Bioethics Blogs

Using Inclusive Language Isn’t Enough

Celeste Orr and Erin Leigh Courtice respond to criticisms of the British Medical Associations’ guide on inclusive language which aims to ensure that trans, intersex, genderqueer, and non-binary people are not subjected to discriminatory language.

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Since January 2017, Hayden Cross has garnered a lot of media attention. He is the first publicly-known pregnant trans man in Britain. In response to the media attention, there has been considerable criticism of the 2016 British Medical Association’s “A guide to effective communication.” The guide recognizes that some trans men and intersex men may become pregnant and it calls for the use of more inclusive language. The guide recommends that medical professionals use the phrase “pregnant people” instead of “expectant mothers.”

While the guide was published in 2016, before Cross’ pregnancy, a connection between Cross and the guide persists. Many of the articles and people criticizing the guide assume or suggest that it was published since Cross’ pregnancy. In this way, Cross is being blamed for the apparently “Orwellian” instructions, which undoubtedly intensifies the cissexist violence being aimed at him.

According to Philip Davies, British Conservative MP, the guide is “completely ridiculous.” Laura Perrins, of The Conservative Woman, describes the recommendations as “anti-science, anti-women and anti-mother.” Similarly, Sarah Vine claims the guide is “an insult to mothers.”

These recent criticisms are deeply problematic. For example, Perrins’ claim that the guide is anti-science is not only ironic, but false. Her claim reproduces the scientifically unsubstantiated essentialist theory that bodies are innately sexed and gendered, as observable by various bodily characteristics and capabilities.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.