ASK FATHER: Am I cooperating with evil in my job by changing generic “he” on forms to gender neutral terms?

From a reader…


My job with a state agency includes reviewing proposed regulations of other state agencies. For many years, when we did this task we would change old references to the generic “he” or “him“ to “he or she“. Now we are changing all the “he or she” references to “gender neutral” nouns such as “the individual”, “the applicant”, “the licensee”, etc. We actually avoid using pronouns as much as possible now. By participating in this editing process, am I cooperating in evil or commiting sin? I worry about that sometimes – that I am helping to advance the transgender agenda – but I would be in dire financial straits if I had to quit my job.

Languages have trends.  The over-arching trend is to simplify.  There are ups and downs, but that’s the trajectory.

Some people are ideologues who want to erase sex and gender (not the same) distinctions.  They use language as the Ministry of Truth does: force a change and you force people to think differently, erase words and you erase concepts.  That’s mostly evil, because they use blunt force to inhibit thought and free will. That’s contrary to human nature.

Other people are carried along in the prevailing trends and mostly unconsciously take on the prevailing styles of speaking, such as using “they” for “he”.

Unless one is morally culpable (he ought to know better because of his position, etc.) and cannot plead ignorance (there’s no excuse for a surgeon not to know how to suture) then most people who follow the trends are doing so without guilt.  In order for something to be sinful it has to be understood to be such and then willed and done anyway.

I don’t see anything wrong with changing a “he” to “the applicant”.  Wouldn’t applicant, in a sense, be more accurate?    These terms sound a little bloated, but they are at least accurate.

I would be more concerned… and who knows when this will be imposed… were you forced to allow the “applicant” to determine what pronouns are to be used on their forms (see… I just did it).


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. WVC says:

    When I was in charge of writing the update to my organization’s timekeeping policy, I specifically used non-inclusive language. I defaulted to he/him for everything. I made it through legal, policy, and all the other reviews, and it wasn’t until the final submission for the executive signature that the executive admin said I had to rewrite it to have more inclusive language (i.e. he or she – this was back in the days before we forgot how to tell the difference and 99+ other genders magically appeared . . . so, you know, 10 years ago). I told her I was busy and sent her the file, and she changed all the language before getting it signed.

    I was soooooo close. Can’t say I didn’t try. But in the bureaucratic world, it’s impossible to change anything for the good. Whether in the government, the public schools, or major corporations, it’s all the same. On this playing field, even the most heroic effort can be utterly thwarted by the pettiest and most incompetent of pencil-pushing, paper-shuffling jerks. (c.f. Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground.”)

  2. Philmont237 says:

    If I am ever forced to give people my pronouns I’m going to tell them is/eum/eius/ei/eo.
    “Oh you don’t know how to use these in a sentence? Educate yourself. Do better!”

  3. IaninEngland says:

    It’s interesting, isnt’t it, that anything left-wing and trendy (if you know what I mean) becomes more wordy; substituting “he / she” (two words, five letters) for the generic “he” (one word, two letters), “building maintenance engineer” for “cleaner” or “janitor”, right up to the half-page documents of bygone days from the Vatican to the long and tedious documents since Vatican II. They just *love* the sound of their own voices.
    Was it Shakespeare who said “Full of words and music and signifying nothing” or is that just Tom Lehrer?

  4. WVC says:

    It’s “Full of Sound and Fury, signifying nothing” – it’s from King Lear.

    [It’s from Macbeth, Act V, the “Tomrrow” monologue.]

  5. WVC says:

    Fr. Z is right, of course. I even had to memorize the Tomorrow speech in High School (all those many years ago). I’m afraid I’ve had King Lear on the brain of late. Crazy old man bringing complete ruin to his kingdom . . . .

  6. IaninEngland says:

    @ WVC and Fr Z:
    Thanks for the correction. The line from Shakespeare is even *more* apropos than Tom Lehrer’s version.

  7. sagredo says:

    The following is what came to my mind:
    Margaret: Father, there’s a new act going through parliament. And by this act, they’re going to administer an oath…about the marriage.

    Thomas: On what compulsion is the oath?

    Margaret: High treason.

    Thomas: But what is the wording?

    Margaret: Do the words matter? We know what it means.

    Thomas: Tell me the words. An oath is made of words. It may be possible to take it.

    Margaret: Take it?

    Thomas: And if it can be taken, you must take it, too.

    Margaret: No!

    Thomas: Listen, Meg. God made the angels to show him splendour. As he made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man he made to serve him wittily, in the tangle of his mind. If he suffers us to come to such a case that there is no escaping… then we may stand to our tackle as best we can. And yes, Meg, then we can clamour like champions, if we have the spittle for it. But it’s God’s part, not our own, to bring ourselves to such a pass. Our natural business lies in escaping. If I can take this oath, I will.

  8. Sevens Dad says:

    “Some people are ideologues who want to erase sex and gender (not the same) distinctions. They use language as the Ministry of Truth does: force a change and you force people to think differently, erase words and you erase concepts. That’s mostly evil, because they use blunt force to inhibit thought and free will. That’s contrary to human nature.”

    Well said, Father. Thank you. Posts like this are the only reason I ever wish for a “like” button and counts, as banal as they are. Helps sometimes to get a feel for the audience.

    Newbies: this guy gets it. Bookmark the page.

  9. Fr. Reader says:

    If they ask me about by pronouns, I tell them that I am fine with whatever they want, but I have favourite verbs, adverbs and prepositions, and they are not related to “gender”, but with other things, like philosophical school, worldview, or body mass index. Can they handle it? No? So, don’t push me into your pronouns game.

  10. Fr. Reader says:


    Best comment ever in wdtprs.

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  12. redneckpride4ever says:

    I remember when you had to tune in to Jerry Springer for all this pronoun stuff.

  13. JustaSinner says:

    My pronouns are EX-COMMUNICATE/BIDEN

  14. Philmont237 says:

    @Fr. Reader

    Thank you!

  15. Kathleen10 says:

    Fr. Z this is already here and a moral crisis for people who work in education.
    Imagine the very real situation of a child who’s parents have designated the sweet little girl a “they”, and you now MUST call the child “they” as if the child is now two people. The child may be a boy with a new girl’s name or a girl with a new boy’s name. We can be talking about children in Kindergarten.
    What happens to staff who refuse to use the new pronouns Mom chose for her confused child? Who refuse to lie to the child and indicate they are what they aren’t? They would probably be fired.
    This is a serious problem today and it would be helpful to a lot of people if you would clarify this dilemma (for some) which presents itself often enough in our sad world. How easy it is to pity children today. God help them all.

  16. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I’m not sure how long and where-all (even liturgically? especially liturgically?) I’ve run into ‘nouning’ God to avoid saying He, Him, His, but I’m sure I’ve also seen reports of a teacher or teachers being relentlessly denied the option of exclusively using a child’s given name to avoid pronoun forms which falsify or muddle (by sex, number, or whatever).

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