The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services’ Pride Network has backed a new campaign encouraging people to use gender-neutral language, including pronouns like “they” and “them” instead of “he” and “she”.
The department is promoting the first Wednesday of every month as “They Day,” with staff given the option to wear stickers with their preferred pronouns, News Corp reported.
“Nonbinary identities are just as valid as binary gender identities,” an email sent to the public service staff read.
“Names don’t always correspond to a person’s gender. There may be a gap between a person’s gender identity and your perception of the person.
“Saying ‘they’ is more flowing and inclusive than saying ‘he’ or ‘she’.”
In a video released by the Pride Network in June, one participant, Dr Son Vivienne, said everyone could benefit from the use of gender-neutral pronouns.
“I like it when people refer to me as ‘they’ because it feels true to myself,” they said.
“I think the space to imagine yourself without the constrictions of either masculine or feminine is huge, and for children in particular the potential to grow and be rich and complex people who are different selves on different days is also one of the things I like about ‘they’.”
Dr Vivienne said in many situations people already use gender-neutral pronouns in everyday language without realising.
“If you have a friend who’s gone to a doctor you ask, ‘What did they say?’. You have a student in a classroom you might be talking about how they behave,” Dr Vivienne said.
But the Australian Christian Lobby slammed the video as a “shocking waste of departmental resources and time”.
“It’s tragic that the Victorian public service can be used as a vehicle to encourage radical gender theory within the workforce, silencing those who believe in male and female gender,” the group’s Victorian Director Dan Flynn said.
Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt said it wasn’t the business of the Victorian government or their public servants “to tell people what to say.”
“If the tiny, tiny proportion of people who seriously don’t like their pronoun want their colleagues to choose another, let them say so,” he wrote in the Herald Sun.
“To make millions of others walk on linguistic eggshells seems an overreaction – and one that gratifies bullies.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said the video did not receive government or departmental funding, and that the “They Day” event was not compulsory.