Why I no longer use Transgender Pronouns—and Why You shouldn’t, either.

A civil war erupted within broad evangelicalism, and the idol of LGBTQ+ is dividing the house. This issue is personal, political, and spiritual for me.  In 1998, I became one of the first crop of so-called “tenured radicals” in American universities, proudly touting my lesbian street cred. In 1999, Christ called me to repentance and belief, and I became a despised defector of the LGBTQ+ movement. But progressive sanctification came slowly, and I have failed many times during these past decades.

            After I have learned lessons, I have earnestly tried to course-correct.

And that’s the problem.

My use of transgendered pronouns was not a mistake; it was sin.

Public sin requires public repentance, not course correction.

I have publicly sinned on the issue of transgender pronouns, which I have carelessly used in books and articles.

I have publicly sinned by advocating for the use of transgender pronouns in interviews and public Q&As.

Why did I do this? I have a bunch of lame and backside-covering excuses. Here are a few. It was a carry-over from my gay activist days. I wanted to meet everyone where they were and do nothing to provoke insult.

When the Supreme Court decided in favor of gay marriage, the danger of my position started to come into focus. The codification of gay marriage and LGBTQ+ civil rights launched a collision course between LGBTQ+ and the Christian faith. The LGBTQ+ movement’s understanding of itself as ontological and morally good conflicts with the biblical account in Genesis 1:27. Which is it? Which side was I on? Is LGBTQ+  a normal option in the ever-expanding menu of sexual orientation and gender identity, needing a little Jesus to aid human flourishing? Or does LGBTQ+ come from Satan as a reflection of the world, the flesh, and the devil? Is it part of God’s creational design or rebellion against the creation ordinance?  It’s one or the other because the Christian faith is inherently binary, not non-binary.

And getting this wrong is not a matter of personal liberty.

How is using transgender pronouns sinful, you might ask?

Using transgendered pronouns is a sin against the ninth commandment and encourages people to sin against the tenth commandment.

Using transgendered pronouns is a sin against the creation ordinance.

Using transgendered pronouns is a sin against image-bearing.

Using transgendered pronouns discourages a believer’s progressive sanctification and falsifies the gospel.

Using transgendered pronouns cheapens redemption, and it tramples on the blood of Christ.

Using transgendered pronouns fails to love my neighbor as myself.

Using transgendered pronouns fails to offer genuine Christian hospitality and instead yields the definition of hospitality to liberal communitarianism, identity politics, and “human flourishing.”

Using transgendered pronouns isn’t a sin because the times have changed, and therefore, using transgendered pronouns isn’t sinful today but a morally acceptable option in 2012.  Sin is sin. The Bible defines this as sin. Sin does not lose its evil because of our good intentions or the personal sensibilities of others. Changing cultural forces can bring sin into fresh light (as the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision did for me). But a renewed focus is no excuse for sin and no dodge for repentance, not for a real Christian.

I repent.

The broad evangelical church disagrees with how I paint this picture.

Psychologist Mark Yarhouse and author Preston Sprinkle summarize the Christian case for transgender pronouns. They believe using transgender pronouns is respectful of someone’s chosen identity; it’s kind and courteous and necessary for continuing a relationship with a transgender person.[1] I once sinfully said all these things, too. But this position makes no Christian sense. Does any real Christian believe crafting a relationship on falsehood will give the gospel a better hearing? And is that how people are converted? By meeting God on sin’s terms and hearing nice things about themselves?

Christian author and counselor Laura Perry Smalts offers a different perspective. In her past, she lived as a “transgendered man” and called herself “Jake.” Laura pumped testosterone and engaged in mutilating “gender-affirming” surgeries. And God saved, redeemed, and transformed her into a beautiful trophy of his grace.  She has recounted in countless interviews and her book Transgender to Transformed (Oklahoma: Genesis Publishing Group, 2019) the opposite approach to Sprinkle and Yarhouse and the old Rosaria. For Laura, when the Lord enlivened her heart and mind with the gospel, she returned to the church of her youth and her conservative Christian parents. Her church and parents had refused to use her preferred pronouns throughout all the years she lived in the false identity of transgenderism. Why did she return to them? Their refusal to lie compelled her trust. Today, Laura is among the most beautiful, godly, and feminine women I know.[2]

Transgender pronouns are one of the Achans in the camp of broad evangelicalism. But it shouldn’t be an Achan in the camp of the confessionally reformed. Preston Sprinkle, Mark Yarhouse, David French, Revoice, Side B Christianity, and any parachurch ministry that elevates “being winsome” as the endgame provide useful examples to defy. They nod in the direction of traditional values but then swap biblical clarity for postmodern pluralism, thus burning to the ground any legitimate theological bridge to gospel grace. Transgenderism is satanic. We who once promoted “pronoun hospitality” lent false credibility to a wolfish theology that fails to protect the sheep. Instead, it eats them alive.

Do you love your neighbor? Do you love your Lord? Do you believe that Jesus alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)? Does Jesus save us from our sins, or do we delegate this task to the priests of our day—the therapists?

Do you know the difference between making false friends (“frenemies”) and loving your enemies? Yes, Jesus was a friend of sinners, which means that by His precious blood, he ransoms all who repent, believe, and put their trust in Him.  He makes former enemies into his friends through his blood. The blood of Christ does not create an “ally” with the sin it crushes on the cross, for that stands in opposition to gospel hope. The world, the flesh, and the devil are not Christ’s friends. Trans identity and Jesus are not coterminous. It’s one or the other. Christians need to learn how to love their enemies, not pretend their enemies are their friends.

Christians who use the moral lens of LGBTQ+ personhood are not merely a “soft presence” in the enemy camp. Their malleability makes them pudding in the enemy’s hand. They make false converts to a counterfeit gospel that bends the knee to the fictional identity of LGBTQ+. This wolfish theology cedes the moral language to the left by using transgendered pronouns as a moral lens (“respect, courtesy, hospitality”). They reject the clarity of the word of God and replace it with garbage. By doing so, they have rejected the gospel truth that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Heidelberg Question 30 puts it like this: “for though they boast of Him in words, yet in deeds, they deny Jesus as the only deliverer and Savior.”[3]

Heidelberg Question 30 has an ominous report for the pronoun hospitality camp.

We who have promoted this sin need to stand up and repent.

I’ll start. 

I repent.

May God forgive me.

Would anyone like to join me?

Rosaria Butterfield, a former professor of English and women’s studies at Syracuse University, converted to Christ in 1999 in what she describes as a train wreck. Her memoir The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert chronicles that difficult journey. Rosaria is married to Kent Butterfield, a Reformed Presbyterian pastor in North Carolina, and is a homeschool mother, author, and speaker.

[1] Mark Yarhouse, “Understanding the Transgender Phenomena,” Christianity Today, June 8, 2015. And Preston Sprinkle, Embodied: Transgender Identities, The Church, and What the Bible Has to Say (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2021.

[2] Today, Laura is happily married to a godly Christian man and is one of the most beautiful and feminine Christian women I know.

[3] Heidelberg Catechism, Question 30. Quoted from The Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014):1992.