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

‘Juno’ Star Elliot Page Thanked Supportive Fans And Highlighted Latinx Trans Women While Opening Up About Transgender Identity

Entertainment

‘Juno’ Star Elliot Page Thanked Supportive Fans And Highlighted Latinx Trans Women While Opening Up About Transgender Identity

Elliot Page, the Oscar-nominated star of films such as Juno and X-Men: Days of Future Past, shared with fans that they identify as transgender and non-binary at the beginning of the month.

“Hi friends, I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they, and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey. I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self. I’ve been endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community,” Page wrote in their statement.

In a moving statement shared to the star’s social media feeds, Page explained how the trans community had “inspired” and supported them in the lead up to their decision to share the news with the world. They went onto thank the trans community for “ceaselessly working to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place.”

Elliot Page expressed their gratitude for the support of friends and fans after recently coming out as non-binary and transgender.

“From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Your love and support has been the greatest gift,” Page wrote in a post on Sunday. “Stay safe. Be there for each other. If you are able, support @transanta and @translifeline See you in 2021, Xoxo Elliot”

In issuing their announcement on December 1st, Page also made an effort to underline their privileges in comparison to the trans Black and Latinx people murdered this year.

Speaking about their transgender and non-binary identity, the latter of which is a term used to describe a person whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, Page wrote “I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life… I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey. I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self.”

Page went onto emphasize “To be clear, I am not trying to dampen a moment that is joyous and one that I celebrate, but I want to address the full picture. The statistics are staggering. The discrimination towards trans people is rife, insidious and cruel, resulting in horrific consequences. In 2020 alone it has been reported that at least 40 transgender people have been murdered, the majority of which were Black and Latinx women.”

Page’s highlight of the fatal violence against Black and Latinx trans people in 2020 is such an important step.

This year, the Human Rights Campaign noted that 2020 saw at least 40 trans or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed. The majority of these victims were Black and Latinx transgender women.

Page also condemned politicians who have rejected the rights and humanity of trans people and criminalized trans health care. “You have blood on your hands,” Page wrote. “You unleash a fury of vile and demeaning rage that lands on the shoulders of the trans community.”

Page went onto share his efforts to fight for the trans community continues “To all the trans people who deal with harassment, self-loathing, abuse and the threat of violence every day: I see you, I love you and I will do everything I can to change this world for the better.”

Page stated that their pronouns are “he” and “they.”

HRC listed the transgender and gender non-conforming people lost in 2020. The victims are listed directly from HRC’s site below.

  • Dustin Parker, 25, was fatally shot in McAlester, Oklahoma, early on New Year’s Day. His employers released a statement shortly after his death, remembering Parker as “a steadfast friend, an amazing husband and father and generous to a fault. He loved fiercely, worked tirelessly and took on life with so much hope and enthusiasm that his presence brightened all of our lives.”
  • Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, was fatally shot in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on February 24. According to Metro Puerto Rico, members of her community knew her as “humble” and “noble.”
  • Yampi Méndez Arocho, 19, was killed in Moca, Puerto Rico, on March 5. Arocho, a transgender man, shared his love for basketball and the NBA — donning Miami Heat apparel on social media. The biography line on his Facebook reads simply, “Humility Prevails.”
  • Scott/ Scottlynn Devore, a 51-year old gender non-conforming person, was killed in Augusta, Georgia. Friends remembered Devore as “sweet” and “beautiful” on Facebook.
  • Monika Diamond, 34, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Charlotte, North Carolina on March 18. Diamond was active in the Charlotte LGBTQ and nightlife community and was the co-owner of an event promotion company. She also was the co-CEO of the International Mother of the Year Pageantry System — a pageant that honors LGBTQ mothers.
  • Lexi, 33, a transgender woman, was killed in Harlem, New York on March 28. According to reports, Lexi was fatally stabbed in Harlem River Park. “I really looked up to her because of her tolerance and respect,” said Lavonia Brooks, a friend of Lexi. “Lexi had a beautiful heart, she was very gifted.” Brooks also noted that Lexi loved poetry, makeup and fashion.
  • Johanna Metzger, a transgender woman, was killed in Baltimore, Maryland on April 11. According to reports, she was visiting a Baltimore recovery center from Pennsylvania at the time. Johanna was known for her love of music and taught herself to play multiple instruments.
  • Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32, was killed in Puerto Rico on April 21. Ramos was killed alongside Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21. According to reports, Ramos was visiting the island on vacation, and was set to return to her home in Queens, New York, at the end of the month. Loved ones are mourning her death, calling her “full of life,” a “happy person,” and a “sincere friend.” On May 1, two men were charged under federal hate crimes law for Ramos’s death.
  • Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, was killed in Puerto Rico on April 21. Sánchez was killed alongside Serena Angelique Velázquez RamosAccording to reports, Sánchez had recently moved to the island, and was living in the Tejas neighborhood in Las Piedras. On May 1, two Puerto Rican men were charged under federal hate crimes law for Sánchez’s death.
  • Penélope Díaz Ramírez, a transgender woman, was killed in Puerto Rico on April 13. “Penélope did not deserve to die. Transgender people do not deserve to die. Every single advocate, ally, elected official and community member must stand up in light of this horrific news and say ‘No more.’ What we are doing is not enough,” said Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
  • Nina Pop, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Sikeston, Missouri, on May 3. She was deeply loved by her family, friends and community, according to her Facebook page.
  • Helle Jae O’Regan, 20, a transgender woman, was killed in San Antonio, Texas, on May 6. O’Regan was proud of her trans identity and on Twitter, she often spoke out against injustice, including the LGBTQ inequality, the prison industrial complex and the need to decriminalize sex work. Damion Terrell Campbell, 42, has been charged with O’Regan’s murder.
  • Tony McDade, a Black transgender man, was killed in Tallhassee, Florida, on May 27. His friends and family shared how he was an energetic, giving person with a big heart.
  • Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a Black transgender woman was killed in Philadelphia, Pennsyania, on June 9. One personal friend posted online, “Dom was a unique and beautiful soul who I am lucky to have known personally. I am beside myself right now. We need to fight!! We need to do more!!!! We will get justice.”
  • Riah Milton, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Liberty Township, Ohio on June 9. In March, she posted the status “Never been scared to struggle. Imma get it eventually” — a comment highlighting her resilience and optimism as a person facing a transphobic, misogynist and racist society.
  • Jayne Thompson, a 33-year old white transgender woman, was killed in Mesa County, Colorado, on May 9. She was killed by a Colorado State Patrol trooper and misgendered in initial news reports.
  • Selena Reyes-Hernandez, a 37-year old transgender woman, was killed in Chicago on May 31. “We have lost a beloved member of our trans family because of hate — hate that has corrupted our country’s soul and that shatters lives and futures every day,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
  • Brian “Egypt’ Powers, a 43-year old Black transgender person, was killed in Akron, Ohio, on June 13. Powers worked at a local catering company and is remembered for wearing long, colorful braids — “unicorn braids,” as Powers called them.
  • Brayla Stone, a 17-year old Black transgender girl, was found killed in Little Rock, Arkansas, on June 25. “Brayla Stone was a child. A child, just beginning to live her life. A child of trans experience. A Black girl. A person who had hopes and dreams, plans and community,” said Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. On September 4, a man was arrested on a murder charge in connection to her death.
  • Merci Mack, a 22-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Dallas, Texas, on June 30. Her loved ones shared how beautiful of a friend she was. On her social media, she had recently posted that she enjoyed baking and that she was looking forward to returning to work. On July 8, a man was arrested on a murder charge in connection to her death.
  • Shaki Peters, a 32-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Amite CIty, Louisiana, on July 1. “In just four days, we have seen the deaths of at least three transgender and gender non-conforming people, including Shaki Peters. This horrific spike in violence against our community must be an urgent call to action for every single person in this nation,” said Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Trans Justice Initiative.
  • Bree Black, a 27-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed in Pompano Beach, Florida, on July 3. “These killings are being fueled by the deadly combination of racism and transphobia, and they must cease. We must come together as a community and demand justice for those who were taken from us,” said Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for HRC’s Trans Justice Initiative.
  • Summer Taylor, a white non-binary person, was in Seattle, Washington, on July 4. Taylor was participating in the Black Femme March in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and against police brutality. Taylor worked full time at Urban Animal veterinary hospital.
  • Marilyn Cazares was a transgender Latina killed in Brawley, California. Mindy Garcia, an aunt of Cazares, said she “loved to sing and dance” and “never bothered anyone.”
  • Dior H Ova, who some reports identify as Tiffany Harris, a Black transgender woman, was killed in the Bronx, New York. According to her Facebook, Ova loved fashion — listing her career as a personal shopper and posting photos with luxury fashion brands that she loved. On August 13, a man was arrested on a murder charge in connection to her death.
  • Queasha D Hardy, a 22-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on July 27. Hardy, a hairstylist, was extremely loved by her community. Friends and loved ones describe her as loyal, loving, “always smiling,” “the life of all parties” and “truly one of a kind.”
  • Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, who sometimes used the name Rocky Rhone, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Portland, Oregon, on July 28. According to Facebook, she studied at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and was the owner and founder of International Barbie, a Portland-based clothing brand.
  • Lea Rayshon Daye, a 28-year old Black transgender woman, died in Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, Ohio on August 30. “Lea’s death is unacceptable. Increased risk factors such as homelessness, combined with racism, sexism and transphobia, conspired to lead to a death that never should have happened,” said Tori Cooper, HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
  • Kee Sam, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Lafeyette, Louisiana, on August 12. “We must all speak up in support of trans and gender non-conforming people and affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter,” said HRC’s Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
  • Aerrion Burnett, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Indepedence, Missouri, on September 19. Her friends and family shared “if you wanted to have a good day, you need to smile, Aerrion was the person you wanted by your side.”
  • Mia Green, a 29-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Philadelphia on September 28. Her friends and family shared how “her smile was so perfect and so contagious. She made me laugh.”
  • Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas, a transgender woman from Puerto Rico in her mid-30s, was killed in San Germán, Puerto Rico on September 30. “This level of violence— any level of violence — is unacceptable. We are not doing enough to protect transgender and gender non-conforming people, especially trans women,” said HRC’s Tori Cooper, Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative.
  • Felycya Harris, a 33-year old transgender woman, was killed in Augusta, Georgia in October. Felycya was an interior decorator who ran her own company where she enjoyed lending her eye to improve the surroundings of others, and made others feel comfortable in their own space.
  • Brooklyn Deshuna, 20, a Black transgender woman, was killed in Shreveport, Louisiana, on October 7. Brooklyn attended Bossier Parish Community College and studied cosmetology.
  • Sara Blackwood, a transgender woman, was killed in Indianapolis, Indiana on October 11, recognized as National Coming Out Day. She enjoyed playing video games and was a fan of the show “My Little Pony.”
  • Angel Unique, a 25-year old Black transgender woman, was killed in Memphis, Tennessee, on October 25. A licensed cosmetologist, friends and family of Angel remembered her for being “very funny, very nice to everybody she met” and “such a bright person [with] a positive spirit.”
  • Skylar Heath, a 20-year-old Black trans woman killed on Nov. 4 in Miami, Fl., was described as a “kind and gentle soul” who “had such a love for family and close friends.” Skylar had a “warm personality” and a “friendly spirit,” and brought people who knew her “so much joy.”
  • Yunieski Carey Herrera, also known as Yuni Carey, a 39-year old Latina transgender woman was killed in Miami, Fl. on Nov. 17. Herrera was a well-known model, performer, dancer and activist loved by the LGBTQ community in Miami. A friend of Herrera described her as “besides being strikingly beautiful, she was kind and she was good.”
  • Asia Jynae Foster, a 22-year-old Black transgender woman, was killed on November 20 in Houston, Texas. Her death occurred on Trans Day of Remembrance, a day created to honor those in our community taken by violence. Asia was remembered during a candlelight vigil where family and friends described her as “a beacon of light in their community.”
  • Chae’Meshia Simms, a Black transgender woman in her 30s, was killed on Nov. 23 in Richmond, Virginia. Simms, who sometimes used the nickname “ChaeChae,” was close with her family and friends. They remembered her on social media as “good,” “kind” and “caring.”

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

The Royal Spanish Academy Is Becoming More Inclusive As It Officially Adds Two New And Important Words To The Language

Culture

The Royal Spanish Academy Is Becoming More Inclusive As It Officially Adds Two New And Important Words To The Language

Our society is in constant flux and with it, so is the way we express ourselves. Our ways of communicating and the words we use to do so have changed as the world changes. Just think about words like ‘computer’ or FaceTime or ‘influencer’, these words would of meant nothing to our ancestors. But to us they’ve come to carry important meanings that help us communicate.

It’s a similar argument for words that attempt to make language and communication more inclusive. Words like ‘Latinx’ and ‘Latine’ have become more mainstream as more people decide to use them. Although they’ve also become highly controversial and the debate is still out on whether or not they’ll become widely accepted.

However, just because some people may decide not to use ‘Latinx’ or ‘elle’ doesn’t mean that people who prefer to use them shouldn’t be able to. That’s exactly why the Royal Spanish Academy – which oversees the development of the Spanish language – has added several new and more inclusive words it’s so called ‘Word Observatory.’

Spain’s Royal Spanish Academy – the body that oversees the Spanish language – is making some serious updates.

In recent years, both academics and activists alike have highlighted the importance of using inclusive and non-gendered language – which isn’t exactly easy to do with Spanish. It was under this ideal that the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) decided to address the use of new terms such as the pronoun “elle”.

Last week, the academy unveiled the new design of its website, which has a more visual interface. The site includes a section called “Word Observatory” where, for the first time, the use of “elle”, “transfobia” and other words is addressed.

According to the RAE, the pronoun “elle” is a resource created and promoted in certain areas to refer to those who may not identify with either of the two traditionally existing genres. Its use is neither generalized nor established.”

The issue of more inclusive Spanish was addressed earlier this year when th RAE ruled on the request of Carmen Calvo – Spain’s Vice President. Calvo had asked the institution to consider “an inclusive” update to the language, something to help gender non-conforming and non-binary people express themselves.

Calvo’s position was seen as intending to criticize the required use of the masculine gender when referring to a group of both genders. But now that request seems to have made a difference as the academy is examining alternatives to the male and female usage.

However, it’s encouraging to see the RAE include the words in its observatory – the word isn’t officially in the Spanish dictionary.

Although the RAE clarified that “the presence of a term in its ‘Word Observatory’ does not imply that the RAE accepts its use”, the word generated confusion among several Internet users who wondered if the regulatory institution was on the way to accept more inclusive language.

Through its website the RAE says that these words are not yet part of the dictionary, since the “information is provisional”, meaning that the use of these terms is not yet recognized by the institution nor are they accepted in academic works, but they are being studied and could be added in the future.

The academy also added several other commonly used words to the official dictionary.

Credit: Victor Blanco / Getty Images

Along with the words ‘elle’ and ‘transfobia’, the academy has also added several other commonly used words by Spanish-speakers. Words like ‘bot’, ‘porfa’, ‘videollamada’, ‘influencer’, ‘guglear’, ‘loguear’, ‘ciberataque’, and ‘cruzazulear’ have all been added to the institution’s Word Observatory meaning they could soon become part of the official language.

The Word Observatory “offers information on words (or meanings of words) and expressions that currently do not appear in the dictionary but that have raised doubts, including recent neologisms, foreign words, technicalities, regionalisms, etc., according to the RAE.

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