"He" & "She" To Be Called "They" As City Bans Over Two Dozen Gendered Words

"He" & "She" To Be Called "They" As City Bans Over Two Dozen Gendered Words

The Berkeley City Council voted to rename 'Manholes' to 'Maintenance Holes', and other gender-specific term changes, in an effort to further make gender-neutral terms the norm in civic terminology. It is now the first city in America to take up this initiative

The Berkeley City Council has announced on Tuesday night, that they would henceforth cease usage of the term 'manholes' to refer to the sewage-ventilation shafts on city-streets, and instead use the term 'maintenance holes' instead. This is an initiative that is in favor of gender neutral policies in the United States. The change will require a second vote on July 23 before officially becoming law. Given the unanimity, however, there’s little suspense about the measure’s eventual fate. 


Berkeley City Clerk Mark Numainville told Curbed SF that, “Revising the Berkeley Municipal Code to include gender-neutral pronouns by eliminating any gender preference language [...] to indicate that whenever a gender-neutral personal pronoun is used, it shall be deemed to include the feminine and masculine also.” The City Clerk reported that the vote passed in favor of the change with a unanimous decision. Aside from this change, other changes include using the words  'craftspeople” or “artisans,' rather than 'craftsmen', and  “firefighters’ instead of “firemen,” and “repairers” instead of “repairmen.”. We have also confirmed that there will be a replacement of gendered pronouns, such as "he" and "she" with "they". 


The bill's primary author, Berkeley City Council member Rigel Robinson said, "There's power in language. This is a small move, but it matters. Having a male-centric municipal code is inaccurate and not reflective of our reality. Women and non-binary individuals are just as entitled to accurate representation. Our laws are for everyone, and our municipal code should reflect that.". Councilmember Rigel Robinson first introduced the proposal in March. Name-changing costs to the city are estimated at approximately $600.



According to anthropologists, in contrast to most other Indo-European languages, English does not retain grammatical gender and most of its nouns, adjectives, and pronouns are therefore not gender-specific, by default ie. Summing up, the terms 'policeman' and 'stewardess' are gender-specific job titles. The corresponding gender-neutral terms would be 'police officer' and 'flight attendant'. Aside from that, you have the words 'actor' and actress', which are used to describe gender-specific roles, in contrast to only 'actor' being used regardless of gender. Trying to legally define the boundaries of gender has proven a difficult issue with the existence of people who identify or who are identified by others as intersex, third gender, transgender and more generally genderqueer or non-binary.


It was also reported that a city staff memo which was included in the paperwork for the vote had touched upon the subject too, emphasizing that, "In recent years, broadening societal awareness of transgender and gender-nonconforming identities has brought to light the importance of non-binary gender inclusivity. Therefore, it is both timely and necessary to make the environment of City Hall and the language of city legislation consistent with the principles of inclusion."


It's no surprise that it happened to a city from California to be the first one to make such a change. In September 2018, the California Courts implemented a portion of SB 179 as it pertains to name and gender change processes. Then in January 2019, the DMV began allowing individuals to self-certify their gender, with the categories of male, female and non-binary on their ID-card. The Berkeley City Council reported that before the changes were made, they would post the updated list with the new pronouns, in the Public Library a fortnight before the ordinance takes effect. 


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