University of Vermont

Center for Cultural Pluralism

Language of Cultural Pluralism and Social Justice

Here at CCP, we feel that in order to counteract an act of prejudice, bias or social injustice, it is necessary to understand the meanings of many of the words and actions that affect our world everyday. The following list demonstrates that:


Cultural Pluralism took form as a term during a conversation between Horace Kallen and Alain Locke during a course in 1907. Cultural Pluralism as used by Center for Cultural Pluralism differs from Kallen’s original view by including a critical perspective. The Center defines it as: the valuing of multi-faceted, multicultural nature of human societies in contrast to monism (Kallen, xxxiii) or ethnocentrist ideals. It is belief in collaboration before assimilation, heterogeneity over homogeneity and most of the value of multiple perspectives to enlighten critical thinking over an authoritarian perspective requiring intellectual dualism.

Homosexuality: Sexual attraction to and/or behavior with the same sex. It is normal, has no known cause, and it not an illness.

Bisexuality: Sexual attraction to an/or behavior with both sexes. It is normal, has no known cause, and is not an illness.

Heterosexuality: Sexual attraction and/or behavior with the other sex. It is normal, has no known cause, and is not an illness.

Heterosexism: Promoting a heterosexual lifestyle; believing heterosexuality to be superior to other lifestyles.

Homophobia: The fear and intolerance of homosexuality, bisexuality, lesbian women, and gay men.

Normal: Natural (homosexuality occurs throughout nature); not a disease, defect, or disorder (the American Psychiatric Association, 1973); conforms to long-standing expectations (cultures throughout history have had the full continuum of orientations); and statistically common.

Sexual Orientation: The deep-seated direction of one’s sexual attraction toward the same sex (homosexual), other sex (heterosexual), or both sexes (bisexual). Sexual orientation is a continuum, not a set of absolutely different categories.

Gay: Men and women who accept their homosexual orientation and identify (define themselves) as gay.

Lesbian: Gay women. Most prefer the term "lesbian" because it gives gay women an identity independent from men.

Bi: A slang term for people who accept their bisexual orientation and identify (define themselves) as bi.

Straight: A slang term for people who accept their heterosexual orientation and identify (define themselves) as heterosexual.

In the Closet: Being secret about one’s sexual orientation; frequently necessary given widespread discrimination and anti-gay violence, but causing its own psychic pain.

Coming Out: The process of becoming aware of one’s sexual orientation, accepting it, action on it, and telling other about it.

Transvestite: Men and women who enjoy wearing the clothes of and appearing as the other sex. Most are heterosexual. Some gay people enjoy drag as costume and as an expression of humor.

Transsexual: Transsexual people identify as a member of the sex opposite to the sex they were assigned at birth, and desire to live and be accepted as such. Many transsexual people undergo hormone therapy or gender-confirming surgery. There is no connection between transsexuality and homosexuality. Transsexuals may be gay, bisexual, or straight.

Masculinity/ Femininity: Sex role stereotypes, totally differing from culture to culture, which get arbitrarily imposed on men and women, denying our true androgyny (similarities) and individuality.

Culture: Combined experiences and socialization

Ethnicity: Linear connection to a particular social group

Nationality: Political and national state affiliation(s)

Race: Social construction based on arbitrary physical traits used to support the dominant structures

Discrimination: Discrimination is actions, attitudes, and thought behavior that disadvantages one group in relation to another group and maintains and perpetuates conditions of inequality.

Ableism: Ableism is defined as stereotyping, negative attitudes, and discrimination toward people based on a physical or mental disability resulting in discrimination and/or prejudice.

Classism: Stigmatizing poor and working class people and their cultures and assigning high status to the affluent and their culture solely because of their relative wealth.

Ethnocentrism: The tendency of people to put their own group at the center: to see things through the narrow lens of their own culture and to use the standards of that culture to judge others.

Racism: The subordination of certain groups of people based on their origins and physical characteristics


  1. Kallen, H. M. (1998). Culture and Democracy in the United States. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Last modified July 03 2014 01:32 PM