How to address transgender individuals?


#1

I have a question about how to properly address people who say that they identify with the opposite sex.

for some reason, I have an increasing amount of acquaintances who are now falling in to this category.

if they say they want to be female and you knew them as a male, what exactly are you supposed to do? often this comes with a name change as well. i.e. Janice, becoming Jason.

if you don’t do as they wish, they will likely want nothing to do with you. but if you do as they wish, it’s basically like you accept it.

any tips?


#2

In any situation, I would address people as they wished to be addressed.


#3

Perhaps tell them that you don’t play politically correct games nor do you buy into the whole “transgender” fad that is sweeping the country.


#4

I always extend to people the courtesy of addressing them after the fashion that they wish to be addressed. I had childhood friends, for example, who changed their names and – sometimes with considerable effort – I altered my long-standing practice of using the name from their childhood to instead call them by the name they use as adults.

Beyond that, however, you have largely answered your own question. Indeed, if you choose not to comply with the request, the person will likely cease communication with you. If you desire to retain whatever the relationship is that you have with the person, that rather defines the adaptation of your usage.


#5

I know, but doesn’t that also indirectly support whatever they are believing, in a way?

though there are legitimate cases of boys with “girl names” or girls with “boy names” so maybe I could think it as something like that?

my own name is an example, in latin American culture, angel is usually a boy’s name but for English speaking countries, it’s usually a girl’s name.

so far, I’ve just been trying to avoid names and pronouns altogether. mostly it works because they are not extremely close friends


#6

Just FYI, it could be potentially dangerous to address a transgendered person by their birth name (“Michael” instead of “Michelle”, for example)–you never know who could be around who might do something nuts to them.

You may not agree with it, and can’t be forced to, but in the interests of not attracting potential harm upon folk (which I’m sure you wouldn’t want to do), it’d be best to address them as they introduce themselves.


#7

Addressing transgenders? “You” is about as gender-neutral as you can get.


#8

This is a good question for an Apologist.


#9

If they’ve changed their name, you should call them by their new name.
It’s not saying you “accept it” (do you mean the name? or their feelings?)

Surely you know people who get married in “invalid” marriages and they have changed their names and you use their new names, yes?
Especially if they legally change their name, you should try to use the new one.

I don’t think they’ll “want nothing to do with you” if you don’t. It’s not easy if you’ve known someone for many years as one name to make a sudden switch. Even when some people get married and change their names, it takes a while to adapt. I think your friends will understand if you slip up and forget.

Please don’t say that to them; it’s uninformed and insulting.
They are not asking you to play “politically correct games” and they are not part of a “fad”.
If you say this to them, then indeed, they will want nothing to do with you…and neither will many others.

.


#10

I think this is more of a pastoral question than an apologetics question. I think the focus of our interaction here should be more along the lines of meeting the person where they are (call them by their preferred name/pronouns). I’m not sure how they would identify themselves religiously, but I think it’s unlikely they’d be Catholic (or Christian). Start by showing them the love of Christ. We want to be a vessel for the Holy Spirit, not cause them to put up barriers and roadblocks. A sound pastoral approach just might bring someone home. Just food for thought.


#11

I first ask how he or she wants to be addressed. As Don Ruggero said, that is just courtesy.

For many going through the standard medical procedures, they must live as the other gender for a period of time while taking drugs and before any surgery is done. That, in my experience, is when they come out to people and ask that they be called by a different name and be referred to by the different gender.

If and when surgeries happen, then I think they legally become the different gender.

For all legal and social reasons, that person is newly defined.

But are you asking if, by calling a person by a new name and using new pronouns, you are ethically and religiously supporting that person’s transition to a new gender?

It seems to me that the RCC hasn’t really come down on that one yet, so it’s your call. But it would be a bit silly to call someone with all the female parts, who dresses in women’s clothing, and has a female voice, by her former name of ‘George.’ Just my opinion tho.


#12

There are actually quite a few Trans Catholics and even more in other branches of the Church. Some are quite well known. I recall reading an article in Crux about a huge Catholic conference in LA (it was the LA Religious Education Congress - 40,000 people attending) where transgender people spoke to tell their stories. I’ll see if I can find the link. It seems as if it was a standing room only crowd. Here it is:

cruxnow.com/life/2016/03/07/transgender-catholics-hope-to-build-bridges-in-the-church/

I know other transgendered people who are devout Christians; I’m not sure why you would think that they couldn’t be - or wouldn’t be.


#13

No. It is not a matter of indirectly supporting someone’s beliefs, in a way.

You indicate these are people to whom you have no great closeness. They are making a declarative statement to you…from everything you have indicated, it is not to poll your opinion and it is neither a solicitation of whether you approve nor an invitation to express disapproval.

If they announced “I am no longer Mary Jones. My name is Mary Smith because I eloped with John Smith over the weekend,” I am sure she is not expecting you to reply with your assessment of any perceived lack of wisdom (or impropriety) you have made regarding her action. I expect she would take umbrage

It is simply a matter of showing courtesy to an autonomous individual to address them by the name, title, and form by which they request you to address them.

In any event, if someone has changed their name, their name is no longer what it was. It is whatever it now is. That has nothing to do with what you think or decide. It was their decision…and that of the government. Whether it is a first name or a last name. For whatever reason.

You don’t bear responsibility for decisions adults have made, when you have absolutely no involvement or consultation in the decision making

Perhaps an illustration would help. If you have a relative or friend who is having doubts and uncertainties about being Catholic and they come to you for advice and help, that is one thing to endeavour to help them and to be conscientious in what you say and how you say it and what you advise. It is entirely a different situation if someone you know only in passing announces to you one day “I wanted you to know that I left the Church and became Buddhist last week and will be taking next semester off to live in Tibet.”

If you have a paralysing qualm of conscience, I gather some Anglophones are adopting the third person pronouns…they/them.


#14

true! I am so bad with names that I often forget the name of the person who has greeted me, Perfectly OK to chat without using a name. What a terrible situation though.


#15

Thank you very much for the article. I didn’t say they couldn’t be, or wouldn’t be, just that it’s “unlikely”. And the reason I thought that, is simply because it doesn’t fall in line with Church teaching. Most people don’t identify with something (eg. The Church) that they disagree with (eg. The Church’s view on gender). I’m not saying there can’t be transgender Christians nor am I saying there aren’t any. Conversions can happen at any time, and good Christians fall into temptation and sin. That being said, the real point of my post in on the pastoral approach to transgender people. Meet people where they are, and show them the love of Christ. What really matters is what we do going forward, whether transgender, gay, straight, bisexual, adulterer, murder, heretic, thief or whatever label you choose. The past doesn’t really matter as long as we go to confession and live our Christian lives as best as we can. going forward.


#16

I would guess that transgendered men and women, especially those who have had the surgery, do not see this as a sin to confess. They are new creatures in Christ, and the old has passed away, as St Paul is wont to say.


#17

I guess that if someone decides that they are a coat rack, then I should hang my jacket on them?

Uninformed? You mean, like changing a person’s gender? Bruce Jenner may call himself Caitlyn and wear dresses and makeup but he is still a guy. For my part, I don’t indulge people who try to delude themselves.


#18

Yeah, this is not at all relevant to Paul’s meaning.


#19

People can call themselves whatever they like I would hope you wouldn’t encourage them to preform
body mutilation to change appearance I believe the Church is against this. Changing every cell in your
body from xy to xx or visa versa is not possible so changing sex is not possible cosmetic change and
hormone injection is all someone can do and this just changes appearance not reality.

God bless


#20

Really? In all my life, I’ve never met a single person who is like this.

My own opinion is that you are what your chromosomes say you are, regardless of hormones, drugs, or surgeries. However, I’d call the person what ever he wanted to be called.


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