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Gender Neutral

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There's a difference between what the term gender neutral means and how it is used. As it should suggest, gender neutral refers to not favoring or centering one gender over another. If something is gender neutral, it isn't marked as being only for people who identify as male, or female, or trans, or another gender. Instead, gender neutral means that the language in a written or spoken text, the event (like a workshop or a festival), or the facility (like a bathroom) is equally directed to and accessible to all genders.

Unfortunately the term gender neutral often gets confused with other terms, like gender variant, androgynous, and even sometimes queer. Some people think that gender neutral is the same as gender confusion. It is not.

And to further confuse matters, sometimes gender neutral is understood to mean that gender must be removed. This is neither necessary, nor in most cases even possible. Consider the example of bathrooms.

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A gender neutral washroom simply means a washroom that isn't specifically for one gender or another. It doesn't mean that it is only for people who have no gender. In part because gender is part of our lives and it matters. The point is not to pretend that people don't have a gender, the point is to not exclude people based on gender when there is no reason to.

Another example might be wording used on a government form. In the past, it was standard that the male pronoun "he" would be used when referring to people in general. If a form, let's say for getting a driver's license, is going to be for everyone then it doesn't make sense to specify the gender of the reader. Also, because it's a generic form and the topic doesn't have anything to do with gender, there is no reason not to make it gender neutral, which in this case would mean using language that doesn't indicate the gender of people described.

It is not possible, nor desirable, to try and be gender neutral all the time. Because most of us have a gender we identify with, whatever that is, pretending that gender doesn't exist or isn't important could be seen as similar to suggesting that race (even though it's socially constructed) somehow doesn't exist or isn't important.

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