Sexuality and Gender

Why Agree to Use Preferred Names but Not Preferred Pronouns?

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 01/20/2022

In the past, we’ve made a distinction here at Stand to Reason between agreeing to use a person’s preferred name vs. using his preferred pronouns. If we’re concerned about encouraging and participating in a worldview that’s false and harmful—a worldview where human beings create themselves and their own reality rather than conform themselves to God’s reality—why would we agree to one but not the other?

Keep in mind that a person’s sex is something we can see on our own as an unchanging fact of reality, while names are the kind of thing we can’t see on our own as an aspect of reality. In fact, the only way we can know a person’s name is if he tells us, because names are chosen by individuals according to preference (whether by himself or by his parents).

In other words, a name is generally the kind of thing decided on by preference. Sex is the kind of thing decided on by reality, regardless of preference.

In light of that distinction, this is what it comes down to: I can abide by the preferences of others when it’s a matter determined by preference, but not when it’s a matter determined by objective reality. The sticking point, here, when it comes to using preferred pronouns vs. using preferred names, is that we won’t agree to confuse matters of objective truth with matters of subjective preference.

In this culture, this can sound cold and unfeeling, but it’s actually the opposite. If we know that ignoring or even fighting against reality leads to destruction and pain in people’s lives, then it’s not an act of love to participate in promoting that false worldview by speaking false things. While it might feel more pleasant to do what people are asking of you, true compassion is determined by the mind, not by feelings. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do for someone else is the thing that makes you feel the worst.

And beyond compassion, there is something even more foundational at stake: truth. The loss of care for truth in our society is the cause of many evils. When we speak the truth (in love!), even to our own hurt, we honor God because he is truth. When we speak the truth, we not only do good by promoting something true, but we also do something that’s good in itself simply by speaking it. Truth isn’t merely a means to an end; it’s something that’s valued by God in itself because it reflects his character. And when we speak a lie, we not only cause harm by promoting something false, but we also hurt our own souls simply by speaking it because it reflects the father of lies.

None of this is easy. I’m not going to pretend otherwise. There will be pain, and we’ll all make mistakes as we try to navigate this worldview divide. All we can do is keep moving forward with love for truth, true compassion, and grace for ourselves and others.