He, She, or It? Trans Pronoun Etiquette

What pronouns should you use when talking to a trans person?

We now live in a world where we are routinely expected to deny reality, deny science, deny biology, and deny truth. We are encouraged to live in denial, to believe lies, and to reject reason and rationality. Welcome to the brave new world of trans militancy.

Of course all this has not come out of nowhere. There are political and ideological forebears to the trans madness, noticeably the radical homosexual and feminist revolutions. They have fully laid the foundations for the trans war on reality.

As the superlative Thomas Sowell put it in the opening page of his classic 1995 book, The Vision of the Anointed: “Dangers to a society may be mortal without being immediate.” While transgenderism was not even a thing back then, what he said a few paragraphs later is equally applicable:

“Today, despite free speech and the mass media, the prevailing social vision is dangerously close to sealing itself off from any discordant feedback from reality.” Yep, a perfect description of our culture today and its acceptance of all things trans.

We are expected to now lie in order to be PC and not offend anyone. We are expected to call black white, and white black. So if a grown man decides he no longer likes his natal sex, and puts on a dress and grows his hair, we are expected to call him her.

That the world is falling for this insanity is of course expected. What we do NOT expect is when clueless Christians join in on the lunacy. Yet now we have Christian leaders telling us we must run with the preferred pronouns of those who transition – or are even thinking about it.

While it may not be a fair fight, let me offer one example of this foolishness, and three rebuttals to it: from me, Robert Gagnon, and John Piper. The one capitulating here is in fact the head of the Southern Baptist Convention in America, J. D. Greear.

In a recent article he tells us to consider running with “pronoun hospitality”. You can read his piece here: https://jdgreear.com/askmeanything/when-talking-with-a-transgender-person-which-pronoun-should-you-use/

It is of course one thing to treat all people with dignity and respect, including the trans person who clearly has mental, emotional and psychological issues to deal with. But it is quite another matter to tell Christians that violating the 9th Commandment is the way to proceed here.

Um no, I ain’t gonna tell lies in order not to offend a confused person succumbing to the radical trans agenda. I will instead do the most loving thing I can for such a person: tell him (or her) the truth. The truth will set you free. Lies will not. So if you want to show Christian love to trans folks, tell them the truth, and don’t go along with their delusions.

Image of The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy
The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy by Sowell, Thomas (Author) Amazon logo

Writing on the social media, sexuality expert and seminary professor Robert Gagnon was equally aghast at this silliness by Greear. He wrote this in response:

I am stunned that any leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, much less the President, would be contending that faithful Christians should practice so-called “pronoun hospitality” in addressing “transgender” persons by their delusional pretend sex. The idea that Jesus or Paul would have referred to a man as a woman or a woman as a man in anything other than satire and derision for abhorrent behavior is absurd revisionism in the extreme.

It is not an act of “hospitality” or “respect” to the offender but rather (1) a scandal to the weak and young in the church and a rightful violation of conscience for many that will lead many to stumble to their ruin; (2) an accommodation to sin that God finds utterly abhorrent; and (3) a complicity in the offender’s self-dishonoring, self-degrading, and self-demeaning behavior that does him no favor because it can get him (or her) excluded from the kingdom of God. Am I being obtuse here?

What’s next? Treating as a married couple an incestuous union involving a man and his mother, allegedly as a show of hospitality and honoring of their own perspective? Is that what they think Paul would have done at Corinth? Treating the man and his stepmother as “husband” and “wife” so as to extend “hospitality” and “respect”? What kind of revisionist lunacy is this?

I can’t believe that there is no serious push-back on this in the Southern Baptist Convention. . . . I don’t really see what the point is of the SBC having an inerrancy doctrine if it leads to leaders encouraging their congregations to call men women and women men, which in God’s eyes would be blaspheming his work as Creator. I would expect this kind of nonsense from the PCUSA, not the SBC. I am in utter disbelief. Is this something that Al Mohler would approve of? And if not, has he said anything against it? And if not, why not?

Finally – and not referring to Greear because it was penned back in 2015 – John Piper offers some wise words on this matter. He said in part:

Should I Call Her Jim?

(1) In one sense the names Sally or Jim are culturally arbitrary. We can name our kids whatever we want. We can name them after cars or planets or Greek virtues or Grandma. Calling someone by that arbitrary name their parents chose or the one they choose halfway through life may not imply agreement with all that that name was created to signify by the person.

So if I had a neighbor next door to me, which this is very feasible, who was biologically male, and everybody knew it, and he introduced himself to me as Sally — if I met him for the first time, and I saw him the next day, I might avoid calling him anything, but I would probably default to Sally. I probably would until there was a relationship that would go deeper to see whether I could be of any help. So that is one concession I am going to make because of the arbitrary nature of names. And then it is going to get a little more dicey and divisive.

(2) However, if in the office where we worked, I was compelled to identify every so-called transgendered person by the pronoun they preferred in all of my emails, or conversations — suppose in emails and conversations I had used “she” for he or “he” for she — or I would get disciplined in the office, at that point I would say to my superiors, I cannot treat he’s as she’s and she’s as he’s.

I cannot buy the whole package. I would be lying to call a he a “she.” I am not lying to call a male “Sally.” That is a culturally arbitrary, weird fluke. But I am lying if I say about a true Jim who wants to be called Sally, “she.” And it would be contrary to my understanding of sexuality and I would start looking for another job.

(3) The same thing applies to bathrooms, locker rooms, and hotel rooms where women identify as men or vice versa. I would refuse to have a roommate who said she was a man, even though I share a room in my travels with my assistant all the time. He is a man, and I know he is a man, and that is a perfectly normal thing to do. But if they insisted that I share the same bathroom, share the same locker room, or share the same hotel room, I am looking for another job.

So in summary, then, the question is: Are we forced to call them a name that they prefer, which I am probably going to submit to in the short run at least, or are we forced to identify them as a different sex than they really are? Naming may have a certain ambiguity and arbitrariness to it, but the language of he and she and the use of bathrooms and hotel rooms does not. And I will draw a line and say, I will not call he “she.” I will not call she “he.” And I will not intrude on the sexual privacy of a person of the opposite sex, or walk into a situation where they would intrude upon mine. https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/he-or-she-how-should-i-refer-to-transgender-friends

All this is similar to the question of whether a Christian should attend a homosexual wedding. My reply is much the same: no, he should not, because it is endorsing a lie, slapping God in the face, and rejecting his clear creation order about human sexuality. But I give more detail on that matter here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2015/04/17/on-attending-homosexual-weddings/

In sum, we must love the trans person like we love anyone else. And real love always means speaking the truth, and not allowing the beloved to live a lie, which is always damaging and harmful. Do not swallow the lies of this corrupt culture, but stand firm on the truth of reality, biology and God’s word.

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25 Replies to “He, She, or It? Trans Pronoun Etiquette”

  1. One of the absurd outcomes of this is that employers will be forced to keep people who are prepared to lie about the most basic of facts, and those who will not lie even when it may cost them personally will be shown the door. What a thrilling future for business owners, to know you will only be able to keep those who are morally compromised! /sarc Just keep telling yourself it is all in the name of ‘diversity’ and ‘tolerance’.

    I’ve always maintained that there is more to this than just the sexual identity debate – if someone is prepared to lie about the biological equivalent of 2+2=4, then they will highly probably lie about anything. Just like those who lie about the humanity of the unborn and even admit their complicity in murder are telling us something about their character. You cannot build – or even maintain – a society with such people being rewarded and the good people – who understand and value the ninth commandment – told they are unpersons.

    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s word’s come back to me repeatedly – what is happening in Australia is down to one reason, and one alone.

    More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

    Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

    I wish people would wake up and repent, rather than keep hurtling to the cliff. We don’t need to repeat the errors of the past; we already know what follows.

  2. Maybe just be a decent and kind human being for a change and just use the pronoun they prefer? And before you go on about denying biological reality, how many female ships have you seen? I bet though, you have no qualms referring to them as “she”.

  3. You miss the point Helen. We are not talking about ships here, but about human beings. Ships are neither male nor female. Human beings are either one or the other – from birth and throughout life. And the activists on the left have made it a big deal, with many folks already being fired from their jobs or fined simply for “mis-gendering” a trans person. And there is nothing “decent and kind” about telling a person lies about who they are, and allowing them to continue in delusion. In the same way it would be most unkind to simply agree with an anorexic person who also has delusional thinking. If they say they identify as a fat person and want to lose more weight, if we go along with that fantasy, death could result. Nothing “decent and kind” about that either.

  4. Bill,
    There are many differences between a male and female including reproductive system and coronary vascular system. The current medical research has shown significant differences between the heart of a male and female including men and women have different experiences of chest pain. Unfortunately, it is more likely for a woman than a man to die from a heart attack because females are often misdiagnosed. The heart is a vital organ of every male and female, so treating the heart as a he rather than a she will lead to more deaths of women.

    The original English words, “he” and “she” must have been describing two different types of people or otherwise they would have used one word “he” or “she” to describe a legal person. A legal person is used within healthcare system to describe a healthcare professional, healthcare consumer, patient or client. However, it is impossible to identify a legal person’s gender/sex by using these words. If my workplace demands that I must now use the words “he” and “she” as if these words no longer have a real and true meaning, then I am using these words as a pronoun for a legal person.

    The LGBTIAQ activists are demanding for communities to create more gender-neutral toilets. Unfortunately, this year at a major shopping centre, I had witnessed a man and boy both walked into a gender-neutral toilet and they found a woman on the toilet. It was likely that the woman didn’t properly lock the toilet door, but everyone present felt extremely embarrassed and uncomfortable about this matter. I guess that the LGBTIAQ activists must have wanted me to pretend that this woman was the same as a he or male using a urinal.

    This new Humpty Dumpty language has been created for the new Victorian Virtual Disneyland because it is real place and with real people, as well as it is regulated with real laws such as gender identity on birth certificates, 2PM (2 People Marriage) and VAD (Voluntary Assisted Dying). Our only hope is in Christ Jesus because the LGBTIAQ activists have changed “he” into “her” as a result of changing a scrotum into a legal vagina. What is the next body part which will be changed into a legal sexual organ? A woman can have a mastectomy for cancer and not change her sex, but if she has a mastectomy is for the gender identity of a male then it changes her into a him.

  5. This is really silly. “Sally” is a female name. If you call a biological male this after previously calling him “Mike” then you are endorsing their new gender every bit as much as If you called him a “she”.

    We as Christians should be wrestling with the deep issues, the worldviews that give rise to translunacy. Not dying on a hill over pronoun use!

  6. That bit about calling a guy Sally was one part of Piper’s piece that I found questionable Damien. And while it should be inconsequential what pronouns we use, sadly the other side has insisted that it became a matter of great importance. As I have documented often here, numerous people have lost their jobs or been fired for this very thing. So the other side has made it a deep issue and our side is suffering as a result. Thus it is something worth addressing.

  7. The really big problem is that gender now has changed its meaning to refer only to a person’s behavior, not the physical reality. What the “hate speech” laws, that have been introduced many places around the world therefor mean, is that people must be forced by law into accepting any and all behaviors. Of course this is simply anarchy via the back door but most people seem not to have yet noticed.

    The sociological consensus, from those who are so broad minded that their brains have fallen out , seems to be that people should be able to identify themselves as any gender they want and, in fact, can invent new genders to describe what they think they are. The problem with that idea is that, when gender can mean anything, it ends up meaning nothing. The really scary thing is that this generation then seems to think it’s OK to base laws on words that can mean anything someone can possibly imagine. Go figure. Are people really so dumb as to not notice that if you can’t discriminate based on gender identity, and gender identity can be anything, then absolutely every behavior has to be affirmed and cannot be discriminated against? I.e. anarchy.

    So it’s sort of like having laws that say it is illegal to steal but then allowing people to have their own definition of stealing such that stealing from a supermarket (or whomever) is not stealing and the courts then having to agree with the person’s own definition.

    It appears the only short term solution is for me to identify as a gender that must be sex specific in which pronouns are used and anyone who says I can’t do that must be guilty of hate speech. So my sex is male but my gender is, I guess, realist. I wonder if I can get this added to Google’s list?

    Only the Truth can set us free.

  8. I would call a transgender by their preferred name only because you came change your name but I would not use their preferred pronoun as you can’t change your sex. (Growing up gender was just the polite word for sex not a different concept and I am only 42).

    I can see how you could say this plays into their delusion but given that I don’t think anyone would object to a Mike asking to be called Steve then it would be hard to then object to calling him Sally. So the name is not a hill I wish to die on. But making me use the wrong pronoun is a bridge too far!

  9. Thanks Paul I tend to agree with Robert A. J. Gagnon who said this about what Piper had said:

    I am surprised that John Piper would be willing to call a man “Sally” who is intentionally posing as a female. Citing your citation of him: “Calling someone by that arbitrary name their parents chose or the one they choose halfway through life may not imply agreement with all that that name was created to signify by the person.” If it is a name chosen by the man in an effort to coerce others into addressing him as a woman, then the name is not “arbitrary.” It is intentionally chosen to force others to embrace what is offensive to them. There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between calling such a man “Sally” and using feminine pronouns of the same. Names in any given culture are not “arbitrary.” While some names are ambiguous in terms of gender specificity (“Jan” or “Francis,” for example) other names are not (“Abigail,” “Donna,” etc.).

  10. Thanks Bill but there are many androgynous names that used to be firmly male (and a few firmly female). The first people to have those opposite sex names probably faced difficulty. But a name is still just a name. The pronoun is the important part as IT identifies gender/sex. (Try calling a transgender person by just their name and NO pronouns and see if the feel affirmed.) (Plus what if you don’t know the person’s true name but only the name they now go by??? If you only know them as Sally, even though you know they are a man, what else do you call them??)

  11. How does one know when the person one is talking to is transgender? If someone told me they were transgender I would be looking for somewhere to hide. I would certainly be at a loss to know which pronoun to us. Some grammars incorrectly describe some pronouns as being adjectives. I do take exception when someone walks up to me and says: And how are we. And I’m not even transgender. Am I showing my age?

  12. in some cases it is hard but if they have a voice as deep as Barry White, a beard like ZZ Top and say their name is Francine odds are good they are trans.

  13. We must always call a Man a “He”, no matter what situation it is, or else we are lying.
    Why should we tell a lie because a transgender wants us to?

  14. What a dilemma!!!! Ce serah serah!!! We are behaving like a bunch of idiots running towards the cliff only to hurtle headlong over the cliff into the sea!!!!! I must admit I did get a good giggle out of a few replies, Bill!!!! So much wasted breath!!!! Living now in an area which is “gender neutral”, at nearly 80 I find the whole topic utterly ridiculous and offensive. Such great joy and excitement when our esteemed political leader celebrated his “wedding” to his longtime male partner recently!!!! Many churches too have joined the Fall – bowing to popular beliefs. Well – Revelation should clear up all this nonsense. But then again the church has a lot to answer for – by avoiding teaching on such “tender” topics in case they offend or are accused of being unloving or unaccepting. When we arrive at the pearly gates not everyone will be “let in”!!!! We will face judgement. Scripture says this quite categorically. There is nothing confirming in Scripture about homosexuality or transgender – nothing!!!! God made Man and then he made Woman. He didn’t make another man to be the first man’s helpmeet!! Sodom and Gomorrah are prime examples of what happens when humans behave against God’s law and plan. I have found in my nearly 80 years that humans behave like wilful children no matter how young or old they are. My dogs know better!!!!!!!

  15. Just to briefly address Paul Wilson’s concerns with respect to addressing a person presenting as transgender – with reference to names/pronouns – use of pronouns is not an issue when speaking directly to the person – you will use the second person ‘you’ as with everyone else you speak to face to face. Speaking about the person without their so called preferred third person pronouns might get you into trouble though, if you are overheard by the new pronoun ‘Nazis’ because speaking about a person is when you use third person pronouns. And regarding names – I have had practical experience with this issue within my own family. When my son verbally abused me me a few years ago for using the name I gave him at birth rather than the female name he has chosen, I clarified that I could not and would not do that. But I was distraught for sometime working out how I was going to deal with this. I will not compromise or use that female name. Because of this situation, conversation with him is now rare and brief, and close to ceasing altogether, but when it does happen I don’t use a Christian name at all. It is quite possible to converse with anyone for quite a period of time without using a name at all.

  16. ABR in your case I can understand if my son, I am childless, Charles we’ll say all of a sudden decided he wanted to be called Charlotte I couldn’t do that either. Glad to see you stood for truth. So many “reevaluate” God’s word after a family member homes out as LGBTQ whatever.

    However if a child I was teaching say did the same I would be more inclined to use the name of choice but would avoid pronouns when talking bout him. It it the pronoun Nazi’s I wish to avoid. If someone wants me to call them emperor klazor of mars I will but I draw th like at using a pronoun that doesn’t correspond to their biological sex.

    I would call a person I meet who is a obvious man but says he’s a woman that I will use whatever name he wants a a person has the right to choose their name but I will not use their preferred pronouns as I do NOT accept they are a woman. If they don’t want to talk to me fine but I don’t accept their belief about their gender.

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