Non-binary inclusive language

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Do you remember when writers wrote about mankind and referred to all people as he? That was quite normal in British writing until a few decades ago.

Attempting to be more gender inclusive, writers switched to humankind and began using phrases such as he or she and they.

Some people worry that it’s grammatically incorrect to use they to refer to one person. But it’s ok, even Chaucer did it.

A few writers switch between the feminine and the masculine, using she in some passages and he in others. I don’t like that approach. It makes no more sense to assume that a person is female than it does to assume that they are male.

Perhaps in the future most writers will stick with they. It includes men, women, non-binary and gender fluid people.

If you look around you’ll see that today’s writers are adjusting their language to include people who are not men or women. Instead of both genders they now write all genders.

Some non-binary persons have periods and pregnancies, so we see phrases such as pregnant people and people who have periods. These phrases are also inclusive for those transmen who have periods and pregnancies.

I have lived through two great changes in the way that British writers handle gender. First there was the move away from male-centric phrasing. Now there is this effort to include non-binary persons and transmen.

One result of the first wave of change was the adoption of gender neutral job titles. There are no longer actors and actresses, only actors. I’m not sure I’ve heard  manageress since the 1980s. We now have chairpersons (not chairmen) and spokespersons (not spokesmen), firefighters (not firemen) and postal workers (not postmen).

Another part of this change is the decline in phrases such as lady doctor, female priest, male nurse and male nanny. They express the outdated idea that it’s not “normal” for women to be doctors or priests, or for men to be nurses or nannies.

Making sure that language is inclusive for women goes a long way towards ensuring that it’s also inclusive for non-binary people.


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