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Ableism: The system of marginalization which targets disabled people, including both physical and mental disabilities and divergences. The system that decides what kinds of medical conditions and differences are disabilities rather than impairments; and what kinds of needs are special accommodations instead of standard expectations. As an example, blind people don't need lights in every room, but do need braille on every sign. Sighted people don't need braille, but do need lights. Ableism as a system marginalizes blind people by calling braille on signs a special accommodation, and privileges sighted people by calling lights in every room a normal expectation.

Able-bodied: Someone whose physical abilities and needs meet the expectations of ableism. Being able-bodied is always temporary, and able-bodied people can still have needs and ability impairments which just happen to fall within what's allowed under ableism.

ACE: Stands for Assertive Confrontational Education. An original term used for this website. An ACE is when the target of a microaggression, or their ally, confronts the aggressor in an attempt to educate them on how their actions have been harmful. A lot of marginalized popover available people feel obligated to attempt an ACE whenever they face a microaggression. You can attempt an ACE if you want to, but you are never under any obligation and it isn't always the best option.

Accessibility: How much something or somewhere can be accessed by a particular group. This is applied pretty broadly. Academic articles which assume you have a background in the field they come from are inaccessible to people outside that field. Academic articles behind pay-walls are inaccessible to people not associated with a university. Multistory buildings without ramps or elevators are inaccessible to people who can't climb stairs. Loud concerts with flashing lights are inaccessible to people with sensory processing disorders. There's a lot of cases where this word will come up.

Active Listening: Something you can do when a friend or loved one comes to talk to you about a microaggression they experienced. Active listening involves affirming that speaker that you are listening through periodically para-phrasing back what you've heard and saying things like "Uh-huh" and "go-on." Read more in Actively Listening.

Alienation: To feel separated from a group of any scale. To feel like an outsider. Often, this term is used in cases where someone theoretically should feel like a part of a group, but is prevented by society. As an example, many Latino-Americans feel alienated from the US because others treat them like immigrants even when they're natural-born citizens. [1]

Ally: In the context of this website, this is whoever is around in an encounter that does something to support the target of a microaggression. I might use it in sentences like "When confronted by the target or an ally..." I am not going to touch upon "allyship" as a general concept or identity.


Bisexual: A term some people use to describe themselves, defined colloquially as "attracted to same and different genders from the self."


Cisgender: Someone who agrees with their gender assigned at birth, and is therefore not transgender. Often abbreviated to just cis. Cis people may or may not dress in certain ways or undergo plastic surgery so other people perceive them more how they want to be perceived. One's medical history is their own business.

Cissexism: The assumptions that all bodies resemble the bodies of cis people, that cis people's bodies necessarily conform to how cis people's bodies are "supposed" to be, and that those bodies are the only important bodies. For instance, when womanhood is defined by menstruation, it not only excludes trans women, but the many cis women who also do not menstruate (e.g post-menopausal cis women, or cis women who have had cervical cancer), but cissexism says they are unimportant exceptions.

Colorism: A specific part of Racism which treats people with the darkest skin more poorly than people with lighter skin, even if their skin is still dark.

"Colorblindness" claims: Unrelated to people who actually have an inability to perceive certain colors, this is when a white person claims to "not see" what race someone is. Click here for more information.


Disabled: Anyone whose physical abilities and needs are not what is expected under ableism. (See: Ableism above)

Discrimination: The practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.[2]


Encounter: In the context of this website, the particular event when a microaggression happened. Not all microaggressions are confined to a single encounter.


Fatigue: In the context of this website, being exhausted constantly. Marginalized people get fatigued by microaggressions, which leaves us with no energy to constantly advocate for ourselves. (See: Minority Stress)

Framing: An unspoken idea during a conversation that "frames" what kind of conversation it is, what the participants are doing in it, and/or what their goals are in the conversation. For instance, during an Assertive Confrontational Education (or ACE, see above), the confronter might try to frame the interaction as "I'm trying to help you learn" while the confronted might try to frame the interaction as "I am being attacked." Controlling the framing in an encounter can help you obtain more desirable outcomes. Read more in Controlling The Frame. [13]


Gay: A term used by various people who are not straight to refer to themselves. Depending on context, it can mean just those who are exclusively attracted to those of the same gender, anyone attracted to those of the same gender, or it can be a term used by people with more complicated identities because it is the term others have used for them.

Gender: "A category to which an individual is assigned by self or others, sometimes on the basis of sex." This word has extremely varied definitions and usages depending on who is speaking and in what context. It's also extremely controversial and hotly debated. There's a lot of distinct things that all get packed together into this word and unpacking it all would far outreach the scope of this website. When I use it, what I'm referring to is stuff like "Whether someone is tooltip available a man, woman, or something else", and "Whether someone is cisgender or transgender." So "Oppression based on gender" could be read as \'Oppression based on being a woman/non-male, and/or being trans.\' tooltip available [3]

Gender Binary, the: The Gender Binary is the name given to the gender system originating from Western Europe and the British Isles which was forcefully spread around the world through Colonialism. (Details of Colonialism are outside the scope of what we're looking at on this website.) Under this system, when a child is born their genitals are measured and based on the measurements they are assigned to the category of either Male or Female. Based on this assignment, social expectations and expectations of physical development are imposed onto the child. The Gender Binary erases and oppresses anyone whose culture has its own gender system that can't be changed to resemble the western Gender Binary system. As an example, the British Raj considered Hijras tooltip available in India to be "men breaching public decency" and many laws were made to criminalize the existence of Hijras to force them to fit into the Gender Binary.

Gender Non-Conforming: A blanket term for people who don't present themselves how their assigned gender is expected to by western gender standards, regardless of whether the particular person identifies as transgender. Sometimes abbreviated to GNC. This could involve how they dress, speak, or act.

Grounding: A type of coping skill for managing extreme stress or flashbacks relating to events that aren't currently happening. Grounding involves focusing on something in the present moment, to remind you that the place and time you're currently in is safe. For instance, focusing on feeling the texture of the chair you're sitting in, or counting every lamp in the room. Of course, this isn't the right thing to try when you're stressed because the present place and time is not safe. Read more in Grounding Exercises.


Heterosexism: The system that privileges straight people over Same-Gender Loving People. The system that says only heterosexual relationships are valid and valuable.

Horizontal Oppression: Oppressive acts performed between two people where neither person could necessarily be said to be overall more privileged than the other. For instance, a disabled cis Sri Lankan woman and an able-bodied trans Filipina woman. Neither could be said to have more power than the other, but the former could still be transmisogynist towards the latter, and the latter could still be ableist towards the former.


Internalization: To learn something at such deep level that you are unaware of it, and struggle to unlearn it even when you consciously try to. (See: Socialization) [4]

Internalized Bias: Bias against marginalized groups that is learned at such a deep level that you are unaware of it. Even when made aware, it can be hard to unlearn.

Intersectionality: Coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Intersectionality is a framework for viewing marginality popover available which looks at the whole person and how different facets tooltip available of their life affect one another, and thus affects how they experience marginality. Click here for an article by Ava Vidal that explains further.




Lesbian: An identity term used by some women who love women (WLW), sometimes signifying an exclusive attraction to other women.

Lived Experience: Your knowledge of your experiences that you, yourself, have actually lived through. Lived experiences can be held up to counteract microinvalidations. A white person might say "There's no racism in this town" but their black neighbor can say "well my lived experiences of racism in this town contradict that."[ 5 ]


Marginality: Oppression based on a part of a person's identity. Click here for more information

Microaggression: Small things tooltip available that hurt in daily life, and that target marginalized popover available parts of one's identity. Microaggressions can be verbal, non-verbal, or environmental. Click here for more information.

Microassault: A subtype of microaggression. Microassaults are clear-cut acts intended to demean or cause harm to the victim. The classic microassault is a stranger in a moving vehicle shouting a slur as they speed by. [6]

Microinsult: A subtype of microaggression. Microinsults are acts which may or may not be intentional, and indirectly imply disrespect or demean the victim. One way to think of microinsults is as back-handed insults or compliments which target marginalized identities. A classic microinsult was when Joe Biden called Barack Obama "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate[,] bright[,] clean and a nice-looking guy."[6][7]

Microinvalidation: A subtype of microaggression. Microinvalidations are acts which cause the victim to doubt their lived experiences, how justified they are in their emotions, or the validity of their identity. A classic microinvalidation is when someone says "you're just overreacting, it's because you're so sensitive" to a marginalized popover available person who had just described a distressing experience. Dr. Derald Wing Sue calls this kind of microaggression "the most insidious" because it causes victims to become paranoid. [6]

Minority Stress: The mental and physical health problems caused by marginalization. A misnomer, since not all marginalized groups are necessarily minorities in their communities. (For instance, black people living in predominantly black neighborhoods still experience minority stress, even though they are not minorities in their neighborhood.) [6]

Misogyny: Generally, violence and hatred towards women.

Misogynoir: The misogyny specifically faced by black women.

MLM: Stands for Men Who Love Men. A category which includes gay men, bisexual men, and any other men regardless of identifying label who enter into romantic relationships with other men.


Naming: The act of putting a name to something intangible. People often feel empowered when they name something that's been bothering them for a while. [6]

Neurodivergant: Anyone with a neurodevelopmental divergence, difference, or disability. This is a more specific term than neuroatypical, and only includes differences considered to have been "from birth" or predestined because of how the brain developed.

Neurotypical: Someone who's brain fits the standard medical model. Someone who has no mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, sensory processing disorders, or other brain-based differences or disabilities.

Neuroatypical: Anyone who's brain does not fit the standard medical model. This could be because of a mental illness, developmental disability, learning disability, sensory processing disorder, or any other brain-based differences or disabilities. This broader term includes both neurodevelopmental divergences and atypicalities which are acquired later in life.

Non-Binary Gender: A gender which does not fit into the Gender Binary. This includes both non-western cultural genders, as well as transgender people who don't identify entirely as the "opposite" of what they were assigned at birth.


Oppression: The systemic treatment of a group of people in a cruel and unfair way. [8]

Overt Conscious Bigot (OCB): Someone who blatantly and knowingly hates a marginalized popover available group and wants harm to come to them. Approximately fifteen percent of adults in the United States admit to being an OCB. [6]


Patriarchy: A social system in which power is held by men, through cultural norms and customs that favor men and withhold opportunities from women [9]

People of Color: A blanket term used when talking about all people who are affected negatively by racism. This term is usually best to only be used when making broad statements such as "White people have white privilege, people of color do not." Otherwise, it's best to just be specific about who you're talking about. "She's Native Hawai'ian" rather than "She's a woman of color." Doing otherwise can erase and obscure who specifically faces which kinds of racism. For instance, black women face different forms fo racism, and in some contexts more severe forms, than an asian-american man might.

Praxis: Political Theory + Political Practice. How you decide to make political change.

Prejudice: An unfair feeling of dislike for a person or group because of a part of their identity. One can be prejudiced against a group without necessarily having the power to oppress and marginalize that group. [14] Privilege: A benefit in society received because of a part of your identity. Click here for more information.


Queer: This word's meaning varies by region and community. Historically a slur used against trans, gender non-conforming, and gay people; many (mostly younger) people have reclaimed this word as an identity term. In some regions, it is even the preferred umbrella term for everyone to use, including cisgender straight people, in place of the more mainstream LGBT acronym. So instead of LGBT, they say "Queer and Trans." This is very controversial. To avoid conflict, I'd personally suggest not using it to refer to anyone who hasn't explicitly stated its their preference to be referred to that way. But definitely pay attention to the norm in your own community and region.


Race: People with similar heritages often share some physical features. Certain features, particularly skin color, have been grouped together historically into 3-5 groups that have been deemed "the races of the world." From a scientific perspective, the grouping of "race" doesn't actually have a sound biological or logical basis. There's no particular reason Italians and Norwegians are considered the "same race", while Moroccans and Spaniards are not. It's merely another way that western society categorizes human beings. This doesn't mean that race isn't "real" so much as it's real because society makes it real (see: Social Construct). [10]

Racism: Dr. Pat Bidol has been quoted as defining racism as "Power + Prejudice." When one racial group is biased against another, and that racial group also has power over that group, that is racism. [11]

Reading: When used on this site, the process wherein someone sees a person and sorts them into social categories. "She read me as a woman" "I read her as autistic" "I was read as Mexican" etc.

Respectability Politics: When some members of a marginalized group propose that the source of their marginalization is their own impoliteness, unruliness, or other ways that they "aren't respectable." This is usually considered a result of internalized marginalization. (See: Learning To Hate Ourselves)


Salient Identity: A part of your identity that feels more important than other parts. For instance, my identity as trans is more salient to me than my identity as an IT worker. This often comes up when talking about intersectionality. A white gay woman might say her gender is her most salient identity, while a black gay woman might say her race is her most salient identity.

Same-Gender Loving: Anyone who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to people of the same gender as themselves.

Self-Care: Taking care of yourself! This could include taking a bath, meditating, taking a break to drink a cup of tea, anything you do that makes you feel good. Also can include necessary hygiene and nutrition if that's stuff you've been neglecting.

Sex: A socially constructed category, such as race, which has no biological basis but is used to categorize infants based on size of genitalia and assign them to a gender.

Sexual Orientation: A collection of identities relating to who one is attracted to having romantic and/or sexual relationships with.

Socialization: The processes in society that teach people from birth how to behave and what to believe. This is often how we internalize oppressive ideas towards ourselves and others. Socialization happens through mass-media, schools, and our families. Read more in Learning to Hate Ourselves.[4]

Social Construct: A social construct is something that was created by society, such as town borders, rather than nature, such as a volcano. Just because something is a social construct doesn't mean it "isn't real," but rather that it isn't necessarily something that has to be the way it is. Race, gender, disability, sex, sexual orientation, age, capitalism, and beauty are all social constructs. Physical and behavioral differences are all real, but the lines drawn that categorize them and give them meaning are the social construction. The paper money is printed on is real, but it only has value because of the social construction we term money. It is possible to redraw the lines and change social constructs, as contrasted to, say, the moon, which orbits the earth whether we say it does or not. [12]

Straight: A colloquial term for anyone who is exclusively attracted to the "opposite" sex. Straight is usually not an identity that someone claims for themself, but rather it is an assumed default that straight people might identify as to assert they have not deviated from the default.

Survivor: One who has experienced a traumatic event and survived. This is often used with a specific implication of the survivor having survived sexual assault or abuse. However, it is still used to talk about any kind of trauma survivor. This term is sometimes preferred by certain groups to emphasize their perseverance over the trauma.


Target: In our context, the person who a microaggression was directed at. "The target of oppression."

Tone-Policing: When someone tells another person that if they want to be listened to they have to say it in a particularly polite or acceptable tone. This is considered a form of microinvalidation. No matter how polite you are, if someone doesn't like the content of what you're saying, they'll just find another excuse to dismiss you. [6]

Transgender: Anyone who disagrees with their assigned gender at birth, and is therefore not cisgender. Often shortened to just trans. Trans people may or may not undergo hormone therapy or other medical procedures. One's medical history is their own business.

Transmisogyny: The form of misogyny that is specifically targeted at trans women.

Trauma: In our context, the emotional scars left by negative experiences. All marginalized people are somewhat traumatized by the prolonged negative experience of their oppression, and often are additionally traumatized by extreme acts of violence against them. [6]


Unconscious: From parts of your brain which you aren't aware of. [15]

Unintentional Unconscious Oppressor (UUO): Someone who does something oppressive and harmful, such as microinsulting someone, but is unaware that they have done it, that it's harmful, and/or may have even thought what they were doing was good. This behavior is a result of socialization. [6]


Validation: To confirm that one's experiences, perceptions, feelings, and/or actions are real and legitimate. Getting validation from your community is one of the most effective coping methods. This is also known as a "sanity check" but I, personally, find that way of putting it to be insensitive. Read more in What Validation Is & How It Helps.

Victim: Someone who has been harmed or killed by another. Sometimes carries the implication that they did not survive the incident. People sometimes have preferences over how they want to be referred to. Some say, for instance, "sexual assault victim" implies that the person is now dead or broken, whereas "sexual assault survivor" emphasizes the perseverance over the event.


WLW: Stands for Women Who Love Women, a category which includes lesbians, bisexual women, and any other women regardless of identifying label who enter into romantic relationships with other women.


Xenophobia: Hatred and fear of foreigners. This is an additional form of marginality faced by immigrants and refugees. Often, but not always, comes together with racism. Many people of color are treated as foreigners even if they aren't.



[1] Alienation. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2015, from

[2] Discrimination. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2015, from

[3] Gender (sociology). (n.d.) Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary. (2012).

[4] Roots, James. “Political Socialization and Marginalization.” In Politics of Visual Language: Deafness, Language Choice, and Political Socialization, 7–25. McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP, 1999.

[5] Lewis-Beck, Michael, Alan Bryman, and Tim Liao. Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods. 2455 Teller Road,  Thousand Oaks  California  91320  United States: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2004.

[6] Derald Wing Sue. Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010.

[7] “Biden’s Description of Obama Draws Scrutiny -” Accessed October 27, 2015.

[8] Oppression. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2015, from

[9] patriarchy. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved October 26, 2015, from website:

[10] Cartmill, Matt. “The Status of the Race Concept in Physical Anthropology.” American Anthropologist 100, no. 3 (1998): 651–60.

[11] Bidol, Pat A. Developing New Perspectives on Race: An Innovative Multi-M edia Social Studies Curriculum in Racism Awareness for the Secondary Level. New Perspectives on Race, 1972.

[12] social-construct. (n.d.).'s 21st Century Lexicon. Retrieved October 27, 2015, from website:

[13] Deborah Tannen. That’s No What I Meant! How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks You Relations with Others. New York, NY, USA: Ballantine Books, 1986.

[14] Prejudice. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2015, from

[15] Unconscious. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2015, from