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Glossary of terms

Discover key term and definitions relating to EDI and familiarise yourself with them.

Key terms


Equality means making sure everyone has equal opportunity. It is making sure people are not treated differently or discriminated against because of their protected characteristics (race, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age, marriage and civil partnership, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity).


Equity is not the same as equality. Equality is ensuring everyone has the same opportunities, whereas equity is about giving people what they need, to make things fair and ensure that everyone has the same opportunities. Equity acknowledges that not everyone will start from the same place and aims to ensure equality of outcomes.


Diversity is recognising, and valuing differences in people. A diverse environment, combined with inclusive leadership, is one with a wide range of backgrounds and mindsets, which helps create an empowered culture of creativity and innovation.


Inclusion is a sense of belonging, where individuals feel valued and able to thrive in their environment, no matter their background, identity or circumstance, to bring out the best in everyone regardless of who they are and where they are from.

Protected characteristics

The nine protected characteristics are a set of characteristics listed under the Equality Act 2010 in the UK. It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of a protected characteristic. To find out more about protected characteristics, see the University's guide.


Microaggressions are the everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of colour, women, people from LGBTQ+ communities or those who are marginalized, experience in their day-to-day interactions with people. We discuss this further in the sections below.

Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias is when we make judgments or decisions on the basis of our prior experiences, our own personal deep-seated thought patterns, assumptions or interpretations, and we are not aware that we are doing it. It can also be called implicit bias. Deepen your understanding of unconscious bias, by downloading and completing the University's unconscious bias training.

Systematic bias

Systematic bias, also called institutional bias, is the tendency of a process to support particular outcomes.

Psychological Safety

Psychological safety at work is an atmosphere where people are free to speak up with a concern or question without fear of reprisal. People feel safe to share information with their colleagues when they have psychological safety.


A stereotype is a widely held but fixed view of a particular type of person.


Oppression is the social act of placing severe restrictions on an individual group or institution through unjust exercise of power or authority. Some examples of systems of oppression include sexism, ableism, classism and ageism.


We define a researcher as someone who does research. This can be a student or academic colleague but could equally be a Professional Services colleague working in roles enabling research.


When we refer to ‘embedding EDI’, this means that equality, diversity and inclusion would be fixed as a part of our behaviour and practices on a daily basis. For example, when making decisions we would naturally think about the EDI implications due to our awareness and understanding of its fundamentals.

Terms around gender and gender affirmation


A person who does not identify with or experience any gender.


Used to identify a person whose gender identity encompasses two genders, (often man and woman, but not exclusively), or is moving between two genders. More commonly used terms include ‘gender fluid’ or ‘genderqueer’.

Cisgender or cis

Someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.


A cisgender person who sometimes wears clothes usually associated with the opposite sex, as a form of self-expression.


Often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth.


A person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.

Gender dysphoria

Describes a person experiencing discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. This is also the clinical diagnosis for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender expression

How a person chooses to outwardly express their gender, within the context of societal expectations of gender. A person who does not conform to societal expectations of gender may not, however, identify as trans.

Gender fluid

A person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender.

Gender identity

A person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.

Gender reassignment/affirmation

Another way of describing a person’s transition. To undergo gender affirmation usually means to undergo some sort of medical intervention, but it can also mean changing names, pronouns, dressing differently and living in their self-identified gender.


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. People outside the medical community tend to avoid this term because it suggests that these identities are abnormal.


Describes a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female. Intersex people may identify as male, female or non- binary.


A person who has a neutral gender identity or who lacks a specific gender identity.


An umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t sit comfortably with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Non-binary identities are varied and can include people who identify with some aspects of binary identities, while others reject them entirely.


Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation - for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people may prefer others to refer to them in gender neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir.


Queer is a term used by those wanting to reject specific labels of romantic orientation, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can also be a way of rejecting the perceived norms of the LGBT community (racism, sizeism, ableism, etc). Although some LGBT people view the word as a slur, it was reclaimed in the late 80s by the queer community who have embraced it.


Assigned to a person based on primary sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions. Sometimes the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are interchanged to mean ‘male’ or ‘female’.

Third gender

A person who identifies as a gender other than male or female, or as neither male nor female.


An umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth.

Trans feminine

A person who is assigned male at birth, who is closer to femininity than masculinity, but is not a binary woman.

Trans man

A person who was assigned female at birth, but whose gender identity is male.

Trans masculine

A person who is assigned female at birth, who is closer to masculinity than femininity, but is not a binary man.

Trans woman

A person who was assigned male at birth, but whose gender identity is female.


This was used in the past as a medical term to refer to someone whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth.


The fear or dislike of someone based on the fact they are trans, including denying their gender identity or refusing to accept it.

Terms around sexual orientation


Asexual identity or orientation includes individuals who don’t experience sexual attraction to others of any gender.


A romantic orientation that describes people who experiences little or no romantic attraction, regardless of sex or gender.


This refers to people who are questioning or exploring bisexuality, which typically includes curiosity about one’s romantic or sexual attraction to people of the same or different genders.


Bisexuality describes those who experience sexual, romantic or emotional attractions to people of more than one gender. The term is also often referred to as “bi”.


This is also referred to as “in the closet”, and describes people in the LGBTQ+ community who don’t publicly or openly share their sexual identity, sexual attraction, sexual behaviour, gender expression or gender identity. Closeted is often understood as the opposite of “out” and refers to the metaphorical hidden or private place a LGBTQ+ person comes from in the process of making decisions about disclosing gender and sexuality.

Coming out

This refers to the process of being open about one’s sexuality and gender. For many people of the LGBTQ+ community, “coming out” is not a one-time event. It can be a process, with a series of conversations.


This term refers to the fact that sexuality, sexual attraction and sexual behaviour can change over time and be dependent on the situation. It describes those who experience shifts in their sexuality, sexual attraction or sexual behaviour throughout their lifetime or in different situations.


A term used to describe individuals who experience sexual, romantic or emotional attraction to people of the same or similar gender. Some gay-identified women prefer the term ‘lesbian’, while others prefer “queer” or “gay”.


A term that describes people who experience sexual, romantic or emotional attraction to people of the “opposite” gender (e.g. male vs. female, man vs. woman) or a different gender. Both cisgender and transgender identified people can be heterosexual.


This is an outdated term which should be avoided. It is rooted in the fields of medicine and psychology, and refers to people who experience sexual, romantic and emotional attraction to people of the same or similar gender.


A woman who experiences sexual, romantic or emotional attraction to people of the same or similar gender. Some women who are lesbians may also refer to themselves as gay or queer, while others prefer the label ‘lesbian’.


This is an acronym that describes individuals who don’t identify as exclusively heterosexual or exclusively cisgender. The acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning. The + symbolises the many other sexual orientations and gender identities that are part of the LGBTQ+ community.


A term that describes an individual who can experience sexual, romantic, or emotional attraction to any person, regardless of that person’s gender, sex or sexuality.


An umbrella term that describes individuals who aren’t exclusively heterosexual. The term ‘queer’ acknowledges that sexuality is a spectrum as opposed to categories. This term once had negative and derogatory connotations, but has now been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community as a way to refer to themselves and others within the community. However, some may still find the term offensive and have negative connotations. It is best to use this term sensitively and respectfully.


In the context of sexual orientation refers to the process of being curious about or exploring some aspects of sexuality or gender.

Romantic attraction

Describes the experience of having an emotional response that results in the desire for a romantic, but not necessarily sexual, relationship or interaction with another person or oneself. Some people experience romantic attraction but don’t experience sexual attraction.

Sexual Orientation or sexuality

Sexual orientation or sexuality is an aspect of self that involves how you identify, the way you experience sexual or romantic desire (if you do), the gender(s) or sex(es) of the people who someone engages in sexual or romantic activity with and the gender(s) or sex(es) of the people someone is attracted to (if any).


Also known as heterosexual. Straight describes people who experience sexual, romantic, or emotional attractional to individuals of the “opposite” gender (e.g. male vs female, man vs woman). People who identify as cisgender or transgender can be straight.

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