A Battle Over Pronouns by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Mike, a friend from California, quit his upper-management job when he was forced to go through “sensitivity training” in an effort to appreciate diversity and was mandated to use gender-neutral pronouns such as “they,” “them,” “ze,” or “xe,” so as not to offend non-binary advocates who do not associate themselves with genders of man or woman. He said that he never knew how to refer to an interviewee sitting across the table from him.

Mike shared the following story. “T.T.T.” (They, Their, Them) had a beard, wore a sportscoat with khaki pants, and explained leaving (his/her/their) past employment as a heavyweight boxing champion because of injuries, BUT my friend couldn’t take anything for granted.

What if that day this person identified as a woman? (Yes, and perhaps I identify as a jockey, but let’s just guess what would happen if I tried to mount a horse in the Kentucky Derby.) Pretty wackadoodle, if you ask me.

Still, in this area, my husband, Dave, is ahead of the times. He has been switching pronouns for as long as I can remember. In the past week, he has made the following declarations: “We need to make sure and have the water heater checked.” “We should probably have the tires on the truck rotated.” “We’ve got to call and find out why our insurance rates went up.” Dave believes that this is from Genesis, when God joined Adam and Eve and said, “The two shall be as one.” Um-hmmm… Still, being the submissive wife I am, I have learned to answer in his language. “We sure should, Honey. Let us know what we find out when we make those calls.” Obviously, neither of us take this seriously.

And that’s where our pronoun “we” differs dramatically from those who are crying out to be understood, who don’t know which gender defines them… “he,” “she,” “they,” “them,” whatever. All kidding aside, I believe that God created everyone in His image, and it’s our responsibility to see these people as He does.

But that’s where it gets wackadoodle. Some individuals refer to themselves as “gender fluid,” meaning that they may identify as male this morning, female at lunch, genderless in the afternoon, and as equally male and female in the evening.

Too, what happens when everyone wants to create a pronoun that better suits they/their/them? Lee Harrington, a transgender, wrote the book Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Realities, advocating for the transgender community. In it he apologizes for these pronoun shifts, writing that no matter how hard you try to refer to people correctly, you will offend someone.

Readers, I have given this a lot of thought. As a Christian, what should my approach be towards those who do not accept how God made them and insist on being referred to in non-binary terms? Do I tell them that I believe that God created people as either male or female, and that gender-specificity is part of the created order?

Probably not, if my goal is to love them and let them know that they matter. Instead, I think that I would seek first to develop a relationship with them…which means I would call them by the name they choose. That might be my only way to share the news about our creator and how loved they are by Him…which probably is the best way I can assure them I care.

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