Inclusive Language Guide

Words are powerful. Throughout history, words have shown their ability to shape language that influences worldviews, define policy, inspire, educate, communicate belongingness, and more.

At UNC Charlotte, we recognize the importance of language and its impact on our culture and climate. From everyday terminology and pronouns to colloquialisms or other descriptors, learning and using respectful and identity-affirming language serves as a cornerstone of our commitment to inclusive excellence among students, faculty, staff and surrounding communities.

In continuation of these efforts, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion introduces the UNC Charlotte Inclusive Language Guide. The UNC Charlotte Inclusive Language Guide is our approach to creating shared language. The more we understand language, descriptors and their meanings, the more intentional we can be in choosing words that include rather than exclude; acknowledge, accept and honor differences; and are considerate and welcoming to the growing diversity of our communities.

Language changes over time and the guide will be updated periodically to reflect our ever-evolving culture. In the spirit of education, words that are now outdated, offensive or slurs will not be removed; instead they will be marked with an asterisk (*) so that you can make informed decisions about the language you use. 

As you review this resource, we hope that you will find it helpful when referencing minoritized and marginalized identities, populations and communities in communications such as annual reports, course syllabi, lectures, presentations, speeches, press releases and more. If you would like to contribute to this guide, please contact with your contribution and cited reference. 

It is important to note that race and ethnicity are not the same. According to the American Sociological Association, “race” refers to physical differences that groups and cultures consider socially significant, while “ethnicity” refers to shared culture, such as language, ancestry, practices and beliefs. Socially and culturally, race and ethnicity are integral threads of a larger tapestry.

Race is understood by most people as a mixture of physical, behavioral and cultural attributes. The idea of "race" originated from anthropologists and philosophers in the 18th century, who used geographical location and phenotypic traits like skin color to place people into different racial groupings.

That not only formed the notion that there are separate racial "types" but also fueled the idea that these differences had a biological basis. That flawed principle laid the groundwork for the belief that some races were superior to others — creating global power imbalances that benefited white Europeans over other groups (Bryce, 2020).

Terms and Definitions

  • AAPI: Asian American and Pacific Islander
  • AMERICAN INDIAN, ALASKA NATIVE AND HAWAIIAN NATIVE: The most inclusive and accurate terms to use to refer to those who inhabited land that became the United States (or, previously, territories) are American Indian, Alaska Native and Hawaiian Native. American Indian, Alaska Native and Hawaiian Native cultural identification is place based, diverse and sociocultural. Always ask someone how they prefer to be identified.The person may prefer that you refer to them by their tribally specific nation. If a tribal name is used, ask for a phonetic spelling of the name.
  • API: Asian and Pacific Islander
  • APIDA: Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American
  • ASIAN: Asian includes "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand and Vietnam." Asian as a category is something that developed over time and is based on immigrants the United States prohibited from entering the country, starting with Chinese immigrants in 1882, and continuing with additional Asian countries, until 1917 when Congress created the Asiatic Barred Zone, which extended from the Middle East to Southeast Asia.
  • BLACK/AFRICAN AMERICAN: "An American of African and especially of Black African descent" (Merriam-Webster).  There was a time when being Black in America meant you were most likely descended from one or more enslaved Africans who had survived the trans-Atlantic slave trade. However, as the number of African and Caribbean blacks immigrating to the United States has increased, so have the chances that someone who identifies as Black or African American is a first- or second-generation immigrant.    Not all Black persons are African American, and not all African Americans are black. Be precise when using these terms as they are not necessarily interchangeable. For example:
    • ​African-American is hyphenated when it is used as a compound adjective: The Black Student Union held an event to educate the community on African-American holiday traditions.
    • African American is not hyphenated when African is an adjective modifying American: As a proud African American, Tanya was excited to participate in San Antonio’s Martin Luther King Jr. March.
    • When an individual or group uses Black to identify their race or ethnicity, Black should be capitalized. This holds especially true when a group from multiple countries of origin — such as a group of African-Americans and Black Africans together: The Kente ceremony celebrated honor, community, and connections for Black Tigers.
    • When describing an object or referencing the color, not in reference to race or ethnicity, black should be lowercase.
  • ​DESI AMERICAN: “Desi” as a noun or adjective has become the typical way for people of South Asian ancestry to identify members of their diaspora. The word comes from Hindi, with roots in ancient Sanskrit. It originally referred to someone or something native to a certain country, or “desh." Anyone with heritage from the subcontinent — India, Pakistan or Bangladesh — can identify as a desi and partake in desi culture.
  • DOMINANT V. SUBORDINATE: Refers to a group considered dominant (systematically advantaged by the society because of group membership) and a group considered subordinate or targeted (systematically disadvantaged). Dominant groups, by definition, set the parameters within which the subordinates operate. The dominant group holds power and authority in society relative to the subordinates and determines how that power and authority may be acceptably used. Being born another race/color, woman, and homosexual can be labeled as subordinate identities because they are not as widely accepted as their counterparts.
  • EAST ASIAN: Ethno-cultural term referring to the peoples, cultures, nations, languages, and histories of the eastern portion of the continent Asia. Countries include: China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
  • ETHNICITY: Ethnicity recognizes differences between people mostly on the basis of language and shared culture. "A sense of common ancestry based on cultural attachments, past linguistic heritage, religious affiliations, claimed kinship or some physical traits."
  • ETHNICITY V. RACE: Race is a social construct that is not universal, so it is important not to impose racial labels on ethnic groups. Be sure that the racial and ethnic categories you use are as clear and specific as possible. For example, instead of categorizing participants as Asian American or Hispanic American, use more specific labels that identify a person’s nation or region of origin, such as Japanese American or Cuban American. Use commonly accepted designations (e.g., census categories) while being sensitive to participants’ preferred designation. Examples of ethnicity include Indian, Jewish or Asian, regardless of race. So a female born to Japanese parents in Atlanta might consider herself as racially Asian, but as ethnically Japanese, American, Japanese American or just American (Cornell and Hartman, 2020).
  • HISPANIC: The term Hispanic, which centers on language, refers to Spanish speakers. Specifically, Hispanic refers to anyone from Spain or Spanish-speaking parts of Latin America. Yet not everyone from Latin American countries speaks Spanish. For example, Brazil’s primary languages are Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese.  Furthermore, the term promotes Spanish heritage, something many oppose because of Spain’s violent colonization of certain countries and their erasure of Afro Latinos and Indigenous people. Grace Flores-Hughes is the government official and Latina policymaker credited with coining the term.
  • LATINO: Latino refers to people from the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries of Latin America, but it does not include those from Spain or Portugal. This word, however, typically doesn’t make room for people from Latin America whose countries were not colonized by Spain or Portugal, leaving out Belizeans and Haitians.
  • LATINX: Relating to people of Latin American origin or descent and used as a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina, Latinx purports to solve a problem of implied gender. Among many people of Latin American descent, there exists little to no concern about bias encoded in gendered word endings. However, the existence of a gender-neutral term is important to some, particularly younger generations, women, and LGBTQ+ people of Latin American origin or descent. There is also push back against the term Latinx itself, which is difficult to use in Spanish. As a result, the term Latine is growing in popularity.
  • MARGINALIZE: To relegate a person to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group, to the metaphorical margins of society is to marginalize. Marginalized acknowledges that social identities are either centered or othered in a society and is used to replace stigmatizing language such as ‘minority.’ Example: We are protesting laws and policies that marginalize women.
  • MINORITIZED: Minoritized groups in any society are often defined as “minorities" by a dominant group that is numerically larger than the minoritized ethnic group. Minoritized groups often prefer not to be labeled as a "minority" because of the suggestion that they are somehow subordinate to the larger dominant group. Therefore, the preferred term is minoritized group. By making the word an adjective, it highlights the social oppression that minoritized individuals experience. Other relevant uses: Marginalized, Marginal
  • PERSON OF COLOR, PEOPLE OF COLOR, STUDENTS OF COLOR: A person or people of color can identify with any race or ethnicity, and their identity can be respected through this term. Be sure to consider all communities of color through multiracial perspectives. Use “people of color” in place of “minorities” where appropriate. Do not use the term “colored person/people.” “People of color” is a term primarily used in the United States and Canada to describe any person who is not white. It does not solely refer to African Americans; rather, it encompasses all non white groups and emphasizes the common experiences of systemic racism. In the late 20th century, the term “person of color” was adopted as a preferable replacement to “non-white.” Unfortunately, the contrast pits all people who have a “color” against people who do not have a color or who are white. It is important to recognize that while “people of color” reaffirms non-whiteness, many people don’t like the term because they feel “it lumps all of us together.”​ Common Acronyms:
    • BIPOC: Acronym meaning black, indigenous, people of color. The other two letters, for Black and Indigenous, were included in the acronym to account for the erasure of black people with darker skin and Native American people. Some pushback to the term is that it groups many separate identities into one group. What we need here is guidance about using it (to avoid inadvertently offending audiences).
    • POC: Acronym meaning people or person of color.
  • SOUTHWEST ASIAN/NORTH AFRICAN (SWANA): SWANA will eliminate the need for the “Middle Eastern” and “North African” subcategories, which were previously listed under the parent category of “White/Caucasian” and thus not tracked by universities (Yoder, 2013). Roughly 3 million people of Southwest Asian, Middle Eastern or North African descent live in the United States, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data (Parvini, 2018).
  • WHITE: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East or North Africa. Per the AP Style Guide, white should always appear in lower case. “Some have expressed the belief that if we don’t capitalize white, we are being inconsistent and discriminating against white (sic) people or, conversely, that we are implying that white is the default." However, not all organizations side with the AP Style Guide. The American Psychological Association Style Guide recommends capitalizing both White and Black, but it advises against using other “colors to refer to other human groups; doing so is considered pejorative.” Other noted exceptions include The Washington Post, Fox News, D MagazineThe Conscious Style Guide.
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, attributes and opportunities that any society considers appropriate for individuals on a spectrum of feminine and masculine. Gender does not exist only in binary terms like boy and girl or man and woman. There are many ways that someone can identify as it relates to gender. See Gender Expansive for more information. Sexuality, or sexual orientation, refers to the attraction a person feels, while sexual identity is how a person labels or defines their sexuality.

Terms and Definitions

  • AGENDER: A person who identifies as having no gender.
  • ALLY: People who don’t identify as LGBTQ+ but who support LGBTQ+ equality and challenge homophobia, either publicly or privately.
  • ASEXUAL: A person who identifies as asexual does not experience any form of sexual attraction towards others. People who identify as asexual may or may not experience emotional, physical or romantic attraction.  Asexuality differs from celibacy in that it is a sexual orientation, not a choice.
  • BIOLOGICAL SEX: Refers to anatomical, physiological, genetic or physical attributes that determine if a person is male, female or intersex. These include both primary and secondary sex characteristics, including genitalia, gonads, hormone levels, hormone receptors, chromosomes and genes.  Often also referred to as "sex," "physical sex," "anatomical sex," or specifically as "sex assigned at birth." The term biological sex is often conflated or interchanged with gender, which is more social than biological and involves personal identity factors as well.
  • BIPHOBIA: The fear of, discrimination against or hatred of bisexuals, pansexuals and omnisexuals. Biphobia can be seen within the LGBTQ+ community, as well as in general society and often presents as a belief that bisexuals are more likely to cheat on their partner or are secretly heterosexual, gay or a lesbian.
  • BISEXUAL: A person who experiences sexual, romantic, physical and/or spiritual attraction to more than one gender, not necessarily equally or at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree. Also known as “bi.”
  • CISGENDER: When someone’s biological sex is in alignment with their socially constructed gender, that person is identified as cisgender. Sometimes shortened to cis, this refers to an individual whose gender identity aligns with the one associated with the sex assigned at birth.
  • CISNORMATIVITY: The assumption that everyone is cisgender and that cisgender people’s identities are more normal, valid and worthy of respect than transgender people’s identities.
  • CLOSET: This term is used as slang for the state of not publicizing one’s sexual identity, keeping it private, living an outwardly heterosexual or cisgender life while identifying as LGBTQ+ in some way, or not being forthcoming about one’s identity.
  • COMING OUT: The ongoing process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates their sexual identity or gender identity and begins to share that with others.
  • CROSSDRESSING: Crossdressing refers to the act of occasionally wearing clothes traditionally and culturally associated with people of a different gender. Crossdressing is a form of gender expression, is not necessarily tied to erotic activity and is not indicative of sexual orientation.
  • DEAD NAME: Often the birth or legal name of a transgender person that is no longer used after their transition. Deadnaming is the act of using a trans person’s dead name without their permission. 
  • DRAG: The performance of one or more genders theatrically by dressing in the clothing of another gender or in a manner different from how one usually dresses. Drag often presents a stereotyped image.
  • GAY: A man who has significant emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions primarily to other men. At times, the word is used to refer to all people, regardless of sex or gender, who are not heterosexual. Lesbians and bisexuals may feel excluded from this term.
  • GENDER DYSPHORIA: Clinically significant distress caused when a person’s assigned gender does not match their gender identity. The term can also refer to an individual’s desire to change or alter primary and/or secondary sex characteristics to match their gender identity.
  • GENDER DIVERSE: A broad term to include any non-normative gender identities and expressions.
  • GENDER EXPANSIVE: An umbrella term sometimes used to describe people that expand notions of gender expression and identity beyond what is perceived as the expected gender norms for their society or context. Some gender-expansive individuals identify as a man or a woman, some identify as neither and others identify as a mix of both. Gender-expansive people feel that they exist psychologically between genders, as on a spectrum, or beyond the notion of the man/woman binary paradigm and sometimes prefer using gender-neutral pronouns. They may or may not be comfortable with their bodies as they are, regardless of how they express their gender.
  • GENDER EXPRESSION: The external display of one’s gender, through a combination of clothing, grooming, demeanor, social behavior and other factors, is generally made sense of on scales of masculinity and femininity. It is also referred to as gender presentation. This communication may be conscious or subconscious and may or may not reflect an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation. While most people’s understandings of gender expressions relate to masculinity and femininity, there are countless combinations that may incorporate both masculine and feminine expressions — or neither — through androgynous expressions. An individual’s gender expression does not automatically imply one’s gender identity.
  • GENDER FLUID: A person whose gender identity varies regularly within a self-identified spectrum of genders and expression.
  • GENDER IDENTITY: Gender identity is the internal perception of one’s gender and how they label themselves. Often it is conflated with biological sex or sex assigned at birth.
  • GENDER NON-CONFORMING: A person who either by nature or by choice does 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.
  • GENDER PRONOUNS: A personal gender pronoun, or PGP — sometimes called proper gender pronoun — is the pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual personally uses and would like others to use when talking to or about that individual. In English, the singular pronouns that we use most frequently are gendered, so some individuals may prefer that you use gender-neutral or gender-inclusive pronouns when talking to or about them. In English, individuals use they and their as gender-neutral singular pronouns. Avoid using the term preferred gender pronoun, which implies that their use is optional. See Pronoun FAQ more information.
  • GENDERQUEER: A wide range of identities including people who simply identify as non-gender normative, neither male nor female, masculine nor feminine. People who transgress gender. Also known as gender non-conforming or gender variant.
  • GENDER VARIANT: A term, often used by the medical community, to describe individuals who dress, behave or express themselves in a way that does not conform to dominant gender norms. (See gender expansive).  People outside the medical community tend to avoid this term because it suggests these identities are abnormal, preferring terms such as gender expansive and gender creative. 
  • HETERONORMATIVITY: An, often subconscious, assumption in individuals or in institutions that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexual orientations. Heteronormativity leads to other sexualities being stigmatized or made invisible. Often included in this concept is the assumption that individuals should identify as men and women; they should be masculine and feminine, respectively; and that men and women are a complementary pair.
  • HETEROSEXISM: Similar to heteronormativity, it is a system of oppression rooted in the assumption that heterosexuality is inherently normal and superior to any other sexuality and in the presumption that everyone is heterosexual. 
  • HETEROSEXUAL: Primary or exclusive sexual, emotional and/or romantic attraction to a gender other than one’s own. Typically heterosexual refers to a woman who is primarily attracted to men and vice versa. Also referred to as "straight."
  • HOMOPHOBIA: Homphobia is the fear, hatred or dislike of people who do not identify as heterosexual. Homophobic reactions often lead to intolerance, bigotry and violence against anyone not acting within heterosexual norms. As most LGBTQ+ people are raised in the same society as heterosexuals, they learn the same beliefs, norms and stereotypes prevalent in the dominant society, leading to a phenomenon known as "internalized homophobia."
  • HOMOSEXUAL*: An outdated term that describes a primary or exclusive sexual, emotional and/or romantic attraction to one’s own gender.
  • INTERSEX: Individuals born with any combination of primary and secondary sex characteristics that do not conform to established ideas of male and female biological sex.
  • LESBIAN: Women who are primarily emotionally, sexually, romantically and/or physically attracted to women. 
  • LGBTQ+: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other gender identites and sexualities. 
  • LIFESTYLE: A negative term often incorrectly used to describe the lives of people who are LGBTQ+. Some dislike this term because it implies that being LGBTQ+ is a choice. 
  • PANSEXUAL: A person who experiences emotional, romantic, physical and/or spiritual attraction to people of all gender identities and gender expressions.
  • PASSING: Refers to LGBTQ+ individuals who are perceived as heterosexual and/or cisgender by the people around them or society at large. It may occur on a temporary or ongoing basis and may vary depending on the situation.
  • POLYAMOROUS: One who desires, practices or accepts having more than one loving, intimate relationship at a time with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
  • PREFERRED FIRST NAME: A program at Charlotte, Know Me By My Name, that enables students to update and use a first name other than their legal first name.
  • QUEER: An umbrella term referring to people who identify as anything other than heterosexual and/or cisgender. The word has a history of being used as a slur, and some people who identify as LGBTQ+ find the word offensive and are uncomfortable with its use. Others appreciate the vagueness of the word, as it encompases all identities that exist outside of the societal norm no matter how complex, and reclaim "queer" for themselves.
  • SEXUAL IDENTITY: The way a person views and identifies their sexual orientation.
  • SEXUAL ORIENTATION: One’s emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to others.
  • TERF: An acronym meaning trans-exclusionary radical feminist, the term refers to people who purposefully exclude transgender women from discussions of and advocacy for women’s rights, invalidating trans women’s status as women.
  • TRANSGENDER: Often shortened to trans. A term describing a person’s gender identity that does not necessarily match their assigned sex at birth. Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically to match their gender identity. This word is also used as an umbrella term to describe groups of people who transcend conventional expectations of gender identity or expression. Such groups include, but are not limited to, people who identify as transsexual, nonbinary or genderqueer, gender variant, gender diverse and androgynous.
  • TRANSGENDER OR TRANSGENDERED: Terms like transgender and cisgender are adjectives, so they are not referenced with the past tense suffix -ed that is used with verbs. Therefore, the correct term is transgender. Additionally, transgendered suggests being trans is something that happens or happened to someone rather than an identity one is born with.
  • TRANSITION:  The process — social, legal, medical, personal, etc. — one goes through to change from one gender to another. This may, but does not always, include hormone therapy, surgical procedures and changing names, pronouns, identification documents and more. Many individuals choose not to or are unable to transition for a wide range of reasons both within and beyond their control.
  • TRANS MAN/WOMAN/PERSON V. TRANSMAN/TRANSWOMAN/TRANSPERSON: A trans man is someone who identifies as a man but was designated female at birth. A trans woman is someone who identifies as a woman but was designated male at birth. A trans person may refer to anyone who identifies as trans and/or someone who identifies as gender expansive but was assigned male or female at birth. Some trans people prefer to leave the word transgender or trans out altogether since they only identify as a man or woman.  Writers shouldn't use "transman" or "transwoman." The word trans is an adjective that helps describe someone's gender identity, and it should be used like other adjectives. Merging the adjective and the noun risks suggesting that a trans man or woman is more (or less) than just a man or just a woman, which goes against how many trans people identify themselves. Common Acronyms: 
    • AMAB: Assigned Male at Birth. AMAB people may or may not identify as male some or all of the time. (See Gender)
    • AFAB: Assigned Female at Birth. AFAB people may or may not identify as female some or all of the time.
    • FTM/F2M - FEMALE TO MALE: A trans male/masculine person who was assigned female at birth. Often considered an overmedicalized and somewhat outdated term.
    • MTF - MALE TO FEMALE: A trans female/trans feminine person who was assigned male at birth. Often considered an overmedicalized and somewhat outdated term.
  • TRANSPHOBIA: Transphobia is the fear, hatred or dislike of transgender or gender non-conforming people, often expressed as discrimination, hostility, harassment and violence.
  • TRANSSEXUAL: A less frequently used — and sometimes misunderstood — term that refers to people who use (or consider using) medical interventions such as hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgeries (GAS), also called sex reassignment surgery (SRS) or pursue medical interventions as part of the process of expressing their gender. Some people who identify as transsexual do not identify as transgender and vice versa. Transsexual is considered by some to be outdated or possibly offensive.

What is the key difference between transgender and transsexual? 

The word transgender refers to people who identify differently from their biological sex. For example, a transgender person who is biologically female may feel that a male identity is a better fit and use a male name instead of a female name, use male pronouns instead of female pronouns, dress as a man and/or engage in activities that are typically associated with men in that culture.

A transsexual is a person who physically transitions from male to female or vice versa. She/He/They might take hormones to suppress the characteristics of the biological gender or promote the characteristics of the desired gender.

Transsexuals may also decide to have gender reassignment surgery, in which – to the extent that is possible – the anatomical features of the biological gender are removed and the features of the desired gender are added. These definitions are not strict, however. Some feel that the word transsexual should not always refer to physical changes. Some transsexuals no longer refer to themselves as such after their transition is complete. They call themselves either men or women.

Gender identity can be as unique to an individual as their fingerprint; so assumptions should not be made about gender based on presentation or stereotypes of gender. It is important to note that the language that one uses for themselves should be used when referring to that individual in speech or writing.

Diversity, equity and inclusion at Charlotte extend to include those who are first-generation college students and those from low-income, underrepresented and underserved populations. Students from these backgrounds may find it challenging to pay for college and afford the basic needs that tuition, room and board do not provide. Some of those students may also be supporting their families by working while being part- or full-time students.

Terms and Definitions

  • FIRST-GENERATION/FIRST-GENERATION (COLLEGE) STUDENT/FIRST GENERATION: A first-generation college student is a student whose parents’ highest educational level is a high school diploma. A parent or the parents may have attended college but did not obtain a degree. First-generation is hyphenated when used as a compound adjective, as in "first-generation student." First generation is unhyphenated when "first" modifies generation or is used as a noun or object, as in: The students were the first generation to use the athletic fields for graduation.
  • PELL-ELIGIBLE: Pell-eligible students are eligible to receive or are receiving the federal Pell grant because their available financial resources or those of their families meet the low income criteria established by the U.S. government. Pell-eligible is not a substitute for low income as not all low-income students are Pell-eligible (eligibility is determined by citizenship or green card status).
  • UNDERREPRESENTED: Underrepresented students, faculty or alumni are from racial, ethnic and socioeconomic populations that have been historically and are disproportionately represented in higher education. Underrepresentation can include first-generation college students.
  • UNDERSERVED: Those who are low income and historically underrepresented can be considered underserved but should be substantiated by understanding their background. Underserved often includes a nod to minority, marginalized populations or first-generation students.
Federal legislation relevant to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Terms and Definitions

  • AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT: The ADA law, passed in 1990, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications and governmental activities. The ADA also establishes requirements for telecommunications relay services.
  • TITLE VI: Legislation passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
  • TITLE VII: Legislation passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.
  • TITLE IX: A comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.
A disability is generally defined as a condition that restricts a person’s mental, sensory or mobility functions to undertake or perform a task in the same way as a person who does not have that disability. Disabilities may be episodic or in remission, and they are not always severe.

Terms and Definitions

  • ACCOMMODATION OR REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION: Any change in the working or learning environment or the way things are done that enables a person to enjoy equal opportunity. Reasonable accommodations may be requested based on religion or disability.
  • ACCESSIBLE, ACCESSIBILITY: Locations, spaces, events and other venues are referred to as accessible when they meet criteria for use by disabled and non-disabled people alike. Accessibility may also include accounting for individuals who communicate in different languages, have hearing or vision impairments and other cognitive and learning disabilities.
  • DEAF: Some people with mild or moderate hearing loss may affiliate themselves with the Deaf community and prefer to be referred to as “deaf” instead of “hard of hearing.” Alternatively, some who are deaf and don’t have a cultural affiliation to the Deaf community may prefer the term "hard of hearing." Lowercase when referring to a hearing-loss condition or to a deaf person who prefers lowercase. Capitalize for those who identify as members of the Deaf community or when they capitalize Deaf when describing themselves. “Deaf” should be used as an adjective, not as a noun; it describes a person with profound or complete hearing loss. Other acceptable phrases include “woman who is deaf” or “boy who is hard of hearing.”
  • DISABLED: As an adjective, disabled may refer to a person or persons whose disability is central to the story being told (a disabled person). Disabled should never be used as a noun or without people-first language. Instead, use the phrase “person/persons/people with disabilities.” When it is necessary to also reference those without a disability, “nondisabled” is acceptable. Do not use “able-bodied” or “normal.”
  • DIFFERENTLY ABLED*: This term came into vogue in the 1990s as an alternative to "disabled," "handicapped" or "mentally retarded." Currently, it is not considered appropriate (and for many, it never was). Some consider it condescending, offensive or simply a way of avoiding talking about disability. Others prefer it to "disabled" because "dis" means "not," which means that "disabled" means "not able." But particularly when it comes to referring to individuals, "differently abled" is problematic. As some advocates observe, we are all differently-abled.
  • ILL*: A disability is not an illness, therefore, the term should not be used to refer to the fact that someone has a disability. Given that any disability implies a situation of unequal opportunities, it will effectively "disappear" when the barriers to a person’s interaction with their surroundings are eliminated.
  • INTERIM MEASURES AND ACCOMMODATIONS: As described under Title IX, interim measures and accommodations are steps taken to ensure equal access to education programs and activities, and/or to stabilize a situation by providing remedies and accommodations to a reporting student and the campus community where appropriate due to either sexual violence or pregnancy or parenting student status.
  • NEURODIVERGENT: Sometimes abbreviated as ND, means having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.” Neurodivergent is a broad term. Neurodivergence (the state of being neurodivergent) can be largely or entirely genetic and innate, or it can be largely or entirely produced by brain-altering experience or a combination of the two. Autism and dyslexia are examples of innate forms of neurodivergence, while alterations in brain functioning caused by such things as trauma, long-term meditation practice or heavy usage of psychedelic drugs are examples of forms of neurodivergence produced through experience.
  • NEURODIVERSE: Neurodiversity is the diversity of human minds, the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species. Neurodiversity is not a trait that any individual possesses. Diversity is a trait possessed by a group, not an individual. When an individual diverges from the dominant societal standards of “normal” neurocognitive functioning, they don’t “have neurodiversity,” they are neurodivergent.
Nationality and legal status help to determine and protect a person’s legal rights.

Terms and Definitions

  • LEGAL STATUS: Status defined by law. Citizenship, married, single National Origin/Regional Background. Shared ethnicity from a country or certain part of the world.
  • NATIONALITY: Status of being a member or citizen of a particular country.
  • NATION(S) OF ORIGIN: Examples: United States, Nigeria, Korea, Turkey, and Argentina.
  • TRIBAL OR INDIGENOUS AFFILIATION: Examples: Catawba, Lumbee, Chickasaw, and Aboriginal
Culture in its broadest sense is cultivated behavior; that is the totality of a person's learned, accumulated experience, which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behavior through social learning. Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.

Culture is also what we do and how we behave and perform (for example, theater and dance). It informs and is encapsulated in how we walk, sit, carry our bodies and interact with others; how we behave depending on the place, time, and "audience;" and how we express identities of race, class, gender, and sexuality, among others. Culture also includes the collective practices we participate in, such as religious ceremonies, the celebration of secular holidays and attending sporting events. It is important to note that culture is not synonymous with race or ethnicity. Culture could refer to someone’s way of life, hobbies, religion, generation or interests.

Terms and Definitions

  • CODE-SWITCHING: The conscious or unconscious of switching between languages, dialects or intonations depending on to whom one is speaking, what is being discussed, and the relationship and power and/or community dynamics between those involved. BIPOC are safer in some situations if they code-switch.
  • CULTURAL APPROPRIATION: Cultural appropriation is the act of members of dominant/powerful/privileged groups claiming ownership of, or the rights to, less powerful/privileged groups' cultural and/or religious symbols, dress, and ceremonies. A non-Native person wearing a traditional Native headdress as a costume is an example of cultural appropriation.
  • GASLIGHTING: A form of psychological manipulation whereby a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment, often evoking in them cognitive dissonance and other changes, including low self-esteem.
  • MICRO-AGGRESSIONS: Verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.
  • SPOTLIGHTING: The practices of inequitably calling attention to particular social groups in a specific language while leaving others as the invisible, de facto norm: for example, "black male suspect" v. "male suspect," presumed white; "WNBA" as opposed to "NBA," presumed male.
  • TOKENISM: Refers to instances wherein a small number of minoritized individuals are included and/or recruited in order to make a group appear equitable and diverse.