How to Relate to Transgendered Person?

One of my classmates presents herself as male, and other classmates refer to her as male, but I think she is female. So far I have avoided using gendered pronouns through using Japanese, e.g. “[Last Name]+no” (‘no’ here is equivalent to 's) instead of “his” or “her”, but this may become suspicious over time.

Evidence that this person is male: [LIST=1]
*]wears men’s clothing
*]has a girlfriend of eight years
*]uses masculine language
*]other classmates use male pronouns in reference

Evidence that this person is female (in short, the reason is “appears female”): [LIST=1]
*]has feminine body structure
*]has feminine face
*]has feminine voice
*]has apparent breasts
*]has feminine hips
*]has feminine height
*]has feminine hands
*]lacks facial hair
*]appears to sit in the stall to urinate
*]men’s clothing doesn’t quite fit (e.g. baggy), exhibiting a feminine-shaped body
*]has feminine hands
*]lacks strength (e.g. keeping up when bicycling quickly)

That is to say, my instincts and life experience tell me this person is female, and not male. I cannot in good conscience use masculine pronouns to refer to her, because it would seem to be a lie – that is, I have “reasonable certainty” that this person is female.

What should I do, regarding language? She is not Christian (and she is Japanese), and I am in a position to evangelize, and hence should take pains to avoid ostracizing her. Yet we “cannot do evil that good may come of it,” and so I am walking on egg shells both to avoid revealing the fact that I think she is female and to avoid using masculine pronouns. What are your thoughts?

Calling this person “her” will not profit anyone, and it will alienate the person. There is nothing intrinsically evil about referring to someone by the wrong pronoun.

If you get to know this person better, you can speak your mind lovingly at some point, in a context that will not be upsetting. And then you can listen to the response – you might be surprised. But if you’re just an acquaintance, it’s probably best to just use the word “him”.

My first thought was to tell you to run, there is just so much there to be addressed, to work with, that it sounded like such a large and daunting task. But God chooses who he works with, not me. You might have unique insights or skill sets making you the perfect choice to evangelize this person.

Often both people learn from experiences like this. You might end up planting a seed, you might sense something in this person that years for God. Ultimately the decision lies with you. The Lord wants the very least of us to seek his kingdom. You might be just the person who doesn’t have the chaff of vanity barring you from helping this individual.

No one should ever be written off. I admire you immensely for wanting to reach out to this person, truly you are blessed. :twocents:

In the first instance always seek the person and to connect with them on a human level. You will get absolutely no where if you insist on imposing your truth on a person before they feel that you see their intrinsic humanity. So treat him like a human being first and pray to God for what to do next.

Until you know for sure that the person is transgendered, I think the right thing to do is speak to them as if they are not. The other thing is to simply refer to them by their name and not a pronoun.

I mean no offense to anyone, BUT I personally lived in Asia for several years, ad noticed that many “Males” have more dominant “Female” features than male features. Many times I mistook Males for females, because of the way the dressed, body structure etc, etc. Only after extremely careful observation I realised that they were actually male. Over time I learned to spot genders immediately without needing any observation. Well that was my experience.

I’ve had difficulty identifying some Asian people’s gender before as well, particularly if they have a short, spiky haircut that seems to be popular with some Asian guys. It appears very effeminate to me. Since I’m not so familiar with Asian names, I can’t always tell from that either, so hopefully the voice is a give-away.

Speaking as someone who actually has a “transgender” sibling, I cannot in good conscience refer to him as “she,” even though he believes himself to be a woman. I cannot call him by his female name, I cannot call him my sister, etc. I couldn’t vote, because I’m not so sure that my calling a transgender person by their preferred gender pronoun would FURTHER their confusion (that damage may already be done) but it is, as I see it, an implicit acknowledgement of their belief.

For that reason I do believe that to call a woman who believed she was a man by masculine pronouns would be wrong. It might not cause further damage, but it is implicitly (or perhaps explicitly) an agreement that, for instance, this woman who claims she’s a man IS in fact a man. Whether or not that’s what you mean, that’s what your words are saying, just as surely as if you had said outright: “Yes, I agree you are a man.” And that, as you rightly surmise, would be at the very level best a lie. I can see no way around that. And a lie is wrong, and doubly so if it gives the impression of compliance with ethical falsehood.

HOWEVER, I don’t believe that it would be helpful, in the transgender person’s presence, to call him/her by the CORRECT pronoun. Rather, I think you should avoid the issue altogether, as you’ve been doing so far. In my brother’s presence or in conversation with him, I would refer to him as my “sibling,” for instance. I cannot, and thus will not, refer to him as a woman, as a “she,” but that doesn’t mean I have to refer to him as “he” in his presence either. This actually isn’t all that hard: When actually talking TO someone, fortunately in English the word “you” is gender neutral, so it’s actually fairly easy to completely bypass the problem.

Furthermore, it’s still possible–until you KNOW this person–that you are wrong about the gender. There are indeed hormonal and chromosomal anomalies that can make a genuine man appear/seem feminine in all the ways you mention (yes, including breasts), and this could be exacerbated by the fact that Asians can be rather androgynous as it is, in the face. I would say, in THAT situation, if there’s even a slight possibility that this person may in fact BE male, then it is morally acceptable for you to refer to him as such. You are not culpable for what you do not know for a fact, so if everyone around this person refers to him as male, and he refers to himself as such, and you do not in fact KNOW s/he is female, you are not culpable if you refer to him/her as a male and then happen to be mistaken. That’s just my personal opinion. But if you still feel uncomfortable, I would still recommend just avoiding using gender pronouns in his presence altogether.

So here’s a recap in a nutshell: I believe it’s wrong, unambiguously, to refer to someone as the wrong gender if you KNOW their correct gender; but that doesn’t mean you can’t simply be ambiguous and avoid ALL gender pronouns as a compromise; and if you don’t know for a FACT this person is female, it may be morally acceptable to just take him and his friends at their word, until you know otherwise.

Blessings in Christ,

If you’re sure (at least reasonably so) that this person is really female, I would not call her by masculine pronouns. To do so would I believe (and as you implied you do as well) be cooperating in the sin or enabling her.

I think you’re safest bet is to refer to them as you have been. Or depending on the situation, if you are close enough to some of the others, perhaps sometime when your alone you can discreetly ask them, “Hey this might be an odd question (promise me you won’t tell them I asked…) but is so and so a boy or girl?” If this is indeed a confused person, I imagine the mutual friend will explain it as such.

If you were mistaken, and this person is male, obviously use the appropriate pronouns henceforth. But if you learn that she is female, but identifies herself as male, I cannot recommend complying with that viewpoint by using her preferred pronouns. It is a confusion of reality and yes, makes the situation worse. In that case continue to use the name. You don’t need to offend but insisting on using female pronouns, but if ever pressed on it simply say, “Yeah, I just don’t feel comfortable referring to you as a sex that you are not, even if you identify as such” and continue referring to her by name only.

In other words, what KindredSoul just said as I was typing mine out.

My opinion: in getting to know someone, and being an example of a Christian, and showing Christ’s love to them, it’s usually best not to start by pointing out his or her sins or misbehavior.
The point is that God loves this person and Christ died for him or her. Once he knows that, straightening his life out becomes easier, and will be between him and God.


Appearances can be deceiving.

Do you assume that masculine looking females are not really females? I’ve known women who didn’t have hips or breasts and had huge hands and low voices and heavier than normal facial hair.

As a totally female female, I only had the issue of very dark upper lip hair on pale skin. I learned to wax because I got tired of people making hurtful assumptions about me based on that. I was lucky that it was a physical characteristic I could easily change.

Unless you know for certain the gender of this person (like checking out their genitals), you should assume they are what the say they are.

Many of these responses have been … well, I wonder if this thread attracts people of certain ideologies. The implication many have made, “Unless you see their genitals, you cannot know,” is absurd. Not only is the case I’ve laid out in the OP reasonably conclusive that this person is female, but in reality, rarely are we mistaken about someone’s sex. (In my case, rarely am I mistaken, and the times when I’m not sure, it’s because physical deformation is present – whereas this person looks like a healthy woman: She does not have abnormal bone structure or other apparent physiological disorders.) In other words, those telling me to “treat her as a man until you see her genitals” are applying an unreasonable double-standard to their faculties of reason, namely, “My reason must be unreliable because this person is saying something else.”

It’s like if someone bumps you on an otherwise-isolated sidewalk and you find your purse open, wallet missing, and the person quickly walking away putting a wallet that looks like yours into his pocket, and you stop him and ask him, “Give me back my wallet!” and he says, “What wallet? I didn’t take your wallet!” then by the same logic, you would stop and say, “Oh, well, he says he didn’t take my wallet. I guess I better not accuse him of taking it unless I can get him to empty his pockets and show me the contents of whatever’s inside.” Or you hear a gunshot and turn around and see someone holding a smoking gun and another person on the ground, “I didn’t shoot him!” “Oh, well, he says he didn’t shoot him, so I better wait until the bullet and gun are analyzed before I can make any conclusion.” Or if you see a sign that says “wet paint” …

It’s a little extreme to say that you have to see the person’s genitals, however, I think you would have to have more evidence than the person simply appearing effeminate.

Appearances aren’t always what they seem. Has no one judged you and came to the wrong conclusion? Is it not possible that you have come to the wrong conclusion? Have you asked the person?

Yes, I was being extreme. However, I’ve been hurt by people making judgements about me because of the way I look, or the way I talk, or the way I walk instead of gettin to know me. Because I had dark upper lip hair, some people assumed I was a lesbian (I’m not). Because I am well endowed, some people assume I am easy (I’m not). Because I like to read, some people think I’m a snob (no more than anyone else is).

What kind of assumptions could this person make about you that you might not like?

I think it’s important to remember that there are intersex people. These individuals are born with both female and male organs. I have a close friend who is intersex. He was raised as a boy. He ultimately had all the female organs removed. But I think he deserves compassion rather than judgment. It’s not his fault that he was born with this physical problem. I completely honor his wishes to identify as male.

I honestly don’t understand the poll.

I once knew this guy who grew his hair out long and wore pink shoes because he felt like it. I knew him since childhood basically so it was obvious to me he was male. But when my friend met him for the first time, she assumed he was female until I corrected her some time later (even then being very surprised).

Appearances CAN be deceiving. That kid was 100% male I assure you, but he looked extremely female (my friend was not the first to mistake him for a girl). I would agree with the point of don’t make assumptions. Ask and be certain before you make rash decisions.

Depends if his condition is from medical/physical reasons or voluntary. One kind manifests evil attitudes, and is not of peaceful disposition.

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