Social Justice Terms

The following terminology is commonly used in conversations regarding social justice, diversity,  equity and allyship. It is meant to be a starting point for engaging in open and honest conversation by offering a shared language of understanding. Please note, this list is not exhaustive and the meaning of these words may change and evolve based on context. If there is a term that you feel should be included here, please let us know.


A system of oppression that includes discrimination and social prejudice against people with intellectual, emotional, and physical disabilities, their exclusion, and the valuing of people and groups that do not have disabilities.


An ally who directly challenges institutionalized homophobia, transphobia and other forms of oppression, by blocking or impeding oppressive people, policies and structures. Accomplices fight with oppressed peoples, and their actions are coordinated by those who are oppressed.


A system of oppression that works against the young and the old and values individuals of a particular age range.


A person who is a member of an advantaged social group who takes a stand against oppression, works to eliminate oppressive attitudes and beliefs in themselves and their communities, and works to interrogate and understand their privilege.

Anti-Semitism/Anti- Jewish Oppression

The systematic discrimination against and oppression of Jewish people, Judaism, and Jewish culture and traditions.


An identity term for people who either do not feel sexual attraction or do not feel desire for a sexual partner or partners. Some asexual individuals may still have romantic attractions.


The irrational hatred or fear of people who identify as bisexual, pansexual, or fluid.


An identity term for people who are attracted to people of two genders, usually to both men and women. Bi* is used as an inclusive abbreviation for the bi, pan, and fluid community.

Birth Assigned Sex

The designation that refers to a person’s biological, morphological, hormonal, and genetic composition. One’s sex is typically assigned at birth and classified as either male or female.


Individuals whose gender identity and expression line up with their birth-assigned sex.


A system of oppression that values cisgender people, upholds the gender binary, and marginalizes, oppresses, and makes invisible the lives and experiences of transgender people.


A system of oppression that includes institutional, cultural, societal, and individual beliefs and practices that assign value to people based in their socio-economic class. Here, members of more privileged socio-economic classes are seen as having a greater value.


Thinking and acting in ways that support dominant systems of power, privilege, and oppression. 

Coming Out

The process by which LGBTQ2SIA+ individuals recognize, accept, appreciate, and often celebrate their sexual orientation, sexuality, or gender identity/expression. Coming out varies from individual to individual, and across culture and community.

Cultural Appropriation

A term used to describe the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non‐Western or non‐white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.

Cultural Competence

The ability to effectively and empathetically work and engage with people of different cultural identities and backgrounds in order to provide safe and accountable spaces for dialogue and discourse; cultural competence is relevant in all fields of work, education, and informal social interactions.


A person discriminates when they make a distinction, (whether intentional or not), based on a characteristic, or perceived characteristic that:
·         has the effect of imposing burdens, obligations or disadvantages on an individual or a class of individuals not imposed upon others
·         withholds or limits access to opportunities, benefits and advantages available to other individuals or classes of individuals in society.


A learned skill that allows one to recognize and deeply listen to another’s story or experiences, and connect them to common understandings and emotions; differs from sympathy.


Judging another culture solely based on the standards and values of one’s own culture. Also, a belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own nation or ethnic group.


Equality means everyone is given the same resources, in an effort to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help.


Equity means that everyone is given the resources that they need to succeed. Equity often appears unfair, but it actively moves everyone closer to success by “leveling the playing field.”


Is romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behavior between members of the same sex or gender. Commonly an identity term specifically used for a male-identified person who is attracted to other male-identified people.


a socially constructed range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity.

Gender Binary

A social construction of gender in which there are two distinct and opposite genders: male/masculine/men and female/feminine/women.

Gender Expression

A person’s presentation of their gender. These outward expressions of gender can be intentional or unintentional and involve one’s mannerisms, clothing, hair, speech, clothing, and activities (and more!).

Gender Identity

A person’s innate sense of their own gender. This may include identities on either end of the gender binary, somewhere in-between or outside the gender binary.

Genderqueer/ also termed Gender Non Binary

An identity term for a person who may not identify with and/or express themselves within the gender binary.  

Gender Non Conforming

Gender variance, or gender nonconformity, is behavior or gender expression by an individual that does not match masculine and feminine gender norms. People who exhibit gender variance may refer to themselves as gender variant, gender non-conforming, gender diverse, or genderqueer, and may be transgender or otherwise variant in their gender identity.

Gender Pronoun

Gender pronouns (like their, hers, he) are words that specifically refer to people that you are talking about. Some individuals may use pronouns that line up with their birth-assigned sex. While others will use pronouns that best suit their gender identity.  

Gender Neutral or Gender Inclusive Pronoun

Is a pronoun which does not associate a gender with the individual who is being discussed. Examples of these include, They/Their/Them, Ze/Zie/Hir/Hirs, Ve/Ver/Vis 

Hate Group

organizations which:
·         spread lies intended to incite hatred and / or advocate violence against certain groups on the basis of sexual orientation, race, colour, religion etc.
·         claim that their identity (racial, religious etc.) is 'superior' to that of other people
·         do not value the human rights of other people.


A system of oppression where individual, societal, cultural, and institutional beliefs and practices favor heterosexuality and assume that heterosexuality is the only ‘natural’, ‘normal’, or acceptable sexual orientation. This creates an imbalance in power, which leads to systemic, institutional, pervasive, and routine mistreatment of LGBTQ2SIA+.  


An identity term for a female-identified person who is attracted to male-identified people or a male-identified person who is attracted to female-identified people.


The fear, hatred, and intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as gay or lesbian.

Internalized Oppression

A learned fear and self-hatred of one’s own identity or identity group based on the acceptance of oppressive stereotypes, attitudes, and beliefs about their identity group.


The idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole identity. These identities that can intersect include gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age, mental disability, physical disability, mental illness, and physical illness as well as other forms of identity. These aspects of identity are not mutually exclusive.  Each element or trait of a person is inseparably linked with all of the other elements.

Note: Human Right and Equity Services acknowledges the concept of intersectional discrimination/harassment and recognizes that people’s lives involve multiple interrelated identities, and that marginalization and exclusion may exist because of how these identities intersect.


A general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. (As defined by the Intersex Society of North America.)


The irrational fear or hatred of Islam, Muslims, Islamic traditions and practices, and, more broadly, those who ‘appear’ to be Muslim.


An identity term for a female-identified person who is attracted to other female-identified people.


A term used to describe systems, relations, or behaviors which disadvantage groups or individuals through formal institutions or informal attitudes and behaviors. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures. 


An identity term for a person who is attracted to people of all genders: men, women, transgender individuals, and genderqueers.


The capacity to direct or influence behaviour of others; the ability to act in a particular way. The ability of an individual or group to achieve their own goals or aims.


A pre-judgment or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members. Such negative attitudes are typically based on unsupported generalizations (or stereotypes) that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics. 


A systemic set of benefits granted to a dominant identity group (i.e. white privilege, straight privilege, Christian privilege, cis-gender privilege), such as greater access to power, resources, government, language, land etc.


An advantage granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.


A term for individuals whose gender identity/expression and/or sexual orientation does not conform to societal norms. This reclaimed term is increasingly being used as an inclusive umbrella term for the LGBTQ2SIA+ community.


A system of oppression based on an individuals or groups actual or perceived racial identity.

Racial Profiling

Racial profiling is a form of stereotyping based on preconceived ideas about a person’s character. 

Religious Oppression

A system of oppression based on an individuals or groups religious beliefs and practices.


A system of oppression based on attitudes and beliefs (commonly related to traditional stereotypes of gender roles) that privileges men, subordinates women, and devalues practices associated with women.

Sexual Orientation

A person’s sexual identity in relation to the gender to which they are attracted.  

Social Justice

The equal distribution of resources and opportunities, in which outside factors that categorize people are irrelevant. 


A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.


An identity terms for a person whose gender identity does not align with the gender they were assigned at birth.


A system of oppression based on the fear and hatred of individuals who are transgender.


A system of oppression based on the fear, hatred or mistrust of that which is foreign, especially strangers or people from different countries or cultures.