How to Speak Justice:

A Guide to Inclusive Language

Social justice vocabulary of the 21st century is nuanced, dynamic and evolving. This glossary was researched and curated by members of Dancers Amplified with the purpose of creating a shared understanding of terms that define our world and shape our mission. If there is terminology that you believe better fits or empowers your community, please email us at

Sources are cited throughout and available for reference here




Prejudiced thoughts, attitudes and/or discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental and/or emotional ability. Ableism may take the form of improper treatment of people with disabilities, denial of access, or rejection of disabled applicants for housing and jobs. It may also be referred to as disability discrimination, ablecentrism or disability oppression. Diversity Style Guide


The extent to which a space is readily approachable and usable by people with disabilities. A space can be described as a physical or literal space, such as a facility, website, conference room, office, or bathroom, or a figurative space, such as a conversation or activity. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy


In the context of racial equity work, accountability refers to the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions, and acknowledge the values and groups to which they are responsible. To be accountable, one must be visible, with a transparent agenda and process. Invisibility defies examination; it is, in fact, employed in order to avoid detection and examination. Accountability demands commitment. It might be defined as “what kicks in when convenience runs out.” Accountability requires some sense of urgency and becoming a true stakeholder in the outcome. Accountability can be externally imposed (legal or organizational requirements), or internally applied (moral, relational, faith-based, or recognized as some combination of the two) on a continuum from the institutional and organizational level to the individual level. From a relational point of view, accountability is not always doing it right. Sometimes it’s really about what happens after it’s done wrong. Racial Equity Tools Glossary


Stereotyping and prejudice against individuals or groups because of their age. The term was coined in 1969 by gerontologist Robert N. Butler, M.D., founder, president and CEO of the International Longevity Center at Columbia University, to describe discrimination against seniors and patterned on sexism and racism. Diversity Style Guide


Members of dominant social identity groups privileged by birth or acquisition who knowingly or unknowingly exploit and reap unfair advantage over members of target groups. 


A person who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways. Allies commit to reducing their own complicity or collusion in oppression of those groups and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression. Diversity Style Guide


Described by Ibram X. Kendi, is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism — and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. Anti-racism is defined as the work of actively opposing discrimination based on race by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach, which is set up to counter an individual’s racist behaviors and impact. Time's Up Foundation


A prejudice against people of Jewish heritage. It has inspired the Holocaust, physical abuse, slander, economic and social discrimination, vandalism and other crimes. Religious anti-Semitism is based on the idea that all Jews are eternally and collectively responsible for killing Jesus (known as deicide). It has been formally renounced by most major churches, led by the Catholic Church. Although Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, they do not make the anti-Semitic claim against Jews because they do not believe that Jesus was crucified. Economic and political anti-Semitism is rooted in widespread 19th- and 20th-century claims that Jews were engaged in a plot to rule the world. Diversity Style Guide




An acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color. The term is meant to unite all people of color while acknowledging that Black and Indigenous people face different and often more severe forms of racial oppression and cultural erasure as consequences of systemic white supremacy and colonialism. BIPOC first came into use in the early 2010s but it became more prevalent in May 2020 during the protest movement against police brutality and institutional racism sparked by the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Diversity Style Guide

Body Dysmorphia:

Body Dysmorpohia, occasionally still called dysmorphophobia, is a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one's own body part or appearance is severely flawed and therefore warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix it.[1] In BDD's delusional variant, the flaw is imagined.[2] If the flaw is actual, its importance is severely exaggerated.[2] Either way, thoughts about it are pervasive and intrusive, and may occupy several hours a day, causing severe distress and impairing one’s otherwise normal activities. Wikipedia




(pronounced sis-gender): A term used to refer to an individual whose gender identity aligns with the one associated with the sex assigned to them at birth. The prefix cis- comes from the Latin word for “on the same side as.” People who are both cisgender and heterosexual are sometimes referred to as cishet (pronounced “cis-het”) individuals. PFLAG National Glossary of Terms

Color-Blind Racial Ideology:

The belief that people should be regarded and treated as equally as possible, without regard to race or ethnicity. While a color-blind racial ideology may seem to be a pathway to achieve equity, in reality it invalidates the importance of peoples’ culture; ignores the manifestations of racist policies which preserves the ongoing processes that maintain racial and ethnic stratification in social institutions. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy


Colorism occurs when someone with lighter skin is favored over someone with darker skin. Colorism occurs within all races, as all have varieties of skin tone and hair color. Although no longer common, the “brown paper bag test” was an example of this among African Americans. With that test, some lighter-skinned or “high yellow” African Americans would exclude people if their skin was darker than a brown paper bag. Diversity Style Guide

Cultural Appropriation:

Cultural appropriation is the adoption or the theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behaviour from one culture or subculture by another. It generally is applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture. This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities or the meanings behind these activities, often converting culturally significant artefacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different than they would originally have had. It is important to acknowledge that there is a lot of grey area surrounding cultural appropriation resulting in the conflation of issues, i.e. indigenous peoples of turtle island willingly sharing their cultural heritage. The Anti-Oppression Network

Cultural Competence:

The ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures. Grounded in the respect and appreciation of cultural differences, cultural competence is demonstrated in the attitudes, behaviors, practices, and policies of people, organizations, and systems. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy A person’s ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. Cultural competence comprises four components: (a) Awareness of one's own cultural worldview; (b) Attitude towards cultural differences; (c) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews; and (d) cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to better understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures. The 519's Equity Glossary of Terms




Decolonization may be defined as the active resistance against colonial powers, and a shifting of power towards political, economic, educational, cultural, psychic independence and power that originate from a colonized nation’s own indigenous culture. This process occurs politically and also applies to personal and societal psychic, cultural, political, agricultural, and educational deconstruction of colonial oppression. Racial Equity Tools Glossary


A mental or physical condition that restricts an individual's ability to engage in one or more major life activities (e.g., seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, communicating, sensing, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, working or caring for oneself). Anti-Defamation League Disability Glossary


There are many kinds of diversity, based on race, gender, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, class, age, country of origin, education, marital status, parental status, religion and physical or cognitive abilities. Diversity can also mean differences in geographies, thought, experiences, etc. Valuing diversity means recognizing differences among people, acknowledging that these differences are a valued asset, and striving for diverse representation as a critical step toward equity. Diversity Style Guide




Elitism is the belief or notion that individuals who form an elite—a select group of people perceived as having an intrinsic quality, high intellect, wealth, special skills, or experience—are more likely to be constructive to society as a whole, and therefore deserve influence or authority greater than that of others. Wikipedia


The effort to provide different levels of support based on an individual’s or group’s needs in order to achieve fairness in outcomes. Working to achieve equity acknowledges unequal starting places and the need to correct the imbalance. See Racial Equity; see Justice. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy

Eurocentrism: (also Eurocentricity or Western-centrism)[1]

is a worldview that is centered on Western civilization or a biased view that favors it over non-Western civilizations. The exact scope of Eurocentrism varies from the entire Western world to just the continent of Europe or even more narrowly, to Western Europe (especially during the Cold War). When the term is applied historically, it may be used in reference to an apologetic stance towards European colonialism and other forms of imperialism.[2] Full definition: Wikipedia




Gender Expansive:

An umbrella term sometimes used to describe people who expand notions of gender expression and identity beyond perceived or expected societal gender norms. Some gender-expansive individuals identify as a mix of genders, some identify more binarily as a man or a woman, and some identify as no gender (see agender). Gender-expansive people might feel that they exist among genders, as on a spectrum, or beyond the notion of the man/woman binary paradigm. Sometimes gender-expansive people use gender-neutral pronouns (see Pronouns), but people can exist as any gender while using any pronouns. They may or may not be comfortable with their bodies as they are, regardless of how they express their gender. PFLAG National Glossary of Terms

Gender Expression:

The manner in which a person communicates about gender to others through external means such as clothing, appearance, or mannerisms. This communication may be conscious or subconscious and may or may not reflect their 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. All people have gender expressions. PFLAG National Glossary of Terms

Gender Identity:

A person’s deeply held core sense of self in relation to gender (see Gender). Gender identity does not always correspond to biological sex. People become aware of their gender identity at many different stages of life, from as early as 18 months and into adulthood. According to Gender Spectrum, one study showed that “...the average age of self-realization for the child that they were transgender or non-binary was 7.9 years old, but the average age when they disclosed their understanding of their gender was 15.5 years old.” Gender identity is a separate concept from sexuality (see Sexual Orientation) and gender expression (see Gender Expression). PFLAG National Glossary of Terms

Gender pronoun:

The term one uses to identify themselves in place of their name (i.e. ze/ hir/hirs, ey/em/eirs, they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his, etc.). The use of the specific gender pronoun identified by each individual should be respected and should not be regarded as optional. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy




A system that produces social and physical barriers based on one’s sexual orientation, specifically individuals who are questioning, lesbian, non-labeling, bisexual, asexual, queer, pansexual, gay, or identify in any other way that is not heterosexual/straight. Heterosexism depends on the binary of straight and gay, making invisible the vast spectrum and fluidity of sexual orientation. It also enforces, and is enforced by, the gender binary. The Anti-Oppression Network


The assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that heterosexuality is superior to all other sexualities. This includes the often implicitly held idea that heterosexuality is the norm and that other sexualities are “different” or “abnormal.” PFLAG National Glossary of Terms



Implicit Bias:

Attitudes that unconsciously affect [people's] decisions and actions. People often think of bias as intentional, i.e. someone wanted to say something racist. However, brain science has shown that people are often unaware of their bias, and the concept of implicit bias helps describe a lot of contemporary racist acts that may not be overt or intentional. Implicit bias is just as harmful, so it is important to talk about race explicitly and to take steps to address it. Institutions are composed of individuals whose biases are replicated and then produce systemic inequities. It is possible to interrupt implicit bias by adding steps to decision-making processes that thoughtfully consider and address racial impacts. Diversity Style Guide


A state of belonging, when persons of different backgrounds and identi- ties are valued, integrated, and welcomed equitably as decision-makers and collaborators. Inclusion involves people being given the opportunity to grow and feel/know they belong. Diversity efforts alone do not create inclusive environments. Inclusion involves a sense of coming as you are and being accepted, rather than feeling the need to assimilate. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy


Intersectionality, as coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, is a framework for understanding how different aspects of a person’s social and political identities (e.g., gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, physical appearance, etc.) combine to create unique modes of discrimination and privilege. Intersectionality identifies advantages and disadvantages that are felt by people due to this combination of factors. Time's Up Foundation







Lateral Violence:

Lateral violence is a form of bullying, and can often be called horizontal violence, which has been defined as “organized, harmful behaviors that we do to each other collectively as part of an oppressed group, within our families, within our organizations and within our communities.” [American Institute on Domestic Violence]. Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women  


An acronym that collectively refers to individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, sometimes stated as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) or, historically, GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender). The addition of the Q for queer is a more recently preferred version of the acronym as cultural opinions of the term queer focus increasingly on its positive, reclaimed definition (see Queer). The Q can also stand for questioning, referring to those who are still exploring their own sexuality and/or gender. [In recent years initials have been added to represent Intersex, Asexual, Pansexual, Polyamorous. LGBTQIA and LGBTQQIA, sometimes with a * at the end, are increasingly being used to represent the community.] PFLAG National Glossary of Terms


A state of being grounded in one’s evolving identity, free movement, free from bias, imposed expectations, control, and violence towards one’s place in the world, including the policing of it. Liberation is an ongoing process and practice of self-governance, accountability, responsibility, and transparency with oneself and within one’s community. It requires ongoing acknowledgement of oppression in all its forms and on all levels of society, reparations, meaningful reconciliation directed by those targeted by oppression, and transformational changes on personal, positional, institutional and systemic levels of society. The Anti-Oppression Network




The process that occurs when members of a dominant group relegate a particular group to the edge of society by not allowing them an active voice, identity, or place for the purpose of maintaining power. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy


Commonplace verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate or imply hostile or derogatory racial slights and insults toward people of color (e.g. asking a per- son of color “How did you get your job?” to imply they are not qualified). Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy




The range of differences in individual brain function and behavioral traits regarded as part of normal variation in the human population.This includes conditions such as Autism, Dyslexia, ADHD, and Dyspraxia which are recognized and appreciated as a social category on par with ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or disability status. Neurodiversity: Meaning & Types


Refers to people who do not subscribe to the gender binary. They might exist between or beyond the man-woman binary. Some use the term exclusively, while others may use it interchangeably with terms like genderqueer (see Genderqueer), genderfluid (see Genderfluid), gender nonconforming (see Gender Nonconforming), gender diverse, or gender expansive. It can also be combined with other descriptors e.g. nonbinary woman or transmasc nonbinary. Language is imperfect, so it’s important to trust and respect the words that nonbinary people use to describe their genders and experiences. Nonbinary people may understand their identity as falling under the transgender umbrella, and may thus be transgender as well. Sometimes abbreviated as NB or Enby, the term NB has historically been used to mean non-Black, so those referring to non-binary people should avoid using NB. PFLAG National Glossary of Terms





The manifestation and institutionalization of men and/or masculinity as dominant over women and/or femininity in both the private and public spheres, such as the home, political, religious, and social institutions, sports, etc. Patriarchy is deeply connected with cissexism and hetero- sexism through the perpetuation and enforcement of the gender binary. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy


Unfair advantages given to some people, but not others, based on their identity or position in society. People are not always aware of the privileges they have until they learn that someone else does not have that same privilege. Examples include: cissexual privilege, heterosexual privilege, male privilege, white privilege. The 519's Equity Glossary of Terms





Restorative Justice:

Restorative Justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime and conflict. It places decisions in the hands of those who have been most affected by wrongdoing, and gives equal concern to the victim, the offender, and the surrounding community. Restorative responses are meant to repair harm, heal broken relationships, and address the underlying reasons for the offense. Restorative Justice emphasizes individual and collective accountability. Crime and conflict generate opportunities to build community and increase grassroots power when restorative practices are employed. Racial Equity Tools Glossary




A system that produces social and physical barriers based on gender, specifically for girls and women. Sexism historically conflates one’s sex (our genitalia, anatomy, chromosomes, hormones, and reproductive organs) with our gender (our gender expression and gender identity) and depends on the gender binary of women and men. This binary also erases intersex and trans girls and women. Anti-Oppression Network: Terminologies of Oppression


A system of oppression that produces social and physical barriers based on the size of one’s body, specifically weight, height, or both. Different cultures have internalized attitudes towards certain sizes, and depending on where one is in the world, someone may be considered especially tall, short, or fat. Specifically in Western culture, sizeism depends on the binary of thin and fat; “average” height and dwarf. The manifestation of these forms of oppression have been linked to eating disorders, depression and anxiety. Sizeism intersects with the medical industrial complex. Anti-Oppression Network: Terminologies of Oppression


Exaggerated or distorted beliefs about the characteristics, attributes, and behaviors of individuals and communities that categorize individuals and communities into singular, pejorative terms. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy

Structural Racism:

The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of White domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics, and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism. For example, we can see structural racism in the many institutional, cultural, and structural factors that contribute to lower life expectancy for African American and Native American men, compared to white men. These include higher exposure to environmental toxins, dangerous jobs and unhealthy housing stock, higher exposure to and more lethal consequences for reacting to violence, stress, and racism, lower rates of health care coverage, access, and quality of care, and systematic refusal by the nation to fix these things. Racial Equity Tools Glossary

Systemic Racism:

The practices that perpetuate racial disparities, uphold White suprem- acy, and serve to the detriment and harm of persons of color and keep them in negative cycles. Institutional/systemic racism also refers to policies that generate different outcomes for persons of different race. These laws, policies, and practices are not necessarily explicit in men- tioning any racial group, but work to create advantages for White per- sons and disadvantages for people of color. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy



Target Community:

Members of social identity groups who are discriminated against, marginalized, disenfranchised, oppressed, or exploited by an oppressor and an oppressor’s system of institutions without identity apart from the target group and compartmentalized in defined roles. In relation to the Dancers Amplified document this includes individuals who are iBlack, Indigenous, people of color, disabled, transgender, gender non-conforming, LGBQIA+, non-normative body types, and women.


The practice of making only a symbolic effort towards limited involvement of underrepresented groups in order to give the false appearance of inclusivity. The 519's Equity Glossary of Terms

Tone Policing:

Tone policing is an ad hominem and anti-debate tactic based on criticizing a person for expressing emotion. Tone policing detracts from the validity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself. Wikipedia

Transformative Justice:

a political framework and approach for responding to violence, harm and abuse. At its most basic, it seeks to respond to violence without creating more violence and/or engaging in harm reduction to lessen the violence. TJ can be thought of as a way of “making things right,” getting in “right relation,” or creating justice together. Transformative justice responses and interventions 1) do not rely on the state (e.g. police, prisons, the criminal legal system, I.C.E., foster care system (though some TJ responses do rely on or incorporate social services like counseling);  2) do not reinforce or perpetuate violence such as oppressive norms or vigilantism; and most importantly, 3) actively cultivate the things we know prevent violence such as healing, accountability, resilience, and safety for all involved.


Often shortened to trans, from the Latin prefix for “on a different side as.” 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, genderqueer, gender variant, gender diverse, and androgynous. See above for common acronyms and terms including female to male (or FTM), male to female (or MTF), assigned male at birth (or AMAB), assigned female at birth (or AFAB), nonbinary, and gender-expansive. Trans is often considered more inclusive than transgender because it includes transgender, transsexual, transmasc, transfem, and those who simply use the word trans. PFLAG National Glossary of Terms


Misogyny directed against trans and gender-expansive women [including self-identified femmes, and those who identify with femininity] that often manifests itself in the form of prejudice and bias. PFLAG National Glossary of Terms Trans-misogyny is steeped in the assumption that femaleness and femininity are inferior to, and exist primarily for the benefit of, maleness and masculinity. Trans-misogyny primer by Julia Serano


Animosity, hatred, or dislike of trans and gender-expansive people that often manifests itself in the form of prejudice and bias. Transphobia often stems from lack of knowledge about transgender people and the issues they face and can be alleviated with education and support (see Trans-antagonistic for those whose aversion manifests in active oppression). PFLAG does not use this term as it frequently prevents such educational dialogue. Related to biphobia (see Biphobia) and homophobia (see Homophobia). PFLAG National Glossary of Terms Transphobia is the fear, hatred, disbelief, or mistrust of people who are transgender, thought to be transgender, or whose gender expression doesn’t conform to traditional gender roles. Transphobia can prevent transgender and gender nonconforming people from living full lives free from harm. Planned Parenthood - What's Transphobia?


A term used within some American Indian (AI) and Alaska Native (AN) communities to refer to a person who identifies as having both a male and a female essence or spirit. The term, created in 1990 by a group of AI/AN activists at an annual Native LGBTQ conference, encompasses sexual, cultural, gender, and spiritual identities, and provides unifying, positive, and encouraging language that emphasizes reconnecting to tribal traditions. Non-indigenous people should not use this term. (With thanks to Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board [NPAIHB].) PFLAG National Glossary of Terms







White Supremacy:

An institutionally perpetuated and ever-evolving system of exploitation and domination that consolidates and maintains power and resources among white people. This system promotes the ideology of whiteness as the standard and the belief that white people are superior to other races. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy The idea that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to people of color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. While most people associate white supremacy with extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, white supremacy is ever present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group —while casting people and communities of color as worthless, immoral, bad, inhuman, and undeserving. Time's Up Foundation




Any attitude, behavior, practice, or policy that explicitly or implicitly reflects the belief that immigrants are inferior to the dominant group of people. Xenophobia is reflected in interpersonal, institutional, and sys- temic levels oppression and is a function of White supremacy. Key Equity Terms and Concepts: A Glossary for Shared Understanding from the Centre for the Study of Social Policy