It had seemed a regular Monday morning before co-worker Steve arrived. Now his outfit had everyone buzzing: instead of his standard slacks/dress shirt combo, he’d paired black pumps with a floral print dress. In the morning staff meeting, the supervisor informed everyone that Steve was now “Sue” and we should start calling him her.
It’s a scene playing out in offices across the West, and for Christians in these companies, it can seem like our choice is between compromising on God’s Truth (Gen. 1:27) by going along with the transgender lie, or compromising on our winsomeness (Col. 4:5-6) by confronting the lie.
So what’s a Christian to do?
I think a middle road of sorts can be charted, one that doesn’t compromise on God’s Truth, but which also shows a willingness to try to get along in as far as we are able. It involves using a person’s chosen new name, while avoiding any use of pronouns for them. So, in the case of Steve/Sue, even as it is odd to call him by a girlish name, we all know names that have gone from being boys’ names to girls’ names and vice versa. It doesn’t need to be our place to designate a name too girlish for a boy to have it. We can show our willingness to get along by agreeing to call our coworker by his new name of Sue.
But if that were all we were to do, that approach might lead to confusion about where God stands on the issue of gender. If we, as Christians, call transgender folk by names that align with their adopted, but not actual, gender, then we would be sowing the seeds of confusion if that was all we were to do. The reason we can go along with using “Sue” is because we’re doing so as part of a package treatment: we’ll explain that we will also be trying to avoid any mention of Sue’s pronouns. It is one thing to call a man by what would be an odd first name for a man, but it is something else to call a him her.
Though it might not be perceived as such, we would explain that this is us doing our best to get along. Sue would see any use of male pronouns for him as offensive. We would understand it to be a denial of God’s revealed truth about gender to use female pronouns for him. Therefore to minimize offense, and yet not lie, we will agree to speak of “Sue” and “Sue’s presentation” and how “Sue did a good job.” It’ll be “Sue this” and “Sue that” but never she or her.
It would be good to make this clear at the start, rather than have it be discovered by coworkers wondering why we seem to be using Sue’s name to excess. Getting ahead of it makes sure that our Christian witness is clear.
Will that satisfy our employers? Perhaps. But whether it does or does not, it shows our willingness to do what we can. In extending ourselves as far as we can go, we speak the Truth as winsomely as it is in our power to so speak it. This approach may or may not please Man, but it does glorify God.
1. Words have power
A strange form of encouragement for this approach can be found in the words of those we oppose.
In a recent position statement proposing “chestfeeding” as a possible alternative to “breastfeeding,” the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) began by stating, “We affirm that language has power.” They want to adopt “chestfeeding” to be sensitive to new mothers who don’t identify as being women and who, therefore, might not like to be reminded of their breasts, as those are exclusively female body parts. Language has power, so the ABM’s fix for a woman who doesn’t want to be a woman is to stop reminding her that she is a woman.
Now, as people of the Book, and followers of the Word made Flesh, we agree that “language has power.” Where we differ with the ABM is on how that power should be used.
God used words to speak the universe into being – His words define reality. Our words can either communicate or obscure that reality. So that’s how the battle lines are drawn: between God’s people, using language to clarify what God has done and who God is, and the Devil’s forces using language to confuse and conceal. As Douglas Wilson has noted, all our cultural battles are really battles over the dictionary.
What we need to understand then is that using female pronouns for Sue is harnessing the power of language to confuse. Sue is deceiving himself, but in today’s culture, he’s going to get a lot of help from those around him to perpetuate his lie – everyone else at the office is going to echo and commend his lie.
In the face of that attack, not only on God’s Truth but on Sue, we have a calling to use language’s power for good and not evil, for clarity and not confusion.
2. Misgendering is hateful
For years already, Twitter has banned “misgendering” transgender people under their “hateful conduct policy.” It was for misgendering that they suspended conservative commentators Allie Beth Stuckey and Erick Erickson for pointing out that New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, competing on the women’s side, was, in fact, a man.
What is misgendering? The online Cambridge Dictionary defines it (as of Aug 24, 2021) as:
misgender: to use the wrong pronouns or other gender-specific words when referring to or speaking to someone, especially a transgender person.
That’s a definition we can get behind, and under this definition, we could also agree with Twitter that misgendering is hateful conduct. Deliberately perpetuating a lie about someone is not loving. Where we’d differ with both Twitter and Cambridge is on what pronouns are the “wrong” ones.
Some on the Left have gone as far as to call misgendering violence. We can agree on that point too. Real physical harm is done when confused individuals are so encouraged in their delusions that they seek out surgeons to cut off or mangle what were previously healthy body parts. We’re talking breasts and testicles being cut off, and penises being turned inside out. Others will seek drug treatments to prevent puberty, which will also render them infertile. Calling someone by the wrong pronouns can contribute to this real physical harm.
Of course, the misgendering I’m talking about is the very opposite of what the world means by the term. But they are right that using the wrong pronouns can indeed be harmful and therefore hateful.
When we’re talking about the harm these surgeries can cause, the counterpoint sometimes offered is that transgender folk may commit suicide if they aren’t embraced as the other sex. While Christians should have sympathy for just how lost these people are, we also need to be firm that encouraging them in their rebellion against God’s Truth is never going to be the loving response. Yes, God loves sinners, but He also tells us to turn away from our sin. So we should not affirm the transsexual, or homosexual, adulterer, alcoholic, glutton, sluggard, idolater, etc., in their sin.
Gratitude for the troubles/opportunities that are coming
Many of us are too quiet about God, so even as stressful as Steve’s new wardrobe is going to make our lives, we should also recognize it for the peculiar blessing that it is. Do we find it hard to go out and evangelize? Well, God is bringing an evangelism opportunity right to our cubicle door! He is so arranging things in offices across the West, that His people will be given a clear choice of either publicly defending His Truth or denying Him entirely.
That’s not a gift many of us are asking for, but it is quite the blessing to be presented with such a clear choice.
Preparing for what comes next
So let’s go to the next step. What if we call our coworker “Sue” but not “her” and that turns out not to be enough for our boss? What if our stand gets us fired?
That’s an eventuality Christians should be getting prepared for, individually and as church communities. Many of our readers have parents and grandparents who refused on principle to join unions. Unions back then were demanding loyalty oaths that Christians would have difficulty making, and most had a decidedly Marxist (adversarial) approach to working with management that conflicted with the 5th Commandment. There were other reasons our grandparents opposed unions, some specific to that time and others that are just as relevant today, but for our discussion what’s important is what our grandparents did next. Since they couldn’t work union jobs, they began creating their own jobs by starting their own businesses. When they were successful, these entrepreneurs ended up also creating employment opportunities for other brothers and sisters looking for non-union work.
That entrepreneurial spirit, a generation ago, has been greatly blessed by God such that we still see the fruit today. Our schools, churches, and missionary efforts have all been aided by these businesses, whether through the owners’ contributions, or the employees’.
It’s time for Christians to once again embrace that entrepreneurial spirit. It begins with recognizing the need, that there is a time coming very soon that any Christian not willing to lie about gender, and not willing to perpetuate this lie against transgender individuals, is going to be fired for their stand. That’s both a shame and an opportunity. If God’s people are stuck in companies that hate God and promote homosexuality, transgenderism, abortion, feminism, and more, how freeing it will be, and how much louder we will be, when we’re cut loose from these companies!
So when that day comes and we see our own coworker Steve come sashaying in, with his black pumps and floral print, let’s remember how faithful God has been to us in the past and ready ourselves to take whatever opportunities He presents to uphold His Truth and glorify His Name. Let’s thank Him for backing us into a corner, and making the way forward so very clear. And let’s ask God to so bless our entrepreneurial efforts that future generations will still be harvesting the fruit.
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” – Isaiah 5:20