The policing of language continues apace. This article was originally printed in the Torygraph, but that’s paywalled. Fortunately (?), it was reprinted in Yahoo! News, and you can read it by clicking on the screenshot below:
What has happened is that medical services directed at biological women are changing their lexicon, apparently—though this is not made very clear—because some biological women who identify as men still require the services of gynecologists and obstetricians. Therefore, because transgender men consider themselves men in all respects, any word that implies that these services are directed towards “women” must be changed.
According to the article, the changes, designed to be “gender inclusive”, are limited to Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) NHS Trust, but believe me, they will spread widely and rapidly. Here are some of the changes (quotes from the article are indented):
First, the Maternity Services Department of Brightton and Sussex has been changed “perinatal services.”
Staff have been told to avoid using the word “mothers” on its own and have been given a list of alternative terms to use when addressing patients including “mothers or birthing parents”, “breast/chestfeeding” and “maternal and parental”.
Instead of saying “breastmilk”, they can choose from “human milk” or “breast/chestmilk” or “milk from the feeding mother or parent”.
I don’t get this at all. Even transmen who use maternity services are likely to have breasts, even if they’ve been reduced by surgery to nipples alone. And if they have no breasts because of removal, then (as far as I know), they couldn’t lactate much anyway, and “chestmilk” becomes superfluous. Or do transmen with breasts object to the simple use of the word “breasts”? I don’t get the “chestmilk” at all, even as an attempt to be more inclusive.
. . . . Other changes include replacing the use of the word “woman” with the phrase “woman or person”, and the term “father” with “parent”, “co-parent” or “second biological parent”, depending on the circumstances.
But women are persons, so why not just say “person”?
If people want to be called “fathers” if they’re transmen who have given birth, I have no objection and would be glad to accommodate them. I don’t know how I feel about those terms being incorporated into the literature, though, so that in every reference to “mother”, they have to say “mothers and fathers”.
The real question is whether an entire grammar should be changed to take care of a very small number of transsexual men who get women’s health care, for apparently about 1% of British adults identify as “transgender or non-binary”. But I’d suspect that the percentage of transmen seeking ob-gyn services is substantially smaller, since most of the 1% would identify as “non-binary”. Should the entire lexicon of a hospital be changed to accommodate the <1%? This is a different issue from calling people whatever they want to be called, something I’m in favor of. It’s an issue of making everyone adhere to a terminology that might offend fewer than 1% of the population. And remember, language changes of this type are far less oppressive than actually discriminating against transsexual people.
There’s also this:
The guidance from BHSU follows a 2017 dictate from the British Medical Association which said pregnant women should not be called “expectant mothers” but “pregnant people” as it could offend intersex and transgender men.
But can’t expectant “mothers” be men, or when you become a transsexual man do you automatically must get offended if you give birth and are called a “mother”? To me, a “mother” is someone who gives birth, but that may not be a general view.
The ethical question here is what percentage of a population has to be offended (and I doubt that all transsexual men would be offended at the present language), before you change the language for everyone. Suppose only 0.1% of British adults were transgender or nonbinary. Would that be sufficient? How about only five or six people?
Clearly, some people like J. K. Rowling are already disturbed at language changes, while at the same time advocating equal rights and respectful use of pronouns for transgender people. From the article:
Telegraph columnist Suzanne Moore – who resigned from The Guardian last year after colleagues criticised the newspaper for publishing “transphobic content” following an article she wrote about sex being a biological classification “not a feeling” – said: “I’m worried that women will lose the capacity or ability to even name our own body parts or our own biology.
“Why must this language be applied to all women who clearly do have breasts and are mothers? Why must the average woman suddenly not be able to call herself a woman or call her breasts breasts? These are biological facts.
Now this is a fracas I don’t know about, but if Moore was really ostracized for saying that sex was a real biological classification—which it is—and not just a “feeling,” then that ostracism is reprehensible. Any biologist with experience of mammals knows that sex is indeed a real biological classification, and is used regularly in those who work with animals. It’s based on a binary of gamete size (it’s not just bimodal or a continuum, for there are no gametes in humans intermediate between sperm and eggs). All of us need to push back against the idea that “sex” (as opposed to gender) is a biological construct. Gender, yes; sex, no.
As for how we react to expurgated and altered language like “chestmilk,” well, I just don’t know, and I’m not just saying that. It seems to me to depend on what percentage of a population has to be catered to linguistically because they might get offended. Weigh in below.
h/t: Ginger K.