Happy MMMModay! Each Monday, we bring you special, maintainer-curated content intended to enrich your VP experience. Today's post is brought to you by Because I Am A Woman, where this awesome post originated and who gave me permission to repost it here for you today. Please go check it out, it's great! You can the original post here.
As friends, allies, activists, and educators it is incredibly important not to make assumptions about gender. Sexual health must be inclusive to be successful, and so I have created this quick guide to speaking inclusively.
First, lets talk pronouns. This is especially important when addressing specific people, or writing about someone you do not know. Don’t simply assume someone identifies in a certain way. When in doubt, use “they”. Below you will find a handy chart outlining the different usages of gendered and gender neutral pronouns. You can also find an expanded printable pronoun chart here.
When we’re talking about sexual health, it is also very important to use gender neutral language. In this field, you cannot be excluding people who need access to this information. Gendered language has no place here. Quite frankly, somebody’s health and well being could be on the line. It is vital to create not only a physical safe space but another in our language. We can do this by not referring to people with a vagina as women or people with a penis as men. Since not everyone with a certain set of genitals identifies with the gender we might assume, using these terms just does not make sense.
That then leads us to what terms can be used. This can be dealt with simply by being more specific. Its not men who need information about prostate health- people with a penis need information about prostate health. Some people do use the terms “penis owners” and “vagina owners”, but many shy away from these terms. They can be interpreted as boiling down a person to their genitals, and so “people with/who have a….” is a nice neutral descriptor.
This language isn’t just important in sexual health and education. As feminists and activist, gender neutrality in language can be a big step to making the larger conversation on many of our discourses more inclusive. For example, abortion isn’t just an issue impacting women, and to chalk it up as such is denying a larger truth. First and foremost, it doesn’t include people who have had abortions and will continue to get them who are not women. Trans people, genderqueer people, and everybody else who has a vagina but isnt a woman are as much a part of this attack on reproductive health as anybody else.
By referring to abortion (and other reproductive health issues) as issues that only impact women, we are also ignoring a conversation about how these things impact every single person regardless of their genitals. We all need access to healthcare, we all have genitals, and we are all impacted when groups of people lose access to services that are essential to their health and well being. We cannot continue to frame these issues in terms of gender.
So, there you have it. A quick guide to gender neutral language and speaking inclusively. If you have anything you would like to add to the conversation, feel free to leave it in my ask box or to submit content.
VPers: if you have questions or want to talk about this post, please feel free to go for it in the comments here! We'd love to hear from you.