Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) announced that they were shifting to “gender inclusive language” as part of their “gender inclusive perinatal care.” As part of this move, BSUH Maternity tweeted “Today we are launching the UK’s first clinical and language guidelines supporting trans and non-binary birthing people.”
The hospitals’ “Gender Inclusion Team” (GIT) created a clinical guide for doctors, “Perinatal Care for Trans and Non-Binary People” and guidance on language, “Gender Inclusive Language in Perinatal Services: Mission Statement and Rationale.” The language guidance, in particular, is getting a lot of media attention.
GIT suggests using new terms that are “additive,” rather than exclusionary. The team writes that the “previous term” was “breastmilk,” and it now recommends new terms such as “‘human milk’ or ‘breast/chestmilk’ or ‘milk from the feeding mother or parent.’” Midwives might say, “The nutrients in human milk are unique,” or they might describe “the value of breast/chestfeeding as protection, comfort and food.”
Instead of saying, “woman,” midwives and other health care professionals are encouraged to say, “woman or person.” GIT offers a helpful usage example: “Weigh the woman or person, recording the weight on the combined screening request form in kilograms.”
Previously, midwives, nurses and doctors might have used the term “mother” to refer to a woman who has a child (check the dictionary definitions before they get updated), hospital workers are now encouraged to say, “‘Mother/s or birthing parent/s’ or ‘mothers and birthing parents.’”
GIT does acknowledge that “‘maternity’ sometimes refers to terminology which it is not possible for BSUH to change at present.” But, when they can, folks should use “perinatal care” as a substitute. Interestingly enough, GIT does use the term “midwife” throughout its report. The word originally meant “with woman,” referring to the person with the woman giving birth. Clearly, that’s gotta go soon.
BSUH Maternity tweeted why it was producing the resource, “We want everybody who uses our services to see themselves reflected in the language they use. This means not only pregnant women, but also pregnant trans, non-binary and agender people.”
“Our chosen approach to inclusive language is additive, rather than neutral,” the group said. In its language guidelines, GIT quotes the Midwives Alliance of North America describing its use of “gender-additive language”:
The same elements that threaten holistic care for pregnant and birthing folks also perpetuate violence against trans, queer and non-gender conforming people. These systems include, but are not limited to… industrialized medical care, colonialism, sexism and patriarchy. When gender-nonconforming folks are also people of color, low-income or disabled folks, they disproportionately experience discrimination. As a result we are committed to promoting the additive use of gender-neutral language in traditionally woman-centric movements (birth and reproductive justice) because doing so disrupts those systems and supports gender liberation.
In other words, GIT said it isn’t erasing women or denying that only women have babies, it is just broadening the language to include all people who give birth, including those who reject their femaleness and live as men. The group is motivated to change our language because of society’s deeply-entrenched systems of “industrialized medical care, colonialism, sexism and patriarchy.”
Piers Morgan responded to the announcement on Good Morning Britain, calling it “nonsense” and “annoying.” He quoted an individual on Twitter who said, “I’m transgender myself and Morgan is completely correct. This isn’t what the majority of transpeople ask for and it hinders our rights, not helps us.”
Morgan said he wanted transgender people “to have respect and dignity and equality” but went on to say, “I don’t think you get there by telling midwives to stop using the term breastfeeding because it may upset a few people when 99 percent of the people in there are breastfeeding.
“It’s nonsense and this kind of PC nonsense with the language, it has the opposite effect to what you think it does.
“It annoys people, it doesn’t bring them any inclusivity. It becomes exclusive and alienates people.”
Like Morgan, we can treat transgender-identified individuals with respect, without embracing their ideology and language guidance.
Photo is from Shutterstock.
Glenn T. Stanton at The Federalist: Why Chestfeeding Will Backfire Badly