Language and meaning of words are constantly changing. It’s no different in the area of diversity and inclusion when it comes to knowing which words are 'right'.
Below is a glossary of terms that allies can use. This is a high-level guide, not a definitive legal document. Check with individuals how they would like to be described, or how they would describe themselves. Avoid assuming an identity on someone else’s behalf.
Be positively curious about language and descriptors and where you are unsure always ask the person or group that you are working with, talking to or about, what their preference is. Using a phrase like, 'how would you like me to describe you?' is an inclusive approach and gives someone an opportunity to choose and to inform you.
Avoid outdated and blanket descriptions, like 'the blacks' or 'coloureds' or 'homosexuals' as they can give offence. Be prepared to be corrected and updated. Be confidently inclusive. Be an ally.
When someone has a leaning towards or against a group of people, for example someone with a preference towards people of the same ethnicity, or a prejudice against people of a different ethnicity.
Black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME)
Describes a grouping and is a commonly used phrase to cover a wide range of ethnicities.
A bisexual person is someone who is sexually and/or emotionally attracted to people of all genders.
Behaviour or treatment that has the effect of threatening, coercing, intimidating, or unduly pressurising someone. It also includes any misuse of power which leads to undermining or humiliating another person. There is no legal definition; however, it is often related to harassment.
Refers to a person whose gender identity matches the sex that they were ascribed at birth. For example, a woman that identifies as female and was assigned as female when they were born. This is opposite to transgender.
Refers to a person who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. ‘Long-term’ means has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months. This includes the following:
- Physical impairments, such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy
- Sensory impairments such as a hearing or visual impairment
- Severe facial disfigurement
- Progressive conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or HIV infection
- People who have had an impairment in the past but have since recovered, such as cancer, or mental health issues
Organisations of disabled people make a distinction between the medical condition, which is usually referred to as an impairment, and being disabled by physical, sensory and attitudinal barriers, which result in discrimination. This is called the social model. Generally, the social model is the recognised approach.
In the context of diversity and inclusion, this is the unfair or unjust treatment of people based on their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancies and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Emotionally and/or sexually attracted to people of the same sex. The term gay is most commonly applied to men. The term usually applied to women who are attracted to other women is lesbian.
Is a way of describing people without ascribing a particular gender – using pronouns such as ‘they’, ‘it’, or ‘ze’.
Means unwanted behaviour related to disability, gender reassignment, race or gender that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
A more 'official' term for people who are sexually and/or emotionally attracted to members of the same sex, describing sexual identity. It is not commonly used by lesbian or gay people to describe themselves.
The terms lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and + to mean all other forms of sexual and gender identity (LGBT+) are often categorised together. However, they represent two distinct categories of people. The terms lesbian, gay and bisexual represent peoples’ sexual identity. The term transgender refers to gender identity.
An individual's emotional and psychological well-being.
Gathering data about everyone’s ‘protected characteristics’ to check if groups of people are fairly represented and being treated equally. For example, monitoring the representation of women or disabled people in the workforce or at senior levels within organisations to identify trends in recruitment or promotion.
Describes any gender that does not fit into the gender binary male or female. People may identify as being on a spectrum between male and female, or may identify as having no gender.
A range of lawful actions that seek to overcome or minimise disadvantages that people who share a protected characteristic have experienced, or to meet their different needs, for instance in employment opportunities.
Treating someone’s protected characteristic more favourably to counteract the effects of past discrimination. It is generally not lawful, although the duty to make reasonable adjustments is an exception where treating a disabled person more favourably may be required by law.
These are the grounds upon which discrimination is unlawful. The characteristics are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Refers to the protected characteristic of race, and to a group of people defined by their race, colour, nationality, including citizenship or their ethnic or national origins.
When a disabled person is at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with people who are not disabled, there is a duty to take reasonable steps to remove that disadvantage by (i) changing provisions, criteria or practices, (ii) altering, removing or providing a reasonable alternative means of avoiding physical features and (iii) providing auxiliary aids.
Religion or belief
Includes all religions and lack of religion, in other words individuals are protected if they do not follow a certain religion or have no religion at all. Additionally, a religion must have a clear structure and belief system. Belief means any religious or philosophical belief or a lack of such belief. To be protected, a belief must satisfy various criteria, including that it is a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
Describes whether a person's sexual attraction is towards their own sex, the opposite sex or to both sexes.
Making assumptions about an individual or group based on a particular attribute.
A person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. This may be a woman who has transitioned or is transitioning to be a man, or a man who has transitioned or is transitioning to be a woman. The law does not require a person to undergo a medical procedure to be recognised as a transgender.