We can all agree that our society is doing its best to be as inclusive as possible. In fact, this seems like the year to kick things up a notch.
For instance, the staff at the Australian National University in Canberra have received new instructions. The new rules are intended to make their language a little more inclusive and friendly.
Some suggested changes include moving from the term “mother” to the term “gestational parent.” Under this new order, the term “father” will now be “nongestational parent.”
These changes have been introduced though the Australian National University’s Gender-Inclusive Handbook.
The book was published in 2020, and it’s targeted at “any ANU student or staff member involved” in teaching. The handbook has recommendations intended to “uplift female and gender minority students.”
Among these suggestions is a proposal to call fathers “non-birthing parent” and to replace “breastfeeding” with “chest feeding.” They also suggested changing “mother’s milk” with “human or parent milk.”
The book says that using the words “mother” and “father” excludes students who don’t identify with such gender binaries.
The book says that:
“… non-gendered language will be particularly important in clinical or abstract academic discussions of childbirth and parenthood.”
The intention is to model inclusive behavior for clinical practice students.
However, the guide notes that the changes might not happen instantly. It also encourages staff members to incorporate any changes.
After all, language habits take practice to change. Consequently, any effort to learn new habits will be appreciated.
According to an ANU spokesman, the document is not official, but a suggestion. The experts who created the document were given authority to “research in their field of expertise” based on the institution’s policies on academic freedom.
Stamping Out Mainstream Transphobia
In Australia, these terms are not unique. In fact, a hospital in the UK recently advised its staff to be more inclusive by using terms like “birthing parents” and “human milk” as opposed to the words “mother” and “breast milk,” respectively.
Still, these are only suggestions.
According to Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, these phrases are “gender-inclusive.” The institutions hope to stamp out “mainstream transphobia.”
The staff has also been advised to say “woman or person” rather than saying “woman.” They have also been advised to use the terms “father or parent”, “second biological parent”, “co-parent” instead of the word “father.”
The team also wanted to make it clear that they were not trying to do away with the term women:
“Gender identity can be a source of oppression and health inequality. We are consciously using the words ‘women’ and ‘people’ together to make it clear that we are committed to working on addressing health inequalities for all those who use our services.”
They declared this in their policy document.
Their intention is to be inclusive of trans and non-binary birthing people, but without doing away with the language of motherhood or women.
Consequently, their goal is to have a gender-additive way of describing the services these facilities offer to their customers.
Some people are happy about these suggestions. TransActual, a campaign group, tweeted about it:
“This is fantastic, well done. Let’s hope many more trusts follow suit. Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
However, some people are also concerned, such as Debbie Hayton, a transgender advocate. She argued that trying to control other people’s lives should not be considered a favor to transgender people.
Debbie describes herself as a transgender campaigner who cares about the “rights of other vulnerable groups.”
She thinks “we should be living in society” rather than “imposing upon it.”
What are your thoughts about this? Do you think the suggested language changes go a little too far?