New York City's taxi regulator has advised taxi and app-hail drivers to...

New York City's taxi regulator has advised taxi and app-hail drivers to ask passengers about their preferred pronouns. Taxis are shown on Seventh Avenue in midtown Manhattan in May. Credit: Charles Eckert

Taxicab and app-hail passengers should be asked their preferred pronouns — and drivers should not assume that physical appearance corresponds to traditional notions of male and female — New York City’s taxi regulator advised drivers this week.

Drivers should also consider sharing their own pronouns, according to the advisory, “Inclusive Language Tips,” emailed to the city's approximately 200,000 licensed drivers of taxicabs and for-hire vehicles like Uber.

The tips are not new policy; they are just suggestions, not binding rules, according to Rebecca Harshbarger, a spokeswoman for the regulator, the Taxi & Limousine Commission, which licenses the industry.

“Using someone’s preferred pronoun is a simple way to show respect,” according to the email, which suggests “they” or “ze” as a default in cases in which the driver does not want to ask.

The taxi regulator’s email comes as the culture undergoes a linguistic introspection over how to refer to people. Some say their sex as listed on their birth certificate does not correspond with their gender identity — an inner sense of female, male or a hybrid of both or none at all. To express this identity, some use a different pronoun, not only “he” or “she” but also “they,” “ze,” “ve,” and others, and the corresponding declensions.

It is not uncommon in some settings for those whose preferred pronouns correspond to their birth certificates — known as cisgendered people — to proactively volunteer pronouns in venues like email or on nametags as a way to offset the burden of trans and other nonconforming people to volunteer pronoun preference.

On Monday, the dictionary Merriam-Webster announced “they” as the word of the year.

The taxi regulator’s email is one of the latest gender-related policies from the mayoralty of Mayor Bill de Blasio relating to people who are transgender, nonbinary or who otherwise do not conform to traditional gender notions.

In 2018, de Blasio signed legislation giving city residents three gender options on their birth certificates, including “X” for neither male nor female.

In 2016, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued legal guidance to employers, landlords, businesses and other professionals to use preferred pronouns, and that “refusal to use a transgender employee’s preferred name, pronoun, or title may constitute unlawful gender-based harassment.”

About 1.4 million transgender adults live in the United States, about 0.58% of the population, according to the Williams Institute, a policy center at the University of California at Los Angeles Law School.

In an email, taxi regulator spokesman Allan J. Fromberg said: “Communicating with our drivers about ways they can make passengers feel more welcome and comfortable through customer service is something we take seriously, as is being respectful to all New Yorkers. We send drivers event invitations and compliance reminders, as well as helpful tips, as a matter of course.”

Preferred pronoun tips

New York City's taxi regulator sent an advisory, "Inclusive Language Tips," to about 200,000 licensed taxicab and for-hire vehicle drivers in the city this week. Among the tips:

  • “Ask the passenger what their pronoun is. Do not assume someone’s pronoun because of their appearance or name on the app.”
  • “If you do not want to ask, you can ask how they preferred to be called or use the gender-neutral pronoun such as they or ze.”
  • “Introduce yourself and share your pronouns.”
  • “Some examples of pronouns are: he/him, she/her, they/them, ze/hir/zir.”
  • “If you make a mistake using a pronoun, be sure to apologize.”
  • “Do not use words such as it or he-she. This is offensive to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community.”

Source: New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission

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