I have 3 transgender coworkers at my workplace. One of them has apparently been on hormones for a while and looks very much like a man and not a woman. I did not even know she was trans until I overheard her talking about it. The other 2 are obviously female but use masculine names and identify as men. Is it sinful to call them by the names they use because they are probably not the names they were given at birth? I don’t know how I would avoid this because no one goes by their last names at my workplace and I don’t even know most people’s last names and I think it would cause a lot of conflict if I asked them for their original first names and called them that. Also, my other coworkers know them by these names and would not know who I was talking about if I used their birth names. What about using their “preferred pronouns”? For the coworker who truly appears to be a man, I think it would confuse people if I called her she instead of he because she appears to be a man. For the other two, at least some of my coworkers do not use their preferred pronouns and this hasn’t caused any conflict yet, but I’m afraid it might eventually. I’m not sure what to do, I’m a very non confrontational person and I hate arguments but if it is sinful to address these coworkers by their names and or pronouns I know I must not do it.
I believe that I can safely say that you should address people the way they want to be addressed without it being sinful. Tom Nash from Catholic Answers gives some good advice…
In this light, we should act in love toward those who experience gender identity disorder, and reprove those who engage in name-calling and other uncharitable behavior toward them.
Regarding preferred pronouns, I would advise avoiding that problem and just call the person by their preferred name. Let me give an example. In previous work for the Church, I once received a phone call from a man who had had “sex-change” surgery and now identified and lived as a woman. He referred to himself as “Mary” (not the person’s self-identified name). I saw no point on first introduction over the phone to tell him I wanted to know the name his parents gave him at birth, and that I would only and always refer to him via that birth name during our conversation, lest I transgress and affirm him in his gender identity disorder.
Well, had I followed such pastorally misguided advice, that would’ve been a real short conversation. In addition, this person was calling a faithful Catholic apostolate to receive genuinely Catholic counsel, not persuade me to affirm them re: their self-identified gender. If I wanted to have hope of giving a fruitfully faithful witness, I couldn’t let minor details derail my witness. In other words, I couldn’t let style get in the way of substance.
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