Glossary of Terms


Ableism is prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities.


Accessibility is about enabling people with disabilities to participate in everyday life. It includes making sure disabled people can access physical spaces (like having elevators, ramps, and larger bathroom stalls with grab bars), products (like books published in braille so people can read without seeing), and services (like an online course being designed for learners who use screen-reading technologies).


Being an ally refers to supporting members of oppressed groups and actively trying to change the systems that contribute to oppression. Allyship is a process that involves listening and understanding how power, privilege, and oppression are connected. It includes ongoing self-education work.


There is great diversity of experience among people of color. The term BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) is used to highlight some of these differences in history and experience.

Cis / Cisgender

Cisgender people have a gender identity that tends to match the sex/gender they were assigned at birth. For example, a person who was assigned the sex/gender of girl or female at birth, and who feels like and identifies as a woman, is usually cisgender.


Classism is 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. 

Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation happens when people from a dominant culture take an element from an oppressed group’s culture and exploit it for their own benefit or enjoyment. Usually marked by a sense of disrespect or superficiality, classic examples of appropriation include wearing the traditional clothing of a racially marginalized group as a Halloween costume, or using a group’s symbols of religious or spiritual significance as decorative accessories.


The law generally defines disability as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. 


Diversity is about understanding and honoring the ways people are unique. It includes the incredible variety that exists from one person to another. This variety can come from traits like race, sex/gender, gender identity, color, ability, age, and sexual orientation. Things like appearance, body size, culture, national origin, education and economic background also play a key role in informing who we are and how we think.


Equity is about giving everyone what they need to be successful. This includes a guarantee of equitable treatment, access, opportunity and advancement for all individuals while working to identify and eliminate barriers to full participation.

Gender Expression

Gender expression typically refers to the manifestation of a person's gender identity through presentation, mannerisms, or characteristics.

Gender Identity

Gender identity is an individual's internal, personal sense (or self-perception) of being male, female, androgynous, agender, third gender, trans, transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, or something else entirely.

Implicit Bias

Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness.  

Source: Cheryl Staats, State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review 2013, Kirwan Institute, The Ohio State University. See also


Inclusion is about welcoming all people and ensuring they have equitable access to opportunities, benefits, and services by creating environments of mutual respect where everyone is valued and supported.


The letters are a shorthand way of describing a diverse community composed of lesbian, gay, bisexual, bigender, trans/transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, agender, asexual, pansexual, gender non-conforming, and other people. 


Microaggressions are brief, common exchanges that can communicate hostility, disrespect, or similar negative messages about an identity. Microaggressions can be hard to recognize because they are often subtle and sometimes unintentional.


Oppression is a form of injustice that may occur between people, and as part of larger institutions and systems.

Unless otherwise noted, this glossary of terms is compiled from the Gopher Equity Project.  For a more comprehensive list of terms see the Gopher Equity Project and Racial Equity Tools.