What if Your Neighbor Asks You to Call Her a Him?

An Interview with a Suburban Christian Dad

LGBT is a reigning ideology in America right now, and its tentacles are spreading and thickening as they squeeze soul after soul. You might expect this in the bluest parts of the country, but it is also happening in red suburbs and counties. It is happening everywhere.

This is a true story about it happening this summer in a middle-class Minneapolis suburb to some dear friends in my church. To respect the privacy of the people in this story, I’ll use fictitious names and be vague about some details. I’ll tell the story in an interview format with my friend Jonathan.

Andy: Well, I’ve already given away some of your story in the title of this article: “What do you do when a girl in your neighborhood asks you to call her a boy’s name with he/him pronouns?” Would you set the scene for us? 

Jonathan: My wife and I have three children who are not yet teenagers, and sometimes they play with kids in our neighborhood—usually in our home. One child who has played with our children is a ten-year-old girl named Suzy. She would regularly come to our home to see if our kids could play, and it would work out about once a week during the summer.

Andy: So what happened?

Jonathan: One day our children approached my wife and me after they had played with Suzy earlier that day. They told us that Suzy now wants to go by the name Sam along with the pronouns he/him.

My wife and I talked together about how to respond, and we decided to talk with Suzy’s parents for two reasons. First, we wanted to share what had happened to make sure that Suzy’s parents—as the authority figures in her life—were aware. The second reason is more delicate. We wanted to let Suzy’s parents know what to expect from us, and we wanted to communicate it as respectfully as possible.

Andy: Had you and your wife thought through this issue before? Did you already have convictions about whether to use someone’s preferred pronouns that are contrary to that person’s sex as God made them?

Jonathan: Yes, my wife and I had already decided that we would not do that because using the wrong pronouns is not in line with God’s created order (Genesis 1:27; 5:2; Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6). It is unloving to encourage someone in a behavior that is ultimately destructive to them—either physically and emotionally destructive in this life or spiritually destructive forever. (See Jesus’s actions in Mark 10:21–25.) In essence, to use preferred pronouns that don’t align with biology would be to affirm a lie, and it would encourage someone to act in a way that is ultimately destructive to that person and to others.

Andy: You and your wife wanted to communicate that to Suzy’s parents?

Jonathan: Yes, we wanted to share with Suzy’s parents what they could expect of us so that they didn’t find out through Suzy. If Suzy relayed the message, it could be incomplete or incorrect.

Andy: How’d it go when you and your wife met with Suzy’s parents?

Jonathan: After my wife coordinated a meeting for the two couples (and after my wife and I prayed many times about the situation), we went over to Suzy’s home to talk with her parents on their front porch. I started the conversation by thanking them for meeting with us, and I shared what had happened while Suzy was at our house the other day.

Suzy’s mom said that they were aware of the situation. She explained that Suzy’s desire to go by the name Sam and he/him pronouns is something that had been happening recently and that they were going with it to see where it would go. During our conversation, Suzy’s mom referred to her daughter exclusively as Sam and he/him. She also shared that she was looking to Suzy’s older teenage sister for guidance on how to respond to Suzy’s situation.

I thanked Suzy’s mom for letting us know, and I stated that this is a very challenging and confusing situation. Then I said something like this: “We want you to know that Suzy is still welcome to play with our children, and we also want to honor you by being straightforward about what you can expect from us so that you aren’t surprised by something you might hear later. Our family does not use preferred pronouns because we want to teach our children to live in line with the physical and biological truth of the world around them.”

My wife interjected, “If it’s alright, Jonathan, would you clarify what you mean by truth?”

But at that point Suzy’s mother cut us both off and said something like this: “No, it isn’t alright that you won’t use Sam’s preferred pronouns. You don’t need to worry about this because our children will never come to your house or play with your children again. This is coming whether you like it or not, and you need to figure out how you are going to deal with it. We’d request you leave now.”

That was the end of the conversation. When she said, “This is coming,” we interpreted her as not referring to Suzy transitioning to Sam. We interpreted her as referring to a complete societal change—that is, we need “to deal with” the unstoppable wave of the transgender movement. She seemed to imply that we are isolated, uninformed, or unaware of this movement.

Andy: What happened next? You told me that Suzy’s parents are longtime friends with your closest geographical neighbors. Did your neighbors find out about this?

Jonathan: Two days later my family returned home from a kid’s sporting event and parked in our driveway. As I was unloading the car, Suzy’s mother and youngest daughter were walking by on their way to one of our neighbors’ homes. I remarked to them, “Beautiful evening for a walk!” In response, the mother turned her head away from me and ignored me.

The next evening we again arrived home from a kid’s sporting event, and two teenagers who live next door were walking by. I called out, “Good evening!” From the way they reacted, it was clear that they saw and heard me, but they both ignored me. I have no hard evidence that they had heard about the conversation we had with Suzy’s parents, but in the past they responded when we talked to them. Given how they reacted, I think it is reasonable to assume that they had been told about what had happened.

A few days later two sets of neighbors were flying LGBT flags in their yard with this message written on the flags: “Everyone is welcome here.” When my youngest child saw the flag, he said, “Yeah, except for us.”

Andy: That is some uncomfortable tension with your neighbors. That’s got to be hard for you and your family. Do you regret saying what you did to Suzy’s parents?

Jonathan: No. But if I could do it over again, there is one thing I would do differently. When we were engaging with the parents, I would have asked questions first before I stated that our family would not be using Suzy’s preferred new name or pronouns. Since I have done a lot of research into this, I think I would have been able to share more truth if I asked, “How much research have you done into the statistics and scientific facts behind transgenderism?” This may have opened the door to starting an actual discussion where I could have shared some of the scientific research and facts on this subject. At a bare minimum it would have given me the chance to speak without so easily having been cut-off.

Even if I had taken this approach I am highly doubtful that this would have changed the outcome, but it may have created a conversation flow that would have given the opportunity to share facts and secular study results that show how harmful and unhelpful this path is. Even if they didn’t want to hear what I had to say, it may have caused doubt, caused them to look at the science (and lack of science) behind the path they are on, and changed their course of action with their daughter.

Andy: As you reflect on this situation, what are some lessons you have learned from this experience that may be helpful to others?

Jonathan: At least six lessons come to mind:

1. The time to figure out your view on something important is not in the moment. At that point it is already too late. For example, the time to figure out your philosophy on suffering is not when you are suffering. It is before you suffer so that you know what to do when you suffer. Similarly, the time to decide where you stand on physical boundaries in a dating relationship is not at midnight when you are all alone with someone you find attractive. It is well before then so that you can act appropriately.

On the issue of transgenderism, my wife and I had already done our research. We know what the Bible says, we knew where we stood, and we were aligned together. Our question was not “What do we do?” Our question was “Are we going to follow through on what we had previously decided?” This is an issue on which it is important for couples and families to decide beforehand where they stand.

For us, we had already decided that we will not use preferred pronouns. In a work setting, I refer to someone who transitions by his or her desired name without using the pronouns, but in this situation we decided that we were not going to refer to Suzy as Sam for the sake of our kids. We didn’t want our children to become confused in any way by us seeming to recognize the desired transition.

2. My wife and I don’t regret our decision. As we reflect back on the situation, we are convinced that we made the right decision. We don’t regret opening our home to our neighbor’s child, and we also don’t regret having drawn lines where we wouldn’t compromise. In this situation there were a number of things we intentionally chose to look past with Suzy and use as teaching moments with our children. For example, Suzy wished us “happy pride month” in June two years ago; once when playing with Legos, Suzy pretended that two girl figurines got married; and there were some behavior and language issues. Every time one of these issues came up we used it as an opportunity to talk with our children about how those who trust in Christ will behave differently than those who don’t.

We prayed that our family and our kids were being a gospel light to Suzy, and we still pray for Suzy and her family—and all our neighbors. But when neighbors essentially proclaim, “We’re coming for your children,” it’s not necessarily negative when they choose to remove themselves from influencing your children.

3. It is important to talk about transgenderism with your children (in age-appropriate ways). I was proud of my children that on the same day Suzy asked them to call her Sam, they told us about it right away. To some degree we had prepared them for this. When our oldest was five or six years old, we talked about the rainbow flag and what it means. Then we talked about the transgender addition to the rainbow flag. We talked about what it is like in many public schools, where numerous children at extremely young ages identify as LGB and increasingly as T. So I think our kids were about as prepared as they could be for the situation.

It didn’t surprise our children that we refused to lie to Suzy and her family by affirming something that is not in line with reality and by affirming what is bad for them. It was consistent with what we had been teaching them. For years we have told them in various situations, “It would not be loving for us as your parents to overlook your sinful behavior,” so the way we approached this situation with Suzy was consistent to them with how we’d behaved in the past.

4. This situation has led to continued good conversations with our children. We’ve talked about it openly. When one of my children shared, “I miss playing with Suzy,” that led to additional good conversations to work through those feelings and to talk about how it’s okay to feel sadness about the ungodly choices other people make. This has given them an early taste that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Suzy’s family is rejecting God and thus rejecting anyone who stands with him. I pray that this situation is preparing our children to stand courageously and have a backbone in a world that is growing increasingly hostile to Jesus and to anyone who stands on truth.

5. This situation reminds us to be compassionate. One of our children said something like this to us: “When kids at school make jokes about transgenderism, I’m afraid I’ll be angry and that I’ll cry because I’ll be thinking about Suzy.” Our child explained that some classmates mock transgenderism or those who transition—in a junior-high boy way. There is a time and place for mockery (reference Elijah mocking the prophets of Baal and Jesus confronting the Pharisees), but we should be wary of painting people into caricatures and then mocking them without realizing that these are real people who are in danger of eternal hell. My wife and I pray that this situation with Suzy leads our children to have a more compassionate heart for the lost while maintaining an unwillingness to compromise on truth.

6. When people reject God, they will accept anything. I recently read Orwell’s 1984 for the first time. It was startling how high a correlation there is to our current world, even when written almost 75 years ago. One of the great quotes from that book is “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” The way it plays out in the book is the antagonist making the protagonist believe 2 + 2 doesn’t always equal 4.

A while ago when one of my children was just three years old, we were at a store that was altering some clothes for me. The male attendant who was helping me was in the process of transitioning, and it was not subtle. For the duration of our time in the store, my three-year-old was staring at him with a funny look, and I was wondering what was going on in my toddler’s mind. When we got outside, my child started giggling and said, “Daddy, that boy was pretending to be a girl!” In that moment my toddler had more wisdom than a current sitting Supreme Court Justice who can’t define what a woman is. My child was right, and it was clear as night and day. But if we said that now we’d be told we are being intolerant or noninclusive. “Out of the mouth of babes and infants” (Psalm 8:2).

This is the world we live in now. It isn’t necessarily a political party like in 1984, but the spirit of this age is seeking to attack every natural order created by God—marriage, family, sexuality, etc.—and this is just the newest extension of that in the current cultural moment. You may not be looking for a fight, but this fight is likely coming whether you want it or not. It is best to be prepared ahead of time.

Andy: Do you have any further reflections on the situation?

Jonathan: Two more thoughts:

1. We’re sad for Suzy and her family. They are blind. They are following the course of the world, the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and doing it to their own destruction. I pray for them often. Their only hope is for God to change their hearts, and that will take the miracle of regeneration (which is the same for any of us).

2. This situation is a foretaste of what is likely to come. Our culture is increasingly considering faithful Christians to be backward, regressive, repressive, and hateful. I don’t see it getting better in the near future—only worse. And that makes me pray for my children—that they will have the courage and backbone to stand in the days to come. It also makes me pray more for my pastors—that they wouldn’t bow the knee (1 Kings 19:18) or compromise when things get uncomfortable. The temptation is always there to love the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God (John 12:42–43) and therefore keep silent about the truth or to preach what itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). If our pastors won’t stand for truth—and if we won’t stand with them when they do—then we don’t have much hope as the church in America.

Andy: Thanks, brother, for sharing your experience and reflecting on it. By doing this, I think you are serving fellow Christians in at least two ways: (1) Your story helps to raise awareness that these issues may hit close to home sooner than we may think. So we should be ready. (2) Your story helps us prepare to respond to challenging situations in a way that pleases the Lord and that genuinely loves our neighbors. I pray that your neighbors who are currently shunning you will soon recognize that your actions are genuinely loving because you have their best interest in mind under the supremacy of King Jesus.

For the readers, here are some helpful resources on transgenderism:

  1. Riccardi, Mike. Male and Female He Created Them: Part 1 and Part 2. Grace Community Church, April 23 and 30, 2023. This is sound teaching on the transgender delusion. Riccardi explains five truths about gender: (1) granted by our Creator, (2) grounded in biology, (3) a gift of God’s loving care, (4) the goodness of the body, and (5) the glory of our distinctiveness.
  2. Butterfield, Rosaria. Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2023. Butterfield, a former lesbian activist, shows why LGBTQ+ ideology is incompatible with Christianity. She gives wise and practical advice about how to love family and friends who are captured by this ideology. See also Rosaria Butterfield, “Why I No Longer Use Transgender Pronouns—and Why You Shouldn’t, Either,” Reformation21, 3 April 2023.
  3. Walker, Andrew T. God and the Transgender Debate: What Does the Bible Actually Say about Gender Identity. 2nd ed. Washington, D.C.: The Good Book, 2022. This helpful overview is by the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and a professor of Christian ethics and public theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. See also Andrew T. Walker, “Christians Volunteering Pronouns? Capitulation to Falsehood Is Not Christian Kindness,” American Reformer, 19 August 2022.
  4. Burk, Denny, David Closson, and Colin Smothers. Male and Female He Created Them: A Study on Gender and Sexuality. Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2023. This 125-page book is an eight-week study for small groups.

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