A piece in yesterday’s Telegraph:
LNER to review announcements made by staff on board its trains after complaint from non-binary passenger
A train operator has said its conductors will be warned to stop using the phrase “Ladies and gentlemen” following a complaint from a non-binary passenger.
London North Eastern Railway said train managers would be told not to use the greeting to avoid offending passengers who might identify as neither male nor female.
A spokesman for the operator revealed the apparent policy change in a response to a complaint on social media.
In a Twitter post addressed to LNER, a passenger wrote: “Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…” As a non-binary person this announcement doesn’t actually apply to me, so I won’t listen.”
The operator agreed with the complainant that train managers “should not be using language like this”.
“Please could you let me know which service you are on and I will ensure they remain as inclusive as we strive to be at LNER,” the spokesman added.
In a later statement LNER confirmed that the use of the phrase would be reviewed, adding it was “committed to diversity and inclusion in all that we do for our customers, colleagues and communities”.
Campaigners for LGBT rights have long argued that phrases such as “ladies and gentlemen” exclude people who do not identify as male or female, but rather as non-binary, such as the singer Sam Smith. Rather than “he” or “she”, non-binary people sometimes prefer to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns such as “they” or “zie”.
However, LNER’s response prompted further complaints from other passengers who said they were happy for conductors to keep using the phrase.
“I travel regularly with you and being greeted by a driver with a cheery “Morning, ladies and gentlemen” is not offensive. It’s rather lovely,” one customer wrote.
In response LNER clarified that the train manager who prompted the original complaint would not face any disciplinary action, adding that staff would merely be encouraged to issue announcements “with no gender mentioned” in future.
“We’re not bending over backward to accommodate any one person, we’re doing our best to accommodate every person. There’s the difference,” the operator said. [J4MB emphasis. Madness on stilts. How will they “accommodate” passengers who identify as (say) fruit bats?]
“Nobody is trying to be edgy. We’re trying to ensure that we have an inclusive service for anyone, no matter how they identify.”
Mark Jenkinson, the Conservative MP for Workington, said: “You’d be forgiven for thinking this train manager had unleashed a tirade of abuse.
“He’d actually said, ‘Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls’.
“Identify however you like, but can we stop this nonsense?”
LNER is only the latest in a line of companies and organisations to deem the phrase “Ladies and gentlemen” as non-inclusive.
In 2017, the phrase was scrapped from announcements on the Tube in a bid to make them gender-neutral. London Underground staff were told instead to use greetings such as “good morning everyone” to ensure that all passengers feel “welcome”. [J4MB: “Good morning everyone?” Could they BE more offensive to people who don’t identify as human?]
In 2019 Equity, the trade union that represents actors and entertainers, said theatres would be encouraged to adopt “gender neutral terminology for collective calls, both front of house and backstage”.
In response the National Theatre, which supported Equity in producing the guide, said it would make it a priority to phase the words out from announcements, while the Royal Shakespeare Company promised to undertake a comprehensive review.
A spokesperson for London North Eastern Railway said: “We are committed to diversity and inclusion in all that we do for our customers, colleagues and communities. Our policies and procedures are reviewed regularly and in light of recent comments, we will review if any further changes need to be made.”
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