Our Language is Constantly Evolving: Trans-inclusivity and BLNA
A note from the Reboot Representation team
Inclusion is at the core of Reboot Representation’s mission. Reboot values non-traditional tech professionals and strives to be allies to those who identify as such — in education, tech, and beyond. And, as we work toward increasing the number of Black, Latina, and Native American women in computing, we must be both inclusive in our actions and our language.
Language is an important element of inclusion from the classroom to the workplace and everywhere in between, and it’s ever-evolving.
At Reboot, we want to make sure the language we’re using is clear, specific, inclusive, and aligned with how communities talk about themselves. This is why we’re sharing our updates with you — we regularly examine our use of language and want you to understand our thought processes. Our words are intentional and they impact all aspects of our work, and we recognize that they will change and evolve, as language does.
The word “women” is inclusive of cis and transgender women, and we’ll use it as such.
First, let’s talk about trans-inclusivity. Reboot operates at the intersection of race and gender, and our explicit goal is to double the number of Black, Latina, and Native American women receiving computing degrees. We began to ask whether transgender women felt included in the wording of our mission.
While Reboot can most materially support transgender women through grantmaking that explicitly targets and supports them; we also know that our specific word choices have power and can impact the communities we serve.
Transgender women are women, and we know that terms like “womxn,” which intend to be inclusive, can actually be othering. Therefore, at Reboot, when we state that our mission is to invest in “Black, Latina, and Native American women,” we mean all women — including cis and transgender women. As we work with grantees that explicitly support transgender women of color, we’ll continue to explore what else Reboot can do to materially support that community, beyond grants.
BLNA women — Black, Latina, and Native American women — are Reboot’s grantees.
The Reboot Coalition was born out of research that looked at how companies most effectively use philanthropy to push the needle forward for women and girls in tech. This research uncovered that, despite stated intentions to support diversity, 32 tech companies had only dedicated 0.1% (or $335,000) of their $500M philanthropic dollars that year to fund programs for “underrepresented women of color.”
At the time, the term “underrepresented women of color” seemed like a helpful, concise way to acknowledge that some women of color (like East and South Asian women) were represented in the field while others (like Black, Latina, and Native American women) were not. We’ve come to see this term as more harmful than helpful.
More journalists and research reports increasingly use “underrepresented women of color” — including our own Rebooting Representation report; however, if the term is meant to refer to “Black, Latina, and Native American women,” why not just say that?
By not explicitly stating these three distinct groups, we run the risk of treating them as a monolith — not only does this further marginalize some groups, but it also fails to acknowledge the unique needs and barriers that each group faces.
Shorthands and groupings can be helpful, but if they are reductive, monolithic, and deficit-framed, we want to do better. Aligned with our grantmaking strategy, language we use should be specific, intentional, and lift up our target audiences. Moving forward, we’ll say “Black, Latina, and Native American women” or “BLNA women” exclusively.
We are committed to regularly examining our language.
Language changes and evolves constantly, and the words we use now may not be correct forever. We are committed to linguistic flexibility and fluidity, and we’ll continue to update our terminology to reflect what communities are saying.