U.S. House adopts sweeping gender-neutral language rules

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The House has adopted new rules for 2021 that remove gendered language in official settings, replacing gendered terms like “chairman” or “chairwoman” with gender-neutral terms like “chair.”

“Through months of consultation across our caucus and Congress, we have developed a rules package that makes the People’s House more accountable and responsive to all Americans,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement in support of the rules, adding that they express “the views and values of the full range of our historically diverse House Democratic Majority.”

Related: Here are the most popular gender-neutral baby names in America

The package of rules passed in a party-line vote of 217-206 on Monday. The changes include:

  • “Seamen” will become “seafarers.”
  • “Chairman” will become “Chair.”
  • Familial relationships like father, daughter, and niece will be replaced by gender-neutral equivalents like parent, child, and sibling’s child.
  • Some phrases that use “he or she” will be reworded, like “submit his or her resignation” in one rule will be changed to “resign.” In other places, it will be replaced with “such Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner .”
  • The word “themself” will replace “himself or herself.”

There are currently no members of the U.S. House who use they/them pronouns, but the moves will make the legislative body more accepting to non-binary people who may be elected in the future.

“From my standpoint, the gender-neutral language is just consistent with an effort for the House, in the best tradition of the House, to reflect the gorgeous mosaic of the American people in the most sensitive fashion possible,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) – who is up for reelection today in Georgia’s runoff election against Democrat Jon Ossoff – mocked the rule changes on Twitter.

“The far-left’s priorities, everyone!” she wrote. “If you’d like to still be able to call yourself a father, daughter, mother or son, vote for me and [David Perdue] on Tuesday.”

The House rules, of course, only apply to official House communications. They have no effect on what anyone wants to call themselves… including U.S. senators.

Loeffler has a history of transphobic legislation and donating to anti-LGBTQ organizations.

“Only in Congress would it be a scandal to be succinct,” responded Rules Committee Chair James McGovern (D-MA). “We are being inclusive, efficient, and accurate.”

Shortly after the rules were passed by the committee, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) appeared to try to earnestly implement them by ending a prayer with “amen… and awoman.” “Amen” is a Latin term that does not reflect gender.

The rules passed on Monday also make the Office of Diversity and Inclusion permanent.

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