ASK FATHER: A man at work wants to be addressed as a woman.

From a reader…


Dear Fr. I’m hoping for some advice as to how to charitably and prudently deal with a gender dysphoric coworker without giving a pinch of incense to Jupiter. Specifically, it is likely that I will need to formally enter this person’s name into an official log (e.g. stationed Mr. X as…). What should I write if I don’t know with certainty whether he is actually a man or woman even if I’m reasonably sure he’s a man? And if I do find out with certainty, is it correct to say that I’m morally obligated to write Mr. even if he tells me to write Ms. and risk losing my livelihood over a discrimination claim? I am more than willing to do this, I’m just wondering where the line is. Thanks and God bless.


Ah, our brave new world.

Which is, in so many ways, not new at all.

History is replete with situations wherein names and titles have not matched the biological sex of the title holder. The Pharaoh Hatshepsut is depicted with all the regalia, including the false beard, used by her male predecessors. Even today, Elizabeth II bears the titles of Duke of Lancaster and Lord of Mann.

The Church has always recognized the right of people to change their names. She has even endorsed the notion, and for centuries, when one entered into a religious order, one either chose or was given a new name. Not infrequently, the name one was given in religion did not coincide with one’s biological sex. Hence, our history is replete with stories of Sr. Urban, Sr. Thomas Aquinas, Sr. Bonaventure, and Br. Maria Joseph et c.

Here now we are in a situation where folks are changing their names (and tragically, their physical bodies), not out of devotion to the saints, but largely out of psychological anomalies, fostered and abetted by a compliant medical industry and a sick culture.

What should our response be?

Prayer, no doubt. Prayer for our world and our sickened, God-less society. Prayer for the victims of this societal abandonment of reason and the Lord of Reason.

In addition to prayer, common sense.

While not giving in to the depredations of society, utilizing a name that does not correspond with the biological sex of the person is not inappropriate. And applying a title that similarly does not correspond when one is forced by office to do so could not really be called into question. Pronouns can be studiously avoided, even if it leads to awkward sentences, “Ms. Bathstone has requested that the file intended for Ms. Bathstone, be given directly to Ms. Bathstone, who is currently attending to the shaving of Ms. Bathstone’s hirsute visage.” “Mr. Witherdon would like a new lumbar pad installed in the office chair, as the discomfort caused by the seventh month of pregnancy is wearing on Mr. Witherdon’s ability to sit for a lengthy period of time.”

It’s all a silly game, in one sense, but it’s specifically utilized by certain elements of society to “catch” us in order to label Christians as intolerant boobs.

So be it. We need to determine which hills are the ones we need to die on. I’m not convinced that changed names and pretend titles are that hill.

If anyone wants to know, my preferred pronouns are “His Imperial Majesty/My Sovereign Lord, the Emperor”.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Sin That Cries To Heaven, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. GHP says:

    I forgot where I recently saw this “science for liberals:”

    Global Warming: Listen to Science
    Gender: Never mind about Science

  2. Dinocrates says:

    Thank you so much to whoever sent in this question. I run into the same issues. I also have run into the expectation that I announce my preferred pronouns. I simply don’t engage. I figure if God puts me in a situation where I am pressed to take a stand, then I will with God’s grace. St. Thomas More did after all. Something is going to give eventually though. I know so many people (not just in conservative and/or Catholic circles) that quietly grumble in private about the inability to express their true thoughts on these matters.

  3. Philmont237 says:

    I had to read a script for an awards ceremony recently where I thanked everyone for their attendance which included referring to a woman’s “wife.”

    I figured that hill wasn’t worth dying on, but I pray often for her conversion.

  4. Sean says:

    I had a teacher like this last year she wanted to be called they and she wanted to be reffered as Mx.( teachers name) she went after me on various occasions one time she lied and completely exaggerated a event tried but failed to get me into serious trouble . She intended to make me look like the intolerant one but my parents and I were not going to deal with her tricks so we turned the tables on her and got her into trouble for lying she was talked to by the school administration and had to be trained on how to deal with students by the end of the year she was out. She also seemed to dislike this country a lot all she would talk about was that she would have us declaimation and the topics would be very libreal I had found a way to use a speech by some catholic I did speeches and letters by Fulton sheen, Vigano and Plus XI it was certainly a intresting experience dealing with her as a teacher

  5. APX says:

    I suppose if it really came down to it, one could take the grammatically incorrect route and just use “they”, “they’re”, and “theirs”. I shudder at the idea of being purposely grammatically incorrect, but sometimes you got to do what you got to do.

  6. tho says:

    On a lighter note, years ago I read a biography of Carrie Nation, a temperance crusader in the early 1900s. Her mother thought that she was Queen Victoria, the children had to refer to her as Your Majesty, and the mother insisted that her husband was Prince Albert, and made the children refer to him as such.
    When I was a young teenager I caddied at an exclusive country club, across the road was an Insane Asylum, inside were quite a few Napoleons and George Washingtons, placed there by a judge, doctor and a concerned family. Now, instead of confining insanity, idiotic powers have, or are trying to, make us accept insanity.

  7. Daddio says:

    Now if we could just get the liberals in the Church to use the Lord’s preferred pronouns (masculine) as revealed in sacred scripture…. I feel that this inclusive language is actually a microaggression and I wish that they would stop misgendering the Lord.

  8. ChesterFrank says:

    According to the institutes of higher learning, the hallowed halls of academia; it is wrong to refer to someone as he or she or him or her. The professors proclaim the proper pronouns on these links. Please note that these sites do end with “.edu” . According to their wisdom it is wrong to refer to Father Zuhlsdorf by that title. It is wrong and outdated. According to today’s culture its simply ZED, with perhaps a wiggle of the shaka sign. Here are the links:

  9. Kent Wendler says:

    My position is that these people may well be totally personally convinced that what they say they want is their “truth”, and they conform themselves (or try) both privately and publicly. But it is not the objective truth. In fact it is a lie they are purveying to themselves and they expect others to participate in that lie.

    I will not.

    Names can be ambiguous, but no one has the right to make me participate in a lie. I may not always be able to discern this lie, but if I do know I will not cater to it.

    Admittedly, this may cost me in the future, but I will at all times and to the best of my ability adhere to the objective truth for each person – even at a cost. After all, any pain resulting from such a course of action will be quite minuscule when I meet TRUTH Himself.

  10. SanSan says:

    If I was ever put into a position that I must announce someone as someone other than their gender, I would be a “no show” rather than say something that is not true. It’s not about which hill to “die” one. If pressed, only truth, so be it.

  11. APX says:

    I noticed a new oddity on the signature line of my new school’s correspondence. Below the person’s name, it has the person’s preferred pronouns listed.

    Gender-inclusive language has its place. Not being a man, I don’t like being referred to as a man because I sing in the same section as they do, so it is more appropriate to use a more gender-inclusive term when referring to such group of people other than “the men”.

    I just wish people would stop calling me “sir” at work.

  12. veritas vincit says:

    SanSan: I tend to agree with you.

    I watched a co-worker some years ago “transition” from a man to a “woman,” involving gradually changing from male garb and hairstyle, to androgynous, to female, over a period of several months, eventually with the actual surgery. Fortunately, I didn’t work with him on a regular basis, and his new name was somewhat androgynous, so I could use it in conscience. That, and I did a lot of verbal gymnastics to avoid using gendered pronouns when talking about him to others.

    I felt then, and I feel now, that acceding to names and pronouns corresponding to a “transitioned” gender is participating in the lie of a “changed” gender. (I feel similarly about acknowledging a same-sex “spouse” as a married spouse).

    May Our Lady help these poor lost souls.

  13. BH says:

    Thank you Fr. Ferguson (Your Imperial Majesty) for the laugh at the end there. Literally made me laugh out loud this morning.

  14. Danteewoo says:

    The correct pronoun for a transgender of either sex is “Damned Fool.”

  15. Amante de los Manuales says:

    I think Fr. Ferguson shows well that using a name contrary to one’s biological sex isn’t intrinsically wrong. But might it be wrong owing to circumstance to accede to another’s wish to be called such a name? I imagine it could, as when acceding would cause scandal to others.

  16. Fr. Z only wants to be addressed as Monsignor! Maybe one day…

  17. APX says:

    I think Monty Python was ahead of its time with this.

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