8 June 2022

If you're offended by gender-neutral language in legislation, you're part of the problem

| Zoya Patel
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If you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth, gender-neutral legislation changes nothing. Photo: Sharon McCutcheon.

Earlier this week, Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury announced that some ACT laws will be revised to use gender-neutral language to be more inclusive of gender diversity.

It’s a pretty simple change. Instead of using ‘he/him’ or ‘she/her’ when referencing the generic ‘citizen’ in laws, the language will now use ‘they/them’. It’s such a minor difference that will have a significant impact on non-binary Canberrans and literally no impact on the rest of us.

But the way some people are carrying on about the change, you would think everyone was being forced to transition into gender-neutral territory in their day-to-day lives.

READ MORE Some ACT laws will soon be gender neutral: here’s why and what that means

I’m here to reassure you – if you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth, this will change absolutely nothing for you. You’re one of the lucky ones. You get to live your life with no dissonance between how the world sees you and how you see yourself. Be grateful for that – it’s a privilege.

Just ask a trans or non-binary person how much discrimination, misgendering and barriers they face daily and they’ll confirm that.

Reading the comments on the Riotact news piece on the language change in legislation, I was honestly flabbergasted.

One woman wrote: “I am offended. I am a woman, I am she, I am her.”

Well, good for you – that’s fantastic. You’ll be pleased to hear that legislation isn’t written with a specific individual in mind – it’s there to apply to all of us. You can go about your daily life as a ‘she/her’ with no objections from anyone.


READ ALSO: I’m a church minister. Here’s why I think the ACT should lead on drug reform


Traditionally, the English language has deferred to male pronouns when referring to every person in contexts like the law. We’ve all had to adjust that for ourselves and accept that the world has been designed around the default male subject position because of the patriarchy.

And while some grammar purists will argue that using ‘they/them’ as a singular pronoun is grammatically incorrect, that’s a myth.

They/them have been used as singular pronouns for centuries. Also, hot tip, language is constantly changing. You’ll be shocked to learn that we regularly change the meaning of words through everyday usage; sometimes we even invent new ones! Wacky, I know, but that’s the power of human innovation.

The fact is that gender-neutral pronouns have a massive impact on the people they are relevant to – non-binary people, gender queer folk and the gender diverse. If you don’t identify with those cohorts, then this really isn’t about you, and your outrage at a change that is designed to benefit others with no impact on you is just a sure sign of your privilege.

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Personally, I really struggle to understand why some people choose gender diversity as their hill to die on when they’re cis-gendered. Why are you so obsessed with someone else’s identity? How does it affect you if so-and-so prefers to be referred to as ‘they/them’ and not the gendered pronouns you’ve assumed for them? How hard is it to remember a small detail for someone and exercise it in your interactions with them?

And for all of you claiming that this is a waste of government time and energy, I believe the saying goes that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. Turns out our government can increase gender inclusion in our Territory and continue to deliver on our healthcare, housing and education needs.

If you have a problem with the ACT Government’s approach to those areas of policy, go and critique those policies. Gender-neutral language in legislation has nothing to do with that other than making the policies more accessible for all Canberrans.

My advice to all of you triggered cis-gendered people is to repeat this sentence a few times until it sinks in, and then let it go: not everything is about me, not everything is about me, not everything is about me.

I’ll be over here celebrating this progress for my non-binary and genderqueer friends and community.

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I am offended because the ridiculous amount of time, effort and money that this will cost would be so much better spent for instance on community health and the local environment – both obviously and desperately in need of funds. Perhaps your “non-binary and genderqueer friends and community” should “repeat this sentence a few times until it sinks in, and then let it go: not everything is about me, not everything is about me, not everything is about me.”

Capital Retro8:38 am 10 Jun 22

It will be interesting to see what happens when the legal system changes “Master of the Court” to “Mistress of the Court”.

Thin edge of the wedge. It becomes only a matter of time before this nonsense permeates schools, government departments and elsewhere and we are all required to consciously gender neutralise our written and spoken language so as not to offend the non-binary whatevers. Control of language is a proven means to bully, intimidate and control free thought and communication. 1984. So yes, it does and will impact on us all , which is why we have a right and obligation to object.

I have no objection to gender neutral language in NEW legislation. I do objet to wasting time and money on revising existing legislation solely for the purpose of using gender neutral language.

I have no issue with using the word “Police Officer” although I’m not sure it’s necessary because the word ” Policeman” is inclusive just like the word “human” is.

As for “them/ they”, I’m sorry. Political correctness doesn’t need to go that far.

If you don’t agree with me then your the problem lol

Correction: Apologies Zoya – my comment should have read “Seems to me that the author is falling over ‘herself’ …” (or themself if you prefer)

Capital Retro5:57 pm 09 Jun 22

You mean “authoress” or has that been cancelled too?

Seems to me that the author is falling over himself to try to be inclusive and touchy feely on an issue which should not even be political. I agree with the proposal to introduce non-gender specific language into legislation for the simple reason that laws should be completely neutral and and apply equally to all – irrespective of race, religion, sexual orientation/identity, social status or income. Using the pronouns “them” and “they” emphasises the neutrality of the law and highlights its breadth of application.

Think we need a Dpt of Gender Equity & Binary Diversity & a Minister to run it.

I have no problem with they/them as long as whoever is using the terms also clarifies whether it’s meant to be singularb or plural, e.g. “they is” tells me something, whereas “they are” (the usual use) misleads if used incorrectly.

Everyone needs to adopt to the current theory or they’ll get stoned.
At the end of the day are people allowed the free opinion that genders are how they see genders? or is that opportunity only afforded to those under the LGBTIQA+ banner?

LGBTIQA is full of contradictions it isn’t even a single theory.

“And for all of you claiming that this is a waste of government time and energy, I believe the saying goes that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. Turns out our government can increase gender inclusion in our Territory and continue to deliver on our healthcare, housing and education needs.”

Surely no one could seriously write this with a straight face?

If there ever was a place NOT to use as an example of the government being able to deliver on multiple priorities in different policy areas, it’s our ACT Government.

When their focus is on fringe issues like this that have barely any noticeable benefit, they have shown to be unable to deliver on the major services that have huge impacts on the lives of most people in the ACT.

Talk about an own goal.

The problem is they are saying that with a straight face.

Own Goal? They have gifted the entire season and tournament to the opposition… but the crowd was watching something on their phone and missed it… so they just keep on barracking for the same team…

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