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Welcome to the Technicolor Ministries guide on understanding and respecting pronouns within communities of faith! We realize that if you’re reading this page, you’re likely unfamiliar or uncomfortable with pronoun use in faith spaces or are a member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, wondering what it is that Technicolor Ministries has to say about it. In either case, welcome and we invite you to take a couple of deep breaths before we get going. We know that this topic is being used as a political tool across the globe and has real life consequences for real life people which can make this an emotional topic to explore. As you read, check-in with yourself: Is my heartrate elevated? Is my body posture doing weird things? Am I breathing? If you find your body is doing something other than being relaxed, take a second and reset. Impromptu dance parties are highly encouraged!

Alright, one more deep breath.

Let’s begin.

You may or may not know that everything we do in communities of faith communicates something. Sometimes we communicate big things, like what God does or doesn’t like, love, or accept. Sometimes we communicate small things, like that some people might be more or less welcome in our space, or that our space prioritizes a certain type of person.

Acknowledging and respecting pronoun use can be both a big and small thing. If we fail to acknowledge altogether that different people use different pronouns and that we probably don’t actually know what those pronouns are by looking at them, we can communicate a big thing – that God might not love or accept people for whom pronouns are important. We also communicate a small and more clear thing – that the community doesn’t accept or won’t accommodate people for whom pronouns are important.

 It’s been our experience that pretty much every community of faith wants people to feel welcome there. So, let’s learn some more and see how to avoid making these big and small statements in a negative sense, and instead make big and small positive statements that make people feel welcome, seen, and loved.

What are Pronouns?

Merriam-Webster defines pronouns in this way:

pro·​noun ˈprō-ˌnau̇n

1. plural pronouns: any of a small set of words (such as I, she, he, you, it, we, or they) in a language that are used as substitutes for nouns or noun phrases and whose referents are named or understood in the context

2. pronouns plural : the third person personal pronouns (such as he/him, she/her, and they/them) that a person goes by

                      What are your pronouns?

                     "I'm Jo, my pronouns are she/her." "I'm Jade, my pronouns are they/them."

                     … many people with nonbinary genders use "they" and "their" pronouns, although                                    language and gender expression vary widely.

                                                               —Lucy Brisbane

At their most basic, pronouns are a tool that we use in language every single day and have for as long as there has been language. They are a simple way of referring to someone who’s already been identified without using their name. In recent history and in the English language, most of our pronouns have been gendered – meaning that the pronoun you use aligns with the gender that you assume that person holds. Historically, we’ve also assumed that gender and sex designated at birth are the same thing, meaning that if you look at someone and they look male, you would typically use “he” or “him” for pronouns when speaking about that person. This is something that we are coming to realize we may have been wrong about and so the language and the way we determine someone’s pronouns are changing.

First, we now know that sex designated at birth and gender are two different things. Sex is biological while gender relates to your internal mental sense of self. We now also know that gender expression – the way that we display the gender we know ourselves to be – can be complex and difficult to assume accurately.

Second, we also now know that it can be very painful to be referred to in the wrong way, especially repeatedly. Imagine a person who is designated male at birth and knows themselves to be a man, but maybe he has a higher voice than average. Every time he talks on the phone, someone on the other line calls him, “Ma’am.”  The same goes for women with short hair or deeper voices being consistently called “sir.” This is something that can be laughed off a time or two, but that over time can become very painful and can make a person question their sense of self or feel that their sense of self is being denied by others. This is something that can happen to anyone who might be different than expected, not just transgender people.

Putting those two together, if we know that it is difficult to assume a person’s gender and pronouns based on the way they look, and we know that getting those things wrong can be very painful for them, we come to a place where we realize that making the assumption of what gendered term to use for someone is dangerous and potentially harmful to the other person,  the relationship we might have with them, and the way people see us. This is why we (societally) are shifting to not assuming people’s pronouns, but simply asking them what pronouns that they use and then using those pronouns to refer to them. This can feel uncomfortable or awkward at first, but it gets easier, and you can find tips in the sections below. Remember, it’s no different than asking someone if they have a nickname that they’d rather go by!

Why Pronouns Matter in Faith Spaces

As stated previously, in faith spaces, we can make big and small

statements about God, our communities, and about ourselves.

Making Big Statements

The mandate to love and respect others, regardless of differences (or

particularly focusing on the marginalized) is written all over biblical Scripture.

A few examples:

  1. The Greatest Commandment: Matthew 22:37-39, where Jesus tells us that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves.

  2. The Parable of the Good Samaritan: Luke 10:25-37, where Jesus illustrates the concept of loving one’s neighbor, even those with whom you have major cultural or religious differences. Everyone is our neighbor, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexuality, social status, etc.

  3. The Gold Rule: Matthew 7:12, Jesus says that we are to do to others what we would have them do to us, reminding us to treat others with the same kindness and respect that we desire for ourselves.

  4. The Example of Jesus: Throughout his ministry, Jesus demonstrated love, acceptance, and kindness for people who were marginalized and outcasts, welcoming all who sought him and sought God with open arms.

  5. Paul’s Teachings: The Apostle Paul emphasizes unity and love in Christian communities in Galatians 3:28 where he casts off divisions, uniting people as “One in Christ Jesus.”

It may seem trivial that using the right words to refer to someone could have a huge impact on the way that they relate to God, but it’s been shown to be true repeatedly. Our words are big when they are offered with the authority of the church. If we know that using the wrong words hurts people, but we know that using the right words makes people feel loved, seen, and cared for, it seems that biblical mandate would, repeatedly, guide us to use the right words for people whenever possible.

When we use the right words for people we make a big statement in a positive way, saying “God sees you, God knows you as you know yourself.” Using the right words and implying these big statements when we do can bring a person closer in their relationship with God, can help to heal some of the trauma they may have previously experienced, and helps us to act in line with the teachings of Jesus.

We also make small but impactful statements when we use the right words for people, saying “We want to know you, the real you. We respect you. You matter and we care to be kind to you.” Implying these small statements when we use the right words can help to build a solid community foundation, one where everyone is respected and treated well. It can even help to heal old wounds in communities where people haven’t been equally respected. These small statements can help someone feel at home in your community.

We often overlook that worship and discipleship are just a lot more exhausting to do when you don’t feel safe or included. Making positive statements through the respect of peoples’ chosen words can go a long way in helping everyone have an easier path to discipleship, and an easier time worshipping. Even more important than that, we often overlook that God doesn’t only look like us. God looks like all sorts of people and the more that we make space for diverse people to be comfortable in our communities, the more that we invite God – all of God – into that space with us.

Image by Pawel Czerwinski

Understanding Gender Identity

As briefly mentioned earlier, sex designated at birth or biological sex, gender, and gender expression are three very different things and no one of them will consistently indicate what the other might be.

Sex is biological. You’re born, a doctor looks at your genitals and says “It’s a _______!” Sometimes they say “boy,” sometimes “girl,” and – at about the rate that there are redheads in the US population – sometimes the doctor will say “intersex.” Sex designations are actually even a lot more complicated than this. Some people have genitals that look exactly as you’d expect, but hormone conditions that make them intersex. Some intersex conditions don’t show up for decades. And chromosomes? The things that we like to think are the definite truth? They’re also really complex. This is a deep dive for another day, but know that sex designations are not simple, and not easy to accurately make without a battery of tests.

Gender is mental and relative to society. Because gender is something that people made up, (that’s right, God didn’t make gender!) it’s something that only really has meaning in human society. What does it mean to be male or female where you are? Considering those gender expectations can create a mental understanding of your own gender – the internal sense you have about whether you align more or totally with masculinity/maleness or femininity/femaleness or somewhere in between or off the scales (nonbinary/agender). Some people know themselves to be male or female, other people know they aren’t specifically either of those things and might describe themselves with words like “nonbinary,” or “agender.”

Gender expression is outward and relational. Gender expression is often made up of things like clothes, haircuts, body and facial hair styles, accessories, piercings, tattoos, etc. When we choose the way that we express ourselves, we often do this in conversation with societal norms. If I feel more masculine today and I want the world to perceive me as masculine, I might wear something more masculine. This is a simple conversation, but it can be more complicated. If I know myself to be masculine, but I would like to wear something considered feminine, my gender expression might be perceived differently because of societal norms. I then have to consider whether I’m comfortable with that potential confusion or not. These conversations have historically centered around things like women wearing pants, men painting their nails or wearing skirts and dresses, women having short hair, etc. More recently, we have seen an increase in conversation around nonbinary people whose expressions might blend masculinity and femininity. Ultimately, people can express themselves however they want. Women don’t have to be feminine. Men don’t have to be masculine. Nonbinary and agender people don’t have to be androgynous. This reality, and the recent increase in living that reality, is part of what makes it really hard to look at someone and just know who they are on the inside. This has always been the case; people just feel freer to be themselves lately.

 And there’s no reason that any one group – whether a particular sex, gender, or gender expression – should receive any sort of preferential treatment in society, especially when it comes to pronouns. There is no reason not to refer to any one group respectfully when you’re being very respectful of the others.

Respecting Pronouns: Practical Tips

Asking for Someone’s Pronouns

This is way easier than it seems! The best opportunity to get someone’s pronouns is when you’re first meeting them. You can do this one of two ways – the second being useful in any scenario.

The first way is to offer your name and pronouns first,

                     “Hi, my name is _______ and my pronouns are ______. What are yours?”

                      Alternatively, “my name is ______ and I use _______ pronouns. What about you?”

If you don’t get the chance to ask for someone’s pronouns right away, you already know the person but aren’t certain of their pronouns, or you think that someone’s pronouns might have changed or they might want to use different ones in a particular time and place you can say, “What pronouns do you use?” or, if you think that those pronouns might be specific to a situation, “What pronouns would you like to use here/today?”

It may seem strange that people might use different pronouns in different spaces. Because of how highly charged conversations about pronouns are, and because not everyone has or will “come out” in every space, they might use one set of pronouns more commonly and another set in specific situations or places.

Practical Applications in Faith Communities

Name Tags – an easy way to signal that you are comfortable with people who use different pronouns and that you’d like to alleviate the awkwardness of asking those pronouns, you can make sure that every member of your community has a name tag that also states their pronoun. These nametags can be disposable or reusable and there should be a smooth way to change them should someone want to change their name or pronouns.

 Addressing the Community – Many communities of faith default to saying things like “my brothers and sisters in Christ,” or “ladies and gentlemen.” These are statements that explicitly exclude nonbinary, agender, and other people who don’t find themselves in the binary gender system. You might try things like “siblings in Christ,” “friends and neighbors,” or there are a variety of other very funny but respectful options, particularly as alternatives to “ladies and gentlemen.”

It's also important to remember that not everyone in your congregation is going to fit under gendered terms like “moms and dads,” and that something like “parents” is both shorter and more likely to be accurate.

Ministry Groups – There is nothing wrong with having men’s and women’s ministry groups. However, having only those sorts of groups available, and not having some sort of offering for people that might not identify themselves that way can feel hurtful. There are several ways to solve this problem. You can have a group for nonbinary/agender/etc. people. You can phrase the groups differently to make them more inclusive, i.e. a Femmes & Thems Group rather than a Women’s Group. Or you can do away with gendered groups altogether, asking yourself the critical question about why they existed in the first place, and consider what you might do instead.

Music – It’s advisable to avoid or edit hymns that are written with very binary lyrics. “I Went Down to the River to Pray,” comes to mind as it leaves nonbinary people with only a place among the “sinners.” It’s also worth looking at – when splitting vocal parts – if you want to label things as “high voices” and “low voices” rather than “women” and “men” which would also help your women who are tenors and any countertenors that might be interested in singing soprano or alto.

What to Do When You Make a Mistake

This is the hard part, and only because I’m sure you’re a good and wonderful person who cares to do these things right and to make people feel loved and included. You have to swallow your feelings when you mess up, and you will mess up. You might have a lot of emotions about it, and feel like a terrible person, etc. You are not a terrible person and this is not a major deal. This is the equivalent of being told that your zipper is down and I would highly, highly recommend not making a huge spectacle of either having your zipper down or getting someone’s pronouns wrong.

  1. Take a deep breath

  2. Thank them for reminding you

  3. Try your best to get it right next time

There are some instances where you might get someone’s pronoun wrong with some regularity. You can let that person know that you’re genuinely trying; however, they’re unlikely to really understand that unless you’re at least sometimes getting it right. And, if you’re friendly with one another, they likely already know that you’re a delightful person who would try to be kind and respectful to them.

There are times when someone might be very emotional if you make a mistake with pronouns (we call this misgendering). The same rules apply. Those who are very emotional are likely people who have been hurt a lot by others before regarding their pronouns, or they may be people who have difficulty expressing painful emotions. Their emotional response is – likely – not about you and not yours to worry about. Apologize briefly, “Oh, I’m sorry,” thank them for the correction, and move about your day.

Addressing Concerns & Questions

What’s with all this political correctness these days?

I won’t deny that there is a political correctness culture out there, and it infects every side of the political spectrum. People feel like they must do, say, or believe certain things to be “PARTY” enough. Frankly, this just has nothing to do with that.

While the political left does seem to be the party where we see a lot of concerns about language and how it’s used, it’s also the party that is most likely to be exposed to and adopt new ways of thinking. This is because of A TON of factors that aren’t necessarily relevant to this conversation, but it does mean that when the left starts talking about this new language or way of thinking that they’ve been exposed to, the right is quick to dismiss it as a lefty political thing. Really, it’s just a new way of thinking and speaking that gets co-opted into a political narrative.

What’s really happening is that the world in its smallest interactions is shifting towards a culture of kindness. We deal with un-kindness all the time and it’s plain to see that the corporations we buy from, many of the places we work, and even our political parties don’t particularly care about any one of us as individuals. Whether that’s the way it should be or not, when we get down to a one-on-one conversation, it seems like things could be different, like maybe we could care for each other one-on-one, like maybe being kind to each other and speaking to and about one another with respect might be a high priority given the ways that it’s missing elsewhere in society.

So, no. This is not trying to make anyone liberal (except in its purest meaning – “free from restraint”), this is just working towards a culture of kindness and a world where we can lift each other up instead of knocking each other down.

What if I don’t believe it’s okay to be LGBTQIA2S+?

That’s okay. You can still hold your beliefs and treat people kindly and respectfully by using their correct name and pronouns without sacrificing your own personal beliefs. You can’t make other people believe the same way that you do just by being disrespectful to them, and really we have no business making other people believe exactly the way that any one of us does. What you can do is – in keeping with your own belief – treat everyone with the love and respect of Christ while you think whatever you want in the privacy of your own mind. It doesn’t mean you’re accepting their “lifestyle,” it just means you’re accepting their humanity. Jesus isn’t going to condemn you for being kind.

It makes me uncomfortable.

It’s new, and it’s weird, I know. It’s going to take some getting used to and you’re going to make mistakes as you learn this new thing. People who use different pronouns than others might expect to spend pretty much all of their public lives uncomfortable because of the way society looks at the use of pronouns. As we learn, our discomfort is temporary, we’ll get to grow out of it. The only way that the discomfort can be temporary for people who use different pronouns is if we do the work of learning so that there are more places where they can be comfortable. The trade-off of some temporary discomfort now while we learn so that we can lessen the discomfort of others later seems like a pretty good deal as far as doing God’s work in the world!

They/Them is grammatically incorrect.

I know that that’s what you were taught, and unfortunately, you were taught incorrectly. In fact, the singular use of they/them pronouns isn’t even a new thing. It first appears in known writing in the 13th century in “William and the Werewolf,” a romance poem by Guillaume de Palerme. It’s also something that we use all the time when we aren’t sure of a person’s gender or when we are intentionally not sharing it. For instance, “Someone must have left their jacket here,” or “I got a text from someone named Stacy, they seem to be nice.” In fact, the ease with which we use the singular they/them when we aren’t sure of someone’s gender is so innate that we really don’t notice it. The trouble comes when we think we know someone’s gender and then we assign that gender to our speech about that person, sometimes incorrectly. The singular they/them is perfectly grammatically correct to use and is actually the best option currently available if you don’t already know what someone’s pronouns are.

I just don’t understand all of this.

That’s okay! The most beautiful part of it all is that you don’t have to understand it, you don’t even have to like it! The only ask here is that you be kind about it. Sometimes kind looks like having no negativity, but in this case, being kind can also look like saying “I’m going to try, and I need you to know that I don’t understand all this.” Or “I’m going to work to get this right, but I want you to know it makes me uncomfortable.” Sharing your feelings about it is perfectly reasonable, especially when you’re also making an effort to do the thing anyway.

If you’d like to understand, you’ll find more resources in the next section.

Image by Daniel Chicchon


The long and short of it is, pronouns are an important part of recognizing the humanity of others, especially when those pronouns might differ from the norm. We may or may not be on board with this, but there is strong scriptural support for supporting, respecting, and being kind to people that we disagree with and any who are marginalized. This is a practice that does not just aid transgender people but also makes it easier for any people that defy conventional expectations of appearance, voice, dress, etc.

Respecting peoples’ pronouns leads us to kinder communities that are based on mutual respect and that make everyone feel like they’re welcomed not just in your community, but by the God who made them fearfully and wonderfully just the way they are.

As people tell us who they are, they reveal a piece of God within themselves, and it’s our responsibility to see that image of God and be kind to it, even and especially when we don’t understand. This new understanding of gender and sexuality can be startling and difficult, but we strongly encourage you to continue to explore and to work towards understanding. There are tons of resources available and we at Technicolor Ministries are always willing to answer questions about how these things work with the most up to date information we have.


We make space for personal pronoun declaration in communities of faith so that all people have the opportunity to be respected as their whole and complete selves.

Common Pronouns Chart

                                              Subject        Object        Possessive     Reflexive


Male/Masculine                  he                 him                   his                 himself

Female/Feminine             she                her                   hers              herself

    Gender Neutral                  they              them               theirs           themself

Gender Neutral                  ze                  hir                     hirs                hirself

That jacket is his. He went to get it himself. We should get it to him.

That jacket is hers. She went to get it herself. We should get it to her.

That jacket is theirs. They went to get it themself. We should get it to them.

That jacket is hirs. Ze went to get it hirself. We should get it to hir.

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