Things That Matter

Merriam-Webster’s Word Of The Year Is A Sign Of Growing Interest In More Inclusive Terms

Merriam-Webster dictionary announced that “they” is the 2019 word of the year. Not only have searches for the word exponentially increased, but its ubiquity is related to strides made by the gender-nonconforming community. The popularity of “they” has continued as more people have begun to identify as nonbinary. 

Some nonbinary people prefer to be addressed by pronouns that aren’t gender-specific and as Merriam-Webster notes, unlike other languages, English does not have a gender-neutral singular pronoun. 

While some, including celebrities like singer Sam Smith or Younger actor Nico Tortorella, prefer to be addressed as “they,” other nonbinary folks may choose “she” or “he” like Batwoman actress Ruby Rose or Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness. 

Searches for “they” increased by 313% from 2018 to 2019

“Our Word of the Year for 2019 is they. It reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term—a personal pronoun—can rise to the top of our data. Although our lookups are often driven by events in the news, the dictionary is also a primary resource for information about language itself, and the shifting use of they has been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years. Lookups for they increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year,” Merriam-Webster wrote in its release

While critics of “they” insist that making the small linguistic adjustment for nonbinary people is too much to ask of society, Merrian-Webster says “they” has been used as an apt gender-neutral singular pronoun in the English language for 600 years. 

“English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years,” the statement said. 

Merriam-Webster added the definition of “they” as it relates to nonbinary folks last September after noticing its use became “common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers.”

The dictionary also included other notable nods to the nonbinary community. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal revealed that her child is gender-nonconforming and prefers to use “they” during a House Judiciary Committee hearing about the Equality Act in April. Moreover, the American Psychological Association now recommends using “they” if it is a patient’s preference or if their gender is unspecified. 

“It is increasingly common to see they and them as a person’s pronouns in Twitter bios, email signatures, and conference nametags,” the dictionary stated. 

The issue with “they”: a struggle for grammatical clarity and cultural acceptance. 

For a long time The Associated Press, the institution that establishes grammar and style standards for journalists, reluctantly decided to include “they” in 2017 following a barrage of criticism. 

“We stress that it’s usually possible to write around that,” AP Stylebook editor Paula Froke said in 2017. “But we offer new advice for two reasons: recognition that the spoken language uses they as singular and we also recognize the need for a pronoun for people who don’t identify as a he or a she.”

The AP feared that readers wouldn’t be able to comprehend literature that used “they” as a singular. 

“The whole issue is difficult. We worked very hard to come up with a solution that makes sense,” Froke said. “Clarity is the top priority. Our concern was the readers out there. Many don’t understand that they can be used for a singular person.”

The organization changed the standards so that writers must clarify with context when they are using the word to refer to a  singular person. Other proponents of “they” believe that not reserving the word for those who identify most with it can be an act of malice. 

“For many trans/GNC people, gender is an important part of their identity and actively avoiding the act of gendering manifests as another form of violence—a violence that trans/GNC people have been fighting against throughout the long history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and two-spirit (LGBTQIA2S) experience,” a trio of non-binary scientists wrote in Scientific American

More people are identifying as nonbinary so get used to “they.” 

Van Ness said he innately knew he was nonbinary he just didn’t have the word to identify himself with. It is unsurprising that as the identity becomes a part of the public discourse and more nonbinary people become visible in media, more nonbinary folks will come out.  

In 2018, the journal Pediatrics reported that 3 percent of Minnesota teens did not identify as a “boy” or a “girl” which was much higher than they had expected. 

“I just didn’t know what the name was. I’ve been wearing heels and wearing makeup and wearing skirts and stuff for a minute, honey. I just like didn’t know that that meant — that I had a title,” Van Ness, whose pronouns are “he” and “him” told Out. 

The Leading Menstrual Pad Manufacturer Has Just Changed Their Packaging to Include Non-Binary Customers And Twitter is Ablaze

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The Leading Menstrual Pad Manufacturer Has Just Changed Their Packaging to Include Non-Binary Customers And Twitter is Ablaze

On the heels of October 19th’s National Period Day, one brand that has created their empire off of menstruation is changing their rule book. On Monday, Always, the brand that makes sanitary pads for women, announced that they are removing the venus symbol from all their packaging. 

The Venus Symbol, a sign that consists of a circle with a cross coming from below it, has traditionally been used as a symbol representative of the female gender. But, as gender and trans issues have recently become more topical, trans activists have taken issue with Always for including the symbol on their packaging. Critics argued that the symbol worked to exclude gender non-conforming and trans men from their customer base. 

“For folks using these products on a nearly monthly basis, it can be harmful and distressing to see binary/gendered images, coding, language, and symbols,” said Steph deNormand, a Trans Health Program manager, to NBC News. “So, using less coded products can make a huge difference.” 

Transgender advocates are applauding Always for acknowledging the mental health concerns of their range of customers. 

For many transgender advocates, this change has been a long-time coming. Just days ago, Sexuality Educator Ericka Hart racked up almost 18,000 likes and 4,000 retweets for tweeting out the statement: “Any gender can get their period,” complete with a yelling emoji. 

Now, Always’ decision to change their packaging is sparking a larger discussion around the larger way period-related brands market their products.

Dr. Jennifer Gunther, OB/GYN and author of “The Vagina Bible” responded to the news with overall approval,  but with a small caveat. She believes that we should all be mindful of the words we use when we’re describing menstrual products: “They are menstrual or period products, not feminine products,” she recently wrote on Twitter. She went on to say that we should all avoid calling menstrual products sanitary napkins because “having a period does not make you unsanitary”. 

Not everyone approves of Always’s newest marketing move, however.

Along with conservative critics who are blasting the company for pandering to the “radical left”, there are a bevy of feminist activists who are suspicious of the timing behind this move. Very recently, Always has come under fire for the quality of its products in developing countries–particularly countries in Africa. The hashtag #MyAlwaysExperience recently took over Twitter, with women (mostly from Kenya) describing burns and rashes the products have caused. 

Twitter user @kremzaroogianwho identifies as a trans man called out Always for what he believes is a “calculated move”. “It’s no accident always had this gender removal from their packaging when people started tweeting about their products in Kenya literally containing carcinogens”. Now, people who have periods have another reason to be wary of the brand that claims to “care about all women and girls”. When it comes down to it, it seems as if the brand seems to care about their bottom line more than anything else. 

While, of course, the company will get push-back for deciding to gender-neutralize their packaging, they’re also smart enough to know that the future is non-binary. And the future is where their money is. For example, IBM marketing executive Andy Bossley revealed in 2018 that “millennials feel that gender is a spectrum”, while “more than half the members of Generation Z know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns”. In other words, Always probably wouldn’t have taken this step if they didn’t see it as an ultimately lucrative decision. 

Latinas, of course, have not hesitated to make their opinions known about this news.

Many viewed this as the perfect opportunity to speak out about periods, reproductive health, and structural transphobia.

As usual, Puerto Rican performer Indya Moore came with their hot take:

This event sparks a larger discussion about the gendering of products at large–not just menstruation products.

This Twitter user was unimpressed with the arguments some people were posing as to why the packaging shouldn’t change:

The outrage over Always’s decision is interesting, considering that the brand isn’t even reformulating their product–they’re simply changing the packaging. 

This Twitter user expressed their feelings about the way people react to violence against the trans community vs. the way they react when the Always packaging is changed:

It’s undeniable that violence against trans people is an epidemic that should be addressed by all communities much more often. 

This person made an iron-clad argument as to why the venus-symbol packaging is problematic:

As usual, when there’s any change in society, there is inevitably a subset of people who want nothing more than to stick to their old ways. 

Walter Mercado Got Real About His Flamboyant Style And Why He’s Long Said ‘No’ To Extreme Gender Conformity And Machismo

Entertainment

Walter Mercado Got Real About His Flamboyant Style And Why He’s Long Said ‘No’ To Extreme Gender Conformity And Machismo

youtube/ Edited by mitu

Puerto Rican astrologist Walter Mercado and his astrology predictions have been an institution in Latino households for nearly 50 years. Growing up, we would wait to hear his predictions for our upcoming day. Basically, Mercado and his readings prepared us for our challenges and celebrated our victories.

His flamboyant style has made him one of the most recognizable figures in our culture. What’s more, he is one of the first gender non-conforming individuals that many in the Latino community encountered. That’s something we have long been fascinated by and admired about the astrologist. Despite the stigma that is attached to people who live outside of gender norms, Mercado has always been able to claim a space for his message and has gained fans around the world during a five-decade career. 

Recently, Mercado spoke about his legendary career, his gender identification and the new exhibit in honor of his work. 

When talking about personal style and gender identification, Mercado was extremely open about remaining authentic and embracing dual energies.

CREDIT: @waltermercadotv / Instagram

According to Mercado, we all have the same feminine and masculine energies and can call upon them when needed. 

“I’m so into who I am, and I do [what] feels right for me,” Mercado explained to Remezcla. “I’m so connected to people and to the divine for that. That I look feminine with a cape? Everyone knows we have two energies – yin and yang – and I know how to balance them. If I have to be a warrior, then I’ll be that. If I have to be soft and subtle, I can be that, too.”

In the interview, Mercado also acknowledged the barriers he has broken through his presences in the Latinidad.

“I broke the barriers. Boys wear blue and girls wear pink…Why? No, that’s in the past. Extreme gender conformity, machismo, and weak, submissive women, no, no, no, no. We are humans; people have the right to think whatever they want. I follow my own path, and I am who I am.”

The astrologist’s groundbreaking work is also being celebrated with a dedicated exhibit that explores the more intimate parts of his life.

@HistoryMiami / Twitter

Called Mucho, Mucho Amor: 50 Years of Walter Mercado, the exhibit is being hosted by the History Miami Museum in Florida. The limited-run exhibit is open from August 2nd-25th. At the grand opening, Mercado entered the event in true fabulos style — carried in on a golden throne-like the true celestial king he is while triumphant music played and fans cheered. 

For public viewing, the exhibit features 12 of Mercado’s most iconic capes — one decorated and bedazzled for each Astrological sign. It will also showcase jewels, tarot cards and ephemera used during Mercado’s readings. These items will be on display for the first time ever. 

In the interview, Mercado credits his success to his realness to his longterm.

CREDIT: @waltermercadotv / Instagram

For many of us, the comfort Mercado has in his own skin is something we aspire to have. It’s this comfort that led to the familiarity and trust that we developed in the astrologist. His spot-on astrology predictions didn’t hurt either, but it’s definitely the certainty that comes from Mercado’s self-assurance that makes him such a trusted figure. 

“The stars will give an inclination, but they don’t force anything on anyone,” Walter said in his interview. “I would tell people the tendencies I would see show up for them, but I was always very clear with my messages. I let people know they shouldn’t have expectations from me or expect me to tell them the exact location where they’ll run into the love of their life. I would formulate it by saying, ‘I see a tendency that love is around you and following you.’”

Mercado also shared that he believes that his gift for astrology comes from a “divine source” and credits it for the love he has received from his numerous fans. 

Twitter / @HistoryMiami

Whether Mercado’s readings are authentic or just vague prophecies, one thing is certain: the astrologist loves his fans as much as they love him. With this in mind, Mercado tries to share his love and positivity with his public.

“People were saying I was the new prophet for a new era and that God and Christ manifested in my heart,” Mercado explained. “I was taken aback by all the love people were showing me, and I’ve always improvised my readings. I don’t like to use a teleprompter. When I was finishing the segment I was inspired, and I uttered the words, ‘Que Dios me los bendiga a todos, y que reciban de mi mucha paz y mucho mucho (blows kiss) amor,’ and it stuck. People were thanking me for the prayer, and at that moment, I made the choice – since the prayer was so pure and beautiful – I would keep using it. I still use it so the public could continue to receive these blessings.”

H/T: Remezcla “I Am Who I Am” Walter Mercado On Gender Non-Conformity & His Long Career