Language: gender-appropriate yes, mess up no

Feature photo: Collage by Lothar Birkner

Apart from the neuter, the German language has two genders (male and female). Gender studies assume there are about 60, in addition one must distinguish between gender (gender identity and gender roles) and sex (biological sex). The world has gotten complicated. Everything seemed clear before. When my father wrote letters to the Chamber of Crafts in the late XNUMXs, he said that the salutation "Dear Sir" was sufficient. as Elizabeth Schwarzhaupt became Federal Minister in November 1961, some had a problem with the salutation. "Frau Minister" or "Frau Ministerin" or how should one address the lady now? We're sixty years on and we can only smile about something like this. But the problems in the relationship between language and gender have become much more diverse. 

How do we solve the resulting diverse linguistic problems? I suggest: With calm and serenity in the knowledge that language is something alive. Therefore, their development cannot and should not be artificially forced for ideological reasons - or whatever reasons. Firstly, we mess up our language and secondly, artificially forced developments are not accepted by a large majority anyway and come to nothing. With that, I am in no way denying an interdependence between language and consciousness, and certainly not the fact that with a change in consciousness, our language will also change. In terms of language shaped by patriarchal thinking, this has already happened to a certain extent. Diversity and tolerance are very good things, but we do not promote these values ​​with language directives issued by a narrow intellectual elite.

I'll try to make clear what I mean with a few examples. In any case, I think it makes sense when our language expresses that there are two biological sexes. We can e.g. For example, say "the teachers at this school". The counter-argument that one or two more words would unnecessarily lengthen the text is dishonest and bogus. But if you want to express the existence of two genders with Gender* (teachers) or Gender_ instead of one or two more words, I can honestly say that my entire feeling for language resists it. Even when I read "Goddess be thanked" , I can't get used to this formulation. In the case of an American writer, however, I once found what I believe to be an excellent linguistic stumbling block that questions our patriarchal image of God. He writes "God" and then continues "she".

I think verbal handstands, like saying “people with a uterus”, are misguided. People who are meant are far more than 99% women. Trans men who have a womb are in a negligible minority, at least linguistically. Are we really denying this minority our respect if we avoid such artificial language constructions? I think there are enough other ways to show that you reject discrimination against sexual minorities. There are no reliable figures on how many people in Germany can be assigned to the generic term “transgender”. Estimates vary between 0,3% and 0,6% of the population. They must be protected against discrimination and must never be used with derogatory terms or swear words. 

In conclusion, I would like to say that the views expressed here are my personal opinions. Of course, one can have different opinions. But we should have discussions about this with respect. Unfortunately, I have found that people who otherwise pride themselves on their liberality and tolerance often work with ideological inexorability and insinuations. This poisons the atmosphere and only harms. So respect friends!


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