A hot Fourth of July weekend, which saw another deadly mass shooting, brought out the worst in some people. Over the holidays, singer, actress and environmental activist Bette Midler tweeted that inclusive language eradicate women. Days earlier, Twitter suspended psychologist Jordan Peterson for tweeting disparaging remarks about “Umbrella Academy” actor Elliot Page, who is trans.

Peterson recalled when Pride was a “sin,” referenced a “criminal doctor” who performed surgery on Page, and named the actor. (Deadnaming refers to a person by a name they have asked not to be called again.)

‘The Rubin Report’ host Dave Rubin was also suspended by Twitter for sharing a screenshot of Peterson’s inflammatory tweet, a tweet that conservative commentator Ben Shapiro also shared, in addition to having added his own derogatory comments. Twitter said Peterson could have his account restored if he deleted the offending tweet. Peterson said he would “rather die” than delete it. Then he deleted it.

Finally, on July 4, musician Macy Gray also made transphobic remarks on Fox Nation’s “Piers Morgan Uncensored,” where she said, “Just because you’re gonna switch roles doesn’t mean you’re a woman, sorry.”

This all happened in the space of just a few days, and only weeks after the monumental Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, causing many to fear that marriage equality and other rights for gay men might be next. It’s unclear why celebrities continually feel the need to comment, but the remarks of aging Midler, Gray, Peterson and others miss a key element of language: it’s flexible. Over time, language changes and will continue to change, whether baby boomers recognize it or not.

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The sudden eruption of derogatory comments regarding trans people is in response to the pressure to use inclusive language when speaking or writing about reproductive rights, which are again in the spotlight urgently. The media reports story after story – and American citizens write poet after social media post – about abortion. But some of the stories and many of these messages leave out key people in the debate.

Not only are women affected by the Roe v. Wade. It’s not just women who need abortions or are affected by abortion-related issues, including infertility.

Girls need abortions. Children do. Trans people, intersex people, non-binary people, and a whole host of people do. People is the key word here, a simple word but one that some feel uncomfortable using. As the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) writes, “When conversations about abortion reduce it to a ‘women’s issue’ or an issue only for people who may become pregnant, we exclude a wide range of people.”

Yet that is exactly what Midler did, writing in his tweet: “We are being stripped of our rights to our bodies, our lives and even our name! or ‘menstruation’, and even ‘people with vaginas’! Don’t let them erase you!”

The only people at risk of being erased in Midler’s tweet are the very people she crushes. As writer Roxanne Gay replied“No one is trying to erase women with inclusive language about people who need abortion care. No one is calling you anything other than what you prefer. You should extend that courtesy in return.”

Excluding people from the conversation is another way to make it harder for them, to make them forget, and to stop seeing them as human beings, deserving of care – or rights.

This triggers conservative pundits like Shapiro, who have long made Page a target in wayward videos. But Midler’s tweet was particularly disappointing to some fans given that the actor-singer has always been a strong supporter of gay rights. With her tweet, Midler, like writer JK Rowling before her, is taking a stance that aligns with that of transexclusive radical feminists (TERFS), who exclude the rights of trans women in their advocacy for women’s rights.

According to the ACLU, “The fight for abortion rights and LGBTQ+ rights go hand in hand because they both aim to protect our bodily autonomy. But they are also connected because lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, queer people and yes, some gay trans men, can experience pregnancy and deserve control over if, when and how we become pregnant, and whether or not we stay pregnant.”

What’s the big deal with excluding certain people from the abortion debate? It is already very difficult for trans, queer and other people to receive medical care. It is already difficult for children to benefit from life-saving abortions. Excluding people from the conversation is another way to make it harder for them, to make them forget, and to stop seeing them as human beings, deserving of care – or rights.

If we can say phrases like “vibes” and “cringe,” we can definitely say “people” when we’re talking about abortion.

Calling someone what they want to be called, including them in conversations that concern and affect them, is a simple thing and a person has had no problem with it for generations. Nobody makes a fuss when a woman goes by a different name after marriage (although some still raise antiquated eyebrows when people take a woman’s last name or don’t change their name at all after marriage) . No one protests immigrants who sometimes use Americanized versions of their names. Nobody throws an expert-level tantrum over a nickname.

The language is fluent. It is constantly changing and growing as we grow as people. We learn that certain words are hateful and stop using them. We are constantly adding new words to our usage; the same goes for the Oxford English Dictionary, which recently added words like “unvaxxed”, and Miriam Webster, which last year added “deplatform” and “super-spreader”, among others. If we can say phrases like “vibes” and “cringe,” we can definitely say “people” when we’re talking about abortion. We can certainly call trans and all people by name.


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Inclusive language does exactly that: it includes. It doesn’t push people away or deny them: it just makes room for those who have been pushed aside, ignored and abused for generations. It doesn’t hurt to use. It hurts to leave out.

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