How do I make sex-related terms inclusive and accurate?

By: Alex Webster, Ash Zemenick, and Sarah Jones

1. Does it apply equally well to humans and fungi? 

If not, edit or clarify.

A definition can never encompass all of life’s heterogeneity, but it should be as inclusive as possible in terms of taxa it applies to. Inclusive does not mean cripplingly general. If the definition needs to favor some taxa for your teaching purposes, be specific about what taxa it applies to, rather than leaving students to assume that it applies to everything

2. Does it privilege one species’ system of sexual reproduction, sex determination, or sex-role-related behavior, over others? 

If so, edit or clarify.

Abiding by this opens eyes to the diversity of nature, which should be the goal of any biology teacher.

3. Is it aware of how the term is used in human society and explicitly distinguish itself or comment on its use in that context? 

If not, edit or clarify.

The cavalier use of a term without giving this context and distinction is harmful to students of that identity. For example, “hermaphrodite” is a biological term, but it is historically derogatory term for intersex individuals. This should be clarified.

Updated Definitions Working Document 

These are general ways to increase accuracy and inclusivity of many terms

View the working document here

Provide feedback

%d bloggers like this: