by Focus on the Family
Learn how to address and answer your child’s questions about LGBT pronoun usage. Then, cultivate healthy conversations about how to equip your children to communicate using love, care, and compassion.
“Alright class. Today we’re going to introduce ourselves. Start with your name, your favorite color, if you have any pets, and where you’re from. Oh, and don’t forget to tell everyone your preferred pronouns.”
Slightly confused, Amanda turned to her friend, Vivian, and whispered, “What does she mean preferred pronouns?” Vivian shrugged her shoulders and mouthed back, “I don’t know.” As each student began their introductions, something interesting happened.
Amanda quickly noticed that some classmates used different words when describing themselves. There was a student in the first row that she thought looked like a boy. But when it was his turn, he asked everyone to use the pronouns: “she/her”.
Once everyone finished, the teacher thanked each student for sharing. Then, she said that part of the year’s history lessons would include learning about different pronouns and pronoun usage to continue to increase the class awareness of diversity and inclusion.
Both Amanda and Vivian sat there still a little confused and overwhelmed. They both had questions bouncing around in their heads, but they weren’t sure who to ask or where to begin.
The History of LGBT and Different Pronouns
Not every classroom, teacher or school is the same. However, recent developments in school curriculum and education legislation create similar environments where our kids must interact with situations like Amanda and Vivian’s experience.
Without wading too deeply into the history of LGBT pronouns, let’s look at how our culture reached this point.
As with most things related to grammar, William Shakespeare plays a role. Shakespeare’s works often feature the pronoun “they” when referring to characters or single individuals. Later English authors such as Jane Austen employed the pronouns “they” and “them” in similar ways. These authors and the popularity of their works led to an increased use of pronouns such as “they” and “them” when referring to only one individual.
However, these uses within literature rarely described people who wished to be viewed as gender neutral or non-binary.
Historically, it is a relatively recent development to use gender-neutral pronouns or opposite-gender pronouns within society. Recently, a variety of studies attempted to capture pronoun usage across our culture.
These studies focus on how social media, networking, and the digital world each provide opportunities for personal and preferred pronoun use. Social media platforms often prompt a user to include or add their pronouns when creating an account. It’s common for email signatures to feature an individual’s preferred pronouns. And perhaps the most subtle advancement of different pronoun usage occurs within the education system.
For example, The Common App, a popular college application site, recently updated their application process to accommodate a student’s preferred pronoun and gender. What does this mean? Instead of acknowledging an individual’s legal name or gender, universities and colleges now only ask the student what they think or feel about their gender or preferred pronouns.
Understanding the Different Pronouns
In a revealing study, the New York Times investigated the use of different pronouns across college campuses in the US. In their article, the Times found that “some colleges suggest that professors introduce themselves by their pronouns on the first day of class…Professors say they feel strong pressure to comply and fear receiving bad student ratings if they don’t.”
Harvard University recently implemented a critical change involving the use of LGBT pronouns in classrooms. During class, students typically have name placards so the professors can easily identify each student. To accommodate the use of different pronouns, the university created stickers containing various pronoun combinations. Now, students can place pronouns of their choice on their nametag for professors and peers to use.
When asked about this recent change, one student answered, “The more that people do it, the more the peer pressure. But also, the more the peer affirmation.”
These changes involving different pronouns and LGBT pronoun usage present unique and sensitive situations for not only us as parents, but for our kids. As our society continues to develop a variety of ways to describe individuals, it’s necessary to remain educated and aware of cultural changes, such as different pronouns.
Within situations involving LGBT pronoun usage, you or your kids might hear any number of different pronouns. Usually, the common pronoun switches involve a “he/she” swap or a “she to them” change. However, there are more unique pronouns that your kids might hear. These can include pronouns such as “ze, xe, xem, ver, or vis.” Keeping up with the collection of different pronouns can be overwhelming for your kids. Not to mention the increased confusion surrounding topics such as transgenderism and LGBT-related conversations. Let’s explore some of the ways you can approach these difficult topics with your kids.
Talking With Your Kids
These situations are tricky, especially for younger kids at school or in groups of friends. Peer pressure is powerful. And different pronoun usage can quickly create two distinct groups among our kids. The ones who love and those who hate.
So, it’s critical that you’re able to encourage, support, and guide your child through the situations involving LGBT pronoun usage.
You don’t have to explain everything all at once. In fact, it’s probably better for you and your child to have ongoing conversations together. Affirm and bless your child as a boy or girl, and that he or she is created in God’s image. Then, continue to build upon your foundation for future conversations.
Practical Response to LGBT Pronoun Usage
Across entertainment, social media, and education, transgender ideology continues to create difficult situations for our kids. When these conversations start to include their friends or peers at school, it can become overwhelming for them to know how to respond properly and lovingly.
However, there’s one simple response to situations involving preferred pronoun use.
If your children experience situations where they are forced or asked to use unique pronouns, encourage them to use the individual’s name instead. In most cases involving speaking or conversations, your kids can use another person’s name instead of their preferred pronouns.
Teach your kids that while God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, it does not mean that we must acquiesce to every single request. Especially requests of different pronoun usage.
Of course, you do want to model appropriate, respectful behavior for your kids. In the context of different pronoun use, help your child understand that it is important to communicate love and respect even if you disagree with their personal decisions. In fact, it’s the same message you hope to communicate through politely refusing to use preferred pronouns in the first place.
There’s a good chance you won’t be by your child’s side when he or she is asked to give their preferred pronouns. So, you’ll need to develop a strong foundation for asking questions. Try to frame these moments as opportunities rather than interrogations.
Keep your tone conversational and friendly. If you’re angry or upset, your child might shut down. Provide assurance that you’re not upset with him or her, rather you might be unhappy with the school creating these situations.
Ask open-ended questions such as:
- “What did you think about that lesson?”
- “How do you feel about that situation?”
- “How did your friends respond? Did you talk about it afterwards?”
- “What do you think about pronoun usage?”
Affirm Your Child and Teach the Truth
Nothing can compare with your unending love and compassion for your child. Thank your child for coming and talking to you. Communicate how you are proud of his or her courage to speak up.
Then, as you affirm him or her, you can also use the opportunity to reinforce the truth regarding LGBT pronoun usage. Communicate that, “Yes, some people do feel confused about being a boy or a girl. However, we know that God created everyone to be male or female. And that both are good in His sight.” Engage in a healthy conversation about how sin corrupted God’s design, but it doesn’t change God’s design. Rather, He still wants us to live, follow, and obey His truth, especially regarding difficult topics.
In any situation involving preferred pronouns or LGBT pronoun usage and your kids, try to understand the situation. While it might feel intimidating to speak with your child’s teacher or administration, it’s within your parental rights to discuss sexually confusing lessons.
Next, connect with some like-minded parents to pray and discuss how to approach these situations. Even if the parents of your child’s friends aren’t as worried as you are, there’s an opportunity to build a strong community and connection.
Across the nation, schools teach children confusing messages about gender, transitioning from gender to gender, and pronoun usage. When this ideology collides with your kids, it threatens parental rights, children’s privacy, and ultimately their safety as well.
Equip Your Children
Depending on your child’s age and stage, your approach to educating him or her about these issues could change. Use age-appropriate language and examples to help your child grasp potentially complex topics surrounding LGBT pronoun usage and transgenderism.
Additionally, you can take initiative in how you teach your children about anatomy and terminology. Be proactive in conversations about sex, sexuality, and sexual identity. Incorporate prayer into your discussions to teach your kids how to rely on God’s wisdom. Our goal is not to create fear, but to pray and be at peace when addressing transgender ideology, such as different pronouns.
Unfortunately, parents who oppose gender ideology within the education system are often ostracized and negatively targeted. Sometimes, this can impact children in deep and profound ways. As you educate your family about these topics, encourage your children to find friends who support and also hold Christian worldviews. As parents, you can commit to knowing other parents, your children’s teachers, attending school board meetings, and parent-teacher conferences. Cultivate a meaningful relationship with important people in your children’s life. So that, when difficult situations arise, you can rely on the strength of a loving and caring relationship rather than exclusively on concern or worry.
What Does the Bible Say?
As Christians, we believe that God created us in His own image and likeness, male and female. In His design, God separated humans into two sexes, male and female. Each is distinct and valuable. Both separately and together, men and women reflect the image and likeness of God.
Both the Old and New Testaments point to the male-female creation as a foundational truth. The two aspects of God’s image, male and female, exist at the center of God’s design for parenting, family, and marriage.
LGBT issues such as different pronouns are at the core of what it means to be human. Your child’s maleness or femaleness is an integral part of his or her identity. A Christian worldview also teaches that sin negatively impacts every area of life. Sin creates disconnection and separation from God and others. Unfortunately, sin also causes brokenness within.
For your kids, it might be difficult for them to wrap their heads around sentences such as “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body.” Or requests for different pronoun usage. Help them navigate these situations through understanding that these circumstances are results of sin and deception entering the world.
Final Thoughts on Different Pronouns
It’s an unfortunate result of our sin that the world consistently grapples with issues like these. Whether it’s a one-on-one encounter with a peer or a larger situation involving a school district’s curriculum, you and your kids can positively impact your community.
When confusion reigns and it seems like you can’t do anything, remember that you can pray and love others well. Pray that your own heart would be loving towards others and that you can lead and guide your children well.
Continue to seek after the Lord and His wisdom. Listen to your kids and commit to asking questions to communicate love and care. Finally, don’t neglect the power of affirming your child and their identity as God’s image-bearer.
For more resources, explore The Daily Citizen’s four-part series detailing how we can approach situations involving LGBT pronoun usage and different pronouns.
© 2022 by Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.