May 23, 2019

We Should All Use Gender-Neutral Pronouns

“This week, tech developers introduced Q, the world’s first “genderless” virtual assistant. Whereas Siri, Alexa and most other electronic helpers speak in conspicuously feminine tones, Q has been engineered to create a gender-neutral effect. As a result, users can benefit from all the useful information and guidance available to us today, without reinforcing the old-fashioned idea that the role of eager helpmate is necessarily played by a woman.

But degendering is not just good for robots. It’s time we humans get serious about it too.

There are signs we’re moving in that direction already. Some people—and even companies—are pushing back against everyday practices that automatically place us into binary gender categories. Just this week, for example United Airlines announced that it would create a new booking option for people who do not identify as Mr. or Ms.; they can now choose the gender-neutral honorific Mx.

Among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus (LGBTQ+) advocates and other progressives, using people’s preferred or “affirming” pronouns—including the gender-neutral singular they—is already an important and widespread way to show respect and promote inclusion. Across college campuses and in a growing number of professional workplaces, it is now common to begin meetings by having people introduce themselves and state their pronouns. Pronoun preferences are showing up on e-mail signatures too.”

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