Recently, a Loudon County, Va PE teacher, Tanner Cross, made headlines after he publicly refused to abide by the district’s preferred pronoun rules (teachers must refer to students using the students’ preferred pronouns). Cross’s stance, declared publicly at a school board meeting, drew sharp criticism, as well as a swift suspension from the district, a suspension that was overruled by a court judge.
You can see his speech here. Many of the negative responses had a similar flavor to them: *That’s bullying. *He is perpetrating violence on a vulnerable population. *He is erasing transgender students’ existence. *He is bringing great harm on students. *He is using his religious beliefs as a cloak for his hatred. Etc, etc, etc. Responses like this are all too predictable for those who refuse to cross the line and join with the spirit of the moment. If you don’t go along to get along, you will most likely draw the same response. It can raise your blood pressure and make you question your convictions: “am I doing the right thing? I don’t want to harm anyone. I don’t want to be a bully. I want to be compassionate. Maybe I should retract and ‘give them the respect they deserve.’” Though gender and transgender people's lives are no game and trifling matter, those who adopt transgender ideology and come after you for dissenting often make it one. What’s going on here is a rhetorical ploy. They will not address the substance of your convictions and viewpoint. Instead, they will attack your character and try to destroy your credibility, to intimidate you and make it so no one listens to you. In their mind, if they can poison the well, they won’t have to address your actual viewpoint and take it seriously. Even though their response is not strictly pre-emptive in the case above, the effect is the same moving forward. Anti-bullying often becomes simple anti-disagreement. The strategy is just to slap a pejorative label on you--a label with a lot of emotional baggage--to shame you.
I want you to see how the game is played, and be ready for it. If you see what they are doing, it becomes much less intimidating. Maybe others will still fall for it, but you don’t have to. Don’t be swayed by what I call high school lunch room social shaming. Social shaming doesn’t make you wrong. It doesn’t make you a bully. It just makes you unpopular, which puts you in good company.
Not using someone’s preferred pronouns isn’t tantamount to hatred. It simply means that you have a different view of gender, a view that is contrary to the zeitgeist. You reject the notion that gender is declared via self-identification. You reject the notion that identifying as a man or woman makes you one. You reject the notion that biology is irrelevant to identity, and you reject the notion that you must twist your language to accommodate someone else’s perception. Just because someone perceives themselves to be a man or woman doesn’t make that person a man or woman. Self-perception is not automatically reality. That has been common sense bedrock for all of human history up until just a few years ago. You do not need to jettison it for social approval, and believing it over the current orthodoxy doesn’t make you a bigot, hater, or bully. Believing current orthodoxy over common sense doesn’t make you compassionate, rational, kind, loving, or any of the other labels that tend to come along with jumping on the bandwagon. Rejecting the prevailing narrative on gender is not a rejection of respect for those whose self-identification is at odds with their biology. Recall the children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Don’t be afraid to be that kid.