Default: male — language: a feminist guide

I highly recommend reading this blog.

English as a modern language has a problematic default to gender binary. While it is grammatically correct to use the neutral “they” to refer to a person who does not identify as male or female, or is in transition between one gender to another, or plans to remain gender fluid, it is awkward and sounds odd. It requires the speaker or writer to consciously remember to alter all verbs to the third person plural conjugation, and makes your language feel clunky and unwieldy. He or she is easier. It is depersonal, and in that depersonalisation is entirely offensive and inappropriate to use as a pronoun for a transgender or gender fluid person.

Why does all of this matter?

Because everyone has the right to self determination. It’s the first article in all major international human rights law treaties, and is a strong point of liberal democratic philosophy. You have the right to determine how you will live, who you are, how you present to the world.

But sadly, for many transgender or gender fluid people, the grammatically difficulties of using non-gender specific language adds to the transphobic bias in general society. Language is a powerful tool for social engineering: think of the evolution of racist, homophobic or transphobic taunts over time and how often these words, such as ‘nigger’, ‘fag’ or ‘tranny’ were once commonplace.

LANGUAGE MATTERS. So be a responsible person and use appropriate language when dealing with transgender or gender fluid people.

Better yet, refuse to buy into the gender binary: use gender non-specific words wherever possible. 



On Twitter recently, the British Green Party’s women’s organization explained why it had chosen to refer to its constituency as ‘non-men’ rather than ‘women’. This inspired an outbreak of the kind of mockery and parody Twitter excels in. ‘What’s all this in my mentions about the non-blue party?’ inquired one user. Others urged the immediate […]

via Default: male — language: a feminist guide