Funny thing about gender-inclusive language in various settings — like, for instance, political party bylaws. It’s necessary to ensure equitable treatment of women, but it can have the unintended consequence of limiting transgender participation.
How so? Well, take the Vermont Democratic Party bylaw mandating that its chair and vice-chair be of “opposite” gender. Which is fine if you’re only considering males and females. But what about those who are “crossing the river,” or even choosing to live on an island in the river? They aren’t the “opposite” of anybody.
They’d seem to be SOL, right? After all, if a person is in transition, or considers themselves to be something other than absolutely male or female, they’d be left out of the “opposite gender” mandate.
At the very least, when the party’s own rules define gender as a male/female construct, there’s a tacit exclusion of transgender people.
Well, at its meeting on Saturday, the Democratic State Committee asked its Bylaws Subcommittee to propose trans-inclusive language in three specific places in the bylaws. And apparently it’s the first Democratic state party to initiate this process. “We’ve queried other state committees across the country,” said State Committee member Matt Levin, “and no one has figured this out.”
So the Vermont Democrats will be the pioneers, it seems.
The Bylaw Subcommittee will devise trans-inclusive language for three areas of the bylaws:
— A sentence stating that the party accepts gender as “non-binary.”
— Each county has three delegates to the State Committee. Currently, each county’s delegation must include at least one man and one woman. The new bylaw will retain the call for inclusiveness without the trans-exclusionary binary language.
— The new bylaw will state that the chair and vice-chair should “not be of the same gender,” instead of “opposite gender.”
The goal is to devise new language in time for a State Committee vote at its next meeting, in mid-September.
Even if the new language is adopted, there will still be one important place where the party will be trans-exclusionary. The state party has two members on the Democratic National Committee: one Committeeman and one Committeewoman. The VDP can’t do anything about that, because those are the national rules. But perhaps the VDP’s example will be followed by others.
To those who haven’t encountered these issues personally, this can seem awfully picayune and excessively PC. But for those affected, inclusive places and organizations are havens of welcome in an often-unfriendly world. Besides, it’s really not hard to do. And the more inclusive the party is, the stronger it is.