Californian city to ban gender-binary language

Ian-Meredythe Dehne Lindsey, a non-binary person, smiling and crossing their arms.

Berkeley, California is to expunge all gender-binary language from its city code in a new drive to acknowledge its non-binary residents.

As part of the initiative, Berkley’s municipal code will drop he/him and she/her pronouns for they/them, and will replace terms such as “fireman” and “policewoman” with gender-neutral equivalents.

Entrenched terms and phrases will be updated, with “manholes” becoming “maintenance holes”, “manpower” becoming “human effort” and “manmade” phased out for “artificial” or “human-made.”

The council will also no longer refer to “pregnant women,” instead using the more inclusive term of “pregnant employees.”

Gender-neutral city code could be introduced in August

Berkley’s City Council approved the first reading of the ordinance on Tuesday (July 16) after it was put forward by council member Rigel Robinson.

Robinson said that the proposals matter because “language has power.”

“It is Berkeley being Berkeley, and what that means is it’s Berkeley being inclusive,” Robinson told NBC Bay Area.

“A male-centric municipal code doesn’t reflect the reality of the city of Berkeley.”

Language has power.

If the ordinance is approved at its second reading next week, it will go into effect in late August at a cost of about $600 to the city.

California leads the way on non-binary rights

Berkley’s proposals continue California’s broader efforts to improve the rights of gender non-conforming people.

In 2017, the state senate passed a bill introducing a non-binary gender marker for official documents such as birth certificates and driving licenses.

The Gender Recognition Act came into force on January 1, 2019 and also introduced self-identification for the first time, removing the need for trans people to seek a doctor’s note before legally transitioning.

At the time, the California DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) estimated that 54,000 people would take advantage of the reforms within the first year, according to the Guardian.