On the New York subway there will be no more “ladies and gentlemen”.
With an undeniably progressive spirit, New York recently made another small, but symbolic, step towards inclusion: on the subway trains, the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” will no longer be heard before an announcement, which will begin to be replaced by words that, in English, are gender neutral, such as “passengers”, “travelers” or “everyone”.
The decision was adopted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), a giant of urban transport that depends on the state government, led by Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat with presidential ambitions that, among other measures, promoted and signed the legalization of gay marriage.
The authorities also decided to stop using automatic messages to ask “travelers” not to block the doors to enter or leave the cars, or announce delays or suspensions in the service, a classic of the depressed New York subway. Now drivers will speak to give a more “human” touch to the trip, which will also be free to exercise another innovation: announce special days or events, such as elections or national holidays, comment on the weather, or recommend tourist sites at stops.
“We are changing the way we communicate with our customers,” Jon Weinstein, spokesman for the MTA, told the New York Times.
The new manual for drivers also aspires to alleviate the frustration felt by 5.7 million people every day because of problems in service, an old order, derived from years of waste and financial mismanagement of several mayors and governors, including Cuomo.
However, the decision to eliminate the “ladies and gentlemen” of the ads was the most striking when they met the new directives.
In a city that boasts of its open and inclusive mentality and of “welcoming everyone,” innovation once again put on the table a political discussion that has been rampant in the United States for years now: how to address diversity in gender identity.
Something similar had happened the previous year, when the country was engrossed, in the middle of the presidential campaign, in a discussion about which symbol should be placed on the door of public restrooms, if the man and woman, or a neutral one. Or when Facebook made available to its users more than 50 different definitions of gender, and then gave freedom to create their own.
The issue is also part of the discussions on political strategies. Minorities are a pillar of the Democratic coalition, but, in the face of Donald Trump’s advance with the white working class, the left debates whether Democrats should become more involved in policies tied to identity, or try to re-seduce They went with Trump with an agenda more focused on economic issues.
The Republicans are also divided. Some establishment figures, more moderate, see the measures that promote inclusion with good eyes. But the extreme right and Trump is entrenched in the white majority, more traditionalist. Trump, for example, banned transgender people from serving in the Armed Forces, a controversial decision that was curbed in the courts.
In New York, to some, of course, the debate passes by them. They are more worried that, when using the subway, they stop listening to the fateful one: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are delayed by the traffic of the trains ahead of us”.
It will not happen soon. But now, at least, they will hear a human voice, and a phrase that wants to be more inclusive.