Contrary to the popular, albeit outdated, rhyme sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never me, words matter. Words matter a lot.
They have the potential to incite violence. Exclude or oppress groups of people. Damage self esteem. Get you a call from your child’s principal after they use one of those “grown up” words at school. You can likely think of whole host of other reasons why words matter.
Keep that in mind when I share this next piece of information. Using the term “guys” to address groups of people can be potentially harmful.
You may be thinking to yourself, “What is she talking about?” or “Everything is so PC these days, enough!” but hopefully you fall more into the camp of, “I’m curious, go on…”
Guys is a term that can make transwomen/transgirls, gender non-comforming and nonbinary people, feel incredibly hurt, self-conscious, erased, and unsafe.
Now you might be thinking, “Yeah, but this is a moms blog, what does this have to do with motherhood?”
Well, the truth is many people in the Greater Kansas City area are parents to transgender, gender non-conforming, and nonbinary people. In fact, there are many parents who themselves identify as trans, nonconforming, or nonbinary. And imaginably, it’s hard enough to navigate the world as the protector, nurturer, and teacher of a child who is not cisgendered. The very least we, other mothers, can do is work to make sure the language we use creates a sense of safety for those mothers and their children.
“Stop being so sensitive, it’s just a word,” may be on the tip of your tongue right now.
And to that, I say yes, it is just a word, which is why changing it is so simple.
You don’t have to change anything about yourself or others, all you have to do is change one word. One. There are dozens of other ways to address groups of people (y’all is my favorite) that are more inclusive, and demonstrate to all children and their parents that non cisgender identity is valid and matters. It can be humbling to realize the power our words carry, and inclusive language makes a real difference. It can be the difference between self-loathing, fear, and confusion or validation, respect, and compassion. That’s true of all words if you think about it, not just guys.
After all, isn’t that what we all want? To be seen, understood, and feel safe? It takes literally nothing away from our lives to change the way we address a group of people, but it may make all the difference in the world for the people who are marginalized by words or actions that exclude their identity.
Instead of guys, try these words:
Or pick from this list of 40.
Additionally, if you’re interested in diving deeper into this topic, including unpacking the reasons the term ‘guys’ in the abstract is additionally oppressive to women, as well as the history of the term and its etymology, I’d encourage you to read this article.