I have always identified as female. I do get irritated with gender stereotypes and generally think too many aspects of society are unfairly and often absurdly based on gender identity, but I’ve never questioned my own gender.
Therefore, I have absolutely zero idea what it might feel like to be physically trapped in one gender while my brain is another. I have no knowledge of what it would be like trying to navigate today’s world as an intersex person born with genital or chromosomal ambiguity. I can, however, imagine that none of these things would be easy.
Which is why I really just don’t get some of the callous vitriol I saw on Facebook recently over a tiny little pronoun change. A suggested pronoun change, at that. A news story announced the the University of Tennessee in Knoxville included a list of gender-neutral pronouns in a newsletter, encouraging students to make students feel welcome by using a pronoun of choice.
There was no ZE! HIR! MANDATE necessitating the use of non-traditional pronouns. It was merely a proposal from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. A discussion starter. An idea.
But this guy in my Facebook feed apparently interpreted the pronouns as a personal affront and proceeded to rant. He called the idea stupid and ridiculous, and suggested that anyone who supports this idea is crazy and needs therapy. (Counseling, by the way, should never be used as an insult.) So here are a few thoughts for Mr. Pronoun Protector:
I happen to know you’re a church-going guy, and hopefully, therefore, a man who loves God and wants others to know Him. But as you likely know, when you post stuff on social media, a big ole bunch of people can read it, and likely, not all of them are going to agree with you. Yes, you are welcome to your opinion, but that rule goes for others too. So let’s pretend that some folks in the following categories read your words: A transgendered person. A gender-confused teenager. An intersex person. The parents, friends, siblings, or coworkers of any of the above.
Do you know what they saw in your words? Hate. Judgment. Deaf ears. Hard heart. A line in the sand telling them, “You are not welcome. You are out.” I’d like to tell you, there are enough of those angry voices already. Will the people above beat down the doors to your church? Will they seek you for counsel or friendship? Will they see God in you?
There is a person I love dearly who struggles with gender identity, and when I read words like yours, my heart aches for ze. Because it doesn’t matter if you understand or agree, ze is God’s beloved child and deserves, at the very least, our willingness to listen.
So to any transgendered person, I’d like to say, God created you and adores you. And though I haven’t walked your particular journey, I will humbly listen to your story and seek to understand. I will support your right to be treated with kindness and respect. And if a new pronoun will make you feel more comfortable, accepted, and loved as you travel a difficult path, then I’ll do my best to incorporate ze into my vocabulary.