Say Pregnant 'People,' Not 'Mothers;' British Doctors Told to Be Gender Neutral

The British Medical Association has asked its 160,000 members who work in hospitals and general practice across that country not to call pregnant women "mothers" to show sensitivity toward transgender people, according to reports.

(Photo: Reuters)

BMC, the trade union and professional body for doctors in the U.K., has issued official guidelines to all its members, saying mothers-to-be should be referred to as "pregnant people" instead, according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail newspaper.

A 14-page booklet, "A Guide To Effective Communication: Inclusive Language In The Workplace," states, "A large majority of people that have been pregnant or have given birth identify as women. However, there are some intersex men and trans men who may get pregnant. We can include intersex men and trans men who may get pregnant by saying 'pregnant people' instead of 'expectant mothers.'"

The booklet also says, "This guidance should be applied to all forms of communication, including conversations, committee papers, documents, letters, emails and the website. Anything that we produce reflects the association and it is vital that all our communications are free from discriminatory language, or what could be interpreted as discriminatory language. Using our values and behaviours as the foundation, inclusive language does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of any of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010."

"Gender neutral" language avoids "stereotyping people according to their sex," the booklet states. "Although stereotyping can affect men adversely, women are more often affected because former convention was to assume that an individual of unknown gender was male, or to use male gendered language to cover both sexes. For example, the words 'policeman' and 'stewardess' are gender-specific; the corresponding gender-neutral terms are 'police officer' and 'flight attendant.' Other gender-specific terms, such as 'actor' and 'actress,' may be replaced by the originally male term; for example, 'actor' used regardless of gender."

It continues, "You should avoid references to a person's gender except where it is relevant in a discussion. If you don't know for certain what gender to use when talking about a person's loved ones, or if you aren't sure whether someone identifies as male or female, keep your language neutral until you know what terms they prefer to use. For example, use the word 'partner' instead of 'wife' or 'husband,' 'parent' instead of 'Mum' or 'Dad,' and 'child' instead of 'son' or 'daughter.' You can also mix up the word order in common expressions, eg instead of saying, 'men and women,' use 'women and men.'"

On the BMA website, senior executive Dr. Anthea Mowat writes, "I would encourage you all to read and share this guide, and think about how you can apply it in your day-to-day work. This is a time where we need to come together to support and protect our colleagues and our patients."

She adds, "Inclusive language is about treating each other with dignity, and as equal members of an integrated community. Language is dynamic, and terms disappear, re-emerge and are revised. We all need to be sensitive to changing expressions and meanings as they emerge."