What the Democrats’ Ban on Gender-Specific Pronouns Really Means


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By Giselle Balido

January 4, 2021

The proposal comes in response to the growing number of transgender and nonbinary people who have been elected to serve at various levels of government.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat speaker of the house, has announced a plan to strike gender-specific pronouns, such as “he” and “she,” from the rules of the US House of Representatives. The proposed changes will be voted on after the House convenes Sunday for the new 117th Congress. 

The move, which Pelosi called a “bold and future-focused” move, would eliminate any gender-specific references—such as “man,” “woman,” “father,” or “daughter”—in the rules that will govern the House during the 117th Congress.

The proposal was put forth by Pelosi and Rules Committee Chair James McGovern, and comes in response to the growing number of transgender and nonbinary people who have been elected to serve at various levels of government. Many of these people may not identify with gendered pronouns. For this reason, Democrats said the aim was to “ensure we are inclusive of all members and their families—including those who are non-binary.” 

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Sweeping Reforms

The new rules proposed by Democrats, which McGovern said came after months of consultation, include the establishment of a House Office of Diversity and Inclusion and call for sweeping ethics reforms. 

This “makes this House of Representatives the most inclusive in history,” Pelosi said in a joint statement with McGovern, adding that the proposed changes reflect “the views and values of the full range of our historically diverse House Democratic Majority.” 

The terms to be eliminated from the House’s Code of Official Conduct include “father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother, half-sister, grandson, and granddaughter.”

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They would be replaced with “parent, child, sibling, parent’s sibling, first cousin, sibling’s child, spouse, parent-in-law, child-in-law, sibling-in-law, stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, half-sibling, and grandchild.”

Republicans Push Back

The new proposal drew an immediate pushback from Republicans, with some blasting the proposal as “far-left priorities” or “stupid.”

Kelly Loeffler, the Republican senator who is up for re-election in Georgia on Tuesday, declared: “The far-left’s priorities, everyone. If you’d like to still be able to call yourself a father, daughter, mother or son, vote for me on Tuesday.”

She signed her post: “Sincerely, A Proud Daughter.”

For his part, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, wrote on Twitter: “This is stupid. Signed – A father, son, and brother.”

A More Inclusive America

However, a 2019 Pew Research survey found that about one in five Americans know someone who uses a pronoun other than “he” or “she.” Also according to the report, “a quarter of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say they know someone who prefers being referred to using gender-neutral pronouns, versus 11% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.”

The goal of the proposed changes, reiterated Pelosi and McGovern in their statement, is to “honor all gender identities by changing pronouns and familial relationships in the House rules to be gender neutral.”

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