Why say “no” to transgender pronouns: Concerning St. Olaf College’s religion professor, PJ Johnston

Dr. PJ Johnston, a religion professor at St. Olaf College, has written to request that we correct a March 2018 post we wrote about her and what her hiring says about St. Olaf College.

We apologize for getting her name wrong: She is PJ not PT, as was posted on the St. Olaf faculty webpage at the time. PJ, who identifies as transgender, also asked us also to use male pronouns for her.

We respectfully decline her request. While there may be personal situations in which such a request might be honored, there are good reasons not to comply. After all, she is asking us to deny science and interject lies into our language.

Biology matters. Females are persons with XX chromosomes in every cell of their bodies. PJ Johnston is such a person. We are sorry for those who suffer from gender dysphoria. Such suffering is real. Yet compassion does not mean that the right response is to affirm their disconnection from their bodies. Having compassion for those suffering from anorexia does not mean affirming their belief that they are obese. As Daniel Moody writes in “Why you shouldn’t use transgender pronouns”:

“G.K. Chesterton wrote, ‘The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.’ This is surely the right perspective to have in the war between sex and gender. It is not about being abrasive or meddlesome, but we do need to get off the back foot so the ground is not constantly shifting beneath us. We need to put down some strong verbal roots in the fertile soil of reality, and that means sticking with real pronouns.

We are not in control of whether somebody will pour hatred in our direction, but we can tend to those things that are within our control. We can look inside ourselves, examine our conscience, and know that our motivation is healthy. Check your heart, not your “privilege.” Be confident, hold the line, and respect the pronouns. Respect language. Respect sexual difference. After all, who would John be without the difference between his father and his mother? He would be…nobody.

Is it disrespectful to refuse to call John a she? Not at all. Are we doing something wrong when we gently inform him that regarding pronouns his body beat his mind to the punch? No. Also, is it hurtful or hateful to conserve the relationship between words and people? Nope.

As an anchor to communication, the body works. Sex works. The mind does not. If we refer to people via their sex, as we should, there is no possibility of ever “mis-gendering” or “mis-pronouning” somebody.”

While we are free to decline PJ Johnston’s request, we recognize the enormous pressure on St. Olaf students to conform to such requests and to the progressive sensibilities of its largely left-wing faculty. As a recent St. Olaf graduate, Kathryn Hinderacker, has written:

“As I reflect on my four years in college, I admit I am disappointed in many ways. The lack of diversity of thought, the absence of respect for differing opinions, the threats, the bullying–it was all so juvenile and the antithesis of everything higher education is supposed to be.

Several professors stood apart from the madness and worked to provide an education, not indoctrination, but I will spare naming them here so as to protect their on-campus reputations. Meanwhile, administrators who wanted to please everyone often lacked conviction in defending marginalized voices, like conservative ones, and often made college life difficult. I can’t help but feel sad at the potential such a school would have, were it to focus on actual “diversity” and “inclusion” of all kinds.”

What about it, St. Olaf? Why not host forums which include critics of transgender ideology who can address the harmful consequences of conforming to demands for transgender pronouns? Perhaps this is too scary a proposition for St. Olaf to consider.