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Twitch apologises for using the word ‘womxn’: ‘We’re still learning’

Patrick Kelleher March 2, 2021
LGBTQIA+ tag shouldn't be used by straight allies, say Twitch streamers

An Apple iPhone 11 smartphone with the Twitch video streaming app logo on screen. (Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty)

Streaming platform Twitch has apologised after it faced backlash for using the alternative spelling “womxn” instead of “women”.

The word “womxn” has come into more frequent use over the last decade, according to Dictionary.com, and is one of several alternative spellings of the word “women”.

However, the word has been used extensively by transphobes on social media in an effort to delegitimise trans women’s identities.

The word has been the subject of controversy and debate in the past, with a number of organisations facing criticism for using “womxn” in an effort to be inclusive of trans and non-binary people. However, many LGBT+ people have pointed out that using the word implies that trans women are a separate category from cisgender women, giving it a transphobic overtone.

Twitch, a live-streaming platform largely used by gamers, used the alternative spelling in a tweet about Women’s History Month, seemingly in an effort to be inclusive of trans and non-binary people – but it backfired badly.

“March is Womxn’s History Month,” Twitch tweeted. “Join us in celebrating and supporting all the Womxn creating their own worlds, building their communities, and leading the way on Twitch.”

The streaming platform faced a storm of criticism on social media, with many pointing out that the alternative spelling is problematic.

Just hours later, Twitch apologised for using the word “womxn” and said it will use the correct spelling going forward.

“While we originally wanted to use a word that acknowledges the shortcoming of gender-binary language, after hearing directly from you, including members of the LGBTQIA+ community on Twitch, we will be using the spelling ‘women’ moving forward.

“We want to assure you that we have, and will continue to, work with the LGBTQIA+ community. We’re still learning. Our good intentions don’t always equate to positive impact, but we’re committed to growing from these experiences, doing better, and ensuring we’re inclusive to all,” they added.

This is not the first time an organisation has come under fire for using the alternative spelling of “women”. The Wellcome Collection faced fierce backlash in 2018 when it used the term on Twitter, angering both anti-trans commentators and trans people.

Trans Media Watch told BBC News following that controversy that they will never use the word “womxn”.

“We would generally just write ‘women’ in the usual way because we feel it’s important for people to recognise that trans women are women,” Jennie Kermode, chair of the group, said at the time.

“Trans women aren’t a special, separate category.”

More: gaming, Trans, twitch, womxn

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