Monday, September 10, 2018

Hey Guys

The Problem With ‘Hey Guys’

A broad coalition of English speakers — teachers, retail workers, ice-cream scoopers, and plenty of others—are grasping for a more inclusive greeting.


Several week ago I was out with several friends and what could be an uncomfortable situations landed in my lap. These were male friends that I have know for years and I was in total guy (male) mode; OK, the best I can do at this stage.  

Most of the time when out with my female friends, regardless of how I present I get, "ladies how can I help you?"  Typically it is the correct greeting or I just laugh it off with the comment "I have been called worse."  My girlfriends and even family accept me.  No harm; no foul.     

As I saw the server coming I cringed - "Gentlemen and lady" would embarrass my friends more than me and the last thing I wanted was to draw more attention to my more-or-less feminine features, hair, stature and androgynous appearance.  As she arrived we got the:

"What can I get you GUYS?"  I was safe!


According to The Atlantic, There are, of course, plenty of people—including many women—who have no problem being addressed as “guys,” think the word has evolved to be entirely gender-neutral, and don't see a reason to change their usage. But others aren’t so sure. “I think there's a really serious and welcome reconception of gender lines and relationships between sex and gender going on,” says John McWhorter, who teaches linguistics at Columbia University and has written several books about language. He says “something has crested in particular over about the past 10 years”—something that has people examining their everyday communications.    

In my reporting I heard from several people who said that the word is particularly troubling for trans and gender-nonconforming people. “As a transgender woman, I consciously began trying to stop using guys some years ago,” says Brad Ward, a college counselor at a high school in Atherton, California. She added, “When I’m included with a group that is called guys, there’s some pain, since it takes me back to my male days in a way that I’d rather not go.”

The article concludes with this: Even if guys is widely regarded as gender-neutral, there will still be a sizable contingent of conscientious objectors. They argue, not incorrectly, that dropping guys takes very little effort, and any awkwardness that comes with the odd folks or friends or y’all seems far preferable to making a listener feel ignored. (Personally, I’ve come to favor you all, which carries some of the perks of y’all without being tied to any particular region.)

Read the whole interesting article by Joe Pinsker here - TheAlantic.


How do you feel about being mis-gendered.  Does "Guys"  bother you?  Do you consider that being mis-gendered and is there a safe greeting for a mixed group?   


  1. Although, yes, in general, the word has evolved to become somewhat less gender-specific, still in my experience, there seems to be no higher slur to a transwoman than to call her "guy" or group "guys" even in a gender-non specific way.

    I also know cisgendered women of an older generation who, when, say, approached by a server at a restaurant they don't appreciate at all when that server greets the table as "you guys."

    I have a transwoman friend of mine who transitioned well before me and we were speaking and she started calling me "dude," and it kind of shocked me that she of all people would start misgendering me.

    She replied she was sorry, she didn't even think about it because she calls everyone "dude," male or female.

    So there's another word to contend with.

    1. HI Janet, Thanks for the comment. I agree "Dude" does not work for me either and when out as Rhonda, some one refereed to me as "a Dude". Yuck.

    2. I agree. I have to admit to being a bit confused in this article in terms of where you might have been speaking and where you might have been quoting someone else.

      Are there times where you still present male, or was that someone else speaking? I ask, because looking at you today you are unmistakably feminine and I am not sure how you could alter that to present any other way.

      That's actually meant as a compliment in terms of your total ongoing lovely appearance.

  2. I never was a dude, and I'm certainly not one now. When in mixed company, I don't mind having the whole group referred to as "guys", but it would have to be used informally, preferably by one who is already a friend of the people in the group. If a waitperson uses "guys" as a greeting, I'm apt to deduct at least 5% from their tip, no matter the gender makeup of the party. If I'm spending my money, I expect a degree of respect.

    If one is unsure of the gender, I suppose "y'all" or "you all" would work. The words "people" or "fine people" would show a bit more respect, though. I've used "y'all" often, and Seattle is about as far away from the region of it's origin as one can get. Still, it's an informal greeting when I use it.

    1. Or how about "everybody"? As in, "How is everyone doing today? Can I get anyone a refill on their drink?"

      How much easier (and respectful) can it get?

    2. "Folks" is always an acceptable gender-neutral way to address any group of people, as well.