Human Animal Support Services Glossary for Animal Welfare Organizations and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Table of Contents

Created and edited by the Human Animal Support Services Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Advisory Committee

Last updated date: January, 6, 2021

This glossary is a working document and we expect that this resource will grow and change with time. 

To submit new terminology, use this form. >>

In order to advance a culture of inclusion and belonging across the HASS project, and across the Animal Welfare field, the HASS DEI Advisory Committee has drafted the Human Animal Support Services Glossary. 

The DEI Committee offers its expertise to help HASS create program, culture, and policy recommendations that actively combat and dismantle racism, classism, and other forms of discrimination and oppression that have dominated companion animal welfare. The inclusion and equity we are working towards in our field are critical to helping animals and people. 

We believe language is a foundation for shared understanding. This glossary is intended to offer terms and definitions for use in research, communications, data, shelter operations, across the working groups, and throughout the companion animal welfare field. 

This glossary is an attempt to create a shared, usable framework to guide our collective work forward. We aspire to use language as a tool to create a culture that is rooted in learning, repair, and anti-racism, anti-oppression, and liberatory practices. 

We welcome you to read these definitions, consider and learn from them. You may choose to reflect on the following questions as you read through this document. 

  • What is anti-oppressive about utilizing shared language generated by BIPOC and marginalized voices? 
  • When and where have certain concepts shown up in your work? 
  • What did you learn that you didn’t know before? 
  • What did you relearn, unlearn, or dismantle in your understanding of words, phrases, and concepts? 
  • How might you use this glossary to influence your work moving forward? 
  • How do you see yourself using this glossary to inform your participation in HASS? 

Definitions for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

  • The state of being diverse; variety.
  • Includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another (race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, (dis)ability status and political perspective.)1
    • A diverse institution incorporates knowledge from the lived experiences of all groups within society into its structure and programs. These lived experiences include, but are not limited to, race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, language, culture, national origin, religious commitments, age, and (dis)ability status.1
    • This is in contrast to tokenism, which only allows for the physical presence or representation of different groups.
    • Language can limit our ability to capture all the ways in which people are diverse.1
  • The state of equitableness derives from the elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race (and classes) or fails to eliminate them.
  • To be achieved and sustained, equity needs to be thought of as a structural and systemic concept.2
  • The action or state of valuing, welcoming, and including others into a group or structure based on an authentic desire to enrich the group or structure through the lived experiences of those included, especially those traditionally excluded. Being Inclusive should not be motivated by arbitrary numerical presentation or quotas.
  • The feeling of security and support when there is a sense of acceptance, inclusion, and identity for a member of a certain group or place.
  • Belonging is the basic fundamental drive to form and maintain lasting, positive, and significant relationships with others.
  • The normalization of able-bodied persons resulting in the privilege of perceived “normal ability” and the oppression and exclusion of people with disabilities at many levels in society.
    • Ableist thought leads to the planning and designing of communities in ways that deny access to people with disabilities.
  • The stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people on the basis of their age.
  • Public support or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.
  • Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice.
    • Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways.
    • Allies commit to reducing their own complicity or collusion in oppression of those groups and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.
Analyzing Power
  • The act of analyzing institutional power in an effort to identify and unpack systems external to communities that create internal realities many people experience daily.
    • As a society, we often believe that individuals and/or their communities are solely responsible for their conditions. However, critical thinking exercises like Analyzing Power help identify institutional connections to community challenges.
  • The work of actively opposing racism by working to dismantle policies, practices and other systems that  intentionally or unintentionally benefit white people more than people of color, or harm people of color.
  • Working to recognize the oppressions that exist in our society, and attempting to mitigate its effects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities.3
    • Practicing anti-oppression work in real terms is not only confronting individual examples of bigotry, or confronting societal examples, it is also confronting ourselves and our own roles of power and oppression in our communities and the bigger picture.3
    • Though you may be a person that would never think to ever say anything racist/sexist/classist etc., by not realizing the power that you hold, and how your actions affect other people you will inevitably fall into sustaining and contributing to a larger system of oppression.3
  • A tendency, inclination, or prejudice toward or against something or someone.
  • Whether positive or negative, such cognitive shortcuts can result in prejudgments that lead to rash decisions or discriminatory practices.
    • Explicit bias
      • Biases that people are aware of and that operate consciously. They may be expressed directly.
    • Implicit bias
      • Biases people are usually unaware of and that operate at the subconscious level. Many studies have indicated that implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Notably, implicit biases have been shown to trump individuals’ stated commitments to equality and fairness, thereby producing behavior that diverges from the explicit attitudes that many people profess. Resource:
  • An acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color
    •  the term “BIPOC” is valuable as a way of thinking about how violence against Black and Indigenous people is foundational to the United States, a country founded on the enslavement of Black people and the genocide of Indigenous people.4
  • When a person’s gender identity matches with their sex assigned at birth.
    • Also referred to as non-trans* in an attempt at decentering as the norm
  • The belief that transgender people are inherently inferior to cisgender people.
  • The assumption that all, or almost all, individuals are cisgender, unless otherwise specified.
  • A system of oppression that includes institutional, cultural, societal, and individual beliefs and practices that assign value to people based in their socio-economic class. Here, members of more privileged socio-economic classes are seen as having a greater value.5
  • Prejudice exercised through policies, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs that suppress, disenfranchise and discriminate against working class and poor people.
    • In the U.S., and many other places, class is closely intertwined with other forms of social dominance, especially race and gender.
  • The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.
Cultural Appropriation
  • Cultural appropriation is the adoption or the theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another. It generally is applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture.6
  • This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities or the meanings behind these activities, often converting culturally significant artifacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different than they would originally have had.6
  • Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as race, color, sex, gender and gender identity, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms. 7
  • To treat everyone exactly the same.
  • Equality means everyone is given the same resources, in an effort to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help.8
  • An equality emphasis often ignores historical and structural factors that benefit some social groups/communities and harms other social groups/communities.9
    • Often as a response to racism, people will claim a “colorblind” orientation or seek to create “colorblind” policies that will treat all people equally. However, “colorblindness” often leads to inequity because it does not acknowledge the historical and contemporary systemic forces of oppression that do not allow all of us to be our full selves equally.10
  • Controlling, and usually limiting, general access to something as a means of maintaining power. Gatekeeping can happen in organizations or communities when a person or person(s) in power determines who, what, and when people have access to resources, information, or otherwise.
    • Persons who work in institutions often function as gatekeepers to ensure that the institution perpetuates itself.
    • By operating with anti-racist values and networking with those who share those values and maintaining accountability in the community, the gatekeeper becomes an agent of institutional transformation.
  • The socially constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviors, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to males and females on a differential basis.
    • Gender is fluid and refers not simply to women or men, but to the relationship between them.11
Gender-Based Violence
  • An umbrella term for any harmful act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on socially ascribed (i.e. gender) differences between women, men, or gender-nonconforming people.
    • It includes acts that inflict physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion, and denial of resources, opportunities or services, forced marriage and other deprivations of liberty. These acts can occur in public or in private.12
  • Intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.
  • The [self-described] state of being without adequate shelter, which may include individuals, family or community without stable, safe, permanent, appropriate housing. Homelessness may be the result of systemic or societal barriers, a lack of affordable and appropriate housing, the individual/household’s financial, mental, cognitive, behavioral or physical challenges, and/or racism and discrimination. Most people do not choose to be homeless, and the experience is generally negative, unpleasant, unhealthy, unsafe, stressful and distressing.13
  • At-Risk of Homelessness refers to people who are not experiencing homelessness, but whose current economic and/or housing situation is precarious or does not meet public health and safety standards.13
  • Episodically Homeless refers to those who move in and out of homelessness.13
Housing exclusion
  •  The failure of society to ensure that adequate systems, funding and support are in place so that all people, even in crisis situations, have access to housing.
  • Feelings of fear, rage, hate and disapproval of homosexuality or non-heterosexual identified people. Homophobia can be manifested in numerous ways, such as verbally, emotionally and through physical attacks.
  • An ideological and social system of compulsory and assumed heterosexuality, based on binary gender, which denies and persecutes any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship, or community, and privileges straight people/people who present gender in a normative way.
  • It is estimated that there are more than 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide. Practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Spread across the world from the Arctic to the South Pacific, they are the descendants – according to a common definition – of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means. Among the indigenous peoples are those of the Americas (for example, the Lakota in the USA, the Mayas in Guatemala or the Aymaras in Bolivia), the Inuit and Aleutians of the circumpolar region, the Saami of northern Europe, the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders of Australia and the Maori of New Zealand. These and most other indigenous peoples have retained distinct characteristics which are clearly different from those of other segments of the national populations. 14
Institutional/Systemic/Structural Racism
  • Policies, practices and procedures that have been intentionally or unintentionally put into place that work better for white people than for communities of color.
  • The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all.
  • Racial justice—or racial equity—goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures.
Racial Justice
  • The proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes for all.15
  • Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Asexual, Intersex, (sometimes people add a + at the end in an effort to be more inclusive).16
    • GSM is Gender and Sexual Minorities16
    • DSG is Diverse Sexualities and Genders16
    • TGNC is Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (sometimes you’ll see “NB” added for non-binary).16
  • The gaining of equal rights or full social or economic opportunities for a particular group. The gaining of protection from abuse or exploitation.
  • In reference to a person or group who have been systemically isolated from resources and opportunities.
  • Is a subtle behavior – verbal or non-verbal, conscious or unconscious- directed at a member of a marginalized group that has a derogatory, harmful effect.
Misogyny / Trans misogyny
  • A tool used by cis/sexism and cisheteropatriarchy to enforce strict gender roles and expectations on girls and women, both cis and trans. It directs concentrated violence and involves active hostility and/or opposition towards those who do not identify, present, or express themselves as masculine and/or men. 17
Movement for Black Lives
  • The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) formed in December of 2014, was created as a space for Black organizations across the country to debate and discuss the current political conditions, develop shared assessments of what political interventions were necessary in order to achieve key policy, cultural and political wins, convene organizational leadership in order to debate and co-create a shared movement wide strategy. Under the fundamental idea that we can achieve more together than we can separately. 18
  • The systematic unjust subjugation of an individual or group.
People of Color
  • Often the preferred collective term for referring to non-White racial groups.
    • Racial justice advocates have been using the term “people of color” (not to be confused with the pejorative “colored people”) since the late 1970s as an inclusive and unifying frame across different racial groups that are not White, to address racial inequities.
    • While “people of color” can be a politically useful term, and describes people with their own attributes (as opposed to what they are not, e.g., “non-White”), it is also important whenever possible to identify people through their own racial/ethnic group, as each has its own distinct experience and meaning and may be more appropriate.19
People first language (PFL)
  • People-first language puts the person before the disability, and describes what a person has, not who a person is. PFL uses phrases such as “person with a disability,” “individuals with disabilities,” and “children with disabilities,” as opposed to phrases that identify people based solely on their disability, such as “the disabled.”
  • PFL can also be more generally applied to any group that would otherwise be defined or mentally categorized by a condition or trait (for example, race, age, or appearance).20
  • The ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality.21
    • Power is unequally distributed globally and in U.S. society; some individuals or groups wield greater power than others, thereby allowing them greater access and control over resources. Wealth, whiteness, citizenship, patriarchy, heterosexism, and education are a few key social mechanisms through which power operates. Although power is often conceptualized as power over other individuals or groups, other variations are power with (used in the context of building collective strength) and power within (which references an individual’s internal strength). Learning to “see” and understand relations of power is vital to organizing for progressive social change.21
    • All power is relational, and the different relationships either reinforce or disrupt one another. The importance of the concept of power to anti-racism is clear: racism cannot be understood without understanding that power is not only an individual relationship but a cultural one, and that power relationships are shifting constantly.21
    • Power can be used malignantly and intentionally, but need not be, and individuals within a culture may benefit from power of which they are unaware.21
  • Individual Power/Power Within
    • The power that an individual feels. Feelings of individual strength, autonomy, and expression.
  • Collective Power/Power With
    • The power that individuals feel when they come together. We see examples of collective power in marches, protests, co-ops, etc.
  • Institutional Power/Power Over22
    • The power that comes from institutions. It can be seen in some governments, monopolies, laws, and in the systems that enforce them.
  • An assumption of knowledge about something or someone not rooted in personal experiences with the particular something or someone in question.
  • Prejudice is informed by stereotype rather than experience.
  • Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g. white privilege, male privilege, etc.).
  • Freedom from unauthorized intrusion.
  • The use of specific characteristics such as race or age, to make generalizations about a person.
  • Sometimes referred to as an umbrella term for sexuality and gender, the word is intended to establish a resistance to the idea of normalizing identities and assimilation. 23
Respectability Politics
  • Refers to attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and show their social values as being continuous and compatible with mainstream values rather than challenging the mainstream for what they see as its failure to accept difference.
Safe/r space
  • A place where someone is allowed to more fully express themselves without fear of judgement, shame or harm.
  • Any act, gesture, visual representation, spoken or written words, practice, or behavior based upon the idea that a person or a group of people is inferior because of their sex or gender– usually women, gender non-conforming, and transgender people.
Social Justice
  • The process and goal of addressing the root causes of individual, cultural,  institutional and structural “isms.”
  • Social Justice results in communities self-sustaining their own zip codes with employment, education and opportunities that are currently taken by those outside these areas.
  • A trait and/or characteristic assumed to be true of all members of a particular social group.
  • The policy or practice of making only a symbolic effort (as to desegregate).24
  • The practice of doing something (such as hiring a person who belongs to a another social group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly.24
  • A term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Trans* is also used as an umbrella term used to refer to more than one identity within gender identity and gender expression, beyond what is generally assigned at birth including, transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender non-conforming, two-spirit, trans woman, trans man, and more.
  • The fear of, discrimination against, or hatred of trans* people, the trans* community, or gender ambiguity. Transphobia can be seen within the queer community, as well as in general society.25
    • Transphobic – adj. : a word used to describe an individual who harbors some elements of this range of negative attitudes, thoughts, intents, towards trans* people.25
Two Spirit
  • While the term Two Spirit was coined in 1990 In Winnipeg, Canada as a means of unifying various gender identities and expressions of Native American/First Nations/Indigenous individuals, the term is not a specific definition of gender, sexual orientation or other self-determining catch-all phrase, but rather an umbrella term. 26
  • Two Spirit people have both a male and female spirit within them and are blessed by their Creator to see life through the eyes of both genders. 26
    • The term does not diminish the tribal-specific names, roles and traditions nations have for their own Two Spirit people. Examples of such names are the winkte among the Lakota and the nadleeh among the Navajo people. 26
Women of Color
  • A solidarity definition, a commitment to work in collaboration with other oppressed women of color who have been minoritized.27
    • Terms like ‘women of color’ are not just descriptions, but have political and ideological histories and current meanings.
  • Fear and/or loathing of people who have social group identities or memberships that are different from your own; the “other” or “those people.” 28






7 Institute for Democratic Renewal and Project Change Anti-Racism Initiative, A Community Builder’s Tool Kit.




11 Source: UN Women, Gender Mainstreaming in Development Programming (2014) p. 46. Note: Although notions of gender are deeply rooted in every culture, they are also changeable over time and have wide variations both within and between cultures (Council of the International Organization for Migration, Gender Equality Policy 2015–2019 (19 November 2015) C/106/INF/8/Rev.1, Glossary, p. 12).

12 Source: Adapted from Inter-Agency Standing Committee, Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action: Reducing risk, promoting resilience and aiding recovery (2015) p. 5.



15 SOURCE:Race Forward, “Race Reporting Guide








23 Segdwick, Eve, Tendencies, Routledge

24 Merriam webster dictionary



27 Loretta Ross, Sister Song