I was intrigued by this snippet of news on the front page of today’s Daily Telegraph newspaper:
Stonewall is a UK charity that champions the needs of LGBTQ+ people and, among other things, assesses Workplace Equality Indices (UK and global) which allow employers to see how well they measure up to accommodating LGBTQ+ people within the workplace. A WEI assessment evaluates attitudes and facilities connected with employee policy, the employee lifecycle, staff network groups, allies and role models, senior leadership, monitoring, procurement, and customers, service users and clients and, apparently, the language used within the workplace. Gender-neutral terms are preferred over those that specify the gender—a mother is no longer a mother. A mother becomes the parent who has given birth. What does that make me? I have fathered three children so I am a father but if the term father is now on the genderised blacklist, what have I become—the parent who impregnated the parent who has given birth?
According to a 2018 report on Trans People in the UK issued by the UK’s Government Equalities Office, a tentative estimate of the number of trans people in the UK is approximately 200,000–500,000. This represents 0.57%–1.42% of the Office of National Statistics’ 35.18 million workforce in 2018. Let’s approximate this to 1% of the UK workforce who identify as trans and thus justify some attention to their needs but that leaves 99% who don’t and who also might prefer to be called mothers and fathers rather than the parent who has given birth and the parent who impregnated the parent who has given birth. I have nothing against Stonewall’s objectives but I feel the organisation needs to keep things in perspective and not set themselves up for ridicule thereby undermining the seriousness about the issues they champion.
By the way, as an author I try to consider these things when writing. Where possible, I use gender-free names for job titles and I am sensitive to the use of pronouns when writing about non-cis people but it can become very tricky to ‘do the right thing’. I have written about both these writing headaches in the past. If you are interested, take a look at Mayhem in Pronounland, written in May 2016, and Them/They: a Writer’s Nightmare, written in July 2020.