CDC Tells People Not To Use Terms like ‘Illegal immigrants,’ ‘Elderly,’ ‘Smoker,’ and ‘Biologically Male’

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an “inclusive” language guide over the weekend which it says will promote “health equity” and “inclusive communication.”

Terms that the Centers for Disease Control instructs people not to use include “illegal immigrants,” “elderly,” “smoker,” and “biologically male.”

“Language in communication products should reflect and speak to the needs of people in the audience of focus,” the Centers for Disease Control’s web site states. “The following provides some preferred terms for select population groups; the terms to try to use represent an ongoing shift toward non-stigmatizing language.”

The federal agency breaks down what it views as problematic language into several different categories.

“Illegal immigrants” is in the “Non-U.S.-born Persons / Immigration Status” category along with terms like “illegals,” “illegal aliens,” and “foreigners.”

The Centers for Disease Control recommends people use what is considers more welcoming terms such as “people with undocumented status,” “immigrant,” “migrant,” and “non-U.S.-born persons/foreign-born persons” instead.

“Alien” is also a non-starter, the agency says:  “The term ‘alien’ (person who is not a citizen of the United States) may be stigmatizing in some contexts and should only be used in technical documents and when referring to or using immigration law terminology.”

The “older adults” category of the web site tells people not to use words like “elderly,” “senior,” “frail,” and “fragile.” Instead, the Centers for Disease Control wants people to say,”older adults or elders” or to use numeric age groups like “persons aged 55-64 years.”

“Smokers” isn’t a term the agency likes, either. It’s in the “drug/substance use” category alongside terms like “addicts,” “alcoholics,” and “drug abusers.” Instead, the agency recommends terms like “people who smoke,” “persons with substance abuse disorder,” “persons with alcohol use disorder,” and “persons who use drugs/people who inject drugs.”

Recognizing biology by calling someone “biologically male” or “biologically female” also made the non-recommended list. These terms fall into the “sexual orientation & gender identity category” along with terms like “homosexual,” “transgenders,” and “sexual preference.”

Instead of biologically male or biologically female, the Centers for Disease Control prefers terms like “assigned male/female at birth,” “designated male/female at birth,” “Lesbian, gay, or bisexual (when referring to self-identified sexual orientation),” “transgender” (not plural), and “LGBTQ (or LGBTQIA or LGBTQ+ or LGBTQIA2).”

The agency also tells people to “use gender-neutral language whenever possible (e.g., avoid ‘stewardess’ and consider ‘flight attendant’ instead).”

The Centers for Disease Control isn’t the first organization to make a list of language it finds problematic while offering alternatives to those words. Brandeis University announced something similar earlier this year. Brandeis said that terms like “picnic,” “congressman,” and “walk-in” constitute oppressive language, as NewBostonPost previously reported.


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