ally takes full responsibility to seek education for himself and others, providing needed and necessary support to others, challenging oppressive behaviors, policies, and institutional structures.
Anti-Racism: The acknowledgement that racism exists; the policy of challenging racism and promoting racial tolerance.
Assimilation: A process that creates pressure on cultural groups to adapt or to give up their way of life and conform as quickly as possible to values and culture of the majority group with the implied promise that group acceptance will be the social reward.
Assigned Sex: The sex (female, male, intersex) assigned at birth based in the appearance of genitalia.
Cisgender: A concept that labels persons who are not transgender as something other than the label of “normal.” That is, it provides a name for a gender identity or performance in a gender role that society considers appropriate for one’s assigned sex.
Class: An assigned position specific to income, wealth, property ownership, education, skills or authority in the economic sphere. It is something that is also assigned based on values and how people perceive themselves. Often times, those perceptions don’t match the legal and formal distinctions made by the federal government.
Diversity: In its simplest form means, “difference.”
Discrimination: Restricting individuals or entities, based on their actual or perceived membership to a certain group or category, from opportunities or privileges that are available to another group, leading to the exclusion of the individual or entities based on logical or irrational decision making.
Feminism: A term used to describe the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to those of men.
Fluid Identity: The concept that identity is not rigid but can and does change. This idea is often used in terms of gender, sexuality and race, as well as other factors of identity. This concept is fundamentally contrary to binary systems. A person who feels her/his identity is fluid often believes that rigid categories are oppressive and incapable of accurately describing her/his experience and identities.
Gender: In its most accepted definition, gender refers to the social roles (e.g., men, women) and characteristics that develop through cultural interpretations of biological or anatomical sex. In this definition, sex is seen as natural and gender as the social construction that stems from readings of sex.
Gender Identity: The gender with which a person identifies, or is identified. This can be different from a person’s assigned gender, which is determined by birth to be male or female or manipulated to resemble one or the other. It is important to note that gender identity, biological sex and sexuality are not necessarily linked.
Genderqueer: A person who redefines or rejects gender norms and the idea that there are only female/male categories.
Gender Roles: Cultural norms that prescribe how men and women are supposed to behave and look in a society while creating expectations that extend to interests and personality characteristics based on their assigned sex. These prescriptions are described as either masculine or feminine.
Heterosexism: Institutionalized and systemic, excluding or making invisible questioning, lesbian, non-labeling, bisexual, transgender, queer, and gay people. Any system that constructs queer sexualities as deviant, wrong or immoral.
Heterosexual: A person who is primarily and/or exclusively attracted to members of a gender or sex which is seen to be opposite or other than the one with which they identify or are identified.
Homosexual: A person who is primarily and/or exclusively attracted to members of what they identify as their own sex or gender. Because the term can have negative connotations, some people do not feel that it accurately defines their chosen identity.
Homophobia: The general fear or hatred of gays, lesbians or queer-identified people. This can manifest itself as an intense dislike or rejection of the above-mentioned groups, including acts of violence actions against them.
Intersections of Oppression: These occur when an individual is defined by more than one oppressed element of their identity. Often these intersections are used to further oppress an individual; this manifests frequently in situations where an individual is forced to choose one oppressed element of their identity over another for political reasons.
LGBTQ: An identity group consisting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning self-identifying individuals.
Minority Group: Any group that is socially defined as different from the dominant group in society, is at a power disadvantage, receives less than its proportionate share of scare resources due to its power disadvantage and finds its differential treatment justified in terms of socially-defined differences.
Oppression: A systematic social phenomenon based on the difference between social groups that involves ideological domination, institutional control and normalizing of the oppressor group’s ideology, logic system and culture. The result is the exploitation of one social group by another for its own benefit, real or imagined.
Patriarchy: The manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family and the extension of male dominance over women in society. It implies that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and that women are deprived of accessing such power.
Privilege: An unearned systemic social advantage assigned to dominant groups based on gender, race, sexuality and nationality. Creates entitlement to resources and opportunities, preferential treatment and immunity from stigma, obligation or expectation that is otherwise attached to others. Privilege is an invisible package of unearned assets that members of privileged groups receive automatically.
Race: A social construct and classification system used to categorize human beings into large and distinct populations based on ancestry. Such classifications impact the way people live depending on their “assigned” race.
Racism: Racial and cultural prejudice and discrimination, supported intentionally or unintentionally by institutional power and authority, used to the advantage of one race and the disadvantage of other races.
Religious Oppression: The subordination, marginalization and persecution of an individual or group based on their religious or non-religious belief and/or practices. Occurring on the individual, cultural/societal and institutional levels, religious oppression stems from opposing dualistic beliefs around religion, as well as certain teachings and traditions where the dominant religious group of society becomes ingrained in its customs and traditions including those that are non-religious (e.g. court system, swearing on the Christian Bible, etc.).
Sexism: Prejudice or discrimination (in conjunction with power) based on a person’s sex, stemming from traditional stereotypes of gender roles that may include the belief that a person of one sex is intrinsically superior to that of the other.