(NEW YORK) — Merriam-Webster has added gender-inclusive words to its unabridged dictionary — including "cisgender," "genderqueer" and the gender-neutral title "Mx" — as part of a big update of over 1,400 new words to its lexicon.
Though the update was announced last Wednesday, the gender-inclusive additions received widespread attention Monday evening when Merriam-Webster threw some shade on Twitter at critics of the additions:
People keep— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 25, 2016
1) saying they don't know what 'genderqueer' means
2) asking why we added it to the dictionary pic.twitter.com/wsGZ7Y6XB8
"It's certainly very interesting to see people criticizing us for including the words but then asking what they mean," Merriam-Webster lexicographer Emily Brewster told ABC News Tuesday. "They end up proving exactly why we needed to add them."
In addition to adding the words "genderqueer," "cisgender," genderfluid" and "transphobia," Merriam-Webster has also updated the meanings for existing words "non-binary," "gender expression" and "gender identity," Brewster said.
Numerous LGBTQIA+ and gender-inclusive advocates have said they regard Merriam-Webster's additions as important validation for people who use such terms to describe themselves and their experiences. The additions are also a reflection of society's growing understanding of gender as a spectrum rather than a binary.
"Just because these terms are now in the dictionary doesn't suddenly make them real, but their additions do provide important affirmation and validation at an institutional level," said Joel Baum, senior director for professional development at Gender Spectrum, a national organization that "helps to create gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens."
"The fact is, there is literally a difficult convincing process that many non-binary people have to go through to 'prove' their existence or experiences are real," Baum told ABC News Tuesday. "This is just another arrow in the quiver to help the general public understand their experiences. Not everyone identifies as male, female or transgender."
Lisa Kenney, Gender Spectrum's executive director, added that the addition of words like "transphobia" also "helps validate and affirm the issues and discrimination that transgender people have to deal with because of their gender identity."
"Obviously these words have been used and their meanings are real much before they show up in the dictionary," Kenney told ABC News Tuesday. "But it's nice to see words only discussed in periphery come into mainstream."
Kenney added that there is an "infinite amount of ways people can use to describe themselves and their gender identity," and that it's important to respect people's chosen words and pronouns even if they aren't in a dictionary.
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