Don't say mother - it may offend transgender people, medical staff told

Staff at the British Medical Association have been warned not to call pregnant women 'expectant mothers' as it could offend transgender people.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 30th January 2017, 12:52 pm
Updated Monday, 30th January 2017, 12:56 pm

Instead, they should call them “pregnant people” so as not to upset intersex and transgender men.

The advice has been published in an internal document which has been sent out to staff outlining a raft of common phrases that should be avoided for fear of causing offence.

According to the guidance, “the elderly” should be referred to as “older people”, “disabled lifts” called “accessible lifts” and someone who is “biologically male or female” should be called “assigned male or female”.

The BMA said the document was purely guidance for its staff on effective communication within the workplace, not advice to its 156,000 doctor members on how to deal with patients.

On pregnancy and maternity, the BMA said: “Gender inequality is reflected in traditional ideas about the roles of women and men.

“Though they have shifted over time, the assumptions and stereotypes that underpin those ideas are often deeply-rooted.”

It adds: “A large majority of people that have been pregnant or have given birth identify as women.

“We can include intersex men and transmen who may get pregnant by saying ‘pregnant people’ instead of ‘expectant mothers’.”

Elsewhere in the document, staff are told to substitute the words “surname” or “last name” for “family name”.

Employees at the BMA have also been informed that the words “mankind” and “manpower” should be avoided because it is “not good practice” to use a “masculine noun”, and says it should be swapped instead for “humanity” and “personnel”.

The guidance also stressed that listing prefixes for names such as “Prof”, “Dr”, “Mr”, “Mrs” or “Miss” should not be put in a particular order on forms to avoid a “perceived hierarchy”.

The document was published last year, but details only emerged yesterday.

It also underlines guidance on language that has long been considered offensive, suggesting staff do not refer to people as being “spastic” or “mongol” but that they should be called a “person with cerebral palsy” or “person with Down’s syndrome”.

The BMA issued the guidance to reinforce the use of inclusive language as part of its commitment to equality and inclusion.

The introduction to the document said: “This guide promotes good practice through the use of language that shows respect for and sensitivity towards everyone.

“The choice of appropriate words makes an important contribution towards the celebration of diversity.

“As well as avoiding offence, it is about treating each other with dignity and as equal members of an integrated community.”

A spokesman for the association stressed that the guide has been published for staff and representatives with the aim of promoting “an inclusive workplace at the BMA”.

The spokesman added: “It is not workplace guidance for doctors which is clear from the fact it does not refer to patients.”

In recent years, there has been a concerted effort to tackle discrimination in the workplace due to a person’s sexual orientation.

The Equality Act of 2010 made it unlawful to discriminate against employees, job seekers and trainees because of their sexual orientation.

The new legislation meant that, for example, an employer who is not promoting an employee purely because they are gay will be deemed to be discriminating against the worker.