New paper advocating sex-specific language

May 14, 2023 • 9:30 am

Frankly, I’m surprised that this paper, which insists that we be very careful about replacing “sexed” language like “woman” with “desexed” language like “bodies with vaginas” (I’m looking at you, Lancet!) or “cervix havers”— and giving a number of reasons why we should exercise caution—got published at all. Moreover, the authors, a group from Australia, India, the UK, and the US, published it in a respectable journal, Frontiers in Global Women’s Health (February 2022). You can click the screenshot to read it (pdf available at upper right of the article, and I give the full reference at the bottom):

The authors first note the trend to replace “sexed” language with “desexed” language, and give a chart to show the two categories (click to enlarge):

(From paper): TABLE 1. Sexed terms and some of their replacement desexed terms.

Here are the most common replacements (all quotes from the paper are indented, while my comments are flush left):

Avoidance of sexed terms most commonly results in the words “woman” and “women” being replaced with “person”, “people” or “families” and the words “mother” and “mothers” being replaced with “parent”, “parents”, “family” or “families” (51). Sometimes body parts (e.g. “vagina owners”) or processes (e.g. “birthers”) are also used. Terms such as “non-males” or “non-men” may be used to denote women. “Maternity” (52), “maternal” (53), “midwife” (54), and “breastfeeding” (52) have also become contentious terms.

The authors argue that that these changes arose via the postmodern form of Queer Theory:

Gender identity can be described as an individual’s internalized sense of being masculine, feminine or something else, or as an internal understanding of oneself as man, woman, both or neither, and is independent of sex (2728). The concept of gender identity originated in the 1960s in the United States of America (USA) (29), was refined in the 1990s through a postmodern philosophy called Queer Theory (30) and continues to evolve. Central to Queer Theory are the twin propositions that both sex and gender are socially constructed (3132) and that gender is the more important of the two (333)1. Ideas informed by Queer Theory have spread from the USA to become influential in many other Western countries and beyond (30). The number of children, adolescents, and adults, reporting gender identities in conflict with their sex (described as being “transgender”) has grown dramatically in recent years (35). Alongside this increase, the idea that not everyone who gives birth is a woman has gained prominence.

Let me add that sex is NOT socially constructed; it’s a biological binary or dichotomy in humans and other animals.  The authors add this:

These language changes are intended to avoid distress, are described as inclusive (42), and are encouraged by diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. Desexed language is most common in the English-speaking West, but it is increasingly being applied internationally (4345).

The authors have no issue with addressing specific people (generally transgender men [biological women]) with the terms they prefer. I agree; this is a matter of simple civility. But they have multiple issues with using in general either the pure replacements, or even using both the sexed and desexed terms (“additive language”):

Contrasting with the either/or of replacing sexed words, it is sometimes proposed to use both/and words. So, rather than referring to “women” or “mothers”, one might say “women and birthing people,” “women and other birthing people,” or “mothers and parents,” a strategy commonly described as “additive language”

They generally disapprove of additive language because it’s confusing, and their general take is that the desexed language is inimical to communication. This is where they begin to tread on dangerous ground:

Desexed language is most common in the English-speaking West, but it is increasingly being applied internationally (4345). However, there appears to have been little consideration of the ethics of these changes, including the principles of avoiding harm and health maximization (46), or how they may impact on women and children’s rights. The exercise of medical ethics requires balancing “autonomy” and “justice.” In this context, supporting autonomy is a legitimate and ethical goal, but the principles of distributive justice, to respect the equality, and dignity of every individual in the population must also be considered (47). Although the proposed language changes relate to women, they also impact children as the mother and infant form a dyad, whose physiologic functions depend on one another and are intimately interconnected in a unique, vital and transient developmental state (4850). It behooves us therefore to be certain of how women’s needs and children’s developmental prerequisites may be affected by these changes in language and how they might impact advocacy for maternal and child health and human rights.

The striking thing about this paper is that the authors are neither strident nor particularly ideological; their tone is calm, their arguments rational. It’s clear that their stand is opposed to both gender activism and progressive authoritarianism, but they don’t mention their ideological opponents, but merely proffer an argument. Here’s an overview of the damage that, they say, desexed language does:

Desexing the language of female reproduction has been done with a view to being sensitive to individual needs and as beneficial, kind, and inclusive. Yet, this kindness has delivered unintended consequences that have serious implications for women and children. These include: decreasing overall inclusivity; dehumanizing; including people who should be excluded; being imprecise, inaccurate or misleading; and disembodying and undermining breastfeeding. In addition, avoidance of the term “mother” in its sexed sense, risks reducing recognition and the right to protection of the mother-infant dyad.

Note that they mention six deleterious consequences. For the rest of the paper they take each in turn and show the harm that desexed language does. I’ll give just one; read the paper if you want the full argument:


Numerous alternative terms for “women” and “mothers” involve references to body parts or physiological processes. Referring to individuals in this reduced, mechanistic way is commonly perceived as “othering” and dehumanizing (67). For example, the term “pregnant woman” identifies the subject as a person experiencing a physiological state, whereas “gestational carrier” or “birther” marginalizes their humanity. Efforts to eliminate dehumanizing language in medical care are longstanding (68), including in relation to women during pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood (676971). Using language that respects childbearing women is imperative given the prevalence of obstetric violence (187273). Considering women in relation to males as “non-men” or “non-males”, treats the male body as standard (8) and hearkens back to the sexist Aristotelian conceptualization of women as failed men (74).

Note that this trend of reducing dehumanization is ubiquitous, as in eliminating “slaves” in favor of “enslaved persons”; eliminating “the homeless” for “people experiencing homelessness”, or eliminating “prisoners” with “person or individual with justice system involvement.” Some of these are okay, while others, like the new term for “prisoners”, is both overly complex and best avoided.

The authors conclude that whatever language is used, it should be clear, avoid conflating sex and gender, uses “sex” when one refers to sex and “gender” when one refers to “gender,” and that you ask yourself a number of questions when treading this ground, questions like “How can I ensure that the special needs of those who are female, but who have a gender identity they experience in conflict with their sex, are met?” As you see, the authors are not dogmatic but try to effect compromise. Nevertheless this paper will be met with rancor from gender activists. As I said, I was surprised to see it published (as an op-ed, of course) in a reputable, peer-reviewed medical journal, as it would seem to find its niche in something like The Journal of Controversial Ideas.

In the end, this does constitute pushback against wokeness and extreme gender activism, but kudos to the authors for their rationality, clarity, and refusal to accept terms being forced upon people by Progressive Authoritarians like The Lancet:

Here’s another article with some of the same authors (click to read). It’s a case study, and I’ve put the abstract below the fold should you be interested (the paper is from February of this year in the same journal as above):

h/t: Anna


Gribble, K. D. et al. 2023. Effective communication about pregnancy, birth, lactation, breastfeeding, and newborn care: the importance of sexed language. Front. Glob. Womens Health, 07 February 2022 Sec. Maternal Health Volume 3 – 2022 |


Click “read more” for the abstract of the last paper mentioned above:

Abstract of Gribble, Bewley, and Dahlen (2023)

An increasing number of young females are undergoing chest masculinsation mastectomy to affirm a gender identity and/or to relieve gender dysphoria. Some desist in their transgender identification and/or become reconciled with their sex, and then revert (or detransition). To the best of our knowledge, this report presents the first published case of a woman who had chest masculinisation surgery to affirm a gender identity as a trans man, but who later detransitioned, became pregnant and grieved her inability to breastfeed. She described a lack of understanding by maternity health providers of her experience and the importance she placed on breastfeeding. Subsequent poor maternity care contributed to her distress. The absence of breast function as a consideration in transgender surgical literature is highlighted. That breastfeeding is missing in counselling and consent guidelines for chest masculinisation mastectomy is also described as is the poor quality of existing research on detransition rates and benefit or otherwise of chest masculinising mastectomy. Recommendations are made for improving maternity care for detransitioned women1. Increasing numbers of chest masculinsation mastectomies will likely be followed by more new mothers without functioning breasts who will require honest, knowledgeable, and compassionate support.

56 thoughts on “New paper advocating sex-specific language

  1. Important to note that there is little mention of “desexing” males. You don’t see it so often mentioned that men should be referred to as “penis havers” or that they should be called “non women”. It’s absurd to replace woman with “non man” because why is it okay to sex a male and then make that the standard sex?

    All this stuff, is really just another way to erase women. Reduce us to body parts (that I might add some of us don’t have so what happens when you don’t have those parts because of surgery? Are you just some neutral nothing? And what happens to the non menstruating women? I know they don’t matter in society but what are they now?

    1. Yes, I don’t understand how these things always relate to trans women. We rarely hear anything about trans men. If I were unkind, I might say that a lot of these men wanting to be women were unsuccessful as men, and now want to take it out on women.

      1. “If I were unkind, I might say…”
        Since you said it anyway does that make you unkind or not? Is there really any evidence to suggest that men identify as women in order ‘to take it out on women’? I rather doubt it. On the whole, identifying as the opposite gender to your birth gender, and transitioning would seem to generate a whole lot of potential difficulties in the lives of people who do it, so it seems probable to me that most people only go through with it if they sincerely believe they are trapped in the wrong body.

        I do agree with Diana’s comment.

        1. “Is there really any evidence to suggest that men identify as women in order ‘to take it out on women’?” I think that Andrea Chu’s candid expression of ‘sissy porn’ making her trans rather confirms at least one case; and the existence of ‘sissy porn’ rather implies she is not alone – though not all followers may be caused to transition as a result of following it.

      2. In that case you would be surprised that a lot of this kind of language is being made at the request of trans men. After all, ‘person with uterus’, excludes trans women, but includes trans men, hence why its seen as inclusive language. There are some quite high profile trans men in a number of LGBT organisations who push for this sort of thing.

    2. I think “erasing women” is an unintended consequence rather than a deliberate goal. For a variety of interesting and ultimately mistaken reasons, people who support the modern transgender ideology believe that using language like “uterus haver” will reduce sexism. This is because it’s supposed to free women from the expectation that womanhood is centered on being a Good Girl and having lots of babies. If a woman might have a body structured for the production of sperm, then women who can’t or won’t have children shouldn’t feel they’re less of a woman.

      They apparently see sexism as inevitable as long as being a man or woman is tied to what sex they are, but impossible if it’s not.

    3. The other day I was checking on Coleridge’s reference to “man from Porlock” and was disgusted to find in Wikipedia “person from Porlock”.

      1. I think that even if not intended, it’s interesting that no one thinks about what this means for women. Women just aren’t supposed to complain and if they do well the adults are talking so they should be quiet. And be good girls after all because there are people who suffer more than women. It’s the whole idea itself that is so sexists – women just don’t matter not when it comes to the rights of others.

        1. I don’t think there is any deliberate wish by the trans ideologues to discriminate against women any more than men, I just don’t see that at all. What I do see is that the trans ideologues show equal contempt for normal men and women. It just so happens that the phenomenon of men becoming women adversely affects women’s rights more than the other way round. Men being introduced to women’s spaces negates the intended benefit of those spaces. Of course, in most situations, this segregation affords women physically and sexually safety and/or privacy, and in sports it offers fairness in competition. These problems are not experienced by men when biological women are introduced to their spaces, but that’s not through any design or intention of the trans ideologues, it’s just a natural consequence of merging two dimorphic sexes. The power dynamic between men and women means women are usually worse off; the sexual imbalance in negative effects caused by trans ideology is just an unfortunate extension of that.

          Also, I note earlier you said that ‘penis havers’ is not often used. My experience is otherwise, as I see the term ‘penis owner’ all over the place these days – at least as often as vagina or vulva owner. All those terms make me want to vomit.

          Incidentally, I was looking at something completely unrelated on the NHS website today and I came across the odious impersonal term ‘chestfeeders’. It gave me such a shudder that I almost lactated myself!

          1. I never said anything was intentional but I don’t agree that women just so happen to get the crap end of the stick. It’s predominantly women who have been asked to change their status as women, mothers, etc. and to have these ridiculous anatomical references substituted. The women are asked to accommodate and I rarely see this among men. When I see hospital and health literature everywhere referring to “pregnant people” and lots of the same in the news but I don’t see it the other way around. No one is very concerned at all about the comfort of transmen in the same way. There are no cancellations and the proclaiming of the equivalent as TERF with males simply because it’s nowhere near as prevalent.

            1. One of the terms for woman was “unman” or some such. When was the last time a man was called “unwoman”. It’s the new millennium and has been for decades and we are actually selecting a word to describe a woman like this?

              1. I think women get an outrageously unfair deal in this area. Though I do think much of it is to do with the fact that men aren’t asked to accommodate, because they don’t raise so many concerns. Of course, the reason they don’t is that they are not negatively affected. However, women are, and usually to a considerable extent.

                I completely agree that there is erasure of women’s rights and agency when language like ‘pregnant people’ is used. Though again, I think the prevalence of these terms result from that fact that women give birth and are therefore the sex most often articulated in health literature where sex is relevant.

                I do agree with almost everything you say, women are impacted by this crap much more than men, and that needs to be dealt with. However, the biggest shock I have received while reading this post is that the word ‘unwoman’ is an actual thing. That’s just messed up up, and it’s so dehumanising! What the hell!

        2. I have thought about this as much as can being male. I have wondered how these new terms must make a woman feel? A lot will accept it, sure. But I think it is OK if Diana, or any women, is not comfortable with these terminologies. They should be allowed to speak out and be heard. Unfortunately, in the current situation Diana and others that speak out are labelled racist, anti-trans, fascist etc. It must be a very confusing time for biological human females? Stay strong Diana!

          1. Thanks David. It’s the same way I feel whenever women are asked to change seats on an airplane because there is a religious man whose religion forbids him from sitting next to a woman. The man isn’t asked to accommodate his own religion but the woman is. I once asked readers on these pages if this would be okay if someone asked to remove someone who was sitting next to them because their religion forbade them from interacting with someone from another race. I received a lot of “oh well that’s different” responses. But the woman Jerry wrote about who sued the airline for this said it best, she felt like who she was as a person didn’t matter; she was reduced to her gender only. This is even worse. Women are reduced to what body parts they may or may not have or if they are not a man. It’s horrible and it seems that women are expected, just like when asked to change seats for the sake of someone’s interpretation of their religion, shut up and deal with it so as not to inconvenience anyone else. Surely, there is a way to accommodate everyone without dehumanizing a group.

    4. I think you make good points. Perhaps the biases result from the over influence of radical feminism.

    5. I don’t believe that this constitutes any actual erasure of women. Don’t get me wrong, trans women literally aren’t women – that’s why we call them “trans women”. Women are adult human females. Period. But if you’re feeling like women are being marginalized in this, take solace in that while many people are asking “what is a woman?” as a sort of flagship question for this issue, so far as I can tell, absolutely nobody is asking “what is a man?” . So one could argue that men are being backgrounded while women are being foregrounded, here.

      Which is quite customary whenever we talk about advantage/disadvantage associated w/ being one or the other. At the level of the broader society, when it comes to sex-linked problems, the caring is almost 100% in the direction of women and girls, and essentially zero for men and boys. Feminism literally only cares when women or girls either are or can be portrayed as being in a state of sex-linked disadvantage; they pay zero attention when it goes the other way. The only time they will ever make a campaign that casts sympathetic light on men is if there is some other variable – e.g., black men. In those cases, they’re not advocating for men; they’re advocating for a race.

      I’ve yet to see a single feminist campaign advocate for, say, increased funding for men’s healthcare and research into male-specific health issues, even though men die earlier. Or increased funding for male psychological services, given that men commit suicide more often. There have been no feminist campaigns about the sentencing gap between males and females, which absolutely dwarfs the black-white sentencing gap. Or advocacy for men in divorce and family court. I could go on, but I’ll stop here.

      But yes, I’m with you on the reduction of women to body parts. I haven’t seen anyone use the expression “penis haver”. Though, then again, almost all of the sex-specific criticisms of trans stuff pertains to MtF trans people. There is WAY more cultural aversion to biological males in female spaces (e.g., restrooms) and competition, which is totally understandable.

      Last, I’ll just say that I’m not trying to engage in some sort of Victim Off with you. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you agree w/ much or all of what I’ve said. I’m just trying to add more context to the discussion.

      1. With regard to your first point, the current problems are with men claiming that they are women, not vice versa. Of course, not everyone shares your view that trans women aren’t literally women. (Of course I share that view; trans women are men.) I’ve always been sceptical of defining a woman as an adult human female, not because it’s wrong, but because it provides no additional information. Yes, I realize that people do it to distinguish real women from trans women, but the same people who think that they can redefine “woman” will just try to redefine “female”.

        Yes, feminism is concerned with helping women; that’s literally in the name. That doesn’t mean that they are opposed to better life for everyone, merely that they have enough to do fighting their own battles.

        Some people do advocate for things like mens’-health issues, and not all of them are the infamous mens’-rights activists. I will note, though, that women routinely earn more than men in porn. Many people will say that that is obviously to be expected, not noticing that that undermines much of their logic.

  2. Being told that something is “unfair” is calculated to put the other person on the defensive. We all want to be fair. (We care less about politeness these days.) What this piece made me realize is that, while Progressives want us to be “fair” to trans people by not using gendered language and using the forms of address that the trans person prefers, they don’t extend that fairness to non-trans people. It would be “fair” to address a pregnant woman as such, or a mother as such, if that is what the person wanted. Instead, we are told that “fairness” is addressing everyone so as not to offend trans people. (Sorry if everyone else got there before me.) This is what they mean by equity.

    1. “Progressives want us to be “fair”…”

      I completely agree with your assessment, except for the part about “We all want to be fair”.

      Fairness has absolutely no place in the conservative worldview. Getting a dig in at progressives may be fun, and probably even warranted in this instance. But the concept of fairness itself can barely be grasped by the conservative mind.


          1. That’s trivial. Conservatives (and others) favor ‘merit’ in college admissions, science, etc.

      1. You are engaging in false stereotypes. Dangerous, really. When we characterize a group of people as being essentially monstrous, even when we personally understand that it is hyperbole, some people are going to take it literally.
        So we have a large group of people that we believe lack fairness and empathy. They are all racist, and enjoy seeing children caged up or becoming victims of violence. They are “irredeemable”.
        If someone truly believe those things, then such people cannot really be lived with.

        At it’s most harmless, people holding such views are shocked when they embark on an expedition through flyover country, and write an article about how surprised they were to encounter people who are completely normal, or even nicer than the ones back in the city.
        At the other end of the scale, much less harmless, is the idea that something simply must be done about those people. Mass purges, or reeducation camps.

        It is fundamentally unfair to punish someone for beliefs they do not actually hold, and for actions they did not commit. It is unfair to even propagate such libels.

        1. I am not saying that “something must be done”. I am not advocating mass purges or reeducation camps. Who’s indulging in stereotypes now?

          There is an underlying cruelty to conservative philosophy. It tends to attract cruel people. There is an underlying unreality to progressive philosophy. It tends to attract people with pie-in-the-sky attitudes. But at least progressives are more open to discussion and persuasion. Conservatives, for the most part, are not.

          I have no patience with the “people must be taken as individuals” position, though. Who we are and what we believe are connected, and often belief systems attract certain kinds of people. People who find a belief system that would take my bodily autonomy away from me because I am a woman are not the kind of people I want to be around. Just because some of them have managed to master basic civility is no reason to embrace them and their beliefs about me.

          I will ask you the same question I ask people who hand me that argument about religious people: In your opinion, how many bad experiences am I required to have before it’s OK with you that I learn from my experience? Is there any point along the way where I’m allowed to say enough is enough?


          1. No one is forcing you to vote for conservative politicians, Linda, or live in a society where they have electoral support. You are also perfectly free to argue, as you seem to be doing, that conservatives should be disenfranchised somehow, say with a litmus test of political philosophy before being allowed to register to vote. But such a measure is unlikely to pass, ever, so you are stuck with people you loathe being elected to office. Maybe that’s not “fair” in your eyes, but so what?

            What do you mean, then. by “enough is enough”? I can’t see your side prevailing with force. So yes you are allowed to say “enough is enough” anytime you like but you can’t be allowed to do anything except out-vote them.

            1. I am not arguing that conservatives should be disenfranchised. The disenfranchisement seems to be coming FROM them – gerrymandering, voter intimidation, passing laws that limit the rights of others to vote.

              What I mean by enough is enough is that I personally engage with them as little as possible.

              Once those people get control, and they probably will, voting will become pointless. Political imprisonment will become routine. All you have to do is look at authoritarian societies around the world to see where this is going. I can certainly see YOUR side prevailing with force, and then what? I suspect that your imagined utopia isn’t going to be as swell as you think it is.


          2. Mountains of literature has been written on conservative philosophy, so I risk oversimplification here. But, I’ll give it a go. Traditionally, conservative philosophy in the United States has stressed limited government where the success or failure of an individual in life should be based on what that person does or achieves, not what the government gives them in entitlements. This implies that government should as much as possible stay out of a person’s life. But, oops, on closer examination we find that the non-involvement in a person’s life is confined to the economic sphere. On matters of morals and lifestyle, conservatives feel that the government should play a huge role in the personal lives of people. Abortion and right-wing religion are current examples. So, conservatism is plagued by an internal contradiction. It has resulted in an uneasy alliance between the business interests and ideologues that do not want government to interfere with them or impose taxes and cultural conservatives that resist change, and based on their religious beliefs feel it their duty to compel all people to act as their Christian religion tells them are the moral things to do.

            So, Linda, is conservatism cruel? The answer is not for all. But for those that don’t believe in a super atomistic, individualist society and are not particularly wealthy or don’t wish to have forced down their throats a version of Christian morality, then decidedly so.

          3. I had written a response to your question yesterday, and deleted it as it seemed to stray from the topic of the post. But it seems rude not to answer a direct question.

            I cannot presume to guess what sort of repetitive attacks you have faced from traditional conservatives, that you see them as consistently cruel and unfair.

            I cannot agree with your assertion that progressives are generally more open to discussion, either. very few of the people shouting down scheduled speakers or otherwise disrupting debates or lectures are conservatives. It is not that they avoid people who do not fully support their views, but that they seek them out, and make attempts to keep them from speaking at all, or to block their audience from being able to attend.
            Such behavior make perfect sense if one supposes that they actually believe that anyone right of their current views are literal Nazis. If you believe that someone is irredeemably wicked, and seeks to subjugate and destroy you, then stopping them by any means available is a reasonable response.

            The reality we live in, as I see it, is that the vast majority of people in the US and elsewhere are normal and decent people. Whether they see themselves as liberal or conservative is largely due to geography and lifestyle. Some tiny percentage of any population are mentally divergent, and have base impulses that they do not seem to want to suppress.
            Naturally, such people gravitate towards groups and organizations that allow them to exercise those base behaviors, and convince themselves that doing so is a virtue. They become extremists.
            I believe pretty strongly that whether someone like that becomes a left or right wing extremist is largely due to chance and opportunity, the same way that people with low self esteem are liable to join whatever cult they happen to encounter when they are the most suggestible.

            It is the nature of political agitators to try to influence their constituents to believe that the mainstream of the other side are extremists. Also, extremists on one side need to elevate the power and numbers of the other side. Antifa needs fascists, or it becomes obvious that what they really want to do is smash windows, burn things, and hit people with bike locks.
            The current difference these days is that someone with affiliations with the Klan or related groups must hide their identity, even in the most conservative communities. A Communist revolutionary in the US is likely to feel pretty comfortable marching around with a red banner and shouting slogans.

            As for “people must be taken as individuals”, There are plenty of urban shop keepers that cannot help but notice that they keep getting robbed by people that mostly share characteristics of sex, approximate age, style of dress, and race. If the shopkeepers were to use their observations, and prohibit entry to persons conforming to those observed characteristics, they would face serious pushback. Especially from the majority of people fitting those descriptions who are not robbers.

            1. Since Jerry is thinking of closing down WEIT, this might well be the last comment of yours I will get to read, Max. I’ll be the better for it, and so will whatever corner of the world you inhabit. Wishing you joy to you and your family.

  3. The effort to de-sex language can easily lead to even deeper neutering of language. The de-sexed terms will later seem sexed, and then someone will try to de-sex them further. So we go from mother –> birther, but then that must be later changed –>, oh I dunno, gestational person or something. But that will probably later have to go too because that will seem too sexed. Language policing is not about lifting real harm, after all, but rather its about sniffing for ways to burnish ones’ virtue creds.

    1. It also has a terrible backlash. Now if there is a gay character in a show there are a bunch of people that cry “it’s woke!” where that would not have happened years ago. It’s like this has hyper sensitized people and made them even worse.

      1. I don’t see a backlash, I see an environment shift where those who will never accept ANYTHING gay/homosexual feel it’s now OK to express their ignorant hateful bigotries out loud. While I agree a lot of this has gone too far, e.g., many of these de-sexed terms are ghastly abuses of language, silly and weird, or just plain obnoxious to the ear and common sense, it can’t be denied that a lot of it is reaction to the continuing attacks and attempts to marginalize and demonize anything that doesn’t fit christian hetero normative dogmas. You can see this in the oft-repeated claim that ‘god doesn’t make mistakes’. Texas just recently could not get the votes to repeal laws criminalizing homosexual behavior despite them being declared unconstitutional in Lawrence v Texas 20 years ago. The GOP platform in Texas has long called for recriminalizing gays and even now defines homosexuality as an “abnormal lifestyle choice” and also opposing “all efforts to validate transgender identity.” [they also actually outlawed sales of sex toys, no dildos in Texas, it was a dildon’t state] It’s not a backlash, the gender hyper-sensitivity is the backlash to what’s always been there–ignorant, hateful, bigotry largely driven by hard core ultra conservative religious right.

        1. The ultra-conservative religious right teamed rational atheism with fundamentalist Islam on the supposition that both were opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ and thus sprang from the same source: a hatred of God/Good and a love for the Devil/Self. I’ve never been much impressed with their ability to make relevant distinctions.

        2. And this only emboldens them. It seems like it’s “ok” to say these things because “look how absurd these people all are”.

  4. “published it in a respectable journal”

    I would dispute that any of the Frontiers journals are respectable because they are all borderline predatory: Perhaps this is why this article got published here, which is ironic given that it is actually good and especially necessary in the current climate.

  5. I agree with Diana MacPherson that this “de-sexed” language is just another attempt to erase women, particularly since there are relatively few terms that attempt to “de-sex” men. As DM says, this language reduces women to body parts, rather than seeing them as whole human beings. It dehumanizes me and takes away part of my identity. I can just see the confusion that would arise, for example, with non-English-speaking women in this country who are confronted with the question, “are you a gestator?” or “are you a person with a cervix?” People in most of the world would have no idea as to what to do with such questions, first because of language barriers, then add to that the gobbledygook of such vernacular.

  6. Since the desexed language is utterly asinine, we may safely characterize what is called the “additive” practice as half asinine. I continue to be curious about who is behind these
    absurd deformations of language. Is there a DEI committee at the Lancet office? Are there journal staffers whose tin ears should disqualify them from employment in the profession of communication? If they can be identified, the culprits should receive their walking papers, requiring them to go back to where they belong.

    Which is where? Clearly, they should all be transferred from medical and scientific journals to those that publish disquisitions in Critical Gender Theory, Queer Theory, and other such entertainments. The existence of such ventures can be credited to past academic establishments. It is just luck, I suppose, that departments of Critical UFOlogy were not set up a generation ago. If that had taken place, today Critical Area 51 Theory would be a thing, and we would be worrying about terms in English which might offend extra-terrestrial visitors, or individuals who claim that they are really aliens.

  7. …we would recommend that clarity in terminology and avoiding conflation of terms are important. In particular, when sex is meant, refer to “sex”; when gendered expectations of the sexes is meant, use “gender” and clearly define the term; and when “gender identity” is meant, ensure the phrase is distinguished from both gendered expectations of the sexes and from sex itself.

    They will fight this to the death.

    1. Also well worth a read :

      a quote:

      “Queer Theory seems to deliberately confuse anything that is descriptively normal, in the sense of being commonplace, e.g., heterosexuality or the sexual binary, with that automatically carrying an implication that any variation from that sense of falling within the general norm must be understood pejoratively and seen as somehow illegitimate.”
      “This intentional conflation of “normal” in a descriptive sense and “normal” in a moral (normative) sense is the centerpiece of queer Theory,[…] “

  8. Of course I am against this woke newspeak. I don’t get one thing, though: Considering the fact that men have (usually smaller) breasts and can actually get breast cancer, how is using “breast” rather than “chest” somehow not inclusive? Of course, I realize that logic is not a strong point (are there any?) of the TRAs.


    1. The second article by these authors that Jerry cites is heartbreaking, Phillip. Apparently it would trigger dysphoria to refer to a transman’s breasts even when you are going to cut them off. Yes, men do have breasts but we don’t cut those out to cure gender dysphoria. Says the article, WPATH guidelines don’t call for surgeons to disclose in the consent process that breastfeeding will be impossible after top surgery. (“Why would a man worry about not being able to breastfeed?”). The worry is that referring to breasts (as colloquially understood) is misgendering, even if the man does indeed have what are objectively female breasts that he wants removed.

      You Must Not Misgender Anyone. Ever. And if the person thinks s/he was misgendered s/he was. The “breast” thing just makes the Stroop Effect minefield harder to navigate. As intended.

    2. Aren’t there a number of natural biological abnormalities (i.e. not the modal occurrence) which can result in (anatomical) males lactating?
      Do birth-male-to-adult-female-ish surgical and hormonal treatments try to enhance the likelihood of this response?

    3. I think this is the oppressor/oppressed dichotomy of critical theory – logic, true/false are irrelevant.

      I’d guess breasts are the weapons of the cis-het male dominated power structure. Breasts are instruments of oppression, objectifying and dehumanizing women. “Breasts” will trigger trauma.

      See “Problematize” link above.

  9. The second paper is pretty gob-smacking. How on earth do people who have bits of their bodies cut off have, for one second, the expectation that their function can be restored?
    How, in the modern world (I bet these cases don’t occur to subsistence farmers living in mud huts), can an adult (or near adult with particular education about transition surgery they are considering) believe that it is possible to cut something off, replace it with a prosthesis, and retain full function? We can’t even reproduce the function of a fingernail quick, let alone a complex organ.

    1. I believe the thinking is I will never need the lost function because it was exclusively that of the sex I am not. It’s as if a surgeon was proposing to resect the breast of a man with breast cancer. He wouldn’t say to that man, “Now you do realize that you will never be able to breast feed.” The man would think the surgeon was making a highly inappropriate joke. So too, the surgeons doing trans top surgery have so drunk the Kool-Aid that they appear to believe they are treating a man who, mysteriously, has grown female breasts (exactly as if he had a glandular disorder as you alluded to above.). Sure, just cut them off and be done with it. Don’t misgender him by implying there is anything female about him. This is the path of least resistance and is how doctors are being taught to think. It just doesn’t enter anyone’s mind that the patient might want to breastfeed someday. “But you’re a man…”

      Here’s where it gets weird. We are expected to believe that men can become pregnant (if their drugs haven’t made them infertile) yet for some reason we want to remove the breasts that nearly all those “pregnant men” nowadays will want to feed their babies with. There is a mental illness here, and I’m not sure who the afflicted are.

  10. I find the proposed language – and previous rounds of this – has some effect of objectifying people – making people into less of a person and more of an object, like in a creepy sci-fi movie.

    I’m trying to think if theres a word for that effect. I’d say “dehumanizing”, but there are still human nouns (“cervix”).

    1. I think dehumanizing is the exact word you are looking for because it reduced your humanity to a set of body parts. You are not really a person but someone with a certain set of parts. It doesn’t matter what your thoughts, opinions, achievements, beliefs, loves, hates, interests are. All that matters is you have a certain set of body parts.

  11. I have said this before. Some people with vaginas are not biological women. Caster Semenya is a 46,XY male with a DSD (5-ARD). When he was born in rural South Africa, he was though to be ‘she’. Subsequent genetic testing showed that he is a ‘he’. As it turns out, Caster has no other female anatomy.

    1. Colin Wright I think has the right approach to this sort of thing, Frank. He advises non-specialists not to let themselves be trapped into trying to categorize every person with every possible birth defect (aka DSD) into a rubric of sex binary. Eventually someone will cite a person with ovotestis who makes sperm from one part and eggs from the other—hasn’t happened yet—and say, “Gotcha!” (But even in this so far only imaginary case, there are still only two sexes, driven by the same biology that drives sex everywhere else. An ovotestis doesn’t make—couldn’t make—“ovosperm”.)

      I don’t like to discuss the medical conditions of named people whose medical information was selectively leaked without their consent to serve some agenda. Regardless of what sex someone is determined to be on the basis of what gametes s/he can produce, if any, the sex a person should be allowed to live as will be determined by what she looks like, how she was raised, and how her culture regards people who are different. If endogenous testosterone makes her ineligible to compete in women’s sport, that is a separate issue.

      DSDs, unlike other birth defects like cleft palate and spina bifida, may not display themselves until puberty or years after, or never (although some are obvious at birth.). If a child has been a girl for 14 years or more she is still going to be a girl->woman no matter what her sex diagnosis is. If she is found to have organs for making male gametes she is going to be greatly surprised, but there are worse things in life for adolescents, like leukaemia, meningitis, and drug addiction.

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