Understanding Prejudice & Discrimination

Understanding Prejudice & Discrimination

  • Prejudice – An unfavourable opinion or feeling formed beforehand without knowledge, fact, or reason.


  • Discrimination –The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people. In the UK this usually refers to discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender re-assignment/ gender identity, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation


  • Homophobia - The irrational fear, dislike or prejudice against people who are or are perceived to be lesbian and gay people.

It can also be used as an all-encompassing term to include the irrational fear, dislike or prejudice against bisexual people and transgender people.

Homophobia can manifest itself at different levels and may involve, but is not limited to verbal abuse and physical abuse. Institutional homophobia refers to the many ways in which government and other institutions and organisations discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation through legislation, policies and practice.

  • Biphobia - The irrational fear, dislike or prejudice against those who are or are perceived to be bisexual.. Bisexual people can experience homophobia (particularly when in same-sex relationships) and can experience biphobia from both heterosexual and lesbian and gay people.


  • Transphobia – The irrational fear, dislike or prejudice or discrimination against those who are or are perceived to be transgender.

Transgender people can also experience homophobia when in same-sex relationships or for not conforming to gender norms.


Useful Terms (prejudice & discrimination)

  • Protected Characteristics – The nine personal qualities that are legally covered by the Equality Act 2010; age, disability, gender re-assignment, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion and belief, sex, and sexual orientation.


  • Hate Crime – When a crime committed has been motivated by ‘malice or ill-will towards an identifiable social group’. In Scotland, several pieces of legislation are in place to recognise hate crimes as crimes motivated by prejudice based on: race, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and disability.


The law is clear that the identity of the victim is irrelevant as to whether something is a hate crime or not. Individuals are protected based on identification, perception, and association. The motivation of the perpetrator is the key factor in defining a hate crime.

  • Multiple Discrimination – Experiencing discrimination on more than one protected characteristic, either on different occasions or at the same time.


  • Intersectionality – Identities, experiences or approaches to equality work that fall into more than one protected characteristic. This approach recognises that patterns of oppression and discrimination are not only interrelated but are bound together, and that certain groups can experience multiple forms of discrimination.


  • Heteronormativity – A view point that preferentially treats heterosexuality as a norm from which people deviate if they have any other sexual orientation. Heteronormativity is reinforced by making assumptions that everyone is heterosexual and not considering other sexual orientations in policy and practice.


  • Heterosexism – A view point whereby heterosexuality is presumed to be superior to any other sexual orientation and therefore other sexual orientations are deliberately not included in policy and practice.