Living Yoga’s Equity Language Guide

Many of the words defined below can be found in our Equity Statement, or may be referenced in our trainings, workshops, and communications. Our intent in listing these definitions is to offer clarity and transparency in our language to build common understanding.

This language is in a state of constant exploration and development. Many of these words listed below carry multiple meanings depending on context, and many may be unfamiliar. We have chosen to invest in definitions used by those who labor at the emerging edge of social justice work. We ask that you engage with us when confusion arises. We are invested in the part of this process that centers dialogue, listening, education, and adaptability.


We have organized these words and concepts alphabetically and grouped some together to create simpler flow of information and to allow for overlap. For example, “Gender Identities” have been organized and listed under that heading, at ‘G’, rather than spread throughout the list.

We have offered occasional clarification or organizational commentary on words or concepts. We have offered occasional clarification or organizational commentary on words or concepts, this commentary, as well as our sourcing, is indicated with the use of italics.

Sources have been cited and linked wherever possible. If you see any errors, please email us your feedback at


  • An economic and political order that relies on a mostly-private, unequal market system of production and consumption.

Sourced from The ABC’s of Social Justice, Department of Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement, Lewis & Clark College.

Capitalism is often represented as a free market system that encourages and rewards entrepreneurial effort. This should, in principle, result in balanced outcomes. A common reference is the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” analogy, where hard work is rewarded with resources. However, in a modern society dealing with historical and ongoing inequitable distribution of wealth and access, this “bootstraps” analogy breaks down. Those denied resources, or held under glass ceilings, cannot pull themselves up. A system that does not have balanced input cannot have balanced outcomes.

Colonialism, Settler Colonialism:


  • “The exploitative historical, political, social, and economic system established when one group or force takes control over a colonized territory or group; the unequal relationship between colonizer and the colonized.”

Sourced from The ABC’s of Social Justice, Department of Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement, Lewis & Clark College.

Settler colonialism:

  • “A structure, not an historic event, whose endgame is always the elimination of the Natives in order to acquire their land, which it does in countless seen and unseen ways. These techniques are woven throughout the US’s national discourse at all levels of society.”

Sourced from article “Settler Fragility: Why Settler Privilege is so Hard to Talk About”


  • A willingness to give your time and energy to something that you believe in, or a promise or firm decision to do something.

Cambridge Dictionary, online.


  • A multiplicity of shared and different individual and group experiences, values, beliefs, and characteristics among people.

    Sourced from The ABC’s of Social Justice, Department of Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement, Lewis & Clark College.


  • A state of equity results from the choice to invest in deliberate inequality in the pursuit of justice.

    This adapted definition is sourced from Lindsey Wilkinson, tenure-track faculty at PSU, via a Resolutions NW Institutional Equity training.

    A more standard definition of equity is “the quality of being fair and impartial.” We have invested in the definition listed above because we believe that fairness and impartiality are not a strong enough stance given the current inequities observable in our community. Cultural inequities, such as those created via systemic racism, further confuse issues such as fairness by asserting that everyone has equal access (which they don’t) and that any disparities are a result of inherent weaknesses in marginalized populations. It is our belief that this change requires conscious upliftment of those historically denied resources.

Gender Identities:

Cisgender or Cis:

  • “Adjective that means ‘identifies as their sex assigned at birth’ derived from the Latin word meaning “on the same side.” A cisgender/cis person is not transgender. … In discussions regarding trans issues, one would differentiate between women who are trans and women who aren’t by saying trans women and cis women. Cis is not a “fake” word and is not a slur. Note that cisgender does not have an “ed” at the end. Cis is a term for someone who exclusively identifies as their sex assigned at birth. The term cisgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.”

Sourced from Trans Student Educational Resources.


  • “A set of cultural constructs describing characteristics that may historically be related to femininity, masculinity, women, men, nonbinary people, or social norms. The term was coined in 1955 by sexologist John Money after noting the difference between gender and sex.”

The term ‘nonbinary’ can refer to gender, biological sex, or both.

Gender Binary:

  • “A system of viewing gender as consisting solely of two, opposite categories, termed “male and female”, in which no other possibilities for gender or anatomy are believed to exist. This system is oppressive to anyone who defies their sex assigned at birth, but particularly those who are gender-variant or do not fit neatly into one of the two standard categories.”

Sourced from Trans Student Educational Resources.

Transgender or Trans:

  • “An umbrella term for people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life. Note that transgender does not have an “ed” at the end.”

Sourced from Trans Student Educational Resources.

Women (Womxn):

  • Anyone, with any body or assigned sex, who self-identifies as a woman.

    This definition is specifically inclusive of transgender individuals who identify as women. An emerging spelling of womxn, with an ‘x’ replacing the ‘e’, is used to signal this inclusive stance.


  • Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power. While an inclusive group is by definition diverse, a diverse group isn’t always inclusive.

This definition is sourced from Independent Sector and from one of their root sources- Racial Equity Tools.

Intersectional, or Intersectionality:

  • The intersection of race, class, gender, religious, and ability identities within each individual that informs how one views, discusses, and navigates through the world and the way each of us views and discusses the world.

Originally coined by the scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, this definition here is sourced from The ABC’s of Social Justice, Department of Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement, Lewis & Clark College.


  • “An economic, political, cultural and social system of domination of women and transgender people that privileges non-transgender men. Patriarchy is based on binary definitions of gender (male/female) with strict gender roles. It also relies upon rigidly enforced heterosexuality that places male/straight/non-transgender as superior and women/queer/transgender as inferior. Patriarchy shapes and is shaped by white supremacy, capitalism, and the state. Together, they form interlocking systems of oppression.”

Sourced from Catalyst Project via A.C.T. for Social Justice.

People of Color (P.O.C.); Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (B.I.P.O.C.):

It is our hope and intention to use language that specifies various categories of racial identity according to the requests of individuals holding those identities.

People of Color, or POc:

Any individual whose ancestral lineage is not exclusively white and European. Note that lineage, not skin color alone, is the categorization indicated here. Individuals with indigenous lineage from Africa, Australia, Asia, and the Americas who may have light, or white, skin, may still self-identify as People of Color.

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, or BIPOC:

Black and Indigenous thinkers have indicated that though the term People of Color was useful when brought in to cultural language, and still maintains utility to some degree, the term has allowed for continued structural racism against Black and Indigenous populations specifically. For example, a business may employ multiple light-skinned People of Color and be considered diverse or inclusive while still specifically excluding Black and/or Indigenous people.


  • “A term for people of marginalized gender identities and sexual orientations who are not cisgender and/or heterosexual.”

Sourced from Trans Student Educational Resources.


  • Racism is the process, or set of processes, or behaviors that support and maintain white supremacy and it’s accompanying privileges. Its expressions may be personal (ie. hate speech, or causal assumptions made based on skin color), cultural (ie. beauty standards, criminalizing acts of poverty while comparably rewarding financial, or “white collar,” crimes), and/or institutional (ie. hiring practices, historic and ongoing breaking of treaties with indigenous communities).

Various sources via A.C.T. for Social Justice.


  • Replacing the word “safe” with the word “safer” is an emerging trauma-informed practice. “Safer” is used to acknowledge that safety is a fluid and non-linear concept that has a wide range of meanings to different people. A person or organization cannot guarantee that they are able to create safety given unpredictable or fluctuating needs. The use of this spelling can indicate that effort has been made to anticipate various needs, hopefully creating “safer space.”

This is a term that we have encountered in conversation, in public resources (such as Planned Parenthood’s current use of “Safer Sex”), and in various trainings. We have not been able to locate the origin of the term. If you have information on the source for this usage we would love to hear from you, please email:

Sexual orientation:

  • “A person’s physical, romantic, emotional, aesthetic, and/or other form of attraction to others. In Western cultures, gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Trans people can be straight, bisexual, lesbian, gay, asexual, pansexual, queer, etc. just like anyone else. For example, a trans woman who is exclusively attracted to other women would often identify as lesbian.”

Sourced from Trans Student Educational Resources.

Supremacy, Systems of Oppression, Systemic Inequity, Systemic Racism:


  • The superiority of one group of people over other groups of people through a system of domination and subordination.

Sourced from The ABC’s of Social Justice, Department of Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement, Lewis & Clark College.

Systems of oppression:

  • “Systemic devaluing, undermining, marginalizing, and disadvantaging of certain social identities in contrast to the privileged norm; when some people are denied something of value, while others have ready access.”

Sourced from Racial Equity Tools.

Systemic inequity

  • “[A] system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with ‘whiteness’ and disadvantages associated with ‘color’ to endure and adapt over time.”

    Sourced from Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change.

Systemic racism:

  • “The complex system by which racism is developed, maintained and protected is often referred to as structural racism. The term was developed in part to help people working towards racial equity emphasize the idea that racism in society is a system, with a clear structure, and with multiple components.”

    Sourced from Racial Equity Tools.

    Current systems that intersect to perpetuate oppression in our culture may include, but are not limited too:

  • Economic access: generational wealth created by historical oppression such as slavery or historical redistribution of wealth, historical or ongoing wealth creation through property or loans and credit, scholarships and grants, employment, etc.

  • Geographical access: removal of individuals or nations and/or populations from indigenous land, redlining or urban removal, etc.

  • Political access: voting rights, gerrymandering, cost of representation, removal of political rights during/after incarceration.

  • Legal/social access: disparate access to, or imbalanced benefits from, social systems such as health care, court systems, police protection, or education due to gender, class, skin color, or sexuality, etc.

Whiteness, White Body Supremacy, White Privilege, White Nationalism:

These concepts are often confused, conflated, and/or emotionally charged. They often trigger imagery of individuals or small-groups such as ‘skinheads’ or ‘neo-Nazis’ who perpetuate violent, ‘ugly’ and ‘fringe’ racist behavior. We offer the following definitions to help differentiate these concepts and their nuanced meanings and real world implications.


  • “Like race, whiteness is a social construct rather than an essential characteristic or biological fact; is used as cultural property, and can be seen to provide material and/or social privilege to those who are considered white, pass as white, or are given honorary white status.”

Sourced from The ABC’s of Social Justice, Department of Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement, Lewis & Clark College.

White Body Supremacy, and White Supremacy:

  • “White supremacy is an ideology and a belief system that is based on a hierarchy of constructed racial categorizations where white is at the top, black is at the bottom, and everyone else is between white and black. Dominant culture conditions us to believe that white supremacy should only be applied to hateful individuals or hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. It is important to understand that white supremacy is a belief system that perpetuates the idea that white is superior.”

    Quoted directly from Michelle Cassandra Johnson, Skill In Action: Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World, pg 4.

  • “In fact, white supremacy would be better termed white-body supremacy, because every white-skinned body, no matter who inhabits it - and no matter what they think, believe, do, or say - automatically benefits from it.”

Quoted directly from Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Out Hearts and Bodies, pg ix.

White Supremacy Culture:

  • “White supremacy culture is the idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions.

    White supremacy culture is reproduced by all the institutions of our society. In particular the media, the education system, western science (which played a major role in reinforcing the idea of race as a biological truth with the white race as the "ideal" top of the hierarchy), and the Christian church have played central roles in reproducing the idea of white supremacy (i.e. that white is "normal," "better," "smarter," "holy" in contrast to Black and other People and Communities of Color. 

    White supremacy culture is an artificial, historically constructed culture which expresses, justifies and binds together the United States’ white supremacy system. It is the glue that binds together white-controlled institutions into systems and white-controlled systems into the global white supremacy system.”

    Sourced from White Supremacy Culture,

White Privilege:

  • “The right or advantage provided to people who are considered white; an exemption of social, political, and/or economic burdens placed on non-white people; benefitting from societal structuring that prioritizes white people and whiteness.”

Sourced from The ABC’s of Social Justice, Department of Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement, Lewis & Clark College.

White Nationalism:

  • This term refers to groups or individuals who perpetuate through their direct action or behavior the values of White Supremacy.

  1. “White nationalist groups espouse white supremacist or white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. Groups listed in a variety of other categories - Ku Klux Klan, neo-Confederate, neo-Nazi, racist skinhead, and Christian Identity - could also be fairly described as white nationalist.”

  2. “White nationalism is a term that originated among white supremacists as a euphemism for white supremacy. Eventually, some white supremacists tried to distinguish it further by using it to refer to a form of white supremacy that emphasizes defining a country or region by white racial identity and which seeks to promote the interests of whites exclusively, typically at the expense of people of other backgrounds.”

1. From Southern Poverty Law Center.

2. From Anti-Defamation League.