DEI Terminology

Note/resourcesThe Americans with Disabilities Act (U.S. Dept of Justice, Dept of Education), New England Resource Center for Higher Education and the National Conference for Community and Justice, Oregon State University, University of Washington College of the Environment.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every word and term used in conversations about diversity and social justice.  Keep in mind that as language continues to evolve around these concepts, many of these words and terms will also change.


Ableist: discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group with a disability.

Accessibility refers to the degree to which materials, spaces, or experiences are designed to allow for the full and complete participation of individuals with disabilities. Accessibility allows individuals to independently acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services. It applies to all aspects of experiences, inside and outside the classroom. Accessibility should be considered in every design deliverable using Universal Design frameworks, relevant legislation, and current digital accessibility standards as guides.

Accommodations:  personalized supports or adjustments that remove specific barriers with the goal of ensuring an individual can meet essential requirements or perform their job duties. Accommodations are determined on a case-by-case basis through an interactive process.
related terms: Disability, Accessibility

Ageist:  discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group on the basis of their age.

Agender: a nonbinary gender identity in which one feels no alignment to any gender

Ally: Someone who supports a group other than one’s own (in terms of multiple identities such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.). An ally acknowledges oppression, both individual and systemic, and actively commits to reducing their own complicity, investing in strengthening their own knowledge, and increasing their awareness of oppression.

American Indian (Native American): A person having origin in any of the original tribes of North America who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.

Androgynous: A person appearing and/or identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.

Antisemitism: a negative perception of Jews that is expressed as hatred. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism can be directed towards individuals, Jewish or non-Jewish, and/or their property, religious facilities, or community institutions. Examples include (but are not limited to) the use of hateful symbols and images such as swastikas, holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel, denying the existence of the Holocaust, and making or participating in dehumanizing or stereotypical allegations about Jews. (Adapted from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance).

Aromantic: an orientation in which one has no desire for romantic relationships

Asexual: an orientation in which one has no desire for sexual relationships

Assigned Birth Sex: refers to the sex one is assigned at birth typically by doctors based on medical factors, including hormones, chromosomes, and genitals.  It is the sex that is put on one's birth certificate.  Assigned sex at birth and gender identity do not have to match.

Bias: a form of prejudice that results from our need to quickly classify individuals into categories. Biases, both explicit and implicit, activity influence both judgement and action.

Biphobia: A dislike or fear of bisexual people.

BIPoC: An acronym used to refer to Black, Indigenous and People of Color.  It is based on the recognition of collective experiences of systemic racism.  As with any other identity term, it is up to individuals to use this term as an identifier.

Bisexual: A person who may be attracted, romantically and/or sexually, to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.

Bullied: Being subjected to unwanted offensive and malicious behavior that undermines, patronizes, intimidates, or demeans.

Cisgender: a term for someone whose sex they were assigned at birth matches their gender.

Classist: discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group based on social or economic class.

Climate:  the current attitudes, behaviors, and standards of students, faculty, staff, and administrators, as well as UNH environment and policies, which influence the level of respect for individual needs, abilities, and potential.

Colorblind: the racial ideology that holds everyone should be treated "equally" without respect to societal, economic, historical, racial, or other differences.  No differences are seen or acknowledged.  Equity is defined as providing the same treatment to all individuals regardless of an individual's intersectional identities.

Cultural Appropriation: The non-consensual/misappropriate use of cultural elements for commodification or profit purposes – including symbols, art, language, customs, etc. – often without understanding, acknowledgment or respect for its value in the context of its original culture.

Cronyism: The hiring or promoting of friends or associates to positions without proper regard to their qualifications.

Dead-naming: the act of using a name for a trans person that they no longer use, whether intentionally or accidentally

Decolonize: 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 current and historical systems of oppression.

Disability: Understanding disability requires a complex consideration of a variety of factors. As stated within the WHO ICF Practical Manual, “The functioning of an individual in a specific domain reflects an interaction between the health condition and the contextual: environmental and personal factors. There is a complex, dynamic and often unpredictable relationship among these entities.”  As highlighted, any understanding of disability needs to be centered within this dynamic and often changing interaction between an individual (identities, impairments, personal goals, strengths, etc.) and the environment (physical and digital space, culture of inclusivity, accessibility, barriers, practices, etc.).

Related to the determination of accommodations, the definition of disability is outlined within the ADA: “The term “disability” means, with respect to an individual— a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; a record of such an impairment; or being regarded as having such an impairment (as described in paragraph (3)).”
Related terms: Accessibility, Accommodations, Inclusion, Universal Design

Discrimination: The unequal treatment of members of various groups, based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favors one group over others on differences of race, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, ability, religion, language, age, national identity, religion and other categories.

Diversity refers to the myriad ways in which individuals differ from each other and the wide range of intersectional identities therewithin. Diversity includes, but is not limited to different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, economic backgrounds, ages, abilities, gender identities and expression, marital statuses, languages, veteran statuses, and religions. It also includes differences in ideas, perspectives, and values. Diversity enhances our learning community by offering exposure to people with varying backgrounds, thoughts, and experiences. 

Equity is the fair and just allocation of resources, opportunity, access, and advancement for allEquitable practices actively strive to identity and eliminate barriers that prevent or restrict equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of the educational process. Its underlying principle acknowledges the historical disadvantages of underserved and underrepresented groups created by racism, sexism, homophobia, and other harmful practices and seeks to address fairness regarding unbalanced and often systemic conditions.

Ethnic Identity: A socially constructed category about a group of people based on their shared culture. This can be reflected in language, religion, material culture such as clothing and cuisine, and cultural products such as music and art.

Ethnocentrism: discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group’s culture based solely by the values and standards of one's own culture. Ethnocentric individuals judge other groups relative to their own ethnic group or culture, especially with concern for language, behavior, customs, and religion.

Experiential Learning:  refers to a pedagogical philosophy and methodology concerned with learning activities outside of the traditional classroom environment, with objectives which are planned and articulated prior to the experience (e.g., internship, service learning, co-operative education, field experience, practicum, cross-cultural experiences, apprenticeships, etc.).

Family Leave: The Family and Medical Leave Act is a labor law requiring employers with 50 or more employees to provide certain employees with job-protected unpaid leave due to situations such as the following: serious health conditions that make employees unable to perform their jobs; caring for a sick family member; or caring for a new child (including birth, adoption, or foster care).
More Information

Gender Identity: one's internal sense of being a man, woman, neither of these, both, or other gender(s).  Since gender identity is internal, one's gender identity is not necessarily visible to others. While gender and sexuality often tend to be conflated, they are distinct and different concepts and experiences.

Gender Expression: how one expresses oneself in relation to gender, whether with clothes, mannerisms, hairstyle, names, etc. A person's gender expression does not necessarily have to be in line with what is expected for their assigned sex or with their gender identity. 

Genderfluid: when one feels that their gender flows or fluctuates between binary genders.

Gender non-conforming: an individual whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender. 

Genderqueer: A person whose gender identity is outside of, not included within, or beyond the binary of female and male, or who is gender nonconforming through expression, behavior, social roles, and/or identity. 

Harassment: Unwelcomed behavior that demeans, threatens, or offends another person or group of people and results in a hostile environment for the targeted person/group.   Harassment may take the form of unwelcome sexual advances or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, graffiti, jokes, pranks, slurs, insults, threats, remarks made in the person's presence, interference with the person's work or academic life, vandalism, assignment of unpleasant duties, or even physical assault directed against any member of a protected class. Behavior is considered to be harassment when: (1) submission to or rejection of such behavior by an individual is used as a basis for employment or academic decisions affecting that individual; or (2) submission to such behavior is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic work; or (3) such behavior has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.

Heterosexist: Discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group based on a sexual orientation that is not heterosexual.

Homophobia: A fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality and individuals who identify as or are perceived as homosexual.

Implicit Bias: Negative associations expressed automatically that people unknowingly hold and that that affect our understanding, actions and decisions; also known as unconscious or hidden bias.

Inclusion refers to the ongoing, iterative, and constructive process of creating an environment in which an individual or group is welcomed, respected, supported and valued as a fully participating member. While diversity is an important aspect of inclusion, diversity alone is not indicative of an inclusive environment.  Inclusion is an active and intentional process of reflection, change, and improvement towards creating a space where all individuals can authentically be themselves, be accepted for who they are, and feel a sense of belonging as a result.

Institutional Racism: Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes and opportunities for different groups based on racial discrimination.

Intersectionality: Coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw (1989).  A construct that recognizes the fluid diversity of identities that a person can hold such as gender, race, class, religion, professional status, marital status, socioeconomic status, etc. It holds that an individual's given experiences, privileges, and oppressions lies at the intersection of the dynamic interaction between these overlapping identities and both current and historical factors

Intersex: Any one of a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

"Isms": A way of describing any attitude, action or institutional structure that oppresses a person or group because of their target group. For example, race (racism), gender (sexism), ableism (disability), economic status (classism), older age (ageism), religion (e.g., anti-Semitism, Islamophobia), sexual orientation (heterosexism), language/immigrant status (xenophobia), etc.

LGBTQIA+: An inclusive term for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.

Marginalization: A process of social exclusion in which individuals or groups are relegated to the fringes of a society, being denied economic, political, and/or symbolic power and pushed towards being ‘outsiders.’ See also marginality.

Microaggression: The verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs, insults or actions, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon discriminatory belief systems.

Multicultural Competency: A process of embracing diversity and learning about people from other cultural backgrounds. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is respect for the ways that others live in and organize the world and an openness to learn from them.

Nepotism: The hiring or promoting of family members to positions without proper regard to their qualifications.

Non-Binary:  A transgender person who does not fully identify either male or female category.

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.

Pansexual: Fluid in sexual identity and is attracted to others regardless of their sexual identity or gender.

Patriarchy: Actions and beliefs that prioritizes masculinity. Patriarchy is practiced systemically in the ways and methods through which power is distributed in society (jobs and positions of power given to men in government, policy, criminal justice, etc.) while also influencing how we interact with one another interpersonally (gender expectations, sexual dynamics, space-taking, etc.).

People of Color: a collective term for people of Asian/Pacific islander, African, Latinx and Native American/Indigenous backgrounds as opposed to the collective "White, Non-White".  

Prejudice:  A preconceived judgement or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment and can be rooted in stereotypes, that denies the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized.

Privilege: Exclusive access or access to material and immaterial resources based on the membership to a dominant social group.

Queer: An umbrella term that can refer to anyone who transgresses society's view of gender or sexuality.  The definitional indeterminacy of the word Queer and its elasticity, is one of its characteristics: A zone of possibilities." Reclaimed by younger generations as an identity and less as a slur against LGBTQIA+ individuals.

Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly race), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time.

Racial Identity: A socially constructed category about a group of people based on generalized physical features such as skin color, hair type, shape of eyes, physique, etc.

Racism: the systemic subordination of members of marginalized racial groups who have relatively little social power by members of a dominate racial group.  This subordination is supported by the action of individuals, cultural norms and values, and institutional structures and practices of society.

Romantic Orientation: describes an individual’s pattern of romantic attraction based on a person’s gender regardless of one’s sexual orientation. For individuals that do experience sexual attraction, their sexual orientation and romantic orientation are often in alignment (i.e. they experience sexual attraction toward individuals of the same gender(s) as the individuals they are interested in forming romantic relationships with). Romantic orientation and sexual orientation do not have to be in alignment and can vary based off of how people identify.

Safe Space: Refers to an environment in which everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule, or denial of experience.

Sexist: discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group based on their assigned birth sex.

Sexual Assault: Unwanted sexual assault is any actual or attempted non-consensual sexual activity including, but not limited to: sexual intercourse, or sexual touching, committed with coercion, threat, or intimidation (actual or implied) with or without physical force; exhibitionism; or sexual language of a threatening nature by a person(s) known or unknown to the victim. Forcible touching, a form of sexual assault, is defined as intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly touching the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person or for gratifying sexual desires.

Sexual Identity: A personal characteristic based on the sex of people one tends to be emotionally, physically, and sexually attracted to.

Sexual Orientation: describes to whom a person is sexually attracted to. Some people are attracted to people of a particular gender; others are attracted to people of more than one gender. Some are not attracted to anyone.  Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same.  Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual or any other sexual orientation.

Social Identity: 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 recognizes or accepts governing everyday behavior.

Social Justice: constitutes a form of activism, based on principles of equity and inclusion that encompasses 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.

Socioeconomic Status: The status one holds in society based on one’s level of income, wealth, education, and familial background.

Stalking: Repetitive, menacing pursuit, following, harassment, and/or interference with the peace and/or safety of a member of the community. Stalking includes the use of any electronic means.

Stereotype: Blanket beliefs and expectations about members of certain groups that present an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.  They go beyond necessary and useful categorizations and generalizations in that they are typically negative, are based on little information and do not recognize individualism and personal agency.

Structural Inequity: systemic disadvantage(s) of one social group compared to other groups, rooted and perpetuated through discriminatory practices (conscious or unconscious) that are reinforced through institutions, ideologies, representations, policies/laws and practices.  When this kind of inequality is related to racial/ethnic discrimination, it is referred to as systemic or structural racism.

System of Oppression: conscious and unconscious, non-random and organized harassment, discrimination, exploitation, discrimination, prejudice and other forms of unequal treatment that impact different groups. Sometimes is used to refer to systemic racism.

Tokenism: performative presence without meaningful participation. For example, a superficial invitation for the participation of members of a certain socially oppressed group, who are expected to speak for the whole group instead of providing a real opportunity to have this person speak for themselves.

Tolerance: Acceptance and open-mindedness to different practices, attitudes, and culture; does not necessarily mean agreement with the differences.

Transgender: An umbrella term referring to those whose gender identity or gender expression is different from that associated with their sex assigned at birth.

Transphobia: A dislike or fear of transgender, transsexual, and other gender non­conforming individuals because of their perceived gender identity or gender expression.

Universal Access to Education: is the ability of all people to have equal opportunity in education, regardless of their social class, gender, ethnicity background or physical and mental disabilities.

White Supremacy: a power system structured and maintained by people who classify themselves as White, whether consciously or subconsciously determined; and who feel superior to those of other racial/ethnic identities.

Xenophobic: Fear of, or hostility directed toward people from other countries.

Additional Information

Genderqueer FAQ

Gender and Sexuality: 

National Center for Transgender Equality

Talking About Race - Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Understanding Non-Binary People How to be Respectful and Supportive


2023 Kidder Lecture Panelist Resources - "Classroom Conversations: LGBTQIA+ Inclusivity"

New UNH Library Resources

Racial Justice Resources  (UNH Library website) - This site is an evolving process, much like the work it highlights, and will continue to be a space you can return to for resources on racial justice/anti-racism. Some of the materials, including E-Books, are accessible through your UNH ID.

  1. Ethnic Newswatch -  resource of full-text newspapers, magazines, and journals of the ethnic and minority press, providing researchers access to essential, often overlooked perspectives. The database now also contains Ethnic NewsWatch: A History, which provides historical coverage of Native American, African American, and Hispanic American periodicals from 1959-1989. Together these resources present an unmatched, comprehensive, full-text collection of more than 2.5 million articles from over 340 publications. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the resource is the inclusion of unique community publications not found in any other database, as well as top scholarly journals on ethnicities and ethnic studies. Current title list attached.
  2. PBS Video Collection - collection of more than 1,200 (and growing) streaming videos provides an exceptional range of content with the most valuable video documentaries and series from PBS.