I used to use my middle-school students’ preferred pronouns.
It seemed polite.
The largest teachers union in the nation encourages it.
What harm could it do?
I recall only a few years ago, a student informed me she had switched genders.
Reading roll call that day, I had to decide.
Do I call her by a new name, refer to her as “him” and begin a charade, pretending she’s a boy?
I used her new name.
What harm could it do?
I can no longer abide by such a lie.
I have had students with anorexia who despite their gaunt frame believed they were fat.
I had one student who heard voices and wrote letters to “imaginary friends” who instructed her to hurt herself.
Would it be caring, loving or humanitarian to indulge such delusions?
No, it would only facilitate a deterioration of mental well-being.
It’s cruelty masquerading as kindness.
It is cruel to encourage gender transition without question — a process with permanent consequences ranging from infertility to bodily mutilation — when 80% of children with gender dysphoria grow out of it.
It is cruel — after Title IX mainstreamed girls’ sports and normalized fathers attending their daughters’ games with the same concern as they did their sons’ — to allow men dressed as women to dominate these sports.
It is cruel to shirk the responsibility we have as the adults in a child’s life to help kids learn what it means to be a strong man or woman — embracing and thriving in their masculinity and femininity — rather than leaving them listless in some identity choose-your-own-adventure.
It is cruel to offer anxious, depressed and distraught teenagers the prospects of transition as an easy solution — a metaphorical pill with permanent side effects — when they really need far more holistic care.
Perhaps these tradeoffs would be worthwhile if there were any evidence gender-affirming care has positive effects.
There’s a common phrase: “It’s better to have a living son than a dead daughter.”
Almost a threat to parents, it suggests adults can either affirm their child’s chosen identity or risk an inevitable suicide.
But there is no evidence for this.
If anything, the facts suggest the opposite: Greater access to puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones increases the suicide rates of transgender youths.
A better framing might be that we’re pressuring ever more adolescents into experimental therapies with little data into their efficacy or tradeoffs.
Other countries are renouncing gender-affirming care.
Perhaps most controversially, Britain’s National Health Service closed the Tavistock gender-identity clinic, the country’s only such facility for children and young people, over its questionable model of care.
Notably, the clinic saw roughly 250 patients a decade ago but juggled 5,000 referrals in 2021.
Something as simple as using preferred pronouns in a classroom expedites this social contagion, like throwing dandelion seeds to the wind.
One former patient who brought a case against the clinic wishes doctors and therapists had challenged her more.
Any caring adult would question a teenager’s decision to tattoo the name of his first love across his forehead, but somehow, it’s compassionate to entertain every adolescent whim concerning his or her gender.
I’m sure I will be called a transphobe for writing this article.
There are many of us who even five years ago were comfortable with the idea that some men and women preferred to act and dress as the opposite gender.
But we will not sit idly by while our children are lied to, manipulated and told there is no difference between manhood and womanhood.
I used to use preferred pronouns, but I have changed my mind.
An eighth-grade student this year affirmatively declared during class, “Trans women are women.“
And I politely replied, “No, they are not.“
Would we not correct any other errors in student thinking?
Another conversation sparked by a similar comment was revealing.
Throughout, several students replied, “Just be yourself,” like a musician who only knows a single song.
Akin to the Christian call to “Love thy neighbor,” it is the central axiom to their lives.
No other considerations matter.
Personal expression is the highest good.
The next day, the administration brought me into the office to reprimand me for creating an unsafe environment.
That I questioned this dictum in a classroom conversation warranted a professional slap on the wrist.
I regularly lead controversial conversations on other topics related to literature in my classroom and often take a position with which I disagree to force my students to think.
But certain truths are above interrogation nowadays.
Another staff member was in tears for the hurt I had somehow caused.
And this at a Christian school.
Perhaps that best explains my newfound refusal.
Do our beliefs determine reality?
Do our emotions dictate right and wrong?
Does an internal desire give us license to impose our will upon the world to the point that we cut and mutilate our bodies to force fit it into our vision?
I will not lie to my students.
I will not foster this solipsistic worldview.
I will not participate in this charade.
I will not use preferred pronouns.
Daniel Buck, a teacher, is a senior visiting fellow at the Fordham Institute.
This story originally appeared on NYPost