According a June 2016 report released by UCLA Law think tank the Williams Institute, approximately 1.4 million adults throughout the United States identify themselves as transgender, which is roughly 0.6% of the national population. Although this percentage seems marginal, it’s actually double the estimated number from just a decade ago.
This rise in transgender identification is triggering a nationwide discussion about the need to use more gender-inclusive language in schools, workplaces, homes, and generally at large.
Most recently, Princeton University’s Office of Human Resources has voiced its support for gender-inclusivity by issuing a series of recommendations designed to encourage more gender-inclusive terminology within its official communications, job advertisements, policies, and job descriptions.
What is gender-inclusive language? Princeton University defines it as a manner of speaking or writing used to address an individual of unknown gender or a group of mixed gendered individuals.
The university’s recommendations were first drawn up in August 2014, were modified in March 2015, and received their final update in September 2016. Examples of original recommendations include:
- Replacing gendered pronouns with “them” or “their”.
- Replacing gendered pronouns with a general title such as “the person,” “the Individual,” or “the student.”
- Eliminating pronouns altogether whenever possible.
- Utilizing second-person voice by using “you’ or “your”.
The memo also advised the HR staff to apply gender-inclusive language towards common occupations. For example:
- Cameraman: Camera Operator
- Waitress: Server
- Fireman: Firefighter
- Policewoman: Police Officer
- Spokesman: Spokesperson
So far, Princeton’s gender-inclusive approach has been widely applauded by students and faculty alike, while others still firmly believe the school still has a long way to go.
And what is LGBT Center Director Judy Jarvis’s reaction? In a statement made to the Daily Princetonian, Jarvis pointed out that it was just plain common sense to practice inclusive communication.