A Case Against Preferred Pronouns

"Pronoun Hospitality" Is Nonsensical

When it comes to pronouns referring to people with gender dysphoria (aka transgender), Gregory Coles suggested something nonsensical, and wrong. He posted an article on the website of the Center for Faith, Sexuality, Gender, stating not merely that Christians may use incorrect pronouns, but that they should use incorrect pronouns. In his paper titled, "What Pronouns Should Christians Use for Transgender People?" Coles argued:

… [T]he most biblical response to transgender people's pronouns is a posture of unequivocal pronoun hospitality. That is, I believe that all Christians can and should use pronouns that reflect the expressed gender identities of transgender people, regardless of our views about gender identity ethics. If a person identifies herself to you as "she," I hope you will consider it an act of Christ-like love to call her "she" out of respect, whether or not you believe that the way she expresses her gender identity is honoring to God.

But this makes no sense. When would you call her "she"? Certainly not to her face. Only when speaking to someone else about her or writing about her. When speaking to her, you'd say "you." How is that offensive?

The only pronoun that has gender is the third person pronoun: as subject, he, she, it; as object him, her, it; in the possessive his, hers, and its; and reflexive himself, herself, itself:.  (Third person plural is neutral--they, them, their, theirs, themselves.)

The other two grammatical "persons"—first and second—have no particular reference to the sex of the speaker or the one being spoken to: I, me, and mine; you, you, and yours. Since there is nothing gender-specific, no person should be offended if you say, "How are you?" This can be said correctly to a boy, girl, someone who cross-dresses, or identifies as a member of a sex that does not match their biological bodies.

So, the third person is where most of the preferred pronoun nonsense comes in. The LGBTQ+ Resource Center of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee notes:

[T]he dichotomy of "he and she" in English does not leave room for other gender identities, which is a source of frustration to the transgender and gender queer communities.

So they've made up a whole chart of possibilities from which various "LGBTQ+" folks can choose their current preference of pronouns. But note that this onus is being put on YOU, when you are speaking to or writing to someone else about so-and-so "transgender person." When you speak (or write) about him, your audience is someone else, not the trans-person. But you are being told what to say to your own audience, in your own conversation. 

Now if the trans overhears you speaking or reads what you write about him, that's too bad. He is not the one to whom you are speaking or writing, and he has no right to dictate how you use language when communicating with others. In fact, he should be tolerant of your desire to carry on discourse with others (none of his business!) in the language you know and are comfortable with.

Pronoun policing has been tried before. In 1933, young recruits into Nazi service, as recounted in Sebastian Haffner's Defying Hitler: A Memoir, were instructed not to address each other with the traditional and formal German word for "you," Sie, but to always use the comradely Du. Sie was verboten! All the young men in Haffner's camp, he relates, complied, and were afraid to slip up lest they be singled out as not wholly behind the Nazis. When they returned to the city and were dressed in civilian clothing and met socially, they reverted to Sie. 

While Haffner does not explain any particular ideological motive behind the pronoun preference, in the camp it functioned as a test and a virtue signal, under the watchful eyes of SA Nazi officers. Today, as more and more people list their preferred pronouns below their names in their email messages, your failure to list them will indicate you are not sympathetic with the program. If you list yours and they happen to be traditional, fine; you're still indicating that you "go along" with the whole idea.

Language is a common intergenerational possession of a society. We expect children to know basic pronoun usage by the time they go to school. If your grandson hears you referring to a transperson (male) as "she"—he will be confused, or think that you are confused, or learn something from you that you do not yourself believe, namely, that a male can become a female and should be referred to as such.

Only revolutionaries insist on policing your word choices and want to force or shame you into speaking as they decide. Only revolutionaries insist on forcing people who have been speaking English for decades to suddenly refer to a chart of newly invented pronouns. What happened to freedom of speech? So use your preferred pronouns--for everyone.


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