How Should Christians Think About Transgender Names and Pronouns?
Seems like one of the biggest things in the news these days has to do with not just the LGBTQ+ revolution but specifically with the “T” in LGBTQ+. There’s just a lot of news that comes out about that there’s a lot of stuff lately about teens and adults who want to detransition. They have done this so-called transition to another gender, and now they regret it. There are rules coming out about sports competitions and who can compete, and when you have to transition in order to be able to compete as the gender you identify with. There’s just a lot of stuff in the news, and it seems like the question that I get asked all the time from faithful Christians is, what do I call a transgender person when a transgender person says, this is my name? Do I call them by their female name? If I know they’re a boy, do I use their preferred pronoun? What do I do? I want to answer that question on the podcast this week.
Speak the Truth in Love
I want to start by talking about what the issue is. The transgender issue, this whole transgender situation Christians need to know, is really a war against the truth. The battleground for that war is the body of the transgender person. Look, here’s the fact. The fact of the matter is, is that God makes people, and God makes people, men or women. What God makes a man or a woman to be, is very clearly and obviously revealed at birth for all of human history. Parents have been able to stand there at the birth of their child and say, it’s a boy or it’s a girl. If you want to know whether or not we are in an insane culture, just look at the fact that we now are living in a day where parents say we can’t know if that child is a boy or a girl until they declare themselves to be one or the other. This is a war against the truth. It’s a war against obvious truth. And that means that the operative principle for Christians in this war is that we must be people who tell the truth. It’s as simple and straightforward as that transgender men and women want to deny the truth, they have declared war against the truth, and Christians cannot accommodate that war. Before we answer this specific question, what do I call a transgender person? The principle is we have to speak the truth. A passage that I wind up talking about all the time because it is just so foundational for the words that we use is Ephesians 4:15, which commands Christians to “speak the truth in love.” It says, as we do that, “we grow up in every way into him who is the head into Christ.” So, if you want to be salt and light, if you want people to grow up into Jesus, if you want people to find their way to Christ, there are two ways that you must speak. You must speak the truth in love, you must speak truthful content, and you must speak that truthful content in a loving manner. It’s never kind to tell a lie. It’s never loving to participate in a falsehood. You will never point someone to Christ by accommodating their lie, no matter how kind you intend to be. And so, as we are kind, we have to listen to the words of the Bible. As we are loving, we have to listen to the Scriptures and understand the only way we’re going to be able to do that is as we speak the truth.
Depends on What You Know About the Person
So how do we answer the question, what do we call a transgender person? Let me talk about three categories in the answer. First, it depends on what you know about the person. You might suspect that someone is a transgender person, but if you don’t know that they are a transgender person, then you need to be humble and honest and not assume more than you know. If you meet someone on the street and they identify themselves as a woman named Connie. Well, when you meet me in the street, and I say I’m, I mean, I’ve never said I’m a man named Heath, but I present myself as a man, and I say my name is Heath, and I would like you to believe as a courtesy is an act of love to me that I really am, whom I present myself to be a man named Heath. When we don’t know people but when we’re not sure, we should just take for granted that what they have said is a straightforward presentation of the facts. And we should go with that. That’s the way we deal with life. That’s the way we deal with names. That’s the way we deal with relationships and every other context. And we should not assume because of what we think we know, because of the way somebody might or might not look, we should not assume that we know more than we do.
It’s different, though, if we know the person. If you know their transgender person, for example, if you are their mother or their father, and you know, for example, that this child who was born to you is a boy. And now he is saying, I am a girl, and I would like you to call me Phyllis. Well, you may not accommodate that. You may not tell a lie. And so, you have to say, son, I love you, I’m, I’m your father, I want to care for you. I want to give you every good thing. But you’re asking me to tell you something that I know is not true. And I’m asking you, hey, look, you want me to accept you for who you are. But I want you to accept me for who I am as well as who you are and who I am where we’re going to conflict here. And can we please try to find a way to love each other and have a relationship without you insisting that I do something that I am not allowed to do from the pages of Scripture?
So, the first category is what do you know about the person. The second category has to do with names and the language we use to identify ourselves with the language of a name. If you know that a person is transgender and they declare to you that their name is Sally when you know, they’re a boy, and they want you to call them Sally. I have a nuanced position on this; I think you should call somebody by their name. There are all sorts of names that exist on the continuum of masculine to feminine. When I was a little boy, I won’t say the name on the podcast, we had a girl in our class and about the fourth or the fifth grade, and everybody thought her name sounded like a boy’s name. And we made fun of her for that she did not have a transgender issue. She was actually a sweet, pleasant little girl. She just had a name that everybody thought sounded like a boy’s name. Well, the reality is names don’t necessarily have to identify you as either a masculine or a feminine person as either a male or a female. I think if somebody comes up and says, hey, my name is this, or my name is that even if you know they are a transgender person, then then I think that you should just extend the courtesy of calling them by their name. I don’t think the issue of truth is on the line here. I don’t think this makes you a liar. Actually, people can legally change their names; people can say I wish to be called this, and we accommodate that in every other context. I think we can accommodate that here without being guilty of compromising the truth.
Then there’s this third category, and it has to do with pronouns. Pronouns are different from names. Pronouns are concrete. “He,” “his,” and “him” mean boy. “Her” and “she”, mean girl. We cannot compromise on pronouns. So, if you know a person is transgender, again, you want to go back to the first point if you don’t know a person is transgender. If you don’t know a person, it’s best to just go with what they give you. But if you know that someone is a transgender person, and they say, I though a boy, that’s not the way they would say it. But you know, they’re a boy. And they say I wish to be referred to as a girl, and my preferred pronouns are she and her, etc. You cannot accommodate that as a Christian. To accommodate that, as a Christian, you are calling that person who you know to be a boy, you’re calling that person a girl, and this is out of bounds in the Bible. We have to tell the truth. We can do that kind of we can say; I love you, I care for you. My understanding of the world is that God made you to be a boy. And I cannot call you anything other than pronouns that reference you as a boy without participating in a lie. Look, these are hard conversations. The reality is there really is a war. Christians really do think differently about these things than unbelievers. And we are going to have to be salt and light in this world. And that means we’re going to have to tell the truth. We’re not going to love people by telling them a lie. We’re not going to point people to Jesus by accommodating their falsehood. We need to be men and women who tell the truth, and we need to be men and women who tell the truth in a transgender world.