One Texas/Southern speech term that fits the gender neutral qualification is y’all. A collective general pronoun.
I must also admit a fondness for “folks”.
A broad coalition of English speakers—teachers, retail workers, ice-cream scoopers, and plenty of others—is grasping for a more inclusive greeting.
Aug 23, 2018
“Okay, guys,” a female coworker of mine recently began, as she addressed me and a female colleague. Then she stopped herself, said she was making an effort to use more gender-neutral language, and carried on talking.
It was a small self-correction, and a glimpse at the conflicted feelings stirred up by one of the most common greetings in the English language. Guys is an easygoing way to address a group of people, but to many, it’s a symbol of exclusion—a word with an originally male meaning that is frequently used to refer to people who don’t consider themselves “guys.”
My coworker is one of many who have started editing themselves in response to this exclusion. In the course of reporting this story, I heard from teachers who wanted a better way to get students’ attention, an ice-cream scooper who wanted a better way to greet customers, and a debate coach who specifically encourages his students to use y’all. These are representatives of a broad coalition of people who have contemplated, and often gone through with, excising guys from their vocabularies.
There are, of course, plenty of people—including many women—who have no problem being addressed as “guys,” think the word has evolved to be entirely gender-neutral, and don’t see a reason to change their usage. But others aren’t so sure. “I think there’s a really serious and welcome reconception of gender lines and relationships between sex and gender going on,” says John McWhorter, who teaches linguistics at Columbia University and has written several books about language. He says “something has crested in particular over about the past 10 years”—something that has people examining their everyday communications.
In my reporting I heard from several people who said that the word is particularly troubling for trans and gender-nonconforming people. “As a transgender woman, I consciously began trying to stop using guys some years ago,” says Brad Ward, a college counselor at a high school in Atherton, California. She added, “When I’m included with a group that is called guys, there’s some pain, since it takes me back to my male days in a way that I’d rather not go.”
I also heard that guys could grate on women working at male-heavy companies. In tech in particular, some told me they saw the word as yet another symptom of a female-minimizing industry. “There are a lot of guys in tech and ‘guys’ is used all the time in my work and social environments by both men and women, but since it doesn’t resonate with me anymore, I do feel like I’m not part of the group,” says Amy Chong, a 29-year-old user-experience researcher in San Francisco.
In some workplaces, people have used technology to gently push back against the gender-neutral guys so that they themselves don’t have to speak up. A group of government employees wrote a custom response for the messaging app Slack that would have a bot ask questions like “Did you mean friends?” or “Did you mean you all?” whenever a user wrote “Hey guys”; a Spotify employee embraced the idea, and the professional network Ladies Get Paid has a similar feature in its Slack group of some 30,000 members.
Continue reading at: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/08/guys-gender-neutral/568231/