Should I Use Someone's Preferred Pronouns? 

Dr. Katie McCoy

by Dr. Katie McCoy

Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.



I hated swimming lessons when I was a kid. To be fair, they were more “pool safety for children” drills. The kind where the teacher says she’s throwing you into the deep-end on the count of three so you can practice swimming safely to the side. She threw me in on “two.”

The idea behind it was good. If I ever fell into a pool, I would instinctively know what to do without panicking, no matter how disoriented I felt. It was training.

Thrown into the Deep End of Gender Identity

In our culture, disciples of Jesus are faced with challenging questions about humanity, identity, and gender. Questions that leave us feeling panicked and disoriented. You and I are surrounded by a generation of young women who are inundated and overwhelmed by gender confusion. We can’t reach them with the Truth that sets them free (John 8:31-32) by wading in the shallow waters. We have to jump into the deep end.

Perhaps one of the most controversial questions Christians face is whether to use a transgender person’s preferred pronouns. Believers on both sides of the debate claim their perspective is the right and biblical one, which is even more confusing since we don’t have a specific Bible verse addressing this directly. Instead, we have to consider the whole of God’s Word, seek the Holy Spirit for wisdom, and ask what is best for our witness within the community of God’s people.

Let’s jump in the deep end on this question:

On the one hand, some Christians believe it is good and loving to address a person by his or her preferred pronouns. Believers with this perspective often emphasize the need to meet someone where they are and to avoid closing an opportunity for a relationship. They may consider it an expression of self-giving love and hospitality towards their neighbor since they are willing to use language they may not even agree with to reach someone, similar to the way Paul related to people of different cultures to win them to Christ (1 Cor 9:20-22).

On the other hand, some Christians believe it is good and loving not to address a person by his or her preferred pronouns. These believers emphasize the need to represent the truth that God created us male or female by design, and that our gender is something much bigger than a preference or a feeling. They also don’t want to reinforce a person’s confusion and self-deception, and consequently compromise the truth, similar to the way Paul warned the Colossians not to be caught up by worldly philosophies (Col 2:8).

Both views want to see people set free by the truth. Both views want to be faithful to Jesus. So how do we discern what is the best way to represent the truth and love of Christ?

Biblical Buoys to Keep us Afloat

Scripture gives us a guide in Romans 14. Here, Paul counsels the Roman Christians on a culturally sensitive question — one that biblical teaching does not explicitly address — and tells them to follow their conscience. He also tells them not to judge the conscience of another brother or sister, and that we will all give an account to God for our own choices (v. 12). As we answer the question of whether to use someone’s preferred pronouns, we should do it out of conviction from the Spirit of God, not from a spirit of fear or judgment.

With that in mind, permit me to share my own convictions on this question in the hope that it will help you consider what the Lord would have you do.

To the best of my ability, I choose to avoid using a person’s preferred pronouns and instead, address her by the name she gives me. If someone directly asked me to use their preferred pronouns, I would say that her femaleness is not an accident but part of how she reflects her Creator, the God she was made to know. While I don’t intend to offend her, I also don’t want to offend the God in whose image she was made. Out of both conviction and the desire to represent God accurately, I would ask her to be tolerant of my beliefs and help me find a solution that both respects her and honors my conscience.

Who Decides What’s Real?

There’s one more piece to the pronouns-puzzle: Our culture believes that language doesn’t have to reflect reality; words represent what society says they represent and nothing more. But it goes a step further and claims language can create reality. An online source tells gender-questioning readers, “If you want to be a man, then you’re a man. If you want to be a woman, then you’re a woman.” Truth, our culture claims, is something you determine by your choices and confirm by your speech. In other words, reality is something you create by your will and through your words.

Who has the power and the authority to create reality by His will and through His words? God and God alone. ( Colossians 1:6, Hebrews 11:3.)

Sin deceives us into believing that we can be our own god, determining the boundaries of our existence, and having the authority to name ourselves. The terms and technology may be new, but the ideas behind it are as old as the Garden of Eden.

We have an opportunity to represent the truth that sets us free. We are creations made for our Creator. Before talking about gender confusion or any other struggle, everyone’s first need is to be reconciled to God. And until we are united to Him through faith in Jesus, we will never understand the depth and significance of being made in His image, male or female.

We may find ourselves thrown into the deep end. But we don’t need to be disoriented or confused. The same Spirit of God who guides us into all the truth (John 16:13), will be faithful to guide us as we give reasons for our hope with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). He has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3), including the wisdom we need in our gender-confused age.



Dr. Katie J. McCoy serves as Director of Women’s Ministry for Texas Baptists. She is the author of To Be A Woman: The Confusion Over Female Identity and How Christians Can Respond. You can connect with her on Instagram at @blondeorthodoxy.