Berkeley City Council adopts gender-neutral language policy for municipal code

Celine Bellegrada/Staff

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On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council adopted a gender-neutral language policy for the Berkeley Municipal Code. According to a Facebook post from District 7 Councilmember Rigel Robinson, the ordinance revises gendered language where it is unnecessary and inappropriate and incorporates gender-neutral language.

Currently, the Berkeley Municipal Code uses mainly masculine pronouns, according to a report attached to the ordinance, which also states that “broadening societal awareness of transgender and gender nonconforming identities has brought to light the importance of non-binary gender inclusivity.”

“I’m a cisgender heterosexual guy, none of this really affects me. But I’ve had incredible interns and appointments on city commissions who have served our city valiantly and who also happen to be nonbinary and use they/them pronouns,” Robinson said in a Facebook post Saturday. “And they matter to me.”

According to the ordinance, after the revisions, words such as “craftsmen” and “manhole” will be replaced with nongendered terms such as “craftspeople” and “maintenance hole,” respectively. In his post, Robinson also noted the importance of using inclusive language by saying “firefighters” instead of “firemen.” The report states that the changes will cost the city $600 and will be paid for through Berkeley’s codification contract with Code Publishing Company.

This is not the city of Berkeley’s first initiative that pushes for increased inclusivity. According to the report, the city gave the option to its employees in early 2019 to receive name badges with gender pronouns listed next to their professional categories.

According to the Facebook post by Robinson, who originally filed the request for the municipal code revisions, the changes are necessary steps for the city of Berkeley.

“Having a male-centric municipal code is inaccurate and outdated. This city is for everyone, and our laws should reflect that,” Robinson wrote on Facebook. “Fixing our gendered code could, and perhaps should … have just been a small story about good governance.”

In his Facebook post, Robinson noted that he has received tremendous backlash about the revisions, stating the hate that has been targeted at him from all over the country is “like an avalanche of bigotry.”

When Fox News host Tucker Carlson invited Robinson to speak on his show about the revisions, Robinson declined, stating that Carlson “is a dangerous, xenophobic, racist, white supremacist goblin.” The comment received coverage from sources such as The Hill, HuffPost and SFGate.

“Putting up with all the hate and vitriol has been worth it, though, for the countless people who’ve reached out to thank me, to tell me these revisions made them feel seen, to tell me how much this policy means to them, or just to tell me they want to start calling white supremacists goblins too,” Robinson wrote on Facebook.

Contact Maria Alexander at [email protected].