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. 

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

JLo Introduces Her Nibling, Brendon In New Short Film ‘Draw With Me’ And It’s A Must Watch

Entertainment

JLo Introduces Her Nibling, Brendon In New Short Film ‘Draw With Me’ And It’s A Must Watch

JLo / Instagram

Jennifer Lopez has been wildly busy as of late – and that’s all despite a global pandemic. The Hustlers star attempted a takeover of the New York Mets baseball team with her husband A-Rod, she’s launching her own beauty line, and continues to push out grade-A social media content that keeps her fans begging for more.

Although she’s been busy, she still found the time to support her nibling – who has created a short film about how art was a lifeline for them when coming out. She used the term, which is a gender-neutral alternative for a niece or nephew, when discussing her sister Leslie Lopez’s child, Brendan Scholl (who is transgender and uses they/them pronouns).

Jennifer Lopez has introduced the world to her nibling Brendon and their new short film.

In a video posted to her Instagram TV channel, JLo introduced the film Draw With Me. She’s supporting the short film by her nibling which is about “accepting change and challenges with love, knowing when we do –everything is possible. Please enjoy the first 5 minutes of this incredible story. Stay tuned for the full documentary at film festivals worldwide and coming soon on VOD. A film by @ithakafilms @marcomaranghello @lyndalopez08,” she says in the post.

During her introduction, she explained, “Draw With Me is a short film about a transgender youth and their journey of coming out to their family, and also engaging with their art to help them cope with the feelings they were having during this time.”

She continued on to say, “The film is important and timely in its story and message, and can have a huge impact on those of us who watch and experience what Brendon and their family is going through in this time of acceptance and admission. It’s a story very close to my heart, because it was a family affair… because Brendon is my nibling.”

In the film, Brendon tells the very important and timely story of their coming out and coming to terms with their identity.

After JLo’s brief introduction, there’s a short five-minute preview of the film, featuring Brendon telling their coming out story. “It was in eighth grade when I finally felt comfortable with saying that I’m trans,” they said. As their mom Leslie explained in the film, “You’re talking about your identity as a person. Sexual preference has to do with who you go to bed with, and your identity is who you go to bed as.”

Brendon continued: “I’m just hit with how lucky I am in terms of the family and friends. Titi Jen made that post where she used the right pronouns. It felt really nice to have a family member in a very public way show their support, makes me appreciate things other people will do for me and for anyone else who’s struggling.”

They also share some very dark moments that illustrates how important films like ‘Draw With Me’ really are.

When talking about their lowest moment in the five-minute clip, Brendon says, “The darkest point was definitely when I wasn’t out to any of my teachers or my parents. I was worried about when I came out, that would be like the last straw, so to speak.” The family then reflect upon the night that Brendon very sadly tried to take their own life.

After this, Leslie says, came a turning point, “When it finally hit me, like, ‘Oh my God, my kid just trying to kill themself’, it just hit me. When you finally get to the acceptance part, then you realise it’s not about you. This is about my child.”

And when aunt Lynda asked Brendon about advice they would give to someone who has never had a trans person in their life, their message was clear. “The best thing I can say is just believe them. I shouldn’t have to be scared to tell people who I am,” they said. “If they don’t like me because I’m trans then it’s their loss. I’m not going to change myself just because this one person doesn’t like it.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

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

Fierce

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. 

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com