On Wednesday, President Joe Biden's administration made a giant step towards inclusion by updating the White House website to include gender-inclusive pronouns and prefixes.
Visitors to the website who attempt to contact the White House via its contact form can now select “they/them” among other pronouns from a menu, as well as an “other” option that opens a self-declaration entry. According to Merriam-Webster, who selected "they" as word of the year back in 2019, the singular pronoun can be used "to refer to a single person whose gender is intentionally not revealed" or used "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary."
In addition to those changes, prefix options have been updated to include the gender-neutral “Mx.” alongside “Mr.” and “Ms.” Merriam-Webster defines "Mx." as a "gender-neutral honorific for those who don't wish to be identified by gender." Although the honorific has become much more popular in recent years, its use dates back to 1977.
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According to an Internet archive of the White House website prior to the Biden administration taking over, the website did not have an option for people to choose pronouns.
A spokesperson from the White House told TODAY via email, “President Biden and Vice President Harris are proud be building an administration that reflects the diversity of our country and is inclusive of all Americans, and the White House is proud to be welcoming of all people regardless of their gender identity."
LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD was the first to notice the change to the White House website and shared a screenshot of the dropdown menu on Twitter.
“On day one, the Biden administration has taken immediate steps to include trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people in the conversation,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement sent to TODAY. “Pronouns matter, and adding inclusive pronouns to a contact form is more than just a demonstration of allyship. Research has shown that recognition and respect of our pronouns can make all the difference for our health and wellbeing—especially when it comes to LGBTQ youth.”
"This is really nice to see. It’s all a breath of fresh air," commented one Twitter user.
"This seems small on a scale that it’s 'just changing a form' but it has such a big impact. it shows so many that they are seen and that they matter," another wrote in reply.
According to a 2020 study from LGBTQ suicide prevention organization Trevor Project, "1 in 4 LGBTQ youth use pronouns or pronoun combinations that fall outside of the binary construction of gender."
"The results show that although LGBTQ youth are using pronouns in nuanced ways, the majority who use pronouns outside of the gender binary use either familiar pronouns or combinations of these familiar pronouns to express their gender," the study said. "An individual’s pronoun expression, or even the decision to avoid them altogether, is a very important reflection of a person’s identity. Respecting pronouns is part of creating a supportive and accepting environment, which impacts well-being and reduces suicide risk."
The National Transgender Center for Equality suggests that one way to be respectful and supportive of non-binary people is to ask questions. "If you’re not sure what pronouns someone uses, ask."
This isn't the first time notable changes impacting the LGBTQ community have been made to the White House website during a transfer of power.
During the week former President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, LGBTQ content was scrubbed from the White House's website. The move was condemned at the time by the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, who called the move "outrageous."