In so many different languages people say AMEN to conclude a prayer or to confirm what has just been stated. ‘That’s how it will be, full stop, amen, finished!’ US Representative Emanuel Cleaver (Dem.) however has recently discovered a new connotation in this centuries old term: it is an offence against gender neutrality.
Last Sunday, 3 January, he pronounced the opening prayer for the 117th United States Congress, the current session of the US Parliament. Concluding he did with the words “Amen and a woman”.
Humour? A statement? Cleaver studied theology and he has been a minister in a Methodist church in Kansas for years, so he should be more or less aware of the meaning of the word.
A few days earlier the Democrats in the House of Representatives had submitted a proposal to make the language used in their assembly gender neutral. Was Cleaver sarcastic, of did he ensure implementation of the new perspectives on gender neutrality? In both cases, at the end of his prayer he performed a new existential discrimination.
Mentioning a woman alongside amen still excludes LGBTQIA+. Respect for the entire population of the United States would require AMEN to be replaced by a term that is not only neutral towards women in general, but also includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual and all other non-heterosexual people. Gender neutrality in US Congress still has a long road ahead.