You may have seen or heard terms about equality and diversity which you don’t understand or would like to know more about.

This document gives you more information about what racism, sexism, disability discrimination, homophobia, transphobia and intersex discrimination are. Scroll through to read short descriptions of words you may come across in your work.

Many of the terms used in this tool have detailed academic definitions and theory associated with them. The explanations we have used are intended for everyday use in you party. If you are interested, much more detail can be found in various academic texts online.


The concept that a process, place or activity should be physically or procedurally accessible to people with a range of physical, mental or sensory requirements that need to be met in order for them to have optimally equal access. The goal is that everyone should be able to make similar choices about using the service or venue (or as close to this as possible). This may involve making alterations or adaptions, having these available to be applied at short or zero notice, or in the best case to have designed/built accessibility in by design from the start.

Access requirements

A specific set of access arrangements, which may be physical (e.g. level or ramped access), sensory (sight guide, good colour contrast, BSL interpreter) or mental (available quiet room, regular breaks during an event, limited noise levels, being provided information in advance) that an individual may need in order to be fully included and/or have equal choice to participate.


A discriminatory or prejudiced action related to someone’s actual or perceived bisexual orientation.


A word describing a person who is emotionally, romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of more than one gender or regardless of gender.


Black and Minority Ethnic or Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic is the terminology normally used in the UK to describe people of non-white descent. BME or BAME is the acronym of this term.


A person who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth. Cisgender is the word for anyone who is not transgender.

Come out

To tell others that you are LGBTI.

Cross dressing person

A person who occasionally wears clothing and/or makeup and accessories that are not traditionally associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Deaf, deaf, hard of hearing

The terms “Deaf” (capitalised, sometimes referred to as “Big D Deaf” for clarity) and “deaf” (“small d”) are used with specific meaning, in that the Deaf community is generally defined as those who are profoundly or severely deaf and generally use Sign Language as their first or primary language. This tends to include mainly (but not exclusively) those whose hearing was absent at birth or lost at a very young age. The Deaf community often define this as a cultural grouping, rather than defining it in terms of the concepts of “disability” or “impairment” and they therefore often prefer not to use the term “disabled people” for themselves.

The term “deaf” (“small d”) is used more broadly to refer to individuals whose hearing is severely or profoundly lost, and when used specifically and distinctly from “Deaf” generally refers to those who use a spoken language as their first or primary language (and, generally, lost their hearing after early childhood). Deaf and deaf people frequently require professional grade communication support, such as interpreters, live subtitling or electronic notetakers, or in some cases a good quality and well used hearing loop or infrared system and tight use of deaf aware practice.

The term “hard of hearing” is used to describe individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss, and who generally require less substantial access arrangements such as the use of a good PA system, basic deaf awareness practice, controlled background noise and the use of handheld or worn assistive technology.

Disabled / Disability

A disabled individual experiences barriers to their optimal participation in society or particular activities and choices relating to their (generally long term) physical, mental or sensory impairment (or neurodiversity). These barriers are often a result of one or more of: a lack of inclusive practice; inaccessible design; failure to provide reasonable adjustments; or due to negative attitudes. Someone who is disabled should be referred to as “a disabled person”, while someone who is not is a “non-disabled person”. Disability is the effect experienced by the disabled person, rather than something they “have” - in a similar way that people experience rather than “have” sexism or racism. Disability is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

Disability discrimination (or “Disablism”)

This can refer to prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination and/or the use of negative attitudes towards or assumptions about disabled people, as well as a structural denial of otherwise available choices to disabled people that non-disabled people would normally have, due to a lack of inclusive design or a lack of adequate support or adjustments. A non-preferred but often also used term is “ablism”.

Ethnic minority

Used to describe people who are in the minority within the population of the UK because of their race, colour, culture, language or nationality.


Refers to the social group that a person belongs to or is perceived to belong to, as a result of a mix of cultural and other factors including language, diet, religion, ancestry and physical features traditionally associated with race.


A word describing a person who is emotionally, romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of the same gender.

Gender binary

The dominant idea in Western society that there are only two genders, that all people are one of these two genders, and that the two are opposite.

Gender expression

External characteristics and behaviours that are socially defined as either masculine or feminine such as clothing hairstyle, make-up, mannerisms, speech patterns and social interactions.

Gender identity

Refers to our internal sense of who we are, and how we see ourselves in regards to being a man, a woman, or somewhere in between/beyond these identities.

Gender reassignment

The language used in the Equality Act to refer to any part of a process of transitioning to live in a different gender (regardless of whether any hormonal or surgical changes take place).


Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men, women and intersex or non-binary people.

Gender-balancing mechanisms

Gender-balancing mechanisms refer to techniques such as quotas or all-women shortlists which attempt to redress one group’s over-representation in an institution. Quotas refer to a fixed percentage of people from a certain group (for example 50% women) and can be applied in a variety of ways.

Heterosexual person/straight person

A person who is emotionally and/or sexually attracted to people of a different gender only.


A discriminatory or prejudiced action related to someone’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.


A long-term limitation of a person’s physical, mental or sensory function.


The view that people with multiple identities face a greater number of barriers to involvement and greater discrimination in society. Intersectionality is important in understanding the complexities of discrimination and how people’s experiences of barriers can be different, even people who share the same protected characteristic.


Umbrella term used for people who are born with variations of sex characteristics, which do not always fit society’s perception of male or female bodies. Intersex is not the same as gender identity (our sense of self) or sexual orientation (who we are attracted to) but is about the physical body we are born with.


A word describing a woman who is emotionally, romantically and/or sexually attracted to other women.


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex.

Minority ethnic

A group within a community which has different national or cultural traditions from the majority of the population. This term is used by the Scottish Government in the Race Equality Framework for Scotland.


Misogyny is contempt, hatred or prejudice against women and girls. Internalised misogyny is where women display misogynistic attitudes due to structural and cultural sexism.


The concept that there exists a range or spectrum of characteristics for mental processes, thoughts, and emotions, and that some individuals exist significantly outside the range of the majority. The term “neurodiverse” is generally applied in relation to individuals who experience significantly different cognitive processes from the generally perceived norm (a similar term “neuroatypical” is sometimes used). This includes those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), including Asperger’s, other cognitive impairments, and sometimes is used to include those with certain learning difficulties such as dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, dyslexia.

Non-binary person

A person identifying as either having a gender which is in between or beyond the two categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’, as fluctuating between ‘man’ and ‘woman’ or as having no gender, either permanently or some of the time.


Patriarchy is a system in which men have unequal access to power, authority, and economic, social and cultural resources within a society.

Positive action

This refers to a range of measures allowed under the Equality Act 2010 which can be lawfully taken to encourage and train people from underrepresented groups to help them overcome disadvantages in competing with other applicants. It is not the same thing as 'positive discrimination', which is generally unlawful.


Refers to a group of people defined by their race, colour, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origins. The term ‘country of origin’ is more often used in the public sector in Scotland rather than ‘national origins’. Race is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010.


Racism refers to the belief in the superiority of a particular race over another which results in prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against people from a minority ethnic group. Racism is strongly linked to skin colour. The ideology can be embedded in structures, institutions, policies, practices, processes, beliefs, attitudes, and prejudices of a social group, which is then used to perpetuate and further this ideology. Further information about what racism is and why it exists can be found at

Rape culture

This refers to a culture or environment which enables, normalises, trivialises or encourages violence against women or sexual assault.

Reasonable adjustments

Positive actions to ensure that disabled people can fully participate in activities, events, services and at work. This may mean changing the way activities are structured, the removal of physical barriers and/or providing extra support for a disabled person. Reasonable adjustments are a legal requirement under the 2010 Equality Act.


A person who has been granted leave to stay in the UK under the Refugee Convention. An asylum seeker is someone whose application for protection to the UK Government is pending. Some of the most vulnerable groups in the UK in recent years are refugees, asylum seekers and Gypsies/Travellers. Gypsies/Travellers are recognised ethnic groups and protected by the Equality Act.


The physiological and functional attributes which are used to distinguish a person as female or male at birth.


Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of a person’s gender.


Sexism refers to the structural, individual or cultural oppression of women. It is the belief that one sex (men) is superior to another and should therefore dominate positions of influence in society.

Structural inequality

A term used to describe how certain groups of people such as disabled people, the LGBTI community, minority ethnic people and women are discriminated against in society. This discrimination is different from the negative biases or prejudiced beliefs held by an individual because it is built into the institutions of society and reinforced by unequal access to decisions, rights, opportunities and roles. Structural inequality exists even in the absence of biased individuals and positive action is needed to overcome barriers to involvement.

Toxic masculinity

Toxic masculinity refers to the standards of behaviour deemed ‘acceptable’ for men, and how these rigid gender norms are damaging to everyone. Examples include men feeling unable to engage in certain behaviours, or societal pressures to engage in misogyny.

The social model of disability

The Social Model views the barriers to disabled people’s participation in society as the cause of their “disability” and not their impairments.The way that society is organised results in people with impairments facing discrimination, barriers to participation, choices and control over the own lives. These barriers can be:

  • Attitudinal: This is expressed in fear, ignorance and low expectations of disabled people’s capabilities.
  • Environmental: This results in physical inaccessibility affecting all aspects of life (shops, public buildings, workplaces, transport, etc.); and
  • Institutional: This means intentional and unintentional discrimination within the structures of society such as the law. Disabled people may be excluded from having certain rights (e.g. by not being allowed to marry or to have children), or from mainstream schools, etc.

Trans man

A person who was assigned female at birth but has a male gender identity and therefore transitions to live fully as a man.

Trans woman

A person who was assigned male at birth but has a female gender identity and therefore transitions to live fully as a woman.


Equivalent inclusive umbrella terms for anyone whose gender identity or gender expression does not fully correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.


Discriminatory or prejudiced actions or ideas related to someone’s actual or perceived gender identity or gender expression.


Someone who intends to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone a process of gender reassignment from male to female (trans women) or from female to male (trans man).

Violence against women

Physical, sexual or psychological violence committed in the home, in the community, or in institutions by men. It can include harassment and bullying, sexual exploitation, and so-called ‘honour-based violence’. It is both a cause and consequence of women's inequality.

White privilege

This term describes the advantages which automatically apply to a person because they are white, in a society which is designed around the view of a white majority ethnic group. Whiteness is one of a number of factors which can confer advantage or disadvantage, such as class, gender, ability, language, citizenship, and education. At its most basic, the advantage arises from white people being well represented in all areas of life and, particularly for those in the majority ethnic group, the protection which whiteness provides them against the experiences of racism.

White supremacy

This term describes the historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples by white groups and nations of the European continent for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.

Women-only spaces

Physical or online spaces where only women (or sometimes women and non-binary people) can participate.


The irrational fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers because of their culture or political beliefs.