by Joseph Backholm
May 21, 2021
Demi Lovato has “come out” as non-binary. While this news caused some to wonder who Demi Lovato is, others wondered what “non-binary” is. Being non-binary seems to mean that someone does not feel entirely masculine or feminine so they choose to be neither male or female but leave room to act like either if they feel like it—non-binary.
If we are trying to be charitable, and we should, the kernel of truth in all this confusion is that there is not one way to be male or female. A man who enjoys cooking is not less of a man nor is a woman who enjoys football and working on cars less of a woman. While stereotypes exist for a reason, there is—and should be—room for each person to be an individual.
Still, the coverage of Lovato’s announcement is just as significant as the announcement itself because her announcement included her new pronouns which she declared to be they/them. What does that mean? It means that she is no longer a “she.” She is a “they,” which, obviously, makes no sense unless we are dealing with a personality disorder. But CNN, in their article announcing the big news, illustrates how it’s supposed to work: “Singer Demi Lovato has revealed they are nonbinary and are changing their pronouns, telling fans they are ‘proud’ to make the change after ‘a lot of self-reflective work.’”
We now are to refer to a singular person with words that have long implied more than one person. To do otherwise is to “misgender” them, an act which has become the gravest of sins among those who otherwise deny the existence of sin.
This is why I don’t intend to comply.
In my mind, preferred pronoun usage is not a matter of politeness or courtesy. It is more than honoring the wishes of Mr. Jones who says “Please, call me Steve.” It is even more significant than honoring Steve’s wishes when he changes his name to Dave—or even Darlene.
Pronouns contain a statement of belief about the nature of reality. Preferred pronouns are a declaration that there is no authority above me—or you—that has determined my identity. I am the captain of my own soul, the master of my own fate, and the only person to whom I am responsible. My body, my choice.
This is not a scientific claim, this is a philosophical and religious claim. Those of us who disagree don’t only disagree with the idea that a man can become a woman. More fundamentally, we disagree that we determine our own reality.
How would you feel if you were asked to say “Jesus is Lord” every time you saw someone? If you don’t believe Jesus is Lord, you might even be offended by the request. That’s how some of us feel.
It isn’t just that I don’t believe a man can become a woman, I also don’t believe that decision is within a person’s jurisdiction to determine. You might as well tell me you decided the sun revolves around the earth. I can appreciate your perspective, and I promise to treat you with respect, but my kid is not going to modify their science project just because you’re triggered every time you see a model of the solar system with a big orange ball in the middle.
If you don’t agree with the way I see the world, persuade me I’m wrong, but until we come to agreement, our default position should be mutual respect, not coercion.
Ironically, the pressure to make people say things they don’t believe is coming from the “live your truth” crowd. However, it seems I’m only supposed to “live my truth” if my understanding of the truth is consistent with theirs. Maybe the real goal has always been power, not truth.
If you’re still not persuaded and you still think I should use preferred pronouns as a matter of courtesy, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll refer to Demi Lovato as “they” as long as you say “Jesus is Lord” every time you see me. After all, it will make me happy and I really think it’s true. It’s the polite thing to do.