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University handbook encourages staff to adopt gender-neutral language, call fathers the 'non-birthing parent'


Staff at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Australia, have been encouraged to ditch the terms “mother” and “father” with the hope of being more gender-inclusive.

ANU’s Gender-Inclusive Handbook has requested fathers to be referred to as the “non-birthing parent” and the term “mother” replaced with “gestational parent,” when discussing childbirth. 

“While many students will identify as ‘mothers’ or ‘fathers’, using these terms alone to describe parenthood excludes those who do not identify with gender-binaries,” the handbook stated. 

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An aerial view of The Australian National University on April 17, 2020, in Canberra, Australia.

An aerial view of The Australian National University on April 17, 2020, in Canberra, Australia.

The handbook also recommends using the terms “breast/chest feeding” and “human/parent’s milk”, instead of “breastfeeding,” and “mother’s milk” to describe lactation.

It cites a 2019 study by researcher Lauren Dinour, who said that “heterosexual and woman-focused lactation language … can misgender, isolate, and harm transmasculine parents and non-heteronormative families.”

“This non-gendered language is particularly important in clinical or abstract academic discussions of childbirth and parenthood, both to recognize [sic] the identities of students in the class, and to model inclusive behavior [sic] for students entering clinical practice,” the handbook added. 

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A spokeswoman for ANU said the recommendations were not an official university policy, according to news.com.au.

“This is a guide produced by a research institute that, among its many areas of focus, examines how to improve gender equity and inclusiveness in our society,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “This document is not an official ANU policy, process, or official prescription to staff and students.”

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The handbook was published by the Canberra University’s Gender Institute, according to the Australian news website



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