No more ‘manholes’: Berkeley, California, removes all gendered language from city code

Posted at 7:17 AM, Jul 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-18 10:19:38-04

Berkeley, California, a city with a long history of progressivism, is moving forward with a plan to remove all gendered language from its city code as part of an effort to recognize its nonbinary residents.

Soon, in the Bay Area city just east of San Francisco, all instances of “he” and “she” in the city code will replaced by the gender-neutral “they.”

The City Council on Tuesday adopted the first reading of the new ordinance eliminating “gender preference language” in its municipal code.

With the change, “manholes” will be called “maintenance holes,” “firemen” will become “firefighters,” “manmade” will be “artificial” and all instances of “men and women” will be replaced by “people.”

The effort was spearheaded by City Council member Rigel Robinson.

“It is Berkeley being Berkeley, and what that means is it’s Berkeley being inclusive,” Robinson told NBC Bay Area. “A male-centric municipal code doesn’t reflect the reality of the city of Berkeley.”

Robinson said the change to the city code, which will cost $600, is important because “language has power.”

The ordinance to make the changes will be reviewed again next week, and would go into place in late August.

Berkeley’s efforts aligns with California’s broader effort to include people who don’t identify as men or women into state policy.

In 2017, California became the first state to allow nonbinary gender markers on birth certificates, and the second state, behind Oregon, to allow residents to be identified by a gender marker other than “F” or “M” on their driver’s licenses.