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Guide to Respectful Communication in Today's Conversations: Using Language with Care.

I am thinking about the words of oppression that aggressors use incorrectly and what are the right words. What do the terms marginalisation, oppression, and transphobia mean and are they synonymous or what is the relation to each other? The intent is to educate people on using the words properly in all forms of communication.



Marginalisation is the act of socially, politically, and economically excluding specific individuals or groups from the rest of society. This can be achieved through various methods, including discrimination, prejudice, and violence. It entails withholding opportunities and resources from specific individuals or groups based on their social identity, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.


Oppression is the systematic mistreatment of specific individuals or groups by those in positions of power and privilege in society. It can be based on characteristics such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Oppression involves using institutional and social power to maintain dominance over marginalised groups and deny them equal access to opportunities, resources, and rights. Oppression takes various forms, including physical violence, verbal abuse, and institutional discrimination.

Transphobia is a form of oppression that targets people who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming. This discrimination can take many forms, including verbal abuse, physical violence, and denial of access to resources and services. It is characterised by fear, hatred, and prejudice towards individuals based on their gender identity or expression. Unfortunately, transphobia can have severe consequences for those who experience it, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

While these terms are related, they are not synonymous. Marginalisation and oppression are broader concepts that can apply to various social identities. At the same time, transphobia is a specific type of oppression that targets individuals based on gender identity or expression. All three terms are essential to understand to combat the discrimination and prejudice that transgender people face.

Here are some other words that are often misused in the context of transgender issues:

  • Gender identity is a person's internal sense of being male, female, or something else. It is not the same as a person's sex assigned at birth.

  • Gender expression is how a person presents their gender to the world through clothing, hair, and other means. It is not the same as a person's gender identity.

  • Cisgender refers to people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

  • Transgender: This term refers to people whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.

Using the wrong terms can be hurtful and can contribute to the discrimination that transgender people face.

Here are some tips for using these terms correctly:

  • First, ask people how they identify. The best way to learn how to refer to someone is to ask them directly.

  • Use the person's pronouns. Pronouns are words like "he," "she," and "they." If you are unsure of someone's pronouns, ask them.

  • Be respectful of people's gender identity. Even if you don't understand it, respecting people's right to identify as they choose is essential.


Here are other words that are often misused when communicating about oppression and social justice issues include:


- Sexism is a societal construct favouring men and masculine traits over women and feminine characteristics, resulting in a system of power and privilege. It extends beyond individual instances of discrimination towards women.

- Homophobia is a specific type of oppression that targets individuals who identify as gay. It involves fear, hatred, discrimination, and violence against these individuals, often based on their sexual orientation.

- Lesbianphobia is a form of discrimination that explicitly targets individuals who identify as lesbian. It encompasses fear, hatred, violence, and unfair treatment towards these individuals, typically based on their sexual orientation.

- Biphobia refers to a targeted form of oppression that affects those who identify as bisexual. This discrimination is characterised by fear, hatred, violence, and prejudice towards individuals based on their sexual orientation.

- Intersectionality is a theory that acknowledges individuals as having multiple social identities, which often intersect and interact with each other in complex ways. For example, an individual's experience of oppression may differ based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and/or disability status.

- Microaggressions are discrimination that occurs in everyday interactions, often unintentionally. They can be comments, actions, or gestures that reinforce stereotypes or communicate disrespect towards marginalised groups.

- Allyship is the practice of standing up for and advocating on behalf of marginalised or oppressed individuals or groups. An ally takes proactive steps to challenge and dismantle systems of oppression, using their privilege and influence to amplify the voices of those who are marginalised.

- Diversity encompasses the vast array of human differences, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability status. Therefore, acknowledging and appreciating diversity is crucial instead of erasing or neglecting these distinctions.


I'm available for client engagements, consulting & advisory services. If you're interested in working with me, please contact me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com.

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