A man insisting that you refer to him as her. A woman insisting the exact opposite. What is a fitting response for Jesus-loving Christians?
Nothing the burly guy wears stands out.
Except for his feet.
The man is wobbling on a pair of open-toed black heels, similar to the 4-inch ones I own.
If this were back home—liberal Los Angeles—you could argue nothing about him is newsworthy. LA has earned the reputation of anything goes.
But he crosses my path in Texas, at a Christian conference to boot.
Which explains these two immediate thoughts.
First, he’s got a boatload of courage. I highly doubt there’s another crossdresser in this convention.
Second, he must crave Jesus, just like the rest of us at the convention. The weeklong Christian conference offers five services a day—seven if you count the prayer meetings—keeping attendees busy from 8:30 am to 9 and 10 pm.
I doubt he would’ve shown up to this kind of gathering had he felt no desperation for the Lord.
Have you come across transgender individuals? It may be a biological female who now sports a beard and biceps, set on being known as a man. Or someone with an ambiguous gender identification. Or a biological male wearing flawless cosmetics—complete with curly eyelashes—like the one I saw in a continuing education seminar.
Their stories differ. A guy may have been born Alex but has since gone through medical and legal procedures to now be known as Lexie. Another man might have been born Andrew but not quite ready to go under the knife to make him look thoroughly female, preferring to use the androgynous An for now.
One psychiatrist—who also disclosed that he was a homosexual biological male—informed us, the course participants he taught, that he preferred a combination of male & female pronouns. He/she/her.
A man insisting that you refer to him as her. A woman insisting the exact opposite.
What is a fitting response for Jesus-loving Christians?
To be clear, this question applies to adults who express their wish to be referred to a certain way. Minors present further layers of complication. One particular teen insisted on having both breasts removed to complete her FTM (female to male) transition. Fearing she might kill herself otherwise, her parents obliged.
Chloe Cole now regrets her surgery and has since been living as a girl again.
Parents of kids who grapple with gender identity confusion need a constant infusion of God’s grace, wisdom, and mercy. The fight is real.
Not that adults with gender identity confusion wage a less intense struggle. But at least adults have the advantage of fully-grown frontal lobes, which translates into a more developed capacity to understand the risks and ramifications of hormone therapy, surgical removal of their anatomy, and the complete shedding of their previous gender identity.
Compared to minors, adults are in a better place to give their informed consent.
All this to say that if they ask me to call them with pronouns which don’t correspond to their biological sex, I will comply.
I realize other Christians may disagree. Some have argued that they refuse to change their worldview for anybody, transgender individuals included. Others try to circumvent the issue by avoiding pronouns. “Just call them by their name,” this group advises.
But here is why my conscience is clear in using transgender individuals’ preferred pronouns:
1. Keeps the Door Open
If I intentionally call the person by anything else, it might offend the individual enough to shut me out for good.
But then, who will help the transgender person consider the grave risks, ramifications, and spiritual implications associated with this provocative issue?
One detransitioner—who removed her breasts, took testosterone, found Jesus and then reclaimed her female identity—confides about how people, social media included, urged her to embrace transitioning as the magical cure for her gender dysphoria. Sophia had no idea about the grave risks of attending her medical procedures, including ovarian cancer.
Abel, who got breast implants, removed them, and is now living as a man again, also experienced breakneck speed as professionals, including therapists, rushed him to transition to a woman under the guise of “gender-affirming” care.
Having the chance to nurture relationships with transgender people seems pivotal in light of stories like theirs. I can’t afford to assume that the Abels and Sophias in the world will hear the truth from some other Christians. Like Isaiah, who answered the Lord’s call in the affirmative (Isaiah 6:8), I aspire to represent the Lord well, both in loving trans people, but also in speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
If the price to crack open that door is to call them by their preferred pronouns, so be it.
2. Multiple Lives at Stake
Transgenderism affects multiple lives.
Behind one transgender individual lives scores of loved ones. Take Tracy as an example. She divorced her husband when he transitioned into a woman and then cohabited with a biological woman who wished to live as a man. This new partner was abusive toward Tracy’s three kids.
These minors later attempted suicide six different times.
Her children needed their dad, Tracy said.
Let’s say I had known Tracy’s transgendered husband. Suppose I refused to refer to this particular individual using his/her preferred pronouns. Might it have meant obliterating my chance to influence him for the better, not to mention his innocent kids?
3. Free Will
Laura underwent surgery to remove her reproductive organs to become Jake. However, she then detransitioned back to living as a woman before marrying a man.
While she was still living as Jake, God asked her an eye-opening question. “If you stood before Me tonight, what name would I call?”
If God didn’t respect Laura’s decision to transition to being a man, why would He politely ask her to clarify herself?
As Christians, we know that God gifted humanity with free will. He Himself treats our will with the utmost respect. For instance, even though He doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), He never pushes anyone to receive His Son to secure their salvation.
God will never resort to manipulation to bend our will.
Because God wants me to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1), it makes sense for me to, likewise, ask transgender individuals what name—or pronouns—they would like me to use.
Grace and Truth
Remember the guy in Texas who attended a Christian convention in high heels? He’s my reminder that the transgender community needs Jesus too.
Even if they don’t know it.
My strategy in sharing God’s love with them begins with using preferred pronouns, but it doesn’t end there.
But what is more likely to be heard: sharing this truth in a friendly manner, maybe as your transgender friend confides about not knowing what to do, or shouting these verses at a stiletto-clad dude as he screams profanities at you?
Perhaps that’s why the Bible emphasizes how grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17), who Himself was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). The order of the words—grace and truth, not the other way around—bears significance.
If grace is trailing your truthful presentation, your listener may or may not hear what you have to say. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, "People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care."
If you lead with grace, however, you’re also laying the groundwork for truth to be heard. Using preferred pronouns is clearing the way for truth.
I welcome your feedback. Including if you disagree.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Devenorr
Audrey Davidheiser, PhD is a California licensed psychologist, certified Internal Family Systems therapist, and author of Surviving Difficult People: When Your Faith and Feelings Clash. She founded and directed a counseling center for the Los Angeles Dream Center, supervised graduate students, and has treated close to 2,200 clients. Dr. Audrey devotes her California practice to survivors of psychological trauma. Visit her on www.aimforbreakthrough.com and Instagram @DrAudreyD.