The terms and definitions below are always evolving, changing and often mean different things to different people. They are provided below as a starting point for discussion and understanding. This Glossary has been collectively built and created by the staff members of the LGBTQIA Resource Center since the early 2000s. Are we missing a word or term? Let us know!

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Glossary of Terms


Exists when one social group, whether knowingly or unconsciously, exploits another social group for its own benefit.

Individual Level: Beliefs or behaviors of an individual person; conscious or unconscious actions or attitudes that maintain oppression.

Institutional Level: Institutions such as family, government, industry, education, and religion are shapers of, as well as shaped by, the other two levels. The application of institutional policies and procedures in an oppressive society run by individuals or groups who advocate or collude with social oppression produces oppressive consequences.

Societal/Cultural Level: Society’s cultural norms perpetuate implicit and explicit values that bind institutions and individuals; cultural guidelines, such as philosophies of life and definitions of good, normal, health, deviance, and sickness, often serve the primary function of providing individuals and institutions with the justification for social oppression.


Orientation is one’s attraction or non-attraction to other people. An individual’s orientation can be fluid and people use a variety of labels to describe their orientation. Some, but not all types of attraction include: aesthetic, emotional, intellectual, physical/sensual, platonic, romantic, and sexual. (Source: UNC-Chapel Hill “Asexuality, Attraction, and Romantic Orientation” | Healthline “What are the Different Types of Attraction”)


Revealing a person’s sexual or gender identity, HIV status, or Immigration status without the person’s expressed consent or permission. Outing someone should never occur; it is a violation of privacy and an inherently harmful act. It removes the person’s choice to come out, and potentially puts their safety at risk. (Source: LGBTQ and ALL “What is Outing and Why is it Harmful?”)