Diversity and Inclusion

Glossary of Terms

Language defines us at the same time we use it to define. Cultural and historical context shape the evolution of language such that words can convey different meaning across geographic boundaries. As we continue to grapple with identity, what it means to be a particular identity in a certain space and time, we acknowledge that language can be imprecise. We share the terms and definitions below from that perspective, acknowledging that we are always learning, always engaged in conversation and research about identity.

With this in mind, please understand terms are ever-evolving. Contact OIDI at OIDI@uncw.edu if you find any outdated terms or suggest terms that we should add to the list.  

African American: an American of African and especially of black African descent.  

Afro-Latino, Afro-Latina, or Afro-Latinx: descendants of Latin America with African roots 

American Indian: a member of any of the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere. General reference for those in the U.S. when referring to two or more people of different tribal affiliations. 

Asian American:  an American of Asian descent. 

Black : an inclusive race term meant to describe all ethnic groups whose geographic origin begin on the continent of Africa.  As such Afro-British, Fulani, Igbo, Ashanti, African Americans, Gullah Geechee, Afro-CaribbeansAfro-Brazilians would be racially categorized as Black.  

Chicano, Chicana, or Chicanx: an American of Mexican origin or descent.  

Hispanic: Someone who is a native of, or descends from, a Spanish-speaking country.  

Indigenous : Refers to original inhabitants of a place.  

Latino/Latina: Someone who is native of, or descends from, a Latin American country.  

Latinx: A gender-neutral term to refer to a Latino/Latina person.  

 

LGBTQIA+ Common Terms 

*Terminology and other resources can be found on the Mohin-Scholz LGBTQIA Resource Office Faculty and Staff Resource webpage 

Allyship: The action of working to end oppression through support of, and as an advocate with and for, a group other than one’s own. Definition: https://lgbtqia.ucdavis.edu/educated/glossary 

Gaytekeeping: A kind of gatekeeping specifically found within the LGBTQ+ community (this could relate to either gender or sexual orientation). Definition: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Gaytekeeping 

Gender Expression: Aspects of behavior and outward presentation that may (intentionally or unintentionally) communicate gender to others in a given culture or society, including clothing, body language, hairstyles, voice, socialization, relationships, career choices, interests, and presence in gendered spaces (restrooms, places of worship, etc.). 

Gender Identity: An individual’s internal view of their gender. Their own innermost sense of themselves as a gendered being and/or as masculine, feminine, androgynous, etc. This will often influence name and pronoun preference. 

Gender transition: The process through which a person modifies his or her physical characteristics and/or gender expression to be consistent with his or her gender identity. Gender transition may, but does not necessarily, include hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgeries and/or other medical or surgical components. The process may also include telling one’s family, friends and/or co-workers, and changing one’s name and/or gender on legal documents. As each person’s transition is unique to that individual’s needs, there is no defined set of steps which add up to a “complete” transition. (VA Anti-Violence Project; AVP.org) 

GRSM: an acronym that stands for Gender, Romantic, and Sexual Minorities. It's an alternative acronym to LGBTQ+. Some people like it because it's all-encompassing, short, and avoids the term Queer, which some still consider a slur. Definition: https://www.queerundefined.com/search/grsm 

Non-binary:  Refers to individuals who identify as neither man or woman, both man and woman, or a combination of man or woman. It is an identity term which some use exclusively, while others may use it interchangeably with terms like genderqueer, gender creative, gender nonconforming, gender diverse, or gender expansive. Individuals who identify as nonbinary may understand the identity as falling under the transgender umbrella and may thus identify as transgender. Sometimes abbreviated as NB or Enby. Definition: https://pflag.org/glossary 

Pansexual: Refers to a person whose emotional, romantic, and/or physical attraction is to people inclusive of all genders and biological sexes. People who are pansexual need not have had any sexual experience; it is the attraction and self-identification that determines the orientation. Definition: https://pflag.org/glossary 

Passing: Describes a person’s ability to be accepted as their preferred gender/sex or race/ethnic identity or to be seen as heterosexual. Definition: https://colleges.claremont.edu/qrc/education/lgbtq-glossary/ 

Polyamory: Refers to having honest, usually non-possessive, relationships with multiple partners and can include: open relationships, polyfidelity (which involves multiple romantic relationships with sexual contact restricted to those), and sub relationships (which denote distinguishing between a ‘primary” relationship or relationships and various “secondary” relationships). Definition: https://colleges.claremont.edu/qrc/education/lgbtq-glossary/ 

Queer: A political and sometimes controversial term that some LGBT people have reclaimed, while others still consider it derogatory. Used most frequently by younger LGBT people, activists, and academics, the term can refer either to gender identity, sexual orientation, or both and can be used by people of any gender. 

Safe Space: a place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations. Definition: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/safe%20space 

Sexual Orientation: The culturally defined set of meanings through which people describe their sexual attractions. Sexual orientation is not static and can shift over time 

 Transgender Common Terms 

Transgender: For the purposes of this paper, transgender or trans refers to an individual whose gender identity does not match the one they were assigned at birth (Halberstam, 2018). This includes transgender men (assigned female at birth), transgender women (assigned male at birth), and nonbinary individuals who identify outside the gender binary and who may also use terms like genderqueer, agender, or gender nonconforming. Scholars and activists treat transgender as an “umbrella term” because it contains great internal variation while also providing an opportunity to mobilize around shared experience (Nicolazzo, 2016; Serano, 2013). Many also utilize subcategories like “binary” (to refer to trans men and trans women) and “nonbinary” to signal potential differences, although for some people, these categories overlap (i.e., identifying as a nonbinary trans woman) (Siegel 2018). 

Non-binary: relating to or being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male nor entirely female. Definition: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nonbinary 

Deadname: the name that a transgender person was given at birth and no longer uses upon transitioning. Definition: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deadname 

AFAB: Acronym meaning Assigned Female at Birth. AFAB people may or may not identify as female some or all of the time. Definition: https://pflag.org/glossary 

AMAB: Acronym meaning Assigned Male at Birth. AMAB people may or may not identify as male some or all of the time. Definition: https://pflag.org/glossary 

Cisgender: This term is used to identify nontrans* people. The prefix cis means “on this side” and is used to describe people who do not experience dissonance between their assigned sex at birth and its corresponding socially ascribed gender. However, Jourian (2015b) and Enke (2012) both cautioned against reifying a cis/trans* binary, as this oversimplified categorization misses the complexity of how gender maps across bodies, spaces, and times. Jourian’s and Enke’s insights are indeed reflected throughout this book, as multiple participants in the study (e.g., Adem, Micah, Raegan) often resisted easy gender categorizations that could be understood through the false cis/trans* binary. 

Gender: This term describes the social discourse regarding how people identify, express, and embody the socially ascribed norms relating to their assigned sex at birth. Gender operates as a floating signifier for the ways individuals practice, do, or otherwise live in relation to these social norms. Precisely because of its ethereal status, gender has the ability to change and continues to change across time and context. Such (potential for) change, however, defies current social conceptualizations of the term in Western thought, which mark it as a naturalized, immutable fact that is always already tethered to one’s assigned sex at birth. 

Gender binary: This is the false assumption that there are only two natural, immutable, and opposed genders (i.e., man and woman) that correspond with only two supposedly natural, immutable, and opposed sexes (i.e., male and female). 

Gender identity: This relates to one’s internal understanding of hir own gender. Quite literally, this term describes how one identifies one’s gender, independent of how the individual expresses or embodies said identification. Similar to the discourse of gender, a person’s identity may shift across time and space. However, these shifts do not mean one’s gender expression is any less real or meaningful. 

Genderqueer: This term denotes how some people intentionally queer, or destabilize, their gender identity, expression, or embodiment. This term is similar to gender-fuck, but it could be understood to be less political, radical, or overt in orientation. In other words, where genderfuck is an attempt to radically shift public perceptions of gender, genderqueer is a more individual attempt to identify, express, or embody a positionality that is consonant with an individual’s desires. 

Passing: This refers to the ability to be socially (mis)read as having a particular gender identity. Although some trans* people see passing as positive, it can also be a burden, or what trans* people feel they must do because of the threat or reality of violence. Passing can also be a positionality that is ascribed by others to an individual (e.g., “You pass as …”). Again, this has potentially positive and negative effects for trans* people, as the politics of passing are not easily discernable. 

Sex assigned at birth This term describes the social discourse regarding how people are assigned to one of two supposedly natural, immutable sexes (i.e., male or female). Although some individuals are born as intersex, there is still intense pressure from medical practitioners to operate on intersex babies to modify their sex assignations so they align within the binary of male/female. This, then, has the effect of reifying the fallacious assumption of sex as a binary discourse. 

Trans* This term refers to those who transgress the socially constructed discourse of how we identify, express, and embody our genders. The asterisk is borrowed from the symbol used for computer search functions that allow people to search for a certain prefix (e.g., trans-), resulting in a list of complete words using that prefix (Tompkins, 2014). In this sense, the asterisk is used to signal the expansiveness and constantly expanding communities of trans* people. There has been some debate about the use of the asterisk in trans* communities, however, and while it is out of the scope of this glossary to discuss these complexities, it should be noted that not all trans* people prefer it, use it, or agree with its use. Trans* feminine This term denotes trans* people who identify, express, or embody feminine-of-center positionalities. 

Trans* feminine people may or may not move toward biomedically transitioning to a trans* woman. 

Transition: A term sometimes used to refer to the process—social, legal, and/or medical—one goes through to discover and/or affirm one’s gender identity. This may, but does not always, include taking hormones; having surgeries; 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. The validity of an individual’s gender identity does not depend on any social, legal, and/or medical transition; the self-identification itself is what validates the gender identity. Definition: https://pflag.org/glossary 

Trans* man This term applies to trans* people who desire or are in the process of socially or biomedically transitioning (e.g., taking hormones, seeking gender confirmation surgeries). Not all people who identify as trans* men can or do transition. I have used the term in this book in relation to Kade, the study participant who identified as a trans* man, to illustrate this definition. It is also a reflection of how he named his own identity. Trans* masculine This refers to trans* people who identify, express, or embody masculine-of-center positionalities. 

Trans* masculine people may or may not move toward biomedically transitioning to being a trans* man. Also similar to a transman but not identifying explicitly as male and male only. Often a genderqueer person who is transitioning to be more masculine but not necessarily ftm. Can also be simply an umbrella term for any person transitioning to be more masculine (with binders, testosterone, packing, or other common forms of transitioning to a more masculine character). Definition: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=transmasculine 

Trans* oppression This refers to a system of oppression that places at a disadvantage “people whose gender identity or expression do [sic] not conform to binary cultural norms and expectations” (Catalano & Griffin, 2016, p. 183). Using this term as an organizing principle for understanding the social asymmetry of gender enforcement and regulation requires that trans* people and their needs are acknowledged and centered in discussions. I have used this term throughout this book rather than using the term genderism, which operates as a critique of gender without necessarily centering on trans* people and our needs. 

Trans-sexual: A less frequently used—and sometimes misunderstood—term (considered by some to be outdated or possibly offensive, and others to be uniquely applicable to them) which 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 a combination of the two) 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. Definition: https://pflag.org/glossary 

Trans* woman This applies to trans* people who desire or are in the process of socially or biomedically transitioning (e.g., taking hormones, seeking gender confirmation surgeries). Not all people who identify as trans* women can or do transition. I use the term in this book in relation to Megan and BC, who identified as trans* women, to illustrate this definition. It also illustrates how they named their own identities.  

(Nicolazzo, 2017).  

 

Disabiliy Common Terms 

Recent guidance in disability related language has stressed a change in ownership for the word disability as an identity. Traditionally, person first language was advised in referring to a person with a disability (I am a woman and a college student who is blind). This distances the language from the disability and from the negative stereotypes and stigma associated with the disability. There are still some disabled individual who associate and prefer person first language. Many in the disability community are moving away from person first language to identity first language. The purpose of identity first language is to challenge the negative stereotypes, systems, environments and other structures that create barriers, or inaccessibility to a wide variety of individuals who present with physical, neurological and other differences. In utilizing identify first language for the example above disability would come first (I am a blind woman who is a college student).  

The social justice model of disability which embraces disability as a lived experience and places the focus on removing barriers, as opposed to focusing on an individual’s impairment has embraced the concept of identity first language. It is very important that we always allow the individual to decide their own language choices, but for those individuals embracing the social justice model the following resources offer support and guidance. One very valuable resource is National Center on Disability and Journalism Disability Language Style https://ncdj.org/style-guide/ . Please see additional resources listed below: