my employee refuses to use her coworker’s correct pronouns

A reader writes:

I am a new manager at a medium sized public library. One of my employees came out as non-binary last summer and has started using a new name, “Alex,” and they/them pronouns. Their new name has been pretty easy for staff to pick up, but the pronouns have been challenging for all of us to varying degrees. I have another employee, “Jane,” who has become adamant that because she is Christian and her religion says there are only two genders, it is discriminatory for us to ask her to use they/them pronouns when referring to Alex. Library management has firmly taken the position that correct pronoun use is of vital importance to customer service and creating an inclusive workplace (and is not optional!) but it took us a while to get there and meanwhile our communications around this issue weren’t entirely clear.

There was an incident a few months ago when Jane cornered Alex and repeatedly demanded from them what “people of faith” are supposed to do because it’s against her religion to use they/them pronouns. During this conversation, Jane repeatedly misgendered Alex, refusing to be corrected to use they/them pronouns. Alex felt harassed, and several other staff members who witnessed the exchange reported concern for Alex’s well-being to management.

Jane was given a verbal warning by her previous supervisor about this behavior. I was coming on as her new supervisor and sat in on the meeting. During the meeting, when trying to explain the issue to Jane, I brought up the concept of intent vs. impact. Jane told me that “intent is reality” and that she felt like we were trying to brainwash her and that she is being discriminated against for being Christian. It was very clear from this conversation that we are living in different realities. Jane was upset by the implication that she hurt another person (because she’s “not a bad person”). We ended this conversation with the acknowledgement that everyone makes mistakes (that doesn’t make us “bad people” — just humans), we’re all learning, and we were hoping to see some improvement in Jane’s pronoun use, or at least an end to the misgendering.

The library has since had an all-staff training about gender identity which explained the differences between sex and gender and underscored the importance of respecting people of all genders, specifically transgender and non-binary people. In the training, the statistic was shared that other people using the correct pronouns can help to reduce depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts among transgender youth. We hoped that everyone would benefit from this training, but especially Jane.

Because of additional instances of misgendering, Jane has now been issued a written warning. I am at the point where I feel like I have given Jane ample opportunities to improve, and have shown her a lot of grace, trying to remember that everyone is on their own learning journey. I have also reached a wall in terms of the paradox of tolerance.

Is there anything you recommend for getting through to employees who just aren’t listening, or are so stuck in their own perspective they are unable to recognize others’ perspectives as valid? I want to address Jane’s behavior clearly and directly, but also demonstrate that I see her and respect where she is coming from. I recognize that I, too, am stuck in my own perspective to a certain degree, but I also have experience in recognizing and holding multiple people’s truths at once.

Jane’s truth is that she doesn’t respect her colleague’s identity, and she’s not willing to change her behavior to what the organization requires.

By all means, give people some grace and an opportunity to adjust to changes that may not be intuitive to them. But there’s a point where it stops being grace and starts being an acceptance of cruelty toward others. Jane may not see it as cruelty. But I assure you that Alex is experiencing it as cruelty, or worse. So are employees who are watching, some of whom may be concluding that it’s not safe for them at work either.

There are limits to what you should accept at work in the name of tolerance. If Jane told you her religion prevented her from being respectful to someone of another race or religion, I’m guessing you wouldn’t try to give her grace around that; you’d tell her treating colleagues respectfully was non-negotiable, and you’d fire her if she continued to refuse. In fact, the law would require you to do that. A religious accommodation can’t legally be “we will let you violate anti-discrimination laws.”

You sound very focused on wanting to get through to Jane and change her perspective. But it’s not really your role as an employer to change what’s in Jane’s heart. Your role is to clearly explain what behavior is required from her, and hold her accountable to that. She can believe whatever she wants, but she needs to treat everyone at work respectfully and follow your workplace policies.

You cannot give her endless grace, because it’s coming at Alex’s expense (and maybe the expense of others there too).

Your organization rightly decided that it’s committed to respecting people’s correct pronouns, and that it’s not optional. But right now, in practice, you’re letting it be optional for Jane. She either follows your employer’s policy and stops harassing Alex, or she needs to go.

Read an update to this letter here

{ 975 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, there are some comments below suggesting ways to enable Jane’s intolerance (she could use no pronouns for Alex at all, etc.). Please don’t do that — it’s still disrespectful, and there’s a good discussion of why below. Thank you.

      1. Hats Are Great*

        She’s absolutely doing it deliberately, and possibly is being goaded by her church leadership to do so — a lot of evangelical churches force these kinds of issues so they can file lawsuits, there’s a whole evangelical lawyer grift machine that runs off these kinds of manufactured conflicts.

      2. Norfolk 'n' Good*

        You could always ask her what Hungarians and Turks ‘of faith’ are supposed to do in that situation (neither language distinguishes between he/she, him, her. Nor does spoken Chinese, for that matter).
        …actually, she’d probably say you can’t be a proper Christian without learning English, now I think of it. I’ve certainly heard that from people who are adamant that the King James Version is the only true and infallibly correct version of God’s Word.

      3. Snark*

        Yeah, somehow I missed the verse in the bible that went “thou shalt not use gender-neutral pronouns.”

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      Agreed. She’s making the choice to act this way. She’s been warned, talked to, and trained. Her behavior persists. She does not belong on your team.

      1. Physics Tech*

        Honestly if I were at this job I’d be looking for a new one, several months and she’s still allowed to harass Alex? I have enough trouble being dead named by people trying to do their best, I can’t imagine the stress of working next to someone I know hates me and my ilk.

        1. Manon*

          > several months and she’s still allowed to harass Alex?

          Yeah it’s kind of crazy to me that Jane “cornering and repeatedly questioning” him didn’t result in more serious consequences, especially considering she had already been warned about her behavior. A written warning seems insufficient.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            Agreed. The cornering and questioning is where Jane lost her last microscopic shred of credibility. She could plausibly have been trying to live and let live and find a way to thread the needle of her religious beliefs and her workplace’s requirements. But that’s where she showed that she is doing no such thing.

            Sit her down and tell her that this is what this workplace requires, and if she can’t do it — which she evidently can’t — then you need to plan her exit.

          2. NerdyLibraryClerk*

            Yeah. That seems like it should’ve been the firing point. Jane is being prioritized over Alex to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t looking for another job at this point.

            1. Corrvin (they/them)*

              Maybe OP is hoping that Alex leaves for a better job and thus the problem “goes away”?

              Except, of course: Without Alex around, Jane can still be inappropriate to trans/NB library patrons (if she’s public-facing); and who’s to say that Alex’s replacement or other future hires might not also be trans or non-binary? Non-binary librarians are more common than you’d think!

              1. NerdyLibraryClerk*

                And people like Jane (and possibly the letter writer) are why they aren’t necessarily out at work.

    2. Lily*

      She absolutely knows what she’s doing. And whether or not Jane thinks she’s “a good person” is completely irrelevant.

      1. Zennish*

        This. Most people think they’re good people, fighting the good fight, and justify their behavior to themselves accordingly. Practically no one gets out of bed thinking “Let’s be evil today”.

      2. Tidewater 4-1009*

        Having grown up in a fundamentalist area, some of the most horrifying people think they’re good people because they’re doing what the church tells them – oppressing everyone who is not like them.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          And, when called out on it, they say they’re being persecuted for their faith. Just like Jane thinks she’s being right now. You cannot get anywhere with this kind of thinking. You cannot reason with that.

      3. Kristina*

        And how can anyone who takes their Christian faith seriously claim they’re a good person? We are all sinners and inclined to wickedness – or as my picture of a lovely golden retriever says: ”’Nobody is a good boy,’ Calvinist dog tells owner.”

        1. FrenchCusser*

          If your religion tells you it’s OK to be cruel to people, it’s a crummy religion and has no place in the workplace (unless you work for your church, but in that case it’s more or less contained).

          If you really think Jesus wants you refusing to use pronouns as requested, you have a WAY different Bible than any of the ones I have on my bookshelf.

          1. Theo*

            Your religion has no place in the workplace, period. I’m a UU, a deeply liberal religion, and it has ZERO place at work.

        2. schweinsty*

          I mean, to be fair, I’m a non-Calvinist Christian (and also a nonbinary person), I take my faith quite seriously but also strongly disagree with that, lol.

      4. No Sleep Till Hippo*

        Exactly! I like using the “standing on my foot” analogy that Captain Awkward shared years ago (original credit to Hershele Ostropoler, though I can’t seem to find the original article):

        “If you step on my foot, you need to get off my foot.
        If you step on my foot without meaning to, you need to get off my foot.
        If you step on my foot without realizing it, you need to get off my foot.
        If everyone in your culture steps on feet, your culture is horrible, and you need to get off my foot”

        If you step on my foot, but it’s only because your religion tells you that you HAVE TO step on feet in order to be considered a good person by others in that religion, I would recommend you re-examine your internal right/wrong compass as well as the effect your religion is having in the world… and also you need to get off my foot.

        It doesn’t matter whyyyyy Jane is misgendering Alex or what’s in her heart or head when she does – she needs to stop. She can believe whatever she wants to believe about what constitutes a “good person” (though I wonder if she’s considered the Golden Rule in that calculus), but that doesn’t entitle her to step on their foot.

    3. HigherEdAdminista*

      She definitely knows what she is doing. I have recently read some pieces from the ex-evangelical community where they discussed this very phenomenon. They said it was very common in their communities for people to specifically say that they were being discriminated against when they were told not to do harm. In private, amongst each other, they were open about the fact that this was a strategy so that they could continue to be allowed to do harm.

      The behavior you are describing fits exactly into this paradigm. She isn’t doing this because she is Christian; I am sure there are others working in the library who identify as Christian and are using pronouns correctly. She is using her religion to try to manipulate the situation. It has been explained; you have offered trainings. You have offered consequences. She hasn’t stopped and in fact, cornered this staff member to attack them. She knows what she is doing, even if she claims she doesn’t and it is past time for her to go.

      1. Zennish*

        For what it’s worth, I have met people who I honestly think actually believe this, which of course doesn’t change what needs to happen to protect Alex.

      2. BubbleTea*

        There are trans and non binary Christians, it isn’t incompatible with Christianity at all. She is just justifying hatred and ignorance.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          She is using “Christian” in its coded sense, meaning “White American Evangelical Protestant.” Nearly all WAEP’s do this. For the more, um, Christian, it is a verbal tic picked up from long usage, and if corrected will acknowledge that not all (or even most, even in the US) Christians are WAEPs. They will repeat this verbal tic, but in fairness, old habits die hard. For others, it is a deliberate and considered insult.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Ah. I was so confused because I was like ” Did the Bible specify how many genders there were?”

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              They would point to Adam and Eve, probably adding “not Adam and Steve” even though that isn’t really relevant to the discussion. I once heard an Evangelical sermon on divorce. This is a delicate topic in Evangelical circles. Divorce is about as common among Evangelicals as in general society, but was absolutely taboo not all that long ago. So the audience doubtless had its share of divorced and remarried people. The pastor managed to break the tension with the “Adam and Steve” line. It had nothing to do with the actual discussion, but everyone could laugh heartily at his wit.

              But back to non-binary people. The closely observant might notice that even taking Adam and Eve at face value, that doesn’t actually say anything more than that those two individuals were male and female. How can we generalize from them? How in particular, in the face of people’s lived experience? Few WAEPs get this far, but the answer for those who do is that Adam and Eve came first, which shows that they are normative. Anything else is a perversion of this original norm. For those, I enjoy pointing out that the earliest Christian church was communist. Don’t believe me? Acts 2:44. It is practically the dictionary definition. So surely any church (such as the one my interlocutor attends) that isn’t communist is a perversion. QED. (And yes, there are in fact truly communist churches. Look up the Hutterites.)

                1. Drtheliz*

                  I think you can make an interesting argument from Genesis 1 if you really want to – “let us make Adam in our own image and likeness, and[g-d] created Adam, male and female [g-d] created them”.

                  The fact that it uses Adam (derived from Adamah, “earth”) rather than, say, Ish (man) – and says “male and female” rather than “man and woman” – implies to me that humans each partake of maleness and femaleness but not always in simple ways. One can be perfectly balanced in between, or have all of both, or none of either, as well as the archetypical all of one and none of the other.

                  (I’m not alone, I’ve heard rumours that those wacky medieval Rabbis got as far as eight “genders”).

              1. Quilter33*

                I once got in big trouble in Sunday school class when I responded to a question about the early church by saying “I guess it means communism works if God’s on your side!”

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  Serious answer: It doesn’t work at all well, except under very narrowly constrained circumstances. Even the Hutterites don’t make it work all the time, and when things go bad they can go very very bad. And while I genuinely believe that the earliest Christian church was communist, I also believe that this lasted until about Thursday after Pentecost. Keep reading the immediately following sections of Acts and you find an account of how well it worked out.

                  Still entirely serious: What I take away from this is that communism is the ideal human condition. It is how we were meant to live. But we are fallen creatures. Ours cannot be the ideal human condition. We have to figure out how to live in the human condition we have. Private property is an accommodation to our total depravity. (I am Lutheran. “Total depravity” is code. Without getting down into the weeds, the “depravity” part means pretty much what you would expect, but the “total” part does not. See also the Lutheran doctrine that we are at once saints and sinners.)

                  I have little patience for the “communism is evil!” crowd. If they catch me in mood, I ask them to define communism for me. The number who can make even a start on it is vanishingly small. For these people, communism is a boogeyman to scare themselves with. I don’t believe in communism. By this I don’t mean it is evil. I mean it is impossible. The question is what accommodations must we make to construct a society for fallen humanity, and how do be best ameliorate the evils that arise from these accommodations.

              2. Rose*

                The Adam and Eve thing is so weird tj me, like they were also both adults, so do babies no exist??

                1. Pennyworth*

                  I sometimes wonder, if Eve was formed from Adam’s rib isn’t ”she”a clone and therefore would be the same sex as Adam?

              3. Smishy*

                Someone might want to point out to these evangelicals that technically Lilith came first and she does not appear to have been a fan of heterosexual marriage.

            2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

              According to one line of Jewish thought, Genesis can be read as saying that the first human was intersex, and then the taking of the “rib” was actually splitting that human into a male human and a female human. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg has a good thread about it here:

              Read up that thread for an overview of the six or seven genders recognized in rabbinic theology. There are lots and lots of ways to interpret the Bible, especially when presented with the indisputable existence of actual binary trans, nonbinary, and intersex people.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            This. I was originally converted to WAEP, by WAEP, and had maybe a couple years of exposure. I left, first for Orthodox Christianity (which I still dearly love), then left Christianity altogether. But my childhood friend stayed and remained an active WAEP, and I followed him on social media until last year. Jane’s position sounds very familiar, I promise she really does believe that she is in the middle of an apocalyptic battle of good and evil; that Alex is going to, well, heck; that she, too, will burn forever if she uses the correct pronouns. And every Sunday (at a minimum) she meets with a group of people who reinforce these beliefs in her.

            1. PeanutButter*

              Hello fellow traveler on the WAEP (Pentecostal in my case, so speaking in tongues, the whole bit) to Orthodox Christianity to leaving the church completely journey!

          3. MechE*

            WAEP. Love it.

            I’m an athiest now, but a former Christian. I get pretty upset seeing all the hatred of Christians, because so much of it should be aimed at certain denominations. The mainline reformed protestant churches are pretty liberal and socially active, all things considered. Not perfect by any means, but every group has issues. I was confirmed UCC, and we were pretty damn liberal. It kills me to see them grouped in the the Joel Osteens of the world.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              I am Lutheran, ELCA. The “E” stands for Evangelical, but that word has gotten kicked around a lot over the centuries. Our “Evangelical” means something entirely different from the WAEPs’ “E.” We are not as consistently lefty as the UCC, but we are close.

              Liberal Christians get it from both sides. I have more than once had some know-nothing WAEP explain to me that mine is an apostate church. From the other direction we get it from people who have internalized the claim that “Christian” means WAEP. Dude! What about WAEPs makes you believe that they are a reliable source of accurate information? If someone walks into our church and identifies himself as gay, we will delicately hint that if he has a partner, maybe they both can come next Sunday. Not so that we can reform them, but because those committees won’t fill themselves! And if he is called to the ministry, we will rejoice with him in his vocation. WAEPs? They account for about a third of American self-identified Christians. They make the most noise, but that just means they are noisy. They aren’t the Silent Majority. Quite the opposite, they are the Noisy Minority.

              1. MechE*

                It frustrates me because people think I’ll be anti-Christian because I’m an athiest. Hardly. I don’t care what people do, as long as it doesn’t hurt others. That lack of education on Christianity from those who criticize it frustrates me to no end. People who hate on tithing for “taking money from people who have no jobs”. Tithing is 10% of gross income. You can’t tithe if you don’t have income. Tithing doesn’t even have to be money, it is time, talent, or treasure. Folks who say someone isn’t a Christian. The qualification for being a Christian is believing Jesus Christ is your savior. Folks who try to say “How can you believe in the bible but not follow Leviticus?”. Well dodo, the question of whether Christians are bound by the Old Testament has been hotly debated by philosophers for centuries, but I’m glad we had a keyboard warrior to point out the error of our ways. I hate that the thing that people think of is prosperity theology or Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer. I hate that they think of people using Christianity as a weapon. I wish I could have them go to a UCC or Church of Disciples service.

                It is all pretty discouraging.

                1. Lizzo*

                  As someone who has experiences with a wide variety of non-Catholic Christian denominations (in order: Methodist > UCC > Presbyterian > ELCA), I greatly appreciate the perspective you’ve shared here!

                2. pancakes*

                  Maybe the problem there isn’t so much that non-Christians aren’t aware of various types of Christianity but the fact that the most popular types in the US are the harmful and prosperity-centric types.

              2. Poppin' in for This*

                I always appreciate your thoughtful comments, R.H. ELCA here and we are liberal as heckums!

                1. Richard Hershberger*

                  Thank you. The ELCA certainly is liberal on the higher levels. On the congregational level, it depends on the congregation. The tendency certainly runs to the liberal side, but you can find exceptions. More until a few years ago, when many of the remaining conservative congregations left over Teh Gay. This is somewhat remarkable, given that these congregations weren’t being asked to do anything they didn’t want to do, or to not do anything they did want to do. We don’t assign clergy to parishes, after all. But a conservative pastor might find himself in the same room as a gay pastor and be expected to remain polite. So perhaps they would be asked to do something they didn’t want to. Playing well with others is not a notable conservative trait.

              3. Littorally*

                Also a liberal Christian, and I’ve had the same experience of getting it from both sides. There’s a certain brand of person who, upon hearing I’m Christian, will immediately ask me why I belong to a homophobic and intolerant church. And the answer is, I don’t! And then a different brand of person who will tell me I’m a fake Christian because I don’t belong to a homophobic church.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  The Christian humanitarian movement exists, but it’s not as loud or politically involved as the Christian bigots are. That means the bigots are going to get much more noticed, and will be what most people think of when they think “Christian.”

                  There’s a way to deal with this: become even more vocal and active in humanitarian causes than the bigots are in theirs. It’s not easy, because you pretty much need to be a fanatic to keep up that level of energy on a long term basis… but it’s not really unreasonable for people to associate the title with the only adherents they regularly see speaking or acting under its banner.

              4. Emma*

                People do make assumptions, but also… people have to work on the information they have.

                I grew up in a church which was fairly lefty. Certainly they talked a lot about economic justice, which is a big topic for churches in my country, and they were involved in Make Poverty History (a big debt forgiveness campaign back in the early 2000s – the Edinburgh march was little me’s first demo) and similar things.

                They rarely talked about the more social side of justice, and never about queers.

                So when, at 15, I realised I was gay, I was kind of stuck. I didn’t know what my church thought about gay people. I didn’t know what my parents thought about gay people either, really; but I remembered a comment my mum had made once when I was 5 when there was a gay person on tv, and I remembered her saying that being trans was like saying god made a mistake, and god doesn’t make mistakes.

                That was all I had to go on, and I needed to know if I would still be welcome in my church and family if they knew about me, because at that point I wasn’t welcome anywhere else. By then the internet was a thing, so I went online to try and find out what churches think about gay people. You can imagine what I found! I didn’t come out to my family until I was 18 and I still don’t think most people at that church know I’m gay – even though it turns out that my entire little “generation” of church kids are queer in some way.

                Unfortunately the noisy minority are, well, noisy. If you’re involved with a large, welcoming congregation, you’ll know that they’re welcoming. If they’re small, you may not have seen them react to an LGBT+ congregant, and it’s risky to just ask. If you’re looking in from the outside, it’s hard to know where a church stands; and if you’re not looking and are just peripherally aware, then you’re very unlikely to have an accurate picture of the breadth of opinions and attitudes in churches.

              5. New Jack Karyn*

                “those committees won’t fill themselves!”

                LOL “Are you sure you can’t make it? We have coffee cake!”

              6. Anonny*

                I’m being snarky here, but being called an ‘apostate’ by a WAEP type sounds almost like a compliment.

        2. MechE*

          >it isn’t incompatible with Christianity at all

          Having faith in Jesus Christ and accepting him as your savior is the qualification for being a Christian. Everything else is just, unfortunately, a nice to have.

          1. Ev*

            Wish those folks would reread Matthew 25, tbh.

            /not Christian, just interested in comparative religion

            1. MechE*

              I think one could reasonably contend that the qualifications for being a Christian and the qualifications for entering Heaven are different.

              As for justification through faith alone vs. justification through faith and good works? Folks way, way, way smarter than me have debated that for centuries. Not going near that one.

              /no longer Christian, but once was

            2. pancakes*

              I’m generally not interested in comparative religion and really wish people would leave this stuff out of the workplace. The question here isn’t whether Jane is good at being Christian; it’s how should her manager should handle her behavioral problems.

              1. Lizzo*

                …and specifically behavioral problems that are actively causing harm to others, regardless of whether those behaviors are religious or secular in nature.

      3. Queer Earthling*

        I’m exvangelical and I was both encouraged to recognize “our” legal rights (eyeroll) and also taught that yes, omg, the world is continually discriminating against us and that the rise of secularism is a genuine threat we should acknowledge and fear, and we should stand up for Jesus against it. It was. Pretty gross.

        She knows exactly what she’s doing, and she thinks she’s right, and you should fire her because this is NOT going to get through to her; she does not want to improve.

        1. EmbracesTrees*

          I learned this recently as a response to those “Christians” who insist on the gender binary:

          Galatians 3:28

          28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

        2. BBA*

          I really feel that a not-small portion of Christians prefer to feel ‘connected’/’in relationship’ with Jesus by feeling persecuted-like-Jesus-was and turning this imagined persecution into an identity and a weapon rather than doing the work of loving their neighbor as they should.

          (And I know, I know… the Janes of the world would say they ARE loving Neighbor Alex as they should precisely *by* misgendering them and other cruelties. Which is both gross and sad.)

          1. PeanutButter*

            Growing up in a Pentecostal church, pretty much almost all of the stories, religious young adult fiction, etc emphasized that if we were ‘really living in a Christ-like way’ we would be persecuted. I seriously thought I must be doing something wrong because I was not being mocked or teased for my faith. Of course I was in a rural religious area where pretty much everyone else was some flavor of white protestant Christian, but the programming didn’t account for that.

            1. Queer Earthling*

              When I went to an evangelical university, I mentioned to one of my roommates that at my public high school, someone told me I was the only Christian they could stand to be around. My roommate lectured me on how I shouldn’t have been like that and I should have worked harder to be “set apart” as a beacon of Christ.

              I could honestly write a book on why I’m exvangelical if I could stand to think about it long enough.

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        A big part of the problem is that white evangelical power structures don’t make any distinction between persecution and the natural consequences of being mean and rude to other people. Jane here is crying persecution, but that’s not what she’s actually experiencing. She’s experiencing the natural consequences of treating people disrespectfully.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          White evangelical power structures intentionally try to control their followers and the world around them. Jane is doing as they’ve taught her, refusing to accept those they don’t approve of and oppressing them until they conform. The leaders do know what they’re doing. What they’re doing is trying to take control of everyone.
          Their goal is to take over America and make it a theocracy where they rule and have their way in everything. There’s a very good explanation of this in the book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, by Chris Hedges.
          As someone who grew up in a fundamentalist area I saw this firsthand. The book answered my questions and filled in the blanks.

        2. Pdweasel*

          It’s only persecution if it’s from the Persécution region of France. Otherwise it’s just sparkling consequences.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          She *needs* to be persecuted. Matt. 5:10-12: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

          She saw a vague hint of what may look like persecution in a right light, from the right angle, and jumped on it, because, by dog, Jane wants a great reward in heaven!

    4. TootsNYC*

      she’s also far beyond “not being comfortable with it”–she’s gone straight into attacking, so aggressively that OTHER people were worried about Alex.
      Fire her.

    5. meyer lemon*

      It is quite possible that she truly is living in her own reality in which she is the one being persecuted. People are very good at justifying their own cruelty. But the cruelty has to stop, regardless of Jane’s feelings about it. You don’t get to be cruel to others just because you’ve managed to contort logic enough that you feel fine about it, and the LW is currently falling into Jane’s warped perception as well.

      1. Observer*

        This is real issue. I think that there is too much discussion about Jane and how terrible she, whether she “knows” what she is doing etc.

        This is quite counter productive. The OP’s focus should be on behavior. They have already spent WAAAAY too much time thinking about “where she’s coming from”. And it DOES NOT MATTER. No matter WHERE she is “coming from”, THIS MUST STOP.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          Exactly. Regardless of your beliefs, there are professional standards at work and one of those is not misgendering people. If you were staunchly against drinking for personal and/or religious reasons, you would not choose to work in a bar. This is a requirement of OP’s workplace, and knowing that Jane is free to decide she no longer wants to work there, either by quitting or by misgendering Alex one (1) more time. This is way past the point of being acceptable and I would be surprised if Alex was not actively job hunting over this – hell, I would be job hunting if I saw that my coworkers were being treated with such blatant disrespect and encouraging Alex to look with me.

            1. Alexander Graham Yell*

              Completely! The awfulness will not necessarily be restricted to her co-workers, putting the team in an even worse position than they’re in now.

    6. JJ*

      Captain Awkward has some great supplemental insight on this in letter #1292…mainly that Jane likely feels discriminated against because you’re denying her perceived right to dominate others with her beliefs (lightly edited for brevity, ***emphasis mine***):

      “Of course, people have a right to believe whatever they like…That’s what respect would look like – you do yours, I do mine, if we privately think the other person is weird, so be it, but let’s be nice to each other and go in peace!

      But…conservative…people don’t see it that way, of course, especially the conservative Christian majority where I live in the United States. Many – #notall, of course…think that respecting their right to believe and worship as they please without harm (which I definitely do!) means that ***all their individual beliefs, no matter how harmful or bizarre or extreme, automatically accrue not only deference but power, including deference from the people who are being harmed, including power over nonbelievers.***”

    7. JSPA*

      As Alison points out, her intent is irrelevant. She’s allowed to be as magnanimous or as evil and as clueless or as intentional in her heart-of-hearts, as she may be.

      What she’s not allowed to do is to misgender her coworker.

      There are hundreds of occasions every day when a mode of address or respect for someone’s status does not align with our world view. Work life includes saying “respectfully, sir,” when you mean, “you’re an idiot, and your idea is hogwash.” Or, “thanks for the feedback” even when your internal script is, “Jeeeez, what a sh*t sandwich.” Or, at the funeral, “I know my father would have appreciated your kind words,” with the mental reservation, “even though they grate on my last nerve.”

      But it’s not “being required to hide my christianity at work,” to tell her that any such thoughts have to stay deep, deep inside her own brain, rather than gushing out her mouth.

      She 100% has this ability. If someone asks for a book in which there is sex outside of marriage, she doesn’t castigate them, presumably. If someone asks for a book on Islam or Wicca, she doesn’t get in their face about how she considers those false religions. If you were visited by a British Lord and Lady, she would not refuse to properly title Lord so-and-so on the basis of there being only one Lord, her g-d.

      This isn’t a religious issue. She has gotten too many chances already to follow the style sheet. She follows the style sheet, or she goes.

      1. Observer*

        If someone asks for a book in which there is sex outside of marriage, she doesn’t castigate them, presumably. If someone asks for a book on Islam or Wicca, she doesn’t get in their face about how she considers those false religions.

        Actually, OP, this is something you should be thinking about. If she REALLY cannot deal with calling Alex “they”, is she going to give people a hard time about situations like this?

        If you were visited by a British Lord and Lady, she would not refuse to properly title Lord so-and-so on the basis of there being only one Lord, her g-d.

        I’m pretty sure that we actually did have a letter about something like this – someone was being asked to not use THEIR NAME, which was King, because someone had a religious objection in this vein.

        1. JSPA*

          “Use language to resist acceptance of any but two genders” is unfortunately seeing a moment. My supposition is that Jane is in the (I feel like it’s probably ≥20%?) of US society doing this to some degree, currently; not in the much smaller percentage of people who do those other things…both on baseline likelihood, and because OP makes no mention of other issues.

          1. Roseclef*

            This is exactly why it’s so important that the consequences – which until now have been both too-slow to occur and too-lax when they have, as many have pointed out – must be both swift and appropriately harsh now. Too many people have chosen at this moment to assert their power to harm the various kinds of Alexes in their communities. It’s the responsibility of anyone who can to make the results of that choice clear and painful enough to make people think twice. That’s the only way to protect our own and each other’s Alexes, which I think it’s clear OP wants to do.

            (And yeah, Jane is probably hearing people speak from the other side in ways that sound a lot like this, only replace Alex with Jesus and consequences like firing with consequences like Hell. There’s a limited amount of words we have to use, it’s obvious we’d be using a lot of the same ones if we’re trying to accomplish the same kind of thing but in different directions).

      2. Yvette*

        This is true of any prejudice. Yes of course people are entitled to their opinions. I can think blondes can’t do math, that brunettes are stupid and people with green eyes are lazy. However the absolute second I let my thoughts affect my treatment of them, I am wrong and so is Jane.

    8. PolarVortex*


      Please, please please fire her.

      If you’re not firing her, she needs to be told one more mis-gendered situation or one more harassment of Alex will be her fire date. Bigots like to hide behind religion as protection, stop letting her be a Bigot. And stop letting her play this off as religious differences and start calling it bigotry to her face in meetings when you talk about this.

      This is not a religious thing. This is a hate thing. B-I-G-O-T-R-Y.

      You have been too nice. Replace gender here with race or sex, you wouldn’t be behaving the same if instead of a wrong gender, she kept talking to a black coworker about “you people” or “you africans”, or a female coworker as “women can’t do x” or “go get coffee”.

      Also give Alex a lot of apologies for having to deal with this and a gosh darn award because I would’ve gone off on this lady for her bible bullcrap – I was raised in it, I can point out all the things the bible says that she most definitely doesn’t follow.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        My response to that would be stating in every disciplinary note and or conversation it is clearly stated that she is being reprimanded for harassing her coworker. And the termination paperwork should read “fired for continuing to harass a coworker despite repeated corrective actions.”

        Does it prevent a lawsuit, no, Jane can and probably will file if this is her goal. What it does is give your legal team evidence to work with.

    9. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Yes, she needs to go. She had the chance to stop.

      I’m so tired of people pulling this: “that she is being discriminated against for being Christian.”

    10. ThePear8*

      I like how firmly Allison put it – ” She either follows your employer’s policy and stops harassing Alex, or she needs to go.”
      This this this.

    11. OhGee*

      Absolutely fire her. This ‘it’s against my religion’ line is a bunch of crap. She doesn’t have to like it, agree with it, or understand it, but she does have to use her coworker’s correct pronouns. End of story.

    12. TRexx*

      I say a final warning and zero tolerance letter is in order for Jane and probably should have been sent awhile ago. This is really not fair to Alex. One more chance until your terminated.

    13. Beth*

      Yes. She’s been told what the requirement is in this space. She’s been warned repeatedly that there will be consequences for misgendering her coworkers. Even if she’d somehow missed the memo on it being 2021, you’ve literally taught her what needs to happen. Her continued misgendering is intentional and malicious at this point.

      You can’t make her listen to your reasoning. You can’t make her obey the requirement to correctly gender her colleagues. All you can do is protect Alex by enforcing consequences for her repeated misgendering. You need to fire her, or you’re going to be telling Alex and your other employees (through your actions) that this behavior actually is acceptable.

  2. bribri*

    Jane sounds awful and she should be fired.

    (However, I could totally see her bringing a wrongful termination suit on the basis of religious discrimination, so. There’s that.)

      1. Watry*

        I mean, I could definitely see someone trying it, and since libraries are local government, it’s hard to tell what their reaction would be. But would they succeed? Can someone successfully claim that harassment/hostile work environment is okay because religious belief?

        1. Tricksie*

          My religion tells me that women shouldn’t read and so I won’t let them check out books.

          Nope. It doesn’t fly.

        2. bribri*

          Yeah, I was thinking this is what she may do, a la Abby Fisher suing UT for racial discrimination. Even if the suit is doomed to fail, there’s an entire apparatus of conservative legal minds who are trying to find a test case that will get them to the Supreme Court to roll back protections for marginalized groups. Jane’s actions seem like they could create fertile ground for a similar publicity stunt, unfortunately.

        3. Double A*

          To me this looks like exactly the type of case that could make it to the Supreme Court and win, not because of its merits, but because of the agenda of the current Supreme Court majority to elevate religious liberties for Christians above all other considerations.

          That is not to say that is a reason the OP and their organization shouldn’t hold firm. But I would fully expect to get sued.

          1. Observer*

            Considering who wrote the Bostoc decision, I highly doubt it.

            It’s a big mistake to think that anyone on the other side is stupid. And that’s the assumption that is required for your supposition to make sense.

            1. Clisby*

              Yeah, really. I see nothing about this that would make it likely Jane could go to the Supreme Court and win.

        4. Sue*

          As my dad used to say, your right to swing your arm ends at the tip of my nose. She isn’t going against her religion to use “incorrect” pronouns or call them what name they want at all.

        5. Lynn*

          ^ This

          It’s important to remember that basically, anyone can try to sue for anything. Some cases are immediately thrown out, and some are still heard, and that process is onerous and costly for both sides no matter the outcome. Jane seems like exactly the type of awful person to try to claim religious persecution.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Well, you can’t necessarily get away with suing for anything, quite apart from whether you lose your suit. You can get charged with contempt of court for insisting on bringing frivolous lawsuits, and go to jail for it if you insist on pushing the matter too far. At first, it’ll probably get you fined.

        6. In my shell*

          Right, and lawsuits rarely go to court, so a settlement (by the library’s insurer) would likely happen.

      2. Owen*

        The problem of course is that even if Jane brings a completely frivolous lawsuit, it could cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for the employer to prevail. Libraries aren’t exactly flush with cash.

        1. hbc*

          It won’t take five figures if it’s that frivolous. My small business was the target of an unsupported, ridiculous discrimination claim where I had a lot less evidence than this. It is probably a simple matter of collecting all the records of the policy surrounding pronoun usage, the training records, the official write-ups and meeting records, and any other backup (like emails saying “I have to talk to Jane, she’s misgendering Alex again”). You can probably find a lawyer who will try to fleece you, but you could probably get by with a lawyer spending two hours reviewing your documents and discussing the case.

          And I’d rather fight the frivolous lawsuit from Jane than the deserved lawsuit from Alex.

          1. Lisa*

            Exactly. The possibility of a deserved lawsuit from Alex is the critical issue here, and grounds to fire Jane.

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          They usually do, however, have access to lawyers. So I would suggest firing Jane but doing it in strict accordance with whatever your lawyer says about how you can protect yourself as much as possible. It won’t completely rule out frivolous suits — nothing can — but you’re much less likely to get one if Jane’s lawyer can look over everything you’ve done and tell her, “You’d best drop it; you don’t have a chance here.”

          It’s also worth being aware that giving in to Jane’s bigotry doesn’t fully protect the library from lawsuits either, even aside from it being a horrible thing to do!! Alex can sue for harassment and creating a hostile environment, and probably has a better chance of winning their suit from what we’ve seen in this letter. So it’s not as if the library can dodge the risk by letting Jane mistreat Alex, even if it were willing to pay that price for safety (or force Alex to).

            1. DeweyDecibal*

              That very much depends on the library and where it’s located. I’ve worked for ones that do and ones that do not.

              1. pancakes*

                You have found yourself facing a legal matter and been told by non-lawyers there wasn’t any opportunity to seek legal advice from anyone at all? That seems unusual and inadvisable.

                1. Dewey Decibal*

                  I meant that libraries may not have access to a lawyer through their local government and it can be cost prohibitive to seek council on their own.

                2. Dewey Decibal*

                  I want to make it very clear that I think her behavior is beyond unacceptable and I would have fired her no question. Just wanted to clarify the point assuming that all libraries have easy access to legal council.

                3. Working Hypothesis*

                  If they do find themselves in a situation with no obvious access to a lawyer through the local government, I recommend kicking the problem upstairs TO the local government and pointing out that paying for a lawyer up front is going to cost a great deal less than paying for the results of a botched lawsuit because they don’t have one. At that point, if Local Government insists on shooting itself in the foot, there’s not much you can do about it; but they don’t usually like paying for things unnecessarily, so they might be more receptive if they are convinced there is no third way in which the lawsuit miraculously goes away of its own accord.

                  If not, they’re the ones who’ll be paying; all the librarians can really do is ensure that they stay informed about how much and WHY they are paying.

                4. pancakes*

                  Whether it’s cost prohibitive or confusing or whatever, the library doesn’t get to simply opt out of legal challenges it faces or might faces. Not having the name of lawyer handy or a sense of who to contact isn’t an off-ramp for this situation.

                5. doreen*

                  I believe that some libraries are not actually government agencies, but rather non-profit organizations that receive all or most of their funding from the government. In that situation, the library would not have access to the same legal resources that an actual government agency would.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I’d also discuss with my lawyer whether we could countersue for legal fees based on the frivolity of the suit.

          2. Observer*

            It’s also worth being aware that giving in to Jane’s bigotry doesn’t fully protect the library from lawsuits either,

            I’d go further and say that it doesn’t protect them at all. Because Alex can sue, too. And so can other people.

        3. pancakes*

          And? It would have to come out of some budget or other, then, or be taken up pro bono. Alex and other coworkers aren’t obliged to endure Jane’s bullying as a cost-saving measure. Neither is the public served by this library.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            If the library is part of the city government, isn’t there likely to be an attorney on staff for just such an occasion?

            1. pancakes*

              Yes. City law departments do retain outside counsel for some matters, but that’s not unexpected or unusual either.

          1. EPLawyer*

            THIS RIGHT HERE. They can deal with Jane’s possible lawsuit or Alex’s VERY LIKELY lawsuit.

            Jane knows what she is doing. This isn’t a case of “oh shucks I just can’t remember the right words to use.” SHE CORNERED THEM to berate THEM about HER PROBLEM WITH IT. Right there she should have been fired for harrassing behavior. I don’t care if she is cornering co-workers and berating them for the choice of pronouns or because they mis-shelved a book. You DO NOT CORNER CO-WORKERS AND BERATE THEM.

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                I knew what you meant, but I appreciate you taking the time to clarify just in case someone read it differently.

            1. Just no*

              Totally. This is a textbook example of a hostile work environment. I hope that (and wouldn’t be surprised if) Alex already has a lawyer, tbh.

          2. Bertha*

            I hate to be Debbie Downer, but unfortunately gender identity still isn’t a protected class in a number of jurisdictions (definitely not nationally, at least in the USA). It’s not a given that Alex would bring and/or win a lawsuit. Maybe if it’s in the library handbook? But even then. I don’t know. (Disclaimer: I’m definite not a lawyer)

            1. Clisby*

              You would have been correct before the Supreme Court decision in October outlawing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation/gender identity. However, the Bostock case happened.

            2. Just no*

              I am the person you responded to, and I am a lawyer, Bertha. :) She has grounds for a lawsuit now, as PPs have said.

              1. Bertha*

                Well that is fantastic to know! I was considering adding “can someone please tell me I’m wrong on this because I’d love to be wrong” so.. thank you.

        4. Nesprin*

          If you’re afraid of lawsuits, you hire or consult a lawyer, document all of Alex’s behavior, give her clear written warnings, and fire her. Because if you don’t fire Jane for clearly harassing a coworker you may end up getting sued by Alex.

          And between a “I can’t harass my coworker so I’m being discriminated against” type case and a “I’m being harassed by my coworker” type case, the latter should be more scary.

        5. BethRA*

          And if Alex files suit because they’ve been regularly harassed by Jane? What happens to the library’s budget then?

        6. Paris Geller*

          Libraries aren’t, but if it’s a public library that’s city-owned, the city probably has a budget dedicated to legal wrangling. The city I work for does, because people love to sue the city for all sorts of both real & perceived wrongs!

          1. Self Employed*

            Alex might even get really good pro bono representation from the ACLU or an LGTBQ organization who can fundraise for a very sympathetic plaintiff. Jane might just get the Evangelical equivalent of ambulance chasers.

      3. KayZee*

        Thank you for acknowledging that it is incorrect grammar. I just wish there was a better alternative. I’m trying to make “one” and “one’s” happen but nobody is picking it up.

        Since she’s a Christian, I’ve got to wonder why she thinks gender pronouns are more important than kindness and acceptance. Spoiler alert: she doesn’t know jack shit about being a Christian.

        1. Nesprin*

          Lol- what a great opportunity for a snarky, “do onto others” or “judge not, lest ye be judged”

        2. One (1) Non*

          If people are refusing to accept “one” and “one’s” as your pronouns, that’s terrible! If you’re trying to force people who are using they/them to use one/one’s instead, I’d suggest reading a little more about pronouns and gender identity, as you’ve slightly missed the point.

          1. KayZee*

            No! Not me! For anyone. I just remember, as a kid, getting corrected for they when I just meant one person and that really stuck.

            1. BBA*

              The good news then is that there was a time before you learned this belief, which means you can also unlearn it and get yourself unstuck. People clearly made an effort to make you learn something; now, as an adult, you can make the effort to learn something different.

        3. Zephy*

          It’s not incorrect grammar. Singular they has been “a thing” in English for hundreds of years.

          1. ShanShan*

            Also, prescriptivist grammar has always been a tool in service of existing power structures, particularly white supremacy. I say this as an English professor.

            1. Ahéhee'*

              As (English) grammar is viewed as a classist, racist, xenophobic and ableist system of oppression, the US should really consider using other languages, ones that don’t have the history, baggage, et al English has. Changing to Native American languages, which have animate and inanimate genders, means there wouldn’t be the issue of male/female pronouns when it comes to grammar.

              There is tremendously rich linguistic diversity in Native American languages, plus there is the invaluable Plains sign language. Ditching the English language in the US for Native American languages would severely weakness the white supremacy link and make the country more equitable and inclusive. The only ‘issue’ would be a written form of the languages as there was no known writing system among Native North Americans at first European contact. Any written form could not be based on any external forms otherwise it could lead to a return to the “power structures, particularly white supremacy” you mentioned. Perhaps the basis could be the syllabary of the Cherokee language developed by Sequoyah.

              English, Spanish, French and Portuguese are all foreign languages in the Americas. Adopting those that have been in use there for millennia might, in some quantum way, help to redress the atrocities that came with those languages. Canada should also consider doing this too.

              BTW, as an English person I think English English speakers should bring back the native English gender neutral pronouns “ou” and “(h)a” of yesteryear. We have (had) them, we should use them.

              1. littledoctor*

                I’m not sure if you meant this sarcastically, but I 100% agree. Everyone should learn the original language of the land they’re living on, and certainly all public school classes should be taught in that language.

        4. bribri*

          Hi KayZee, I do actually have to disagree here – use of they/their as singular pronouns was actually accepted in spoken and written English until I believe the 19th or 20th century, at which point there was an intentional prescriptivist shift to using “he or she” if the gender of the subject was unknown. As English doesn’t have a singular language authority equivalent to, say, the Spanish Royal Academy, there is no English governing body to state that it is “grammatically incorrect.” Our language evolves over time, and as such they/their is a correct grammatical construction to refer to a person of unknown/nonbinary gender in the third person. I kindly ask that you accept the common usage of they/their, as grammar descriptivists have accepted it.

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            I cannot like this comment enough. For most of the English language, “incorrect” grammar is often more a dialect feature.

            They/ them pronouns are absolutely appropriate, and to suggest otherwise reflects poorly on you.

          2. Coder von Frankenstein*

            If singular “they” was good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for me.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              My version: If it’s good enough for Jane Austen, it’s good enough for me.

          3. LutherstadtWittenberg*

            Singular ‘they’ dates to at least 1375, and probably existed much earlier. Criticism of its usage started popping up in the mid-18th century and it was consequently shoved aside as incorrect and ‘colloquial.’ I was taught that it was improper to use it as a singular pronoun but…nope. The strangeness is the framework the Victorians tried to fit the word into.

          4. inksmith*

            It’s totally still acceptable in English grammar now anyway – it’s just that people don’t think about it when they’re referring to “singular person whose identity I don’t know”.

            For example: the inspector will call to say what time they will arrive. They will show their ID on arrival.

            Sounds fine, right? It’s only when we start using they/them singular to refer to a specific person that people start getting upset about it.

          5. You don't see me*

            Someone once pointed out to me we use they/them/their as the singular when we don’t know gender ALL THE TIME we just don’t realise it.

            Think about when you’re cleaning up after an event and you find a lost item. What do you say? “Look, someone left their item here, I’ll just put it in the lost and found.”

            Singular they is used all the time, it’s just ‘normal’ and we don’t think about it.

        5. Batgirl*

          Doesn’t that depend on whether you’re a grammar descriptivist or prescriptivist? If someone’s choosing something that’s as personal as a pronoun they’re going to go with something that sounds right to them, as opposed to a prescribed set of rules. If enough people make something a part of the language, then it becomes correct usage.

          1. High Score!*

            I absolutely abhor using plural pronouns for a single person. And I don’t see why we can’t have a ze/zer or something. That said, if someone chooses they/their pronouns, it doesn’t hurt one bit to respect and use them. I’m sure Alex has had to listen to a lot of religious stuff that they didn’t agree with. Time for everyone to respect each other.

            1. Rafflesia Reaper*

              It’s not necessarily a plural pronoun, though.

              “Ask the librarian if they have a thesaurus.”
              “Where did the florist park their delivery van?”
              “They carded me for Mucinex at Walmart the other day.”

              There’s no illusion that a squad of florists delivered my flowers, or that 27 cashiers wanted to see my ID. So many people will refer to “the mailman” as “they” without realizing that they’re using an ungendered pronoun about someone who they’ve pre-determined to be a man.

              1. High Score!*

                I have always hated the fact that our language cannot contain separate not-gendered terms. Every time someone says they or them, I see a group. AGAIN though, if those are someone’s chosen pronouns, I use them. And I see multiples of that person in my head every time I do. Of course, they don’t know bc I don’t say anything. They have a right to their pronouns.

                1. allathian*

                  Time to adjust your thinking, I think… Singular they has been a thing for a while, and will continue as such. I think artificial pronouns such as ze/hir look so weird, and they don’t seem to be very popular. If anything, people who object to non-gendered pronouns will be even more likely to object to completely artificial ones. I will use them if I’m referring to a person who uses them, although it’s not particularly likely in my environment. My discomfort with a particular set of pronouns is far less important than the right of a non-binary person to be referred to with their pronouns.

                  I guess I’m glad that my main working language, Finnish, has no gendered pronouns. “Hän” is used to refer to people of any gender in the third person singular, and some people use it when referring to pets, “se” is used to refer to inanimate objects, and in colloquial spoken language, when referring to people.

              2. MechE*

                All of those can be reworded to avoid the issue though

                “Ask the librarian if there is a thesaurus”
                “Where is the florist’s delivery van parked?”
                “I was carded for Mucinex at Walmart the other day.”

                Perhaps I’m missing the point.

                1. Littorally*

                  You are missing the point. The point is that singular ‘they’ has a long history of use that is nearly invisible to the people using it, since it’s so accustomed.

                2. Pennyworth*

                  You are, and I suspect you use singular they in certain circumstances without even thinking about is. How about you saw a vehicle accident at an intersection but didn’t get a good look at the drivers – “The driver of the red car caused the accident because they drove through the red light.”

              3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                I mean, not to mention the fact that we get on perfectly well with singular “you” every hour of every day when it uses plural* verbs and was originally second person plural.

                (* I mean, ish, to the extent that English goes in for morphology at all for verbs)

            2. Double A*

              Really? So if I said the sentence to you, “Someone left their jacket on the bus! They must be cold,” that would rub you the wrong way? You’d be mentally correcting that sentence to, “Someone left his or her jacket on the bus! He or she must be cold”?

              No. You wouldn’t even notice because that first construct is both descriptively and prescriptively correct in English.

              The use of “they” as gender neutral is intuitive to us when we don’t know the gender of the person we’re speaking about. If it makes it easier to think about how to use they/them with a specific person, then just pretend you don’t know their gender. Because you don’t.

              1. High Score!*

                Yes I would notice, every time I see multiples. There should be separate single and plural terms. It sucks that there’s not. And if everyone wants to change the language so badly, it’s be cool if we could have a ze/zer or something. Even replace he/she bc even tho I’m cis I really don’t want people referring to me by my hardware.

                1. Aquawoman*

                  High Score! is 100% saying it is his or her own discomfort with it AND that he or she would use it for people who prefer it, so I don’t know why people are giving High Score! a hard time. So what if it’s unusual. I have “idiosyncracies” because I’m neurodivergent so I consider disdaining people for idiosyncracies or demanding that they “be normal” to be a microaggression.

                2. me*

                  I tend to agree with you. They/them until very recently was considered a demeaning way to refer to someone. I was ATTACKED on my own FB page a few years ago for using “they,” in the plural sense, to describe a group of people of a different race than mine. It was considered demeaning and othering -which wasn’t the case at all from my perspective. I find “they/them” to refer to a single person that I know to be difficult to learn to use. Not impossible, and certainly not due to religious reasons (as the most horrid people I meet are self-proclaimed Christians) but simply a rapid change in usage. Ms Jane needs to go to work for her church if she needs to let so-called Christian values rule her life.

                3. AnonEMoose*

                  To paraphrase a favorite quote, English doesn’t borrow words from other languages. English hits other languages over the head, drags them into dark alleys, and rifles their pockets for words. English grammar is a hodgepodge that reflects the influences that went into its creation, and other things that have happened since.

                  I was an English major; I think it’s a strength of English that it adapts and evolves. Singular “they” has been accepted for quite a long time; this is just a new application.

                4. littledoctor*

                  Singular they has been used since at least the 1300s, including by Jane Austen, Geoffrey Chaucer, and Shakespeare. Singular they is correct grammar. They is not inherently plural. :)

                5. FrivYeti*

                  Legitimate question, which might help you contextualize – how do you feel about the word ‘you’? That is also originally intended exclusively for use when referring to a group in the second person, and yet we use it for singular terminology pretty much exclusively.

                  The correct term for singular second person is, of course, ‘thou/thee’, but if I said that thou disliked using plural terms for singular objects, thou would consider me to be making fun of thee.

                6. Theo*

                  A, this is your personal problem; it’s not a common issue at all. You can adjust this if you really want to.

                  B, ze/zer (usually zir) IS a pronoun set, and there are many other options too. But like……. I use they/them, not ze/zir. They aren’t interchangeable. They’re different. I’m aware of it as an option, but it’s an option that isn’t for me.

                  C, pronouns =/= genitalia.

            3. Grammar tidbit*

              Fun grammar fact: singular “they” is older than singular “you!”

              Dost thou use “thou” for a second person singular pronoun? Or do you use singular “you?”

              1. someonesomewhere*

                Actually, “thou” is second person familiar. Like Spanish and French “tu” or German “du.” When thou was being used that way, “you” was the equivalent of the French “vous”: it was both the singular formal address and the plural form of “you.”

                By Shakespeare’s time, the status difference between thou and you seems to have mostly disappeared. In his plays, people use both words interchangeably, often in the same sentence addressing the same character. Eventually, “thou” became obsolete, although the Quakers kept it going into the early twentieth century (they started addressing everyone as thee/thou back when the difference still existed, as a way of showing that we’re all equal. They discarded it after language had evolved so thoroughly that calling everyone “you” accomplished the same task).

                The eventual substitution of you for thou wasn’t a case of substituting a plural pronoun for a singular one, but of discarding the practice of using different forms of address for people depending on status and relationship.

                1. Jennifer*

                  Additional fun random fact — my grandma, who grew up Quaker, when sufficiently irritated by her husband very occasionally said “Thou will be quite!”

            4. char*

              If you hate using plural pronouns for a singular person, I assume you would also prefer to use “thee” and “thou” to refer to individuals whom you’re talking to. “You”, after all, originated as the plural form.

              (I do appreciate that you use singular “they” when necessary even though you dislike it, though.)

            5. Littorally*

              We have ze/zer. And xe/xyr. And a plethora of others. And guess what? People are shitty about those too! It’s transphobia, plain and simple.

            6. biobotb*

              If you deplore it, then I guess you should stop using the “you are” construction. (Yes, guess what used to be plural and is now accepted as singular by everyone, even though we still use the plural verb “are” with it.)

            7. Sleeping Late Every Day*

              They and their are already part of the English language. Ze/zer will take longer to catch on because of the level of unfamiliarity. I can TRY to remember them, but my brain might not cooperate. It’s like learning a new language – some people are able to do it easily, and others are like me; I studied two years of German and could barely remember Guten Morgen at the end of it.

              1. Aggretsuko*

                I think “hie” and “zie” and whatnot just didn’t catch on because they sound confusing when said aloud.

                1. Littorally*

                  There are a lot of people who have very bad attitudes about neopronouns. It isn’t so benign as “well they’re just confusing!”

            8. SW*

              We(trans/nonbinary people) tried the zie/hir and other neo-pronouns thing. People like you complained about that too. We can’t win so we picked they/them because it most closely follows current grammatical trends. It’s time for you to move on.

          2. Elle by the sea*

            Exactly. Grammar prescriptivism is pseudoscientific nonsense of its own right. Even more so, when someone tries to frame their objection to respecting someone’s gender identity as being pedantic about correct grammar.

            Jane’s religious theory is rather outlandish and that’s an understatement. One of my native languages doesn’t have gender-specific pronouns at all, yet it is spoken by a traditionally Christian community. I wonder if Jane would refuse to speak such a language, claiming that it’s blatantly un-Christian. I consider myself fairly well-versed with the scriptures, nowhere do I remember seeing evidence that God forbade the use of gender-neutral pronouns.

            Look, I would understand if Jane didn’t want to use artificially created pronouns that are extremely granular, like ze/zer. But this way, I have absolutely no empathy for her. I wouldn’t be as tolerant as OP and would tell her clearly that she needs to respect Alex’s preferences or else we will no longer need her services.

            1. ze/hir*

              “Grammar prescriptivism is pseudoscientific nonsense”…..”I would understand if Jane didn’t want to use artificially created pronouns”. How do you see both of these as true? Is prescriptivism okay as long as it’s to the rules you personally agree with? I’m confused.

              1. Elle by the sea*

                First, by “I would understand” I don’t mean I agree and it would be justified. Second, grammar prescriptivism applies to language used by native speakers of a given language. Novel pronouns like ze/zer are not yet part of the language. I’m not being a TERF here and trying to suggest that they should not be used – but opposing the use of those pronouns is not grammar prescriptivism but some other type of bigotry. You seem to be conflating too issues here.

          3. Melody Pond*

            Doesn’t that depend on whether you’re a grammar descriptivist or prescriptivist? If someone’s choosing something that’s as personal as a pronoun they’re going to go with something that sounds right to them, as opposed to a prescribed set of rules. If enough people make something a part of the language, then it becomes correct usage.

            I want to sum up this whole subthread with quotes from Avengers: Infinity War.

            Drax: That’s a made-up word!
            Thor: All words are made up.

            1. Melody Pond*

              Dang, I just cannot seem to do the blockquote correctly from my iPad! Is it a forward slash or back slash that’s supposed to close/end the blockquote?

        6. Melissa*

          I’m unclear on what is being referred to as incorrect grammar here. Is it they/them pronouns? Because singular they/them is very much correct.

        7. Homo neanderthalensis*

          The singular They is not incorrect grammar- there has been a singular they in English for centuries- it was only the Victorians that tried to erase it as Latin does not have a singular they and the classist Victorians thought that their language would improve if it was more like Latin. Shakespeare used the singular they. Please do not pass on the transphobic myth that “They” used in the singular is incorrect English grammar.

        8. FridayFriyay*

          This again? Cis people do not need to “try to make” some other pronoun happen. It’s not your pronoun, therefore your opinion about it is irrelevant.

          1. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

            I really want to follow around someone who bellyaches about it being GRAMMAR that really bothers them and see how often they accidentally use ‘who’ in the objective case or a split infinitive. The sudden defense of the ~ sanctity of English ~ just feels really suspect to me.

            1. ...*

              I completely agree. I’m actually a nonbinary grammar stickler and using “they/them” *for myself* feels weird … but I will absolutely use they/them for those who identify themselves as such. That is *their* pronoun of choice, and that is all that matters — full stop.

          2. High Score!*

            Everyone should try to get some pronouns that aren’t gendered at all. I’m cis. I hate being referred to by my hardware. No one should be concerned with my gender but me. Really? What business is it of other people what hardware I have??? The whole he/she/ her/etc is BS.

            1. FridayFriyay*

              Gender identity and sex are not the same thing. If you want to use a different pronoun for yourself go for it. But you are out of bounds to be telling other people who use they/them pronouns that you don’t like their pronouns because of some grammar hangup you have. You simply don’t get to decide that for other people.

            2. AnonForThis*

              Most cis people don’t feel like that.

              If you hate gendered pronouns and your own hardware that much, you might not be as cis as you think you are.

            3. anon here*


              And it might be, as a sibling commenter here says, that I’m not a cis as I “think I am”. Well sure, but even more to the point personally I don’t want to have to think about it, my g-d, there are so many more interesting things in the world than my own personal gender expression (y’all thinking about gender expression do you! I just personally have a lot of other things to deal with at the moment). Or it might be that my first language was Finnish which just doesn’t have gendered pronouns, and boy is it less exhausting.

            4. Batgirl*

              That sounds like it would be great for you but not everyone feels that way. I want to be she/her; it’s an important part of my identity. Other individuals like they/their and they’re allowed to have that preference…. no, identity, accepted fully. Making everybody uniform is rarely the answer.

              1. allathian*

                Same here, when I’m communicating in a language with gendered pronouns. When I speak Finnish, though, I don’t miss gendered pronouns at all.

            5. DataSci*

              You can use they/them pronouns! Hating the pronouns you have is reason enough to change them. There’s no test of being “nonbinary enough” to use different pronouns. Please realize, however, that especially for trans people, saying ‘everyone should use non-gendered pronouns’ can be hurtful. Lots of people worked very hard to get to be called ‘he’ or ‘she’, and they get to use their pronouns too.

          3. Not Me*

            You do know not all cis people are bigots though, right? Because your comment comes across as pretty rude. Generalizing an entire group of people by the bad habits of a subset is a problem regardless of what group of people you’re talking about.

            1. FridayFriyay*

              But their cis-ness is relevant here. If a cis person wants to suggest alternate pronouns for themself, they are welcome to do so. Suggesting alternatives to “they/them” for people who use those pronouns when you do not yourself use them is bigoted. That doesn’t mean all cis people are bigots. I am cis. But the behavior in question is indeed limited to cis people because cis people are, by definition, not in charge of determining what appropriate pronoun options are for trans and non-binary people.

              1. Not Me*

                No, their bigotry is relevant. Their cis-ness is not. Trans and non-binary people aren’t in charge of determining anyone else’s pronouns either. We are all only allowed to make decisions for ourselves, whether you’re cis or not doesn’t change that.

                1. Queer Earthling*

                  Yes. But. This individual person, who is not trans, was suggesting pronouns that trans people should use. Trans people as a group. A group of people to whom this person does not belong. Which is relevant. You feel me?

        9. Reba*

          I may be wrong, but I think Hatbeing was saying that it is *Jane’s* grasp of grammar (i.e. must use gendered pronouns at all possible times) that is incorrect!

          The singular-they grammar debate really ought to be put to bed IMO — if you do some looking online you will find scholars of English literature sharing examples for the very early, as in medieval, acceptance of this usage. It’s pretty interesting!

          1. Mimi*

            Honestly, even if Jane does have a sincere objection to they/them/theirs and is not just doing this to be hateful while claiming otherwise, Alex/Alex/Alex’s is also a valid solution here. Pronouns are more convenient and can make for better sentence flow, but it’s possible to avoid them altogether (I do my best to do so for friends who use they/them but who I know are in a place of “really I would rather not at all” regarding pronouns).

            1. BubbleTea*

              I have a visceral hatred of scratch cards (they make me feel slightly sick, I can’t bear to even watch someone else scratch them) but when I worked in a supermarket on the kiosk, I didn’t refuse to sell them to customers or tell them not to buy them. Sincere objections to things should only dictate a person’s OWN behaviour, not other people’s, unless a law is being broken (e.g. most people sincerely object to murder, and that is something that should dictate everyone’s behaviour because the law also proscribes it).

            2. Anne Elliot*

              “Alex/Alex/Alex’s is also a valid solution here.”

              This is what I came down to say. Leaving aside Jane’s BS argument against utilizing Alex’s preferred pronouns, I think her religious persecution claim (which is nonsense anyway) is obliterated by the fact that Jane doesn’t have to use ANY pronouns. It makes for clumsy sentences, but still comprehensible sentences: “Alex told me that Alex would re-shelve the books as soon as Alex was done with Alex’s research project.” Now, that will be hard for Jane to keep straight, and will make Jane sound ridiculous, but too bad for Jane.

              1. FridayFriyay*

                This is not an appropriate solution, and would just turn the discrimination from extremely overt into much more covert but still discriminatory and othering behavior.

                1. Hawkes*

                  How would you feel about Jane ditching everyone’s pronouns?

                  Just like the solution to “My favourite book won’t let me shake the hand of other genders” is to not shake hands at work, and “I will assault women when I am alone with them” (which I assume is the reason for men refusing to be alone with women) is solved by “I will never be alone with anyone ever. (They might secretly be a woman and my repulsive nature will take over. Besides, it’s a condition of my parole.)

                2. FridayFriyay*

                  It might be acceptable if the person had not initially described the reason for doing so as bigotry against the class of people in question. Maybe. It’s still extremely othering, and I expect that Jane would not be able to (or care enough to) execute it with enough consistency at work to make it a reasonable solution.

              2. 10Isee*

                If done this way, it’s still clearly discriminatory.

                I have a family member who really struggles with another family member (“Pat”)’s pronouns (they’re nonbinary) and she puts a lot of effort into making sentences sound natural; Pat told me they didn’t even notice she wasn’t using pronouns until someone else pointed it out.
                She’ll say things like, “I’m not sure where Pat is but you might want to check the park” or “Pat is bringing that potato salad we had at Thanksgiving; I sure love Pat’s cooking!” Obviously that’s still not the ideal here, but if anyone genuinely feels prohibited by their religious beliefs *and also wants to be kind to others* there are options that don’t “other” so aggressively.

                1. WinterMouse*

                  This example seems like a middle ground that makes everyone in the situation feel relatively comfortable and respected – the family member in this example is treating Pat with warmth, affection, and respect, and she doesn’t have to violate her own belief system in the process.

                  Yet Alison said at the top of the comments that this is not a good solution – Am I missing something here? Because if it’s done well (e.g. subtly, not glaringly obviously) like in the example above, this seems like a way that everyone can get along together peacefully.

                2. pancakes*

                  Yes, WinterMouse, you are missing something pretty big: Being uncomfortable with someone’s pronouns and preferring not to use them does not oblige that person to try to bargain with you. If nonbinary people choose to bargain with their friends or relatives about pronoun usage, that is of course their choice, but in a work environment like a public library, everyone must abide by workplace rules, employment laws, and anti-discrimination laws.

                3. schweinsty*

                  @WinterMouse, as a nonbinary person I wouldn’t feel either comfortable or respected with this, tbh. Someone who refuses to use my pronouns is doing so because they refuse to gender me correctly, and misgendering me is pretty much the opposite of treating me with respect, let alone warmth and affection. Also, it never doesn’t sound clunky and weird, standing out in conversation like a big old pimple; if it was obvious enough for someone to notice it and point it out to Pat, it’s going to be obvious to others, and having your gender harped on like that–I can tell you from experience, it feels otherizing and deeply unpleasant.

                4. Zillah*

                  @Winter Mouse – Would you feel relatively comfortable and respected if you knew that someone was misgendering you to the point that they couldn’t even use pronouns? I’m a ciswoman, so I have never experienced this firsthand, but there is no universe in which I can imagine feeling relatively comfortable and respected if someone avoided using pronouns to refer to me because they really wanted to refer to me as a man.

            3. FridayFriyay*

              This is a reasonable and respectful solution for people who you know are feeling “really I would rather not at all” about pronouns, but it is still discrimination if the person in question has told you that they use they/them and you use only their name and avoid pronouns to the point of absurdity.

            4. Dahlia*

              No, that’s not a solution. It’s REALLY obvious when you’re using someone’s name to avoid using their prounouns, and it’s rude. It’s basically misgendering by omission.

              “I don’t believe in your pronouns so I just won’t use any.” That’s not okay.

                1. Everythingshouldbeorange*

                  I think this is unfair. They are obviously making strong efforts to not be hurtful and ‘misgender’ someone.

                  Surely this is a good compromise.

                2. FridayFriyay*

                  I’m not sure why you put misgender in scare quotes. Refusing to use someone’s correct pronouns is refusing to use their correct pronouns. It kind of doesn’t matter if you’re using the incorrect pronoun or no pronouns at all. They are making strong efforts to prioritize their own bigotry and discomfort over the feelings of their coworker, which is still wrong. Compromise is not necessary here.

                3. pancakes*

                  Everythingshouldbeorange, it is absolutely not obvious from Jane’s aggressive and demeaning behavior that she trying to not be hurtful. If she is trying, she’s very, very bad at it – cornering a coworker to harangue them about their pronouns and repeatedly misgendering them, for example, were reported to management as harassment by multiple people who know that this is extremely inappropriate and rude behavior. No one is obliged to compromise with Jane about this. If she doesn’t want to abide by workplace rules or anti-discrimination laws, she should quit.

                4. many bells down*

                  I know someone who is only referred to by name as this person prefers not to use ANY pronouns and let me tell you that is WAY more effort than using “they”.

            5. Theo*

              No. As a they/them person, it is misgendering me to avoid using my pronouns. Sorry. You don’t get to “sincere objection” yourself out of referring to me correctly.

        10. Me (I think)*

          “My religion requires me to be a giant hateful a-hole.”

          Yeah, there are a lot of religions just like that. /s

        11. JB*

          Language is created by humans to serve humans and it can and should be changed whenever that change is in service of humanity. Who do you think you are helping or protecting by opposing singular they/them pronouns? Grammar is not a person; grammar does not care if it is adhered to or if it is changed.

          There have been multiple changes to English grammar rules in your lifetime (assuming you’re at least a decade old); why is it this particular change that you have decided to protest?

        12. Cat Tree*

          It’s no more “incorrect” than using the pronoun “you” as the singular. There is plenty of precedent here. If you’re gonna be a prescriptivist about it, at least be educated about the history of pronouns.

          1. allathian*

            You was originally the formal singular address, equivalent to the German Sie, Spanish Usted and French vous. The informal form was thou, cf. du, tu, tu. The confusion stems from the fact that plural verb forms are used with you even when it refers to one person (you are).

        13. Dahlia*

          Misgendering people IS incorrect grammar. You are making a mistake in your grammar when you refer to them.

        14. Observer*

          Thank you for acknowledging that it is incorrect grammar.

          About as incorrect as ending a sentence with a preposition. Which is to say, not at all. It’s one of those “rules” that actually are not rules.

          The singular they has been in use for centuries. At what point to de acknowledge how language is ACTUALLY used?

          I’m trying to make “one” and “one’s” happen but nobody is picking it up.

          There’s a good reason for this. It is actually incorrect in this kind of context. (It is also pretentious as all get out imo, sounds terrible and way more clumsy than the singular they.)

        15. fluffy*

          Singular “they” has been a feature of English for longer than singular “you.” Or would thou prefer to stick to thine guns?

        16. SimplyTheBest*

          The singular they has been a part of the English language longer then the singular you.

        17. Black Horse Dancing*

          Please stop–the No True Scotsman line is so worn. Jane is a Christian. She is behaving like many Christians do. She is no less a Christian because she is a jerk.

        18. Blue*

          The singular they is older than the singular you, and is objectively not incorrect. You don’t have to like it, but it is perfectly correct grammar.

      4. Pam Poovey*

        Singular “they” has been around since the 14th century so it’s not actually incorrect.

    1. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Agreed. I would make sure everything is thoroughly documented, so if she does bring such a suit, you won’t have trouble swatting it down. If you have in-house legal counsel, maybe check in with them to make sure you have all your ducks in a row.

      None of which is to say you should waffle or hesitate on firing Jane! She’s had multiple chances and warnings. It’s time for her to go. But when dealing with people like this, you want to be prepared for them to escalate.

    2. CatCat*

      Totally agree that Jane needs to go.

      This may be a situation where a lawsuit is going to be unavoidable.

      Fire Jane and she sues for discrimination. Don’t fire Jane and Alex sues for harassment. Not getting sued may not be realistic, but protecting Alex and the rest of the workforce from Jane’s harassment is.

      1. Emily*

        Yep, this. As a Christian, it disgusts me when others try to use Christianity to justify hateful and bigoted views. Matthew 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Jane has been given more than enough chances. She has no intention of changing. It’s time for Jane to be shown the door.

        1. Emily*

          Also, I would not be worried about a (successful) lawsuit from Jane. I’ve noticed that people tend to get really worried about lawsuits and automatically conflate threatening to bring a lawsuit/trying to bring a lawsuit with a successful lawsuit. It sounds like OP’s employer has been documenting Jane’s behavior given that Jane has been given a verbal and written warning, and documentation is important.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      If you harass other members of staff, ignore repeated warnings to stop, then claim it’s okay because your personal religion says it’s okay to treat a section of humanity like scum…

      …I cannot see any decent lawyer taking that case.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Unfortunately there are some scummy lawyers out there who would take this case and milk it for all they can, even knowing that they won’t win.

      2. Le Sigh*

        I mean, there are whole right-wing groups that pour millions into legal cases like these in an effort to overturn laws and chip away at protections. They have whole strategies devoted to this.

        To be fair, I never said they decent.

    4. some dude*

      This is what I find so aggravating at this cultural moment. As people are being held accountable for bigoted and generally awful behavior, they then claim they are being “cancelled” and they are the real victims in the situation. Which is totally disingenuous but highly effective.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s only highly effective with regard to people who share their views. The rest of us can see through it.

      2. Cat Tree*

        It’s unfortunately not new. It’s not much different than lamenting about those “poor men” whose careers get ruined by women reporting sexual harassment, and that attitude has been around for quite a long time.

    5. CoveredInBees*

      No. Discrimination laws require reasonable accommodation, not a free for all. It is not reasonable for her to treat colleagues or members of the public this way. Especially not when there is a compelling reason to stop them from this.

      For example, there have been instances when Sikh men were not hired for jobs because there was no safety equipment that compatible with a long beard or a dastar. Were they being discriminated against for articles of faith? Yes. But the need for workplace safety overrode that, not least because everyone there needed the equipment for that job. Had they been librarians the outcome would have been different.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      That’s where I think it will lead if Jane is fired. Not that she shouldn’t be fired–she absolutely should be fired if she won’t comply with company policy. But I wonder if this is why OP is giving her so much grace.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I’m sure it is. But it’s not only morally misguided, it’s pragmatically misguided. Alex can sue just as much as Jane can, and at the moment they have a dramatically better case than she does, so they’ve got decent odds of winning if they do. If the library does not want to face a discrimination suit for creating a hostile workplace on grounds of sex (which is how they’ve legally classified transphobic behavior), it had better get its act together and do it now.

        To make sure I’m clear here, the library ought to fire Jane because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of who’s more likely to sue, or succeed at a lawsuit. But in this case, it isn’t even a choice between justice and self-interest… they’re both pulling in the same direction.

    7. Leap Year Conspiracy*

      Agreed – she sounds intent on “playing victim” over having to get with the times and treating her co-worker as they have been asked to be treated. I’m sure Jane has other opinions that clash with general societal trends but knows how to curb that in say, the grocery store, restaurants. All of us adjust (or should) our behavior at work to make work a comfortable place for EVERYONE. She can do the same or she can find somewhere that tolerates her small-minded hate.

      OP – I totally understand the hope to get through to Jane but stop; she’s not even trying a little here so drop the rope, it isn’t worth any more of your time. You made a real effort when she’s made nothing in return.

      Regarding fear of a lawsuit – that’s intolerant people using and exploiting systems to keep the status quo. So what if Jane files a lawsuit? The company likely has liability insurance for such an occasion and the pain of that will be less than continuing to tolerate her abuse to others, possibly watching others quit OR sue with an actual legitimate lawsuit.

    8. JSPA*

      Being forced to believe, or to state a belief, in the gender spectrum (or for that matter, a round rather than flat earth)…maaaaaybe.

      Being forced to not bring those beliefs up at work, and to stick to the official style sheet and policies? Totally appropriate.

      This only underscores that OP needs to get out of the business of “changing minds” but lean in doubly hard on “changing performance.” And in fact why any sensitivity training should include the salient point, “this is why, regardless of how you feel and whether or not this training changes your beliefs in any way, we are all absolutely required to act within these simple guidelines.”

      Compare: if you believe that you’re the only real consciousness in the universe, so long as you’re pleasant and non-offensive while dealing with all of us figments of your imagination, that’s fine, too. Jane can think we’re all lizard people or Daleks–let alone slated for the Hot Place–so long as she keeps it to herself.

    9. Observer*

      (However, I could totally see her bringing a wrongful termination suit on the basis of religious discrimination, so. There’s that.)

      Sure. There is a limit to how much you can do to avoid lawsuits.

      Also, what makes you think that Alex won’t sue or that the EEOC won’t come knocking?

      1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        Honestly, anyone can file a lawsuit for anything. You could file a lawsuit in your local court against your adult sister for ruining your Barbie doll when she was five. It would be thrown out in record time, but you can do it. Jane would never win the case, but she can cause a giant headache. That said, if they don’t fire Jane, Alex’s lawsuit would actually be a bigger problem, because he would win!

  3. Sylvan*

    Bigots are what they are. Sometimes they make excuses for their transphobia, or for their misogyny, racism, homophobia, or xenophobia. You don’t have to let them.

    1. Daffy Duck*

      This is absolutely correct. None of them say they are bigots or racist, they claim they are “good whatever religion they are” and are just standing up for their oppressed selves. Being told to behave differently doesn’t work because it is just proof they are oppressed. Quite a bit of evangelical religion is about being the underdog and needing to hold tight to their beliefs in a dangerous world. You are not going to change Jane when her social support system is telling her she is correct.

    2. Reba*

      The religion thing is like the egregious “respect your mother” excuse in a previous letter. It is a total red herring here.

      And it’s meant to be manipulative (ditto the “bad person” demand for reassurance) because we are not supposed to tell others how to believe. And a lot of people/communities have a kind of reflexive deference to Christianity, which I think I detect in this letter.

      For whatever reason, the OP seems to find it easy to put herself in Jane’s shoes and understand what she thinks. It’s tempting to think you can persuade someone! But as Alison says, what Jane believes inside isn’t at issue, her actual behavior needs addressing. Jane doesn’t need your understanding; Alex needs your protection.

      OP please read the letter from last year, “my employee keeps getting deadnamed by a coworker” and its update! That letter writer nailed the needed boundary setting convo and actions. It’s a tough conversation but you can and must do it.

      1. Properlike*

        The “but I’m a good person!” is synonymous with White Tears. As in, “I can’t be a racist because.” At its most innocent, a way to divert from the discomfort of acknowledging you’ve hurt someone else with your behavior by encouraging people to now comfort *you* by reassuring you that you *are* a good person, and it’s a mistake! We all make mistakes! Nice people don’t want to make others feel bad, so the boundary gets crossed again and again.

        Whether or not Jane is a good person is irrelevant. Her behavior is wrong. As her manager, you need only address her behavior and draw a hard line around what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in the public space. How she feels about it is for her friends, her church, and her therapist.

  4. Caroline Bowman*

    Yeah, the religious discrimination thing doesn’t apply here. She is free to believe as she likes, but at work, somewhere she has chosen to work, she needs to obey the law and that includes the ones around gender discrimination.

    Same as it does for racial discrimination. ”My religion prevents me from working with black people so… ” would not fly and nor should it. Stop trying to be kind and gracious. Fire her and tell her why.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Plus the Bible was used for years as justification for various forms of racial discrimination.
      Also, she may claim she’s “not a bad person” but that means she shouldn’t act like one.

      1. Quill*

        No one gives a flying duck about whether or not you think you are a “bad person,” Jane, it’s your words and actions that are being judged.

      2. Rae*

        Have you noticed all these “not a bad person” people have to tell people that they aren’t a bad person. I feel like if you have to consistently tell people you’re not a bad person then maybe you’re the problem.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          This, this, this!

          See also, “I’m a nice guy,” “I am not a crook,” and “No other used car dealer in this town is going to give a customer like you a deal this good, so why bother checking?”

        2. A*

          Agreed. I feel the same way about this as I do about intelligence… if you’re walking around talking about how ‘smart’ you are, or how much of a good person you are…. it’s suspicious.

      3. EBStarr*

        Yeah, what’s the word for this, “cis fragility”? It might suck to learn you’ve been hurting someone, but the answer is to stop hurting them, not to make everyone stop talking about it so you don’t feel like a bad person…

      4. TootsNYC*

        if she’s a Christian, she knows she IS a bad person.
        “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
        It is THE core tenet of the faith. If we were not all sinners, there would have been no need for God to send his son to die for our sins. (“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”)

        And of course, the greatest message Jesus sent was to love others. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes.

        1. pancakes*

          I don’t see any reason whatsoever to believe that being Christian conveys people with faultless self-awareness, but whether it does or doesn’t has no bearing on the letter or on effectively disciplining Jane. She can think about herself however she likes or chooses. She doesn’t get to behave however she likes or chooses at work.

        2. Hawkes*

          There’s also a “this hurts me more than it hurts you” justification that’s part of human psychology and also endorsed by many branches of Christianity. “I hurt someone. I feel bad about it. Because I feel bad, I am a good person. (Optional: God will forgive me.)” And then they continue doing it, because feeling bad is the price they pay for the license to do it – so they’re just fairly using that license, really.

          And a “Suffering Is Christian” mentality: When I do something uncomfortable in God’s name, that makes me a good christian, because I sacrificed for God. (Even though any God worth worshipping would rather you spend your free afternoon volunteering at a soup kitchen rather than knock on doors unsuccessfully trying to convert people.)

          “This hurts me more than it hurts you/This hurts me too, so I can do it while still being a good person” is not unique to religion, I think it’s a type of cognitive bias.

        3. Zillah*

          I am not sure that all Christians I know would agree with this, and I think we’re better off not making broad statements like this.

      1. Just no*

        Yes, in the sense that Alex may have even MORE protection by virtue of state nondiscrimination laws.

      2. Self Employed*

        It also matters that Jane might do this to a member of the public or to it to Alex in front of a member of the public. The library needs to protect its patrons from feeling unsafe–and Jane is a liability there.

    2. Canadian Valkyrie*

      I’ve always maintained that religious freedom ends where it discriminates against others. Eg you’re free to hold X and Y believes but you can’t use those beliefs to discriminate against others.

  5. CommanderBanana*

    Let me be really clear: there is absolutely nowhere in the Bible that says anything about using pronouns. If Jane really, truly doesn’t think she can use the words they/them, she can use Alex’s name instead.

    Jane is being an ass.

    1. Almost Empty Nester*

      Also it really fires me up when people use “I’m a Christian which means I can’t accept this”. Baloney! I’m a Christian, and I was taught that Jesus commanded us to love one another, not just the ones we approved of. She’s an ass, she knows she’s being an ass, and she’s hiding behind the bible for her cover. Alex deserves respect. Fire her.

      1. Absurda*

        My thought’s exactly. What are people of faith supposed to do? Treat others with dignity and compassion, that’s what. If you’re doing this, using the correct pronouns is required, not prohibited by faith.

      2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        Jesus also, IIRC, had something to say about “rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”, which is a fancy way of saying “obey the laws of the land”. Very relevant in this case.

        1. Canadian Valkyrie*

          Yes! You can find this in at least one of the gospels where the people were angry about paying taxes and wanted Jesus to tell them should we pay them? He holds up a coin and say who’s on this coin? Caesar. Pay to Caesar what you owe to him. Pay to god what you owe to him. – so a similar teaching from Jesus about obeying the laws, paying your taxes, and generally following the rules and expectations in your country.
          An exception I can think of is if your country is persecuting people, regardless of who they are (eg other Christian’s, LGBTQ people, indigenous people) and then it’s your religious duty to protect those people NOT contribute to the persecution.

    2. Shelly*

      Precisely all of this! She’s doing it to be a jerk, because if she wasn’t, she’d just avoid pronouns altogether and wouldn’t have confronted them.

      1. Elenna*

        This! If she genuinely thought she couldn’t use they/them pronouns because the Bible said not to, well, a) she’d be incorrect, but b) that still wouldn’t be a reason to repeatedly confront Alex and misgender them, in a way where other employees were fearing for Alex’s safety! She has the option of… just not using pronouns for Alex. Which would still be a crappy thing to do, but it would at least be less crappy than what she’s doing now. The fact that she’s specifically harassing him about it proves that this is, in fact, about her deliberately causing harm and not just following her own (wrong) beliefs, no matter what she might say.

        1. Elenna*

          I just wanted to clarify that I’m not saying this is an option Jane should actually use – as Allison rightly pointed out, allowing her to not use pronouns at all would still be enabling her bigotry. I’m just saying that if she genuinely thought that she wasn’t hurting Alex but still wanted to avoid using the correct pronouns, that would manifest as her simply avoiding pronouns. The fact that she’s deliberately misgendering them and confronting them shows that she’s more interested in hurting Alex than in being a “good person”.

    3. kittymommy*

      Exactly. I’m Christian (got the divinity degree and everything) and Jane’s full of crap and just being a dick. I’d fire her (or at least try to fire her).

      1. Momma Bear*

        I don’t have a degree in divinity like kittymommy, but as a fellow Christian, I find Jane’s behavior absolutely appalling. She’s hiding behind her religion as an excuse not to “love thy neighbor”. She’s not being asked not to have faith. She’s being asked to show her coworker respect. If she is unable to do so, she is in the wrong job, much like a pharmacist who won’t fill certain Rx because they feel it goes against their beliefs. What if a patron comes in and asks for they/them pronouns? And at this point, Jane has not only misgendered Alex on purpose, but has confronted them to the point that other coworkers are worried for Alex. This needs to stop. It’s not about religion. It’s about bigotry and harassment.

        1. Self Employed*

          Library card applications are definitely an interaction where Jane would find an excuse to harass patrons. Maybe Jane’s job duties don’t include that, but do you want to excuse her permanently from covering that desk? Patrons are also likely to just grab whoever if they have questions.

    4. Catalin*

      I am a reasonably devout Christian. Our church’s intern is non-binary and goes by they-them pronouns. This is not a God issue. This is a ‘be a decent human being’ issue and should NOT be tolerated.

      1. Christian*

        It infuriates me when people hide behind MY religion and misrepresent it. “This is not a God issue” hits the nail on the head. Be kind people. That’s all it takes to be a decent human being.

      2. Mimi Me.*

        I once witnessed a fight between two people which started when a woman told two guys holding hands that they were going to hell based on her religion. She phrased it starting with “I’m sorry to tell you but…” A 2nd woman threw a muffin at her and said “I’m sorry but MY religion tells us to throw things at people who say stupid shit.”
        I left the store before the fight finished so I didn’t get to see how it played out, but the 2nd woman got a round of applause after she did it. TBH, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been on of those secret camera What would you do type shows. The attack to the two guys was that unprovoked, although I’ve been told that most of these attacks often are that unprovoked. :(

      3. Lizy*

        To be honest, I think it absolutely is a God (Jesus) issue. Jesus said to love God and love others and that there are no greater commandments than these. If Jane had any respect or admiration for God/Jesus, she’d treat others with respect and admiration, too, because that is 100% what Christianity is all about.

    5. VC*

      Let’s not give her this loophole either. It’s blazingly obvious when (and why) people are deliberately avoiding using my pronouns, and the intent is just the same — to avoid acknowledging my gender.

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        I find that I do it not as a loophole but as a way to not misgender the person. It’s so much clearer to use names.

        1. Melissa*

          Clearer for who though? People who use they/them pronouns (I am one) find using those pronouns clear alteady. If you need to switch it up and sometimes use pronouns and sometimes use a name then I get that and do it myself. But avoiding pronouns altogether is also misgendering and implies to me that either a) this person is uncomfortable with gendering me correctly or b) this person is u willing to put the effort in to correctly gender me, even if neither of those things are the case. And that affects how I interact with that person.

        2. Theo*

          Actually that’s a loophole still! Unless there are multiple people with the same pronouns, pronouns are perfectly clear. Not using my pronouns on purpose is still misgendering me :)

        3. Hamish*

          It’s really not clearer or easier. I’m trans and it drives me crazy when people do this to try to avoid using my pronouns. It gets ridiculous very quickly.

          1. Hamish*

            And it makes it blazingly obvious that they don’t want to use my pronouns… so it’s not really any less annoying than using the wrong ones.

            1. Bird bird*

              Exactly. Using no pronouns at all is just another way of refusing to use the correct pronouns.

              (excepting people who genuinely use no pronouns at all by their own choice)

        4. DataSci*

          Only if you use names for everyone. If you use pronouns for people who use ‘he’ or ‘she’ and tie your sentences into knots to avoid using ‘they’, you’re really obviously doing so because you don’t want to properly gender them. It’s better than misgendering someone, but it’s not actually treating them with respect.

    6. meyer lemon*

      I think if Jane really doesn’t want to use they/them pronouns, she can find a job somewhere where she doesn’t have to interact with anyone else. Obnoxiously avoiding any pronouns can be a form of discrimination in itself. Besides which, this goes way beyond the pronoun issue, since Jane has escalated to cornering Alex and berating them (!). Jane has been given many chances to stop doing this and doesn’t show any sign she is willing to behave.

    7. Worldwalker*

      There is, however, something in the Bible about divorce: Jesus Christ said “don’t.” This does not seem to stop a lot of Bible-thumpers. Remember the county clerk who became a conservative darling because she wouldn’t issue marriage licenses? She had two or three divorced in her past. If you go directly against what Jesus commanded, I think you lose standing to justify anything else on the basis of your religion.

      I have a question for the people who justify their particular choices on the basis of “we have to hate so-and-so because it’s in the Bible”. The question I’ve never gotten an affirmative answer to is “Do you keep kosher?” The rule against eating lobster isn’t far from the one against lying down with a man. But they cherry pick rules.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        SO many religious people never read the bible any way. It’s crazy how many people don’t know it and all that’s in it. There is a reason why so many atheists are better versed on the Bible than many Christians.

    8. Rebecca1*

      The Bible refers to eunuchs in both the Jewish and Christian texts. Some conservative evangelical Christians believe that Adam and Eve were originally a single, non-binary (possibly intersex) person who later got split into two. The Bible has many things to say about what gender roles should be for Jews and/ or Christians, but it very much acknowledges that other gender roles exist whether or not one thinks they should.

      1. pancakes*

        It doesn’t matter what the Bible says on this subject. The Bible isn’t an employee handbook or disciplinary manual for public library employees.

    9. CoffeeforLife*

      Exactly. Just say Alex every time.
      Not difficult. Alex requires assistance. Alex is on break. Alex has a name. Use it.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Jane could have done this. But instead Jane decided it was more appropriate to harass a coworker to the point other people reported the behavior. Jane is not looking for a reasonable option. She wants Alex to be something Alex is not and is actively discriminating against them and harassing them even after having meetings about it. This is unacceptable.

      2. Hamish*

        Please stop recommending that people do this. I really, really hate that people think this is a solution. Not using any pronouns gets linguistically awkward very quickly, and it’s incredibly obvious when someone is doing this because they’ve either forgotten or don’t want to use my pronouns. It still feels bad.

    10. Not Driving*

      I’d be careful about the Biblical line of argument, because if she’s Catholic, what the Bible says isn’t really the most important factor in what religion demands. The Church does make it very clear that Catholicism believes there are only two genders, and whether that’s in the Bible is besides the point. The Vatican has made their decision. As a trans person, that decision is a large part of why I left the Catholic Church, so I certainly don’t agree, I’m just saying responding to that argument by pointing out what’s in the Bible isn’t going to get anywhere, because that’s not the primary source of religious law.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s not the primary source of employment or discrimination law, either. I get that people who know it well enjoy analyzing it, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t have any bearing on how Jane gets to treat coworkers and library patrons.

        1. Beany*

          Additionally, even if the Bible *did* say “there are only two genders, and you must use *these* pronouns in relation to them”, it’s still irrelevant.

          Whether Jane’s beliefs are actually backed by the contents of her stated reference religious text doesn’t give her the right to violate discrimination laws.

          1. Kali*

            I mean, it wouldn’t have said it in English, so those pronouns wouldn’t be he or she anyway.

        2. Not Driving*

          Yes, that’s true. There is no reason to engage Jane in a religious debate of any sort, and doing so would be legally fraught. Just fire her.

          I was more responding to the idea that the Bible is Christians get their day to day religious law, when that is very much not a universal experience.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        This. And IMO it’s pointless getting into Biblical arguments with people like this of any denomination anyway, because they probably are not going to take you seriously regardless of what scriptural evidence you have to support your points. It’s like when people say “well the Bible also prohibits tattoos” (or wearing mixed fibres or whatever) as a counter to arguments against homosexuality – it might make *you* feel better to know they’re hypocrites, but it’s not going to actually make them go “oh yeah you’re right, my argument isn’t scripturally consistent, marry whoever you like”. They are backing up what they already believe with whatever they can find in the Bible – arguing with the window dressing won’t change the fundamental belief.

    11. Not cool, Jane*

      Yes, it is completely possible to avoid using pronouns at all. It’s not even that unusual! It’s even polite to do that when you don’t know which ones to use! Plus they/them as indefinite pronouns has been common usage in English for centuries. Aarrgh!
      That “confrontation” was well over the line.

      1. Beany*

        It’s not really possible to avoid pronouns without making your language incredibly awkward. And if Jane’s avoiding pronouns only when dealing with Alex, then it’s also very obvious and targeted: “This morning I will meet Bob to discuss his budget with him. Later I will meet Sarah to discuss her budget with her. Finally I will meet Alex to discuss Alex’s budget with Alex.”

        1. doreen*

          Sure, it’s completely obvious in that example – but not if it’s reworded to ” I will meet with Bob, Sarah and Alex to discuss their budgets”. It is absolutely possible to make the avoidance of pronouns obvious and targeted , but it’s also possible to be neither. The agency where I work used a very stilted style for writing memos/ reports for at least my first twenty years with minimal use of pronouns – to the point where ” I” turned into this “writer”. If the report was about a person, that person would be referred to once by name as the subject of the report and every other reference would be to “the subject” and so on.

    12. Ms Jackie*

      not to mention, if a person had serious reservation with nonbianary pronouns, just call them by their name. Pronouns are not required for human speech. “Alex needs WXY” “Hey Alex, did you see that”

      Its not hard.

      1. pancakes*

        There’s a highlighted post from Alison at the start of comments asking people not to recommend this, and numerous comments explaining why it’s a bad idea. The seriousness of Jane’s objections to using the correct pronouns for Alex is irrelevant.

        1. Ms Jackie*

          I’m sorry, I didn’t see that. I thought it might be a way to get the offending party to just stop. It was not to offend anyone. I believe that anyone should be called whatever the heck they want (within reason – remember that crazy letter about a co worker wanting people to call her partner Master?)

    13. yarp*

      No. Imagine this:
      “Alex called. Alex said that Alex is feeling sick and Alex will be in later today.”

      This is why pronouns exist.

      Jane’s problem is not with pronouns, it’s a “respect for others” issue.

  6. The Original K.*

    I hired a trans intern some years ago and one of our other team members would sometimes slip on his pronouns, but she would always correct herself and took correction gracefully. There’s a difference between making a mistake and saying “I’m not going to address this person the way they want to be addressed, and that’s that on that.” Jane hasn’t earned the grace you’re giving her.

    1. MistOrMister*

      That really does make a huge difference. It shows the person that you know their preference and respect it, but just slipped up, which happens to us all. My mom is notorious for calling us the wrong name. I have been called my niece’s, sister’s and the dog’s names. We all have a chuckle when she does it because it is a clear accident with no malicious intent. That’s how I see it when someone uses a deadname or the wrong pronouns but realizes what they did and corrects themself, or is apologetic when they’re corrected. Slip-ups happen, when the intent to harm is not there, it’s not a reason for anyone to take offense.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I sometimes joke that my real name is “Sister-Imean-Aunt-Imean-Niece-Imean-Ace!” because of how often my mom has to run through the whole chain before she gets to me. But that’s a very different emotional impact than when people deliberately or negligently get my (hard to pronounce) name wrong and don’t care to be corrected.

      1. allathian*

        Hah. My MIL calls her daughter by my son’s name and vice versa sometimes. She doesn’t call my son by his father’s name, which would be more logical given that they’re both male. I believe it has something to do with the fact that my SIL was a sickly child who missed more days in elementary school than she attended because she was always sick until she hit puberty, and when my son started daycare he was also often sick, and when he was recuperating my retired MIL often took care of him when I and my husband needed to go to work, his daycare required two fever-free days to go back. My SIL is also single and not dating anyone, so sometimes it feels like my MIL can’t fully see her as the adult she is, even though she’s almost 40 years old.

    2. Dog Coordinator*

      Exactly! My sibling is non-binary, and also works at a library, and I would be LIVID if this were happening to them. It’s one thing to mess up pronouns as you learn to use the right ones. It’s another thing entirely to corner Alex and continually misgender them and bully them. Alison and the other commenters are right: OP has given ample opportunity, and Jane is refusing to adapt. Time to stick by your policies and show Jane the door.

  7. Daphne Moon*

    Jane’s religion states that there are only two genders and she cannot to be they/their, only she/her. It has no bearing on Alex living as they/their and she must follow the pronouns.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Yes to this! That would be like saying that she won’t speak to a customer because they are unmarried and have children. It’s a sin for the person who has the religion to do X things, it’s not a sin or against the religion for other people to do X.

    2. kitryan*

      Yes, Jane’s religion can dictate options available to Jane for Jane’s gender and pronouns but it can’t dictate how others live and if Jane wishes to be employed outside of her religious community and interact with those who don’t share her beliefs she must accept that others are not bound by the same rules and that she can’t apply those rules to others.

    3. EngineerMom*

      Yes. This.

      “Freedom of religion” means you can practice your religion as you wish… until you attempt to infringe upon others’ rights as human beings.

      It doesn’t mean you get to hide behind your religion and exercise your bigotry against others with impunity.

    4. TPS reporter*

      do you think it would be helpful to provide a counter-example to Jane? Like if Alex said to their manager- “Jane can’t say Merry Christmas to me. I’m an atheist. Make Jane stop saying Merry Christmas.” The manager would said no Jane can express her religion. It has no bearing on Alex if Jane observes and celebrates Christmas.

    1. Gingerblue*

      Seriously. How much longer is this library going to enable Jane’s harassment of Alex? Why is Jane’s bigotry more worthy of consideration to this employer than Alex’s comfort at work? They’ve spectacularly failed Alex already.

      1. Rainy*

        I’d also be very surprised if Jane hasn’t already been offensive to library patrons as well as coworkers other than Alex–the Janes of the world cannot resist the temptation to let everyone know how much they disapprove, so any other LGBTQIA* employees at OP’s library are probably also being harassed by Jane as well.

        1. Manon*

          I was thinking the same thing!

          What if she has to help a gay couple? A trans person who doesn’t fully “pass”? A GNC person? I’d be very worried about how she treats library patrons.

          1. Self Employed*


            And what’s she doing if a parent brings a little boy to storytime who decided he wants to wear his sister’s tutu that day? Or a girl cosplays a male character because she likes him better than the female characters in the franchise?

      2. Ground Control*

        Yes! My general approach to these kinds of situations is: if someone’s going to have to be uncomfortable, it should be the racist/transphobe/sexist/etc. If I was Alex or one of their coworkers I’d be looking for other jobs because I don’t want to work for a place that enables this kind of harassment.

    2. icedcoffee*

      Jumping in to say – given the relatively recent Supreme Court ruling that gender-based discrimination laws apply to LGBT people, you may be running afoul of anti-discrimination in employment laws by allowing this harassment to continue. As in, Alex could retain a lawyer and potentially sue your company for illegal harassment. And if Alex had written in instead of you, I would probably recommend they reach out to a lawyer for advice.

      I’m not sure what state you’re from, I know some states have their own gender identity anti-discrimination laws in employment, but you absolutely need to shut this down to avoid risking legal action against your company.

    3. PT*

      I’d bet there’s one of those stupid flowcharts for firing: First you must have a coaching conversation. Then a formal verbal warning. Then a written warning with another coaching conversation. Then a formal PIP with another coaching conversation. Then check-ins along the PIP with more coaching conversations.

      Which is absurd when someone is being harassed in the interim, but some places Must. Follow. The. Flowchart.

    4. Ryn*

      Honestly. So effing sick of the idea that we have to respect the beliefs of bigots when they refuse to respect people’s humanity. Once this bigot is fired, which she needs to be, there needs to be real work to restore the harm Alex has encountered because their employer enabled it.

  8. Oogie*

    Please fire her ASAP. She’s had enough chances to do the right thing and blatantly chose not to.

    1. Slipping The Leash*

      Yep. Just goes to show you can be a Christian and an asshole at the same time – they are not mutually exclusive. I don’t suppose it would do any good to point out that the primary messages of Christianity are love and tolerance?

      Fire her.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes – she has been warned, she knows what is required, and she is not only choosing to continue to behave in a discriminatory and inappropriate way but is trying to blackmail you into letting her get away with harassing another employee.

      Speak to your HR / Legal department and do whatever needs to be done to fire her.

  9. SlightlyStressed*

    Just want to say that I found this to be a very well-written letter, and OP, you sound like a very thoughtful person. I hope Alison’s analogy of tolerance towards other religions helps you out here – I think that’s a great point.

    But goodness, Christians like Jane sure give the rest of us a bad name.

    1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

      She does, doesn’t she?

      Not “Christian”. She’s what I’d call a “lower case “c” self proclaimed Christian who loves to use the Bible as a bludgeon instead of source material because she’s obviously not paid attention to it”.

          1. LDF*

            My goodness, yes. The most exhausting part of this thread is all the Christians saying she isn’t Christian. Newsflash, she is, let’s stop with Not All Christians.

            1. Theo*

              right? the problem is that SHE is a Christian, and a lot of Christians are just like her, and y’all need to step up and call your siblings in faith back into line!

          2. Black Horse Dancing*

            Agreed. Jane is Christian–a jerk but a Chritian and people need to stop saying “But she’s not a real Christian.” Yep, she is.

      1. Sylvan*

        I’m sorry to be That Person, but that kind of sounds like a no true Scotsman argument. Plenty of real Christians (or members of other religions) are bigoted today, from conversion therapy practitioners to everyday harassers.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Well, not exactly. These people are indeed Christians; their faith, twisted as it may be, is very real to them and sincerely held. The fake-Christian narrative erases the damage that oppressive “real” Christianity has done and continues to do.

        Read Chrissy Stroop for more information on this. She is a scholar, trans woman, and ex-vangelical who writes extensively on the subject. As she puts it, “harmful practices carried out in a religious context, as religious imperatives, do not stop being ‘really religious’ just because they are harmful.”

        You’re right that they do use it as a bludgeon, though. What they’re failing to realize is that religious freedom stops at the end of their noses.

        1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

          Noted and will follow up with reading. I appreciate the suggestion, truly, as I’m constantly willing to learn and adjust :)

          I do not disagree that a ton of awful oppressive things have been done in the name of Christianity. Its…not a short list by any means. It should not be minimized.

          And I agree with you that they fail to realize that religious freedom stops at the end of their noses.

      3. Mental Lentil*

        Nope. Jane is not a Christian here. Jesus healed the sick, he didn’t tell them to get a job and find an in-network physician.

        1. No Name #1*

          As a Jewish person, I roll my eyes every time I see someone use the whole “not a real Christian” excuse. Christians have been persecuting and slaughtering people of other faiths (such as Jews) for over a millennia. Many Christians also believe that people who do not accept Jesus as their G-d and savior will burn in hell for eternity. I have Christian friends and loved ones who I care about very much, but the Christians who are hateful and violent are just as Christian as they are, seeing as they believe that Jesus is the messiah.

      4. Alldogsarepuppies*

        Disagree. People get to claim their own religion and you don’t get to take it away from them because you interpret the bible differently – just as Jane cant’ say you aren’t a Christian because you are tolerant of “sinners”. The fact is the bible and organized religion allow such horrible interpretations and practices and its the duty of all that follow the faith to fight against it or seek out their own ground not connected. You don’t get that by claiming someone isn’t “a real” Christian. That is pushing the problem away when you contribute.

        1. mf*

          x1000. When self-proclaimed Christians do hateful things, that deserves a closer look, not reflexive denialism.

      5. Worldwalker*

        Not a Christian; a member of Team God. It’s about the group affiliation, not religious belief.

      6. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        I once read an interesting suggestion that there are Christians (people who follow the teachings of Jesus) and Churchians (people who follow the teachings of their church) and that they are not the same people.

    2. Just no*

      I am going to push back on this, SlightlyStressed. I am going to take a guess that you aren’t a member of the LGBT community. I am, and OP doesn’t come across as a “very thoughtful person” to me. She is allowing an employee to be openly and frequently harassed (and probably running afoul of employment discrimination laws), and is both openly admitting that she “respects” Jane’s position and clearly indicating that she respects Jane’s position by not shutting this down more firmly. That isn’t thoughtful or respectful.

      1. Allypopx*

        Agreed. She’s at best being philosophical, not thoughtful. A philosophical person gets so hung up on the concept of “treat everyone fairly” that they get lost in the weeds and fail to see that Alex is a real suffering person and not a concept. A thoughtful person makes a workspace that is safe and comfortable for everyone and removes the festering tumor that’s preventing that.

      2. Clisby*

        I agree. Jane’s opinion and “religious” views don’t matter. Her behavior on the job matters, and I have no idea why she hasn’t been fired yet.

      3. Ground Control*

        Agreed – this crossed from “thoughtful” to “permitting bad behavior” after the second or third warning to Jane.

      4. different seudonym*

        Agreed, and for the same reason. OP is going around and around on this to Alex’s detriment, and seems to believe that the very act of obsessing somehow excuses the harm. That’s BS.

        In my experience, this is a common fallacy for people who are only partway out of the ugly cultural spheres where Janes rule. Sometimes “I disagree with people like Jane” comes well before facts like “Jane does not have any special access to morality or truth just cuz she’s loud about it” are fully internalized.

      5. FridayFriyay*

        Yup. Jane is not being respectful and does not deserve respect. I think the OP is kinda half-trying and missing here, and needs to fix this situation ASAP.

      6. Queer Earthling*

        Agree. I don’t care if OP is trying to be a perfect centrist, or if it’s like, “Maybe if I don’t fire Jane she’ll see the light!” but there’s a real person here who is being harassed and disrespected. Your nonbinary employee doesn’t exist as an example by which Jane can learn to be a more understanding being like some movie; they are a real person who deserves a safe place to work.

        1. allathian*

          Agreed. Yes, this. If Jane wants to continue working at her current job, she needs to change her behavior. She can believe what the heck she wants, but she needs to treat Alex with respect, and that includes using their pronouns.

          Even so, I think that her behavior so far has been so awful that no matter what she does in future, I seriously doubt that Alex will feel safe working with her as their coworker. She’s proven often enough that she doesn’t respect Alex as a human being. I do think that Jane needs to be fired.

      7. SlightlyStressed*

        Appreciate the responses and I think Allypopx nailed it that I interpreted philosophical as thoughtful. The pandemic has revealed a lot of Janes in my family, and I think I let the complications of navigating that cloud my judgement here.

      8. So Tired*

        Yes, this! I’m a member of the LGBT community and LW sounds like so many people I’ve heard who consider themselves “allies”. They think that just personally believing in my right to exist as I am is enough to save them from criticism. But they aren’t willing to confront those who are hostile toward me and other LGBT community members.
        LW is concerned with how to appease and teach Jane, in a way that makes it sound as if Alex’s feelings are secondary. What LW is actually doing by being concerned with Jane’s feelings and supporting her position is signalling to library staff and patrons that the library is not a safe place for LGBT people. As you said, that isn’t thoughtful or respectful.

      9. A*

        Agreed. OP comes across as well intended, but with actions that do not speak to that. Ultimately actions are what matters, and this shouldn’t have been allowed to escalate to this point. The minute Jane confronted Alex she should have been fired or had formal action taken to allow for that to happen if the behavior continued.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      I think the OP sounds thoughtful to the point that it is a hindrance in this particular situation. I mean, they sat down with Jane to discuss this and it sounds like Jane was able to completely hijack the meeting and ended up being… almost comforted? that everybody makes mistakes and she’s not a bad person etcetera, and the pretty wishy-washy takeaway that “we were hoping to see some improvement in Jane’s pronoun use”. I mean, “hoping for some improvement” is what you say when someone is a bit crap at keeping up with the filing, not repeatedly misgendering a colleague and singling them out for verbal harassment on the basis of gender.

      I think the OP was quite right to consider the paradox of tolerance. She’s now at a point where she needs to stop being thoughtful and start being proactive about creating a respectful, safe workplace for Alex.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, “hoping to see some improvement” really grated on me. That’s not NEARLY strong enough, and is a really disappointing resolution to that meeting. This has gone on at an egregious level for way, way too long. If I were Alex or even one of their coworkers, I might be starting to think the OP agreed with Jane, tbh.

    4. Hamish*

      She doesn’t sound like a very thoughtful person to me at all. She’s been allowing an employee to be harassed due to their gender for what sounds like months.

      If I was Alex, I would feel hurt by and furious at OP. If I was Alex’s co-worker, I’d be applying elsewhere because it would be very clear to me that I could expect to be discriminated against for being trans in my workplace.

  10. Cat-Soup*

    This sounds miserable for Alex. It’s one thing to accept the mistakes and occasional missteps of colleagues, but this is far beyond that. The Civil Rights Act has recently been interpreted to include both gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes with regard to sexual harassment and employment issues. Keeping Jane and her explicit and intentional transphobia around is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    1. MistOrMister*

      And, not to take away from how horribly this certainly must make Alex feel, it also sounds miserable for the coworkers. I cannot imagine going about my workday and seeing one coworker accost another the way Jane accosted Alex! The fact that multiple people witnessed that and contacted HR indicates that it must have been BAD. I wish OP had mentiond if anyone stepped in when it was happening to try to help Alex, but maybe everyone was so shocked they just stared goggle eyed. I would have a very difficult time working with Jane after the way she had been treating Alex. I think Alison was absolutely right to point out how other employees might now be feeling their workplace isn’t safe. It’s one thingto be given all this inclusivity training, but when you have a Jane going around being problematic and nothing changing, you tend to assume management doesn’t actually care. While it might be clear to the bosses that they are working on trying to solve the problem, the optics probably look really bad from the rank and file employee perspective.

      1. Momma Bear*

        This. Is OP (and upper management) taking into account the affect on the rest of the staff? I would be watching this closely to see what happens with Jane and whether or not management/HR has the guts to protect Alex or if they would rather hang Alex out to dry because Jane’s difficult to deal with. If any patrons overheard, then that could be another issue. They need to stop protecting and excusing Jane – not just for Alex’s sake, but for everyone. If they don’t stop it post haste, they are creating a toxic workplace for everyone.

      2. kt*

        Yes, this is a very important comment.

        A lot of discussion — and the OP — is getting caught up in Jane’s feelings and morals.

        But we have someone on staff harassing another person on staff to the extent that colleagues are noticing and raising red flags all over the place, and the intervention so far has been hugs for the harasser and the equivalent of an all-staff email.

        As someone who has seen some incidents, this says to me “management doesn’t care and/or is ineffective, and the allyship is simply performative.”

        The performance of allyship, giving someone enough hope that they let down their guard and trust you, then throwing them under the bus at the first sign of majority discomfort — it’s one of the cruelest and most disenfranchising thing you can do, sometimes even more than actual straight-out discrimination. It’s very gaslight-y. I hope this is direct enough that it gets through to OP.

        1. Blue*

          Yeah, I appreciate that OP means well, but they’re letting their concern for Jane take precedence over protecting Alex from Jane’s bigotry. Jane assaulted Alex at work! Alex didn’t ‘feel’ assaulted, they were assaulted! Jane backed them into a corner and berated them about their gender identity! At work! OP, you don’t need to understand Jane or help her fix her heart, you need her to fix her behaviour – now – or you need to get rid of her. And you need to keep her far away from Alex either way.

    1. Zillah*

      I think it’s not so much that Jane will never change as much as it is that whether she eventually might change isn’t relevant here. It’s not appropriate to volunteer other employees, including one that she’s targeting for harassment and bigotry, to teach Jane to become a better person. That’s a huge burden that people get to choose to take on or not.

  11. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

    Its been a bit since I’ve read any version of the Bible, but did I miss the part where its acceptable to be an unmitigated cruel asshole? No?

    That’s what “Jane” is doing. She’s being an asshole and using “but religion” to try to buy herself a pass. Document, document, document, and get rid of her.

    1. Mimi Me.*

      I remember in 3rd grade we learned about how Ben Franklin would write letters with secret codes using a template so that only the person who had the template could read the true meaning in the letter. I used to wonder if churches passed these out to parishioners when reading their bibles and if they were all different shaped because the message was different depending on which church you went to. The way people twist a book into a way to be cruel and vicious to others is one of the many, many reasons I’ve left religion in the rear view behind me.

      I agree with you, Jane is being an asshole and needs to go!

    2. Oldie Hawn*

      You indeed missed that part, since it’s full of ethnic cleansing, rape, and divinely-ordained murder.

  12. Quill*

    I wanna highlight Allison’s sentence here: “If Jane told you her religion prevented her from being respectful to someone” is in fact the situation here, with anything about race or religion chopped off. What demographic the disrespect is based on is irrelevant, she’s telling you that her religious tenet is “do not be civil to people from a pre-identified group.”

    Descrimination does not have to be tolerated, and should not be. You were past three strikes during the first instance.

    Rid yourself of her.

    1. Hopping to it*

      Yep. This doesn’t have to be about religion – Jane cannot pick and choose which colleagues and patrons to treat with respect and expect to remain employed. And you really need to be thinking more about the miserable (hostile?) work environment Jane is creating and you are enabling than Jane’s insistence to that this is impossible for her. As someone mentioned earlier, your default strategy is to use this as a learning opportunity for Jane, but it is coming at the continued expense of Alex, other coworkers, and who knows how many patrons. If you can’t see yourself protecting Alex ( and you should!), what about a teenager who comes in and gets a similar earful from Jane? Someone for whom the library is their safe place? You mention having just had training on suicide and depression among this group. You are giving Jane a platform to vulnerable people via your client services, and you KNOW how she’ll treat people who don’t fit in her world view.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I bet that Jane harassing a coworker is depressing for multiple people. You can’t say you are sensitive to an issue and then let it happen under your nose.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        I must say that holding sensitivity training while enabling this sort of behaviour amongst your staff strikes me as rank hypocrisy. How on earth are the rest of OP’s staff supposed to believe that the library is committed to these ideals and carry them forward into their work when they can see fine well how Jane is treating Alex and that OP is bending over backwards to avoid enforcing real consequences for it?

  13. HR Avoiding Real Work for a Minute*

    My HR answer, run the termination through HR/legal and if you don’t have a legal team go through any legal sources you have to find a solid employer side labor relations lawyer. Have them review your documentation, do what they recommend for corrections, and then fire her.

    Remember you’re not firing her because she has religious beliefs but because she’s being discrimatory to a coworker and potentially future customers. Discriminating is not a protection for religion under the US Constitution.

    1. Ashley*

      This. Do not make this about Jane’s religion, but Jane’s treatment of another co-worker. Pull documentation together, talk to HR / Legal for the final termination notice , have a witness present and be done.

    2. sacados*

      She can think whatever she wants. She can *believe* that there are only two genders. But the office has an explicit policy that “you must address others using their specified pronouns” and Jane is clearly in violation of this.
      Hell, Jane could probably get away with calling Alex only by their name and just avoiding pronouns all together, and that would probably still be borderline “well we won’t outright fire you for this” territory, but she’s refusing to do even that.

    3. HR Exec Popping In*

      Yes, get HR or legal advice, but this employee should be terminated. While OP is trying to be open minded, she is allowing ongoing discrimination to continue. This has nothing to do with religion. If someone told you their religion won’t allow them to work with someone who is (pick one: Jewish, Black, female, etc.), would you show that person this amount of grace and continue giving them more chances? This is the same thing. Someone does not get to purposefully be cruel to a coworker because of their religion.

      It sounds like your library is not fully comfortable with the topic of gender, but that is not an excuse for not addressing this head on.

    4. OhNo*

      And while you’re waiting for the legal review and getting your paperwork and ducks in a row, do whatever you can to keep Alex away from Jane. Alex doesn’t deserve to suffer another minute under the discrimination Jane has been laying down, and making sure they feel safe and supported in their workspace while you fix the issue should be very high on the priority list.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*


        OP, if you can’t fire Jane today, at the very least she should be kept as far away from Alex as possible until you get the paperwork in order. You’ve allowed Alex to be harassed and discriminated against for too long already, and it’s time for you to get serious about protecting them.

    5. learnedthehardway*

      This, absolutely this.

      Jane does not get to use her religion to be cruel to other people.

      Frankly, someone needs to sit her down and ask her “What would Jesus do?” Because it certainly wouldn’t be harass his colleagues.

  14. irritable vowel*

    Jane needs to be told that the boundaries of her rights are where they start to infringe on the rights of others, namely Alex. Tolerance and equality doesn’t mean that everyone gets to do and say whatever they want.

  15. LadyByTheLake*

    If Jane were citing her religion as she behaved in a cruel and bigoted fashion to people of color, or people of different religions, or women, or homosexuals, would you be bending over to accommodate her? No? Then why are you trying to accommodate her here?

    1. Bagpuss*

      It may be worth putting it that way to Jane.
      Explicitly explain to her that what she is doing is equivalent to addressing a POC using the N word, or calling a disabled co-worker a cripple. (I’ve been trying to think of a religious equivalent for someone who represents themselves as christian but I am struggling to come up with an example)

      that her behaviour is discriminatory, it is in breach of your organization’s policies, it exposes the library to legal consequences as if she continues Alex would have a cast-iron case against you, and that unless she can, immediately and concisely start to treat them (and any other non-binary, trans or other LGBTQA staff or service users) appropriately and without discrimination that she will be fired .

      It’s tempting to literally quote chapter and verse to her, with particular references to the many examples of singular they, them or their in the King James and Tyndale bibles, and indeed put her on the spot to explain where, precisely, in the bible the use of singular they is opposed, but I don’t think that getting bogged down in biblical commentary is going to be helpful – I think the focus is that her religion has nothing to do with this, it’s entirely about her refraining from harassing and discriminating against a coworker.

      1. Properlike*

        I don’t think it’s worth putting anything any way to Jane. She’s already demonstrated she’s not open to change. They like the argument, because they can twist everything back to justify their belief and the explainer gets tied in knots because Jane can’t be convinced.

      2. JSPA*

        Jane has been given ample guidance and more-than-ample explanation. Jane is not required to change her thinking. Jane is required to change her actions. Any further explanation only weakens the “no further tolerance for this behavior” stance that OP needs to take.

        I foresee that if Jane agrees, the next step will be invasive and unwelcome and barbed and offensive “just asking to learn more” questions, directed at Alex. This should also be shut down–before it even starts–with zero tolerance. The internet exists, and Jane works in a fricking library. She’s not without resources to learn, and those resources do not include asking (or “asking”) Alex.

  16. Ups and downs*

    As a Christain it is not against my religion to respect someone and use their proper pronouns. She is direspecting her colleague and pushing her religious values on someone else. Shes been given ample time and warning you will not change her mind best to let her go.

    1. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

      Literally came here to say this exact same thing. I’m a Christian, and I use my colleagues’ proper pronouns. Because I respect others (I also don’t believe there are “only two genders” but that’s beside the point – I respect even those who believe things I don’t). Jane doesn’t respect others – she’s not behaving as a Christian should.

    1. Ashley*

      I often want to ask people like Jane where the Bible says that. Not in a work context but in a where do you come up with this kind of crazy?

      1. SaffyTaffy*

        It’s a major problem with (protestant) Christianity that we don’t have a system for people to become pastors. Contrasted with rabbis, priests, and monks, pastors can just declare themselves such and don’t have to go to school or get anyone else’s blessing/permission. That trickles down into lots of churches with lots of little differences in interpretation and no intermural fellowship, and you end up with whole towns full of people who think the Bible was written in English.

        1. BubbleTea*

          This depends on the church – the Anglican church does have a very thorough vetting and training programme. It doesn’t guarantee an absence of bigotry though, sadly. I may be confusing language here though, as I don’t think we use the word pastor in the UK very much.

          1. Clisby*

            A lot of people in the US who use the word “protestant” likely are thinking of protestant evangelicals, not protestant churches like Episcopalian (Anglican), Lutheran, Methodist, etc. A member of the Episcopalian clergy here would usually be referred to as a priest or rector. I think Lutherans and Methodists mostly would be called pastors, but maybe ministers. At least in my experience, Episcopal, Methodist, and Lutheran churches typically do not let someone just “declare” to be a pastor – they’re expected to get a seminary education.

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely. My Godmother was a Methodist local preacher and she definitely had to train for it. I remember my parents and I being an audience for her when she was practising her sermons ahead of her assessments. I’m not sure exactly how it works but I do remember it being quite lengthy. I gather the process for Methodist ministers is longer and more formalised.

              Anglican ministry definitely involves formal study to degree level and quite a lengthy training programme. I got to know my grandparents’ vicar quite well and she had a doctorate in theology although I don’t know how typical Maggie was and I don’t think it’s a requirement.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I mean, many major denominations do have requirements – my dad got his MDiv, did a year “internship” pastorate and then was able to become fully ordained. But I recognize that’s not necessarily universal.

          1. ThatGirl*

            But as BubbleTea points out, that does not guarantee a lack of bigotry or that you will be a good person! Heck my uncle got an MDiv (and then went on to get a JD and become a lawyer) and he is a terrible person. Just a well-educated one.

        3. MechE*

          > It’s a major problem with (protestant) Christianity that we don’t have a system for people to become pastors.

          One of the many points of Protestantism is the lack of hierarchy and a central organizing body.

          As for “differences in interpretation”, not having a central authority telling people what the bible means is a feature, not a bug.

            1. Self Employed*

              They’re also not the kind of evangelical churches that tell members to go to work and harass their coworkers and claim religious harassment.

      2. Jenny D*

        I’m guessing they’d point to Genesis 1:27

        “ So God created mankind in his own image,
        in the image of God he created them;
        male and female he created them.”

        1. BubbleTea*

          My slightly tongue in cheek response to that would be to point out that if you take “them” as a singular pronoun, that is explicitly saying that God created non-binary/pan-gendered people. They are both male and female! But I doubt that is going to convince Jane.

        2. Princess Punky*

          Sooooo the original Hebrew text of this verse does not use singular masculine pronouns/verbs to refer to God. This is a more literal translation of Genesis 1:26-27 (Common English Bible)

          26 Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”

          27 God created humanity in God’s own image,
          in the divine image God created them,[a]
          male and female God created them.

          In the original Hebrew, God is mostly referred to using the masculine, occasionally feminine or a gender-neutral plural. Lots of different explanations for why this is, the most plausible to me (as an atheist with an interest in history & linguistics) is that originally the Abrahamic religions were polytheistic and these are bits and pieces of older texts/oral traditions that survived to be incorporated into the Torah/Pentateuch.

      3. JB*

        Being trans and having been targeted by these kinds of people, the argument is usually something to do with Adam and Eve, or to do with violating the sanctity of ones own body – i.e. God creates all humans in His image and any alterations to the body are going against His vision/wasting His gift, etc.

        Obviously none of this involves pronouns. English didn’t exist when the Bible was written, it certainly says nothing about the use of pronouns in English.

        Ultimately there is no point in meeting these people and trying to argue on their level, because their religious-based arguments are smokescreens. They are part of the modern Evangelical movement, which is a political movement screened in religion. What Jane is really saying is that she considers trans people to be an enemy or threat to her and is willing to try and use her religion as a weapon against us.

        1. Anonymous Hippo*

          I’d like to know what exactly is god’s image that he gets both males and females out of it.

          But all the clever arguments in the world are not gonna change this woman. Either she conforms to appropriate behavior, or she is fired. Her heart and her brain aren’t our concern.

      4. Bagpuss*

        I’d guess Genesis 5:2 which is the ‘Male and female he created them’ bit.
        (Ironically, in the King James version you then get “and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.” which to me, looks a lot like God was using They/ Them pronouns for Adam) (Other translations have their name as Man, Mankind or Humankind)

        There is also a bit in Matthew where Jesus is reportedly answering a question about divorce and says “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” – I’ve seen the first half of this quoted out of context as justification for anti-trans bigotry, even though in context it’s more of a ‘no, you can’t trade your wife in for a new model just because you’re bored of her’ .

        1. Queer Earthling*

          otoh Galatians 3:28 says “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

          It’s really not about what the Bible says or doesn’t say; it’s about bigotry using religion to justify itself. They just pick the lines that makes them feel good about being bigots.

      5. Ugh*

        It is possible to make a reasonably non-stretch Biblical argument for the gender binary. That doesn’t make it right or okay to treat people like this.

        – Signed, a nonbinary Christian who has had to contend with this very issue.

      6. TiffIf*

        Just a note–many Christian religions have multiple sources for the tenets they follow so just because something is not in the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t a part of their religion. Whether it is Catholics with statements or guidance from the Pope or Latter Day Saints with the Book of Mormon, etc. Some religions accept the part or all of the Apocrypha as canonical, some don’t. There are centuries worth of extra-biblical texts that different religions use or follow as part of their religion. The Catholic Bible is different than the Protestant Bible.

        To be clear, NONE of this excuses Jane’s behavior and rudeness towards her colleague. There ARE religions that have extra-biblical guidance on gender. That doesn’t make Jane right in her behavior or excuse the harm to Alex. Whatever Jane’s particular sect believes, her behavior is unacceptable.

        But to simply try and refute someone’s claim that something is a part of their religion because it isn’t in the Bible is, for may religions, an inaccurate measuring stick. In some cases it will simply show that you are ignorant of their religion and not have the effect you want.

    2. Brett*

      There are some very specific arguments around the binary nature of priesthood which do apply. But that would generally just mean that there are people who can be priests and people who cannot, without having to differentiate the genders of people who cannot.
      Even religions who follow this very rigorously, though, have done a lot of recent work to reconcile this so that it is not tied to binary gender.

    3. Not Driving*

      That’s not true for Catholics, as the Catholic Church has a centralized hierarchy that has declared that there are only two genders and transgender people do not exist.

      1. Not Driving*

        I’m not defending the Church, because this stance is a big reason I’m an ex-Catholic, but an appeal to Biblical law misunderstands that not all Christian denominations use the Bible as their primary or most important source of law. It’s also irrelevant, because there’s no reason to debate with Jane about religion. She was told to respect Alex’s gender, she has repeatedly refused, and that is all that matters. Just fire Jane.

        1. TiffIf*

          an appeal to Biblical law misunderstands that not all Christian denominations use the Bible as their primary or most important source of law. It’s also irrelevant

          Much more succinct than my three paragraphs above.

        2. UKDancer*

          Yes. This shouldn’t be a religious debate about what religious doctrines are important here whether it’s a particular book or a set of instructions. Jane needs to obey the rule in the office that she uses the names and pronouns people have asked for. It doesn’t matter what her religion says about gender, it matters what the law and the rules for the company she works in say.

  17. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

    I am a bit concerned that she only got a warning after CORNERING and harassing a colleague. It’s bad enough that she was complaining and miss-gendering but to corner someone and to have other people find the interaction concerning enough to report that they were concerned for Alex’s safety is appalling. That’s not struggling to adjust that’s being a jerk and making it very clear she is a bigot. I would rather Jane had been fired then, but since she wasn’t it became a thin ice situation and now that she’s still being a jerk she clearly has to go. It’s better for your entire staff – honestly I wouldn’t be able to work with someone who did this to a colleague.

    1. Littorally*


      OP, you have a real problem on your hands, and soft-pedaling things with Jane is not the way to get through it.

    2. Polecat*

      I agree. The OP seems desperate to avoid having to take action. She’s looking for any way she can possibly keep Jean and it’s unclear why. I think Alex has a pretty good case for discrimination and harassment that is not being properly addressed by management.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      OHH yes! You make an excellent point. If this had been a male colleague who was cornering a female colleague and harassing them to the point that others were concerned for her safety, the company would take immediate action.

      1. Allypopx*

        Or if they didn’t, you would have bigger issues. OP, you have bigger issues. Take action.

    4. aebhel*

      THIS. That should have been a fireable offense. Everything else, fine, maybe give her warnings, but cornering and harassing a colleague for ANY reason should be cause for termination.

      And Alex is the one being actively victimized, but they’re not the only one. BS like this is the reason I won’t come out at work, and it’s quite likely that there are other staff members making that same calculation. If you build an environment that prioritizes the comfort of bigots over respect for marginalized people, you’re going to end up with a workplace full of bigots.

    5. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      This! OP if I was an employee there and I saw and heard Jane corner Alex and then saw her do other stuff afterwards…that would be enough for me to look for employment elsewhere. OP stated Jane received a verbal warning for that. Right then and there should have been the “if you ever again you will be immediately fired” conversation. And then later Jane persisted in her bad behavior and ended up with a written warning. I would not want to work in an environment where that kind of incredibly bad behavior gets so many chances to happen again and again. Full disclosure: the library in my town is my very favorite place. If I was a customer and saw this behavior, and then realized on my next trip in that the problematic employee still worked there and was still acting that way, I would never return to that place. I would full stop start going to some other library even if it was farther way and not as good as a library. Jane still being there and still acting up is telling coworkers and the public that this behavior is implicitly ok with management. She should have been fired already. I really hope OP comes back with an update.

    6. Just Another Zebra*

      Was coming here to say this – even without taking pronouns and gender into account, having an employee physically corner a coworker and yell at them sets you up for claims of hostile work environment, harassment… I’m really not certain why Jane wasn’t fired for that.

      OP, if you cannot fire her outright, I’d go into this with very firm language and tell Jane that referring to Alex with they/them pronouns is a requirement of her job. She is to write a contrite letter of apology to Alex (without justification – so no mentions of “I’m sorry you felt this way but I’m like this because I’m a good Christian woman!”), and understand that her behavior needs to be inscrutable going forward. And have the paperwork ready to terminate her employment.

    7. 3DogNight*

      Coming to say this exact thing. Ignore all of the religion wording, the everything else. If I was cornered at work, by anyone, for any reason, and feared for my safety, one of us would not be coming back to work tomorrow. Period. That should be the entire thing.
      OP, I feel like you are a nice person, and trying to work through management issues you inherited. It sucks that one of your first big things is having to fire someone, but your team will appreciate you and trust you more if you do this.
      Everyone deserves to feel safe at their job.

    8. Nea*

      First – OP, you’re trying to do the right thing, but you’re allowing Jane to control you and the narrative via misdirection, shielding, emotional outburst, and exchanging victim and aggressor.

      Or, in short, she has (successfully!) employed the abuser’s DARVO – deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender.

      DENY (via misdirection): She’s just following her religion. She’s “not a bad person” and you are obligated to agree, even though none of the discussion was about her as a person, merely her behavior.

      ATTACK: Her supervisors are the actual aggressors. They’re trying to brainwash her. They’re trying to discriminate against her religion. She has done nothing.

      REVERSE VICTIM AND OFFENDER (and covering via an emotional outburst): Any criticism of her behavior is actually a criticism of her entire person. How dare you call her a bad person! How dare you “imply” she hurt someone!

      That she got away with her supervisors agreeing to call her actions a mere “implication” is a particularly nifty bit of reframing. There’s no implication that she hurt someone, there are multiple third party reports of an act of obvious aggression!

      OP – Past time for her to go. Just look with a cold clear eye at her past actions so you’re ready when she does all the same things that have currently been working so well to preserve her job and position to harm Alex.

  18. unimpressed cis*

    There is so much more in this letter about Jane than Alex. Why is it more important to get through to her than it is to create a supportive workplace for Alex? It sounds like this has been dragging on for awhile and it has to be wearing on Alex. What kinds of support are they being offered? I hope OP is expending a similar amount of energy considering how to make sure Alex knows their contributions are valued.

    1. ThatGirl*

      This line stuck out at me: I want to address Jane’s behavior clearly and directly, but also demonstrate that I see her and respect where she is coming from.

      No. You do not need to “respect where she’s coming from”. Because Jane is not respecting Alex. This is not a difference of opinion, this is blatant bigotry trying to hide behind religion. I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess Jane is also white, and white women have a long history of weaponizing tears against bigotry, in an attempt to make people feel bad for them. She can feel however she wants inside, but her behavior has not changed, and it’s not acceptable.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        That line really struck me as well. Why is it so important to show a bigot that you understand and respect where she’s coming from? So much MORE important than showing her victim that they can count on their boss to keep them safe at work?

      2. Clisby*

        +1000. There is no need to respect where Jane is coming from. Jane is refusing to show common courtesy to a colleague. Her religious beliefs don’t matter, her feelings don’t matter. What matters is that she can treat everyone (bosses, co-workers, customers) kindly and decently. If she can’t do that, she can’t do her job, and she needs to go.

      3. Anonymous Hippo*

        Yeah, where they are coming from is of no import.

        I don’t want to trivialize what Alex is going through, but honestly, if a person wanted to be called Pinky Bananas for no particular reason, and a coworker was belligerently refusing to do so, taking it to cornering them and harassing them about the name, I’d think they deserved to be fired. I think people should be fired simply for being assholes to their coworkers, aside from the other issues.

        Oh no! Look how I used They/Them without violating any Christian doctrine. :angry face:

        1. MtnLaurel*

          Exactly. The goal should be to get the behavior to change, not to get Jane’s belief to change. She can believe what she likes. She just can’t behave in a disrespectful fashion to a co-worker.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I think that the LW just really wants to help Jane see the error in her ways and have her progress in this area. The LW may feel like they owe it to Jane since they are her manager and it is harming Jane’s career.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        But it doesn’t matter nearly so much that it’s happening Jane’s career than that it’s happening Alex! That’s what I keep coming back to here… there is so very little attention to Alex from the OP. It’s all about Jane, Jane, Jane. Jane’s religion, Jane’s choices, Jane’s career, Jane’s intent, Jane’s refusal, Jane’s needs. Alex seems to factor disproportionately little in the OP’s thought process, and that’s the way Jane is avoiding being fired so far as she deserves to be.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Happening/harming, in both cases. Sorry. My spell checker gets a little out of control and I didn’t notice before sending!

      2. FridayFriyay*

        I think it’s pretty clear that this ship has sailed. It cannot be more important to protect Jane and her career (because of the OP’s misplaced feelings of sympathy I guess?) than to protect Alex from discrimination and the organization from legal consequences of not acting (which is literally the law.)

      3. unimpressed cis*

        doesn’t LW owe mentorship and progress to Alex too? Why is Jane’s career, in which she deliberately harms her coworkers because she thinks she’s above common decency, more important than Alex’s, which is ALSO BEING DAMAGED BY CONSISTENT HARASSMENT????

      4. aebhel*

        Sure, but you can’t make a grown adult see the error of their ways if they don’t want to. Jane knows what she’s doing. She’s been repeatedly informed that her behavior is unacceptable. It’s time for consequences, and any harm to Jane’s career as a result is fully on Jane.

      5. Hamish*

        So what though? If my employee were being racist I wouldn’t feel bad that it was harming their career.

    3. MEH*

      This was exactly my thought upon reading the letter. “Where is Alex in all this?” There is way too much Jane in all this.

      OP, you’re fallen into the common trap of catering to the aggressor (Jane) without taking pains to care for the person being aggressed against (Alex). It doesn’t matter why Jane is doing what she does–it’s only the results that matter. And the result here is that you have one employee who is harassing another and most likely negatively impacting the other employees. People like Jane love arguing about intent because then they can keep the attention off their behavior. If she can keep you focused on reasoning with her and respecting her point of view (which, no, there’s no need for that), then you’re less likely to address her behavior.

      Reba above linked to the update about an employee who kept getting deadnamed by a coworker. Please read that and notice that the letter writer did not engage in arguments about the motivation behind the deadnaming. She simply outlined what was going to happen and refused to be budged from that position. She also apologized to the employee who was being deadnamed for not realizing earlier how damaging the whole situation had been to him.

      You are in that position now. You are putting the comfort of a bigot (Jane) over the safety of Alex. Jane can think whatever she wants, but you can absolutely draw a hard line with her as to how she is allowed to behave. If she can’t, then she needs to go.

  19. Crivens!*

    Jane sounds like a crybaby bigot who is using her religion as an excuse. Don’t let her do this any longer. She is actively harming Alex and she needs to be fired.

    1. ThatGirl*

      As I noted just above, she’s weaponizing her white lady tears. She doesn’t really feel bad because if she did, she’d fix her behavior.

  20. Just no*

    Hey OP, I am a lawyer, and I would advise you to seek out the advice of an employment attorney. It seems to me that you guys are allowing gender-based workplace harassment, and Alex may have a cause of action against you.

    I also detect some underlying transphobia in your letter, and I’d urge you to investigate that and try to figure out how it is affecting your response to Jane. Specifically, you say that you “see her and respect where she is coming from.” That’s probably coming across to everyone in your workplace.

    1. Rainy*

      Yeah–I honestly just don’t understand how any person possessed of any logical ability whatsoever could “respect where” this awful person “is coming from”. It’s absurd on its face: first, it’s hurtful and mean (personally unacceptable), second it’s discriminatory and harassing (legally unacceptable), third, ffs, has OP even read the Bible, because I have, and the “only two genders” thing is a reach from the passage I’m sure Jane is referring to.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether the OP is personally transphobic or not; it matters that they’re helping to create a morally unacceptable and legally actionable situation that puts both Alex and the company at risk of varying types. This is not okay, and it can also get your company in serious legal trouble. Stop trying to tiptoe around Jane’s preferences, and make the library safe for Alex immediately… either by holding Jane accountable or by firing her, whichever it takes.

    2. Physics Tech*

      Thank you for saying this so clearly, it’s amazing how much Jane’s feelings of comfort are prioritized over Alex’s safety and emotional well being. If I had a boss like OP I’d be looking for a new job, and I can only hope Alex is documenting everything.

    3. NeonFireworks*

      I bet Jane is counting on the LW to bend over backwards to be nice about this, because then she gets away with continuing the behavior! Tee-hee!

      1. Theo*

        A lot of Active Transphobes use people’s everyday societal-level transphobia to let them get away with stuff like this.

    4. Jules the Goblin*

      In the LW’s defense (not in Jane’s defense), I’m guessing they’re in the US and we’re seen a lot of “both-siderism” lately — especially in the way that liberal people are blackmailed into more tolerant than conservative “””Christians””” because of the paradox of tolerance. Plus everyone gets their hackles raised when “religious freedom” is mentioned. I’m not saying it’s right, but I’m sure LW’s workplace has never had to deal with this kind of situation before and they’ve tried to give ample chances for Jane to do the right thing.

      That being said, Jane has shown clear refusal to do the right thing and is just using religious freedom as an excuse for her bigotry. The time has passed to try to change hearts and minds — it’s clearly not going to happen. I hope this is a wake-up call to the LW that Jane has to go.

      1. meyer lemon*

        Jane is certainly drawing on aggressive both-siderism tactics to promote her bigoted agenda in the workplace–for example, accusing LW of “brainwashing” her by trying to hold her to basic standards of professionalism (and decency). And the tactics seem to be effective, inasmuch as the LW seems much more focused on trying to do right by Jane than trying to protect Alex (and library patrons) from her bigoted attacks. This scenario is a good illustration of the harm that can be done by passively acceding to bigots because they are the louder voices.

        To the LW, I say: Jane is trying to manipulate you. Ignore her explanations and justifications and focus on her actions and their effects. You can’t control her feelings, but you absolutely should stop her from harming others.

    5. Sara without an H*

      I definitely agree that the OP and/or her administrators need to talk to an employment attorney stat. Alex probably already has grounds for a lawsuit. Jane may also be contemplating a lawsuit about religious harassment, which may or may not fly, depending on the state the organization is located in.

      Either way, the OP needs to stop doing amateur behavior modification and get some legal advice before the situation gets ugly/uglier.

  21. many bells down*

    Also willing to bet that Jane, like all English speakers, has ABSOLUTELY used the singular “they” when she doesn’t know a person’s gender. Refusing to use it in this specific instance is targeted harassment.

    1. Quill*

      Exactly. No one routinely SAYS he/she, and no one did during the brief window it was grammatically perscribed, they only write it down.

      1. londonedit*

        This argument always baffles me a) because I’m nearly 40 and no one ever taught me that ‘they’ was incorrect – in fact it’s what I was always taught to use if you didn’t know someone’s gender, or were talking about a nebulous ‘they’ (‘I was talking to someone in Finance and they said…’ etc – totally fine as far as I’ve ever been taught) – and b) because ‘but but but it’s WRONG and BAD ENGLISH’ is just such a stupid argument anyway. Whenever anyone wheels out the ‘but grammar’ excuses it just tells me they can’t be bothered to change their outdated mindset.

        1. Red*

          This, a thousand times this. It amazes me that anyone seriously suggests their (!) third grade grammar lesson overrules a human being to begin with. Isn’t it a little like correcting the uncommon spelling of someone else’s name, also a jerk move?

      2. Older and bolder*

        TBH, I did. My whole life. But I’m one of those very picky grammarians who drive others nuts. Then I watched a series by John McWhorter which explained to me that language is what people say, not what the rules are, which is why it keeps changing. So I had to get over myself. Then I began to read about people who, for whatever reason (and their reason does. not. matter.) use pronouns they prefer. I taught myself to use these correct pronouns. Because I’m a grammarian, not a cruel bigot using my beliefs to hurt others.

        1. Older and bolder*

          Sorry, nesting makes it unclear what I meant when I said “I did. My whole life.” I meant I did say “she or he”.

        2. Worldwalker*

          “Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths”?

          John McWhorter is great. He’s done several other lecture series for Great Courses, though they’re more technical. I recommend “Language Families of the World” very highly.

        3. Librarian of SHIELD*

          In the words of Thor, God of Thunder: All words are made up.

          There’s no inherent reason for us to call things what we call them, somebody made up a word or a phrase or a sentence structure and other people decided it made sense and started using it. That’s what language is, at it’s heart.

          I’m glad you were able to get past the grammar of it all in favor of kindness.

        4. Kevin Sours*

          This particular one is weird though. The objections to the rule against singular they are almost as old as the rule itself and English is much older than the rule. The rule was part of a an effort to retroactively apply the rules of Latin grammar to English. Singular they is absolutely not some recent change the language.

          1. Jackalope*

            So I want to start by saying that obviously the most important rule about which pronouns to use is that if someone wants to be referred to by a specific pronoun/set of pronouns, that’s the most important thing. If I were speaking to someone who asked that I use they/them pronouns, I would gladly do so. But the idea about singular they being older than plural they only is misleading. Many of us were raised with the rule that “they” is a plural only pronoun, at least in written English. Thou/you (an example given earlier in this thread) is not something that has been in common usage in the lifetime of anyone around now, for example, so it’s not comparable. I was raised with 1 English word for “you”, so it’s not hard to understand. Reading a sentence (much more so than speaking, probably also from usage) that has a singular “they” always throws me off, and I have to stop and parse out what is going on and what the meaning is. Again, someone else wanting to use they/them pronouns would and should win over my feelings towards singular they, but it’s possible to have issues with a recent change in grammar that we grew up with while also being comfortable using other grammar points (one word for “you”, not splitting infinitives, etc.) that date back to the previous singular they.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              Singular they is something that has examples that go back to the origins of modern English in the 15th century. The rule against it dates back to circa 1700 when a bunch of people decided to apply the Latin rules for grammar to the English language. Objections to this new rule explicitly on the basis that it is discriminatory towards women are noted as early as 1705. There has never been universal consensus that singular they is improper.

              People may have been raised with the rule that “they” is plural only — certainly there are people willing to be emphatically incorrect about to students who don’t know any better — but claims that singural they is a recent change to the language are factually untrue.

      3. Worldwalker*

        Exactly: “if another prospective client calls, tell them we’re booked until next week.” Nobody would say “tell him or her.”

      4. MechE*

        >No one routinely SAYS he/she

        I mean, I do.

        >during the brief window it was grammatically perscribed [sic]

        Like right now, outside of pronouns, when both the AP and Chicago Manual say to construct sentences to avoid the singular they?

        I’ll follow someones pronouns, but I don’t use the singular they.

        1. Sylvan*

          Do you follow AP or Chicago style while speaking out loud? Because I’ve had a variety of jobs that require AP over the last ~10 years, and neither I nor my coworkers have stuck to its rules when talking. A style guide is a set of rules that keep published writing consistent across a company or industry — it’s not meant to be adhered to in casual communication.

          By the way, you’re not following someone’s pronouns if you’re not using them, and I’d maybe not say “he-she” out loud. That’s an insult for trans people. Guessing you mean that you say “he or she,” though.

          1. MechE*

            I don’t stick to the style guide in every way when speaking, but I do have a rather antiquated communication style. I mean I still use contractions, but not when writing. I speak and write in a way that makes me feel comfortable. Both of my parents were writers. Ending a sentence with a preposition, splitting infinitives, fewer vs. less, et cetera, were all unacceptable. I’ve carried on those habits. We can debate my parents’ parenting style, but it is what it is.

            I don’t know where you get the idea that I wouldn’t follow someone’s pronouns. Arbitrary grammatical rules are dumb in comparison to someone’s comfort. I would never, ever, say he-she. I was quoting the person to whom I was replying. I do say he or she in the context the person was describing.

            1. Theo*

              nothing more antiquated than singular they tho :D

              the reason they (heh) think you won’t follow someone’s pronouns is because you specify that you won’t use the (grammatically correct) singular they — which is what they/them is. I hope you mean something different!

              1. MechE*

                Ahh. Apologies for being unclear. I meant that I don’t use the singular they in sentence construction if it can be helped, outside of a person’s desired pronouns. I’ll restructure the sentence to avoid the pronoun, or as a last resort use he or she.

                I wouldn’t avoid it or refuse to use it as someone’s preferred pronoun. I’m totally happy to say “they are gender fluid” or “Taylor is non-binary. I have know them for almost a decade. We met in college”. I see now how I was unclear.

            2. Sylvan*

              You said that you say “he/she” and that you won’t use singular “they.” Sorry, I thought you meant that you say “he/she” out loud and that you don’t use singular “they.”

              If you’re not following style guides, then their guidance on singular “they” is as relevant as their guidance on the Oxford comma. Same goes for your parents’ parenting style, which isn’t really any of my business and is similar to my parents’ anyway.

            3. pancakes*

              “I mean I still use contractions, but not when writing.”

              You’ve used several contractions in your comments. You characterize your mindset on this subject as a holdover from or monument to your parents, but the language you use is a series of choices that you yourself make. You also say that you feel comfortable with the way you speak and write, but the question in this context is whether other people—specifically, nonbinary people—are comfortable with the way you use or refuse to use their pronouns.

              1. MechE*

                It has been pointed out to me that I was unclear. I will always use a person’s preferred pronouns. I’ll use the singular they in that context. I’d happily say “they are gender fluid” or “Taylor is non-binary. I have know them for almost a decade. We met in college”. I see now how I was unclear.

                I meant that I wouldn’t say something like “please ask the librarian for their stapler”. I’d say, “please ask the librarian for a stapler” or “please grab the librarian’s stapler” or “please get a stapler from the librarian”. These examples are all in a situation where I don’t know the gender is preferred pronouns of the librarian.

                To your previous point, I meant contractions in formal writing, briefings, technical reports, and the like.

    2. Elenna*

      This! I 100% guarantee that if I told Jane “I talked to the cashier and they gave me a discount” or whatever, Jane would not see any problem with it. But when one specific person says they want to use they/them, it’s suddenly impossible? I call BS.

      1. Older and bolder*

        Which makes it obvious that Jane’s “intent” is to treat Alex differently, which is discrimination, while shouting that Jane is being discriminated against. Jane is a Pharisee. Yeah, I said it.

        1. A trans Jew*

          Please don’t use “Pharisee” like this. Pharisaic Judaism is a direct precursor to Rabbinic Judaism and its use as an insult specifically for self-righteous unspiritual religiosity plays directly into many centuries of antisemitism.

      2. GothicBee*

        As someone who was an English major, I hate the grammar argument. I mean for one, “you” is a plural pronoun, yet we nearly always use it to refer to one person. And as with your example, we use “they” to refer to a singular person a lot more than most people think.

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          As a fellow English major, I second this. When people complain about grammar, I like to remind them that English is really just 5 separate languages masquerading as 1 language in a very large coat. Grammar is nothing if not inconsistent.

          1. Jerusha*

            I have a T-shirt with the James Nicoll quote:
            “English doesn’t borrow from other languages. English follows other languages into dark alleys, knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar”

            English is a magpie. It picks up shiny bits from other languages /all the time/

            (And I say this as a recovering Prescriptivist. It took a lot of work to get over my initial reaction of, “That’s just wrong! That breaks the rules! You’re not supposed to say it like that!” But many of the grammar (and spelling, for that matter!) rules that we have, exist because someone observed language being used that way, and wrote that down. How people are using language now is not necessarily less valid just because no one has come around and codified it into a rulebook (yet).)

  22. Jonaessa*

    If we can refer to a woman by her married name, we can refer to anyone else by any name he/she/they choose(s).

    Please stop using religion to be an awful person.

    Also, I’m a grammar nut, and even I am coming around to using they/them for a singular person even though everything I was taught growing up tells me otherwise. We grow. We progress. We (hopefully) get better.

  23. I'm just here for the cats*

    Jane is just using her religion to warrant the way she’s treating Alex. She needs to be fired. Like, fired yesterday.

    Also LW, please reach out to Alex. They may not be aware of everything you’ve been trying to do with Jane. Please check with them, tell them that Jane’s behavior is not ok and that was the reason she was let go. They may need to know that you have their back and do not condone Jane’s actions.

    1. FM*

      Agreed on this. If you have been trying to seem “neutral” or not take sides, Alex needs to know that is not the case.

  24. Dust Bunny*

    Jane doesn’t deserve more consideration than Alex does, and right now she’s getting it. She’s been warned. She’s been coached. This isn’t a case of “not getting it”–this is deliberate and she needs to be out on her ear.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        This! I have PTSD and being cornered by a verbally abusive coworker would engage my Fight of Flight response. And I’m not a runner.

  25. Red*

    Echoing everyone else: please terminate Jane. Keeping this individual on the staff sends a terrible message.

  26. FM*

    It’s already time to let her go. Nowhere in your letter does Jane show an ounce of willingness to try to change her behavior to comply with the workplace policies, nor even an acknowledgement that she has hurt someone. She has had enough chances. You cannot allow her to still work with you.

  27. Anon (she/her)*

    Fire Jane.

    She is not going to be able to make the adjustment. She clearly doesn’t see anything wrong with her behavior. As Alison noted you cannot extend endless grace to someone at the expense of others. And, you really can’t to someone who you see zero evidence of trying to change.

  28. Dasein9*

    Can you ask Alex for a statement on this issue? Such a statement may or may not be relevant to the steps you must take to fire Jane, but asking for one would signal to Alex that the matter is being taken seriously and that steps are being taken without revealing anything that would violate Jane’s privacy.

    If steps aren’t being taken to correct this issue, assume that Alex will be looking for work elsewhere because they are being bullied.

    1. pancakes*

      A misguided approach. Alex doesn’t get to sign off on the mistreatment of other nonbinary coworkers or patrons even in the unlikely event they want to give Jane a pass on her behavior. Alex is not the keeper of legal standards or workplace expectations regarding bigotry. The way to signal that Jane’s harassment of Alex is being taken seriously is for Jane’s manager to take it seriously, which to date they have not.

    2. FridayFriyay*

      Don’t do this. This is just putting the onus of the discrimination back on the person being discriminated against. Multiple people have documented an egregious instance of discrimination from Jane, and the OP has observed that this is a persistent and ongoing issue. You do not need Alex to do any more practical or emotional work in this situation and it is unfair to ask them to do so.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      No, you signal to Alex that this is being taken seriously by firing Jane. Alex shouldn’t have to rubber-stamp this to make the LW feel better.

  29. I should really pick a name*

    “There was an incident a few months ago when Jane cornered Alex and repeatedly demanded from them what “people of faith” are supposed to do because it’s against her religion to use they/them pronouns.”

    That’s the point where I’d fire her. She’s going out of her way to harass someone.

    If she really didn’t want to use Alex’s pronouns, she could just call them Alex. She deliberately wants to make a thing out of this.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Even with the UK legendary amount of employee protection I’d have booted her out the door for that. Unpaid suspension at the very least.

      There’s NO excuse for harassment. None.

    2. Allypopx*

      This is full stop a fireable offense. I wonder, OP, if you’re worried about legal pushback from Jane due to religious discrimination, but Alex can and should sue your pants off for tolerating this.

    3. retrowaveRecluse*

      This stood out to me – is Jane also harassing Alex on the axis of how they are (or should be?) practicing their faith? IE, comply with her argued interpretation? If so, thats even More unreasonable on top of something I find utterly unacceptable.

    4. Esmeralda*

      OP was not the manager at that time. (OP states that previous supervisor spoke to Jane about this incident)

  30. EricT*

    Nothing like a “good Christian” hiding behind their religion to be bigoted and hate filled (the opposite of being a good Christian) against others that are different than themselves.

  31. Polecat*

    Jane is a bad person. Fire her. It’s honestly quite a miss on your part that she hasn’t been fired yet. You continue to employ someone who is harassing another staff member. If I were Alex, I would feel that you were complicit. Why do you say at this point that you want respect Jane when she’s proven she doesn’t warrant it? I think you’re suffering from bothsiderism- and there are not two valid points of view here. Jane has the right to believe anything she wants, she doesn’t have the right to do and say anything she wants without consequences.

  32. FM*

    I’m also extremely concerned that cornering and harassing a colleague, with many witnesses, was only given a “verbal warning.” I hope that incident is thoroughly documented.

    1. Anon (she/her)*

      That stood out to me as well. And that apparently all she needed to do to get sympathy in that incident was to get upset she was being called a bad person (newsflash for Jane – if you are harassing a co-worker for simply existing, you are a bad person). There is no talk about Alex and their reaction. No discussion about keeping them safe and happy.

      In my mind, verbally assaulting a coworker is grounds for dismissal, or at the very least a written warning indicating if there is even as much as a hint of a wrong pronoun used that Jane would be fired.

      Unfortunately, talking about being inclusive and being inclusive are not the same things. And, based on the letter I think Alex and Jane’s employer wants to talk about inclusivity, but they don’t want to actually be inclusive.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        I think they’d like to be inclusive in principle but they reeeeeeally want it to be easy for them. And when it’s not, they’ll choose easy over inclusive.

        Not that it really matters what they want. At least if they’re in the US, they’re required to protect their transgender and non-binary staff. They’re not required to want to, any more than Jane is required to want to call Alex by their correct pronouns. She just has to do it; and since she won’t, she has to be fired. OP and that library have to protect Alex or be (correctly) sued.

  33. Andrea*

    “Intent is reality”? In what universe is that true? “The path to hell is paved with good intentions” is a saying for a reason.

    She’s treating a colleague cruelly after being warned about it multiple time. Fire her.

    1. BethRA*

      In Jane’s case it’s true, though – because her misgendering Alex is very much intentional.

      Jane is entitled to her religious beliefs. She’s not entitled to be cruel.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I can say that my religious beliefs require me to sacrifice a random co-worker to Cthulhu every month, but that won’t get me out of the murder charge when I do it. Breaking the rules — and “be polite to co-workers” is a pretty basic one — is still breaking the rules even if you claim your religion says it’s okay.

    2. SaffyTaffy*

      I was thinking that, too. Very few people ever intend to actually hurt anyone, even murderers.

    3. meyer lemon*

      I feel like the LW opened themselves up to this line of argument by getting into the weeds about “intent vs impact” in the first place. It gave Jane an opening to manoeuvre her way into getting a ton of leeway for appalling treatment of Alex (and probably others too). It would have been much simpler to just tell her that treating others with respect and using the correct pronouns is a fundamental condition of employment, take it or leave it.

    4. DyneinWalking*

      It’s usually extremely hard to judge if someone is being intentionally harmful or not… However, you can approach the question of intent from the other way – don’t try to assess someones intent to do harm; instead, assess their intent to NOT do harm. People who truly care about NOT doing harm will actively avoid behaviors which they know or learned to be harmful.

      If they don’t avoid such behaviors, even after repeated reminders, well… you still don’t know if causing harm is their intention or not, but you can safely say that they aren’t much bothered by the possibility of causing harm.

  34. Littorally*

    OP, it does not matter what Jane’s beliefs are or are not. You cannot control what is in her mind. What matters in the workplace is how she behaves, and you have the standing to require that she treats Alex appropriately, including correct pronoun use.

    Alex is not a participant in Jane’s religion, and Jane’s limited view of human gender is not Alex’s problem, nor is it the workplace’s problem. “Can misgender her coworker” is not a reasonable accommodation of religious belief, no more than it would be a reasonable accommodation to let her call a coworker named Jesús by a different name because she finds his name inappropriate.

    You sit her down and have a firm talk with her. Respecting her colleagues and the library patrons by using correct pronouns — as defined by those colleagues, not by her — is a fundamental requirement of her job, and if she is not willing to do that, the next step is to discuss her transition out of employment with you. Period.

    1. Properlike*

      As I tell my kids: “You can think hateful things about me all day long and I’ll never know and don’t care. The minute it comes out of your mouth, you’re accountable for the consequences.”

    2. UKDancer*

      Definitely. I worked with a male colleague who believed that women were inferior to men and that women should be barefoot and pregnant. He was quite at liberty to believe that. Once he started telling me what to do and trying to order me around, it became a problem and I complained.

      I complained about what he was doing not what he believed. Beliefs aren’t the problem, actions are.

      In this case Jane can believe what she wants in her head but she needs to treat Alex appropriately and call them by the pronouns they have asked people to use.

  35. Hotdog not dog*

    So if my religion says I can’t eat pork, does that mean my colleague can’t have a BLT for lunch? (Spoiler: NO). As far as I know, my choice to follow a particular set of religious edicts doesn’t mean I have any right to impose them on others. Also, while I’m not an expert on Christianity, wasn’t Jesus in favor of loving thy neighbor, and how would intentionally causing emotional discomfort to someone else fit into that philosophy?

    1. Slipping The Leash*

      Isn’t the whole point of evangelism the imposition of one’s ideology on everyone else?

      1. mf*

        Yes, it is. Many Christians believe that causing others discomfort is totally acceptable if it means converting them to Christianity and saving their immortal souls.

    2. The answer is (probably) 42*

      I even have a literal example of this! I grew up Orthodox Jewish, so that means (among other Kosher rules), no pork and no meat together with dairy. My youngest brother was born with a medical issue that required us to have a daytime (and occasionally overnight) nurse in our home for the first couple of years. At one point we had a new nurse come in for her first shift, a lovely Christian woman, and she brought a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch. And you know what my mother did when she saw? Laughed it off, even though the nurse was incredibly apologetic, and just said that she’s welcome to eat whatever lunch she pleases, and if she wouldn’t mind please use a placemat when she eats ham so that we don’t get any on our table. Asking our Christian nurse to use a placemat when she ate ham was a reasonable request to accommodate our Jewish beliefs. Refusing to let HER eat ham at her place of work just because WE wouldn’t eat ham would have been way out of line.

      (BTW, that particular nurse continued to work with my brother for two years and got me a lovely purse for my Bat Mitzvah, I still remember her fondly 20+ years later. We’ve tried to look her up but she has a very common name so we never were able to find her)

  36. ghostlight*

    This makes me so angry. Fire Jane immediately. Tell her explicitly why. And apologize to Alex that you didn’t handle this sooner or better. I can’t imagine how they (or anyone else who is LGBTQ+ at your organization) are feeling knowing that their workplace has put up with this woman for so long. I hope Alex gets out ASAP; they deserve so much better.

    1. Chilipepper*

      I’m straight and I would have lost respect for my org long before this point if this happened here.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Same here. I don’t have to share any characteristics with Alex other than being human for me to find something like that unacceptable. I’m a member of the *human* community, and Jane is abusing one of us.

  37. Kaisa (The Librarian)*

    Is Jane a public facing staff member? If so, what happens when a trans or non-binary patron needs help? What if the question is specifically about resources for transitioning or support groups? Based on what’s written here I would not trust her to provide that information and provide it respectfully.

    If she’s not public facing she should still be fired, treating a colleague (or really another human being, but you have less say over that) this way is unacceptable. However, if they have to interact with your community I’d say it adds another level of concern.

  38. AnOtherFed*

    This isn’t cake or pie. There are not two sides of equal virtue and equally rational argument. One person is trampling on the rights, well-being, and mental health of another and you are enabling at this point. She won’t change. Imagine if this was race or religion or if this was coming up with a patron and not a coworker. Rip off the Band-Aid, this needs to be over . And while you’re at it, apologize to Alex for letting it go on for so long.

  39. Karen*

    i’m all for using the pronoun a person has asked you to use. but you know how to get around that? use their name, every time. this is not a case where Jane doesn’t know Alex’s name, she does. it’s clunky, but Jane can do it, if she can’t bear referring to Alex as Alex has asked. (see? annoying, but doable). this person is intentionally disrespecting and insulting a coworker, and that can’t continue.

    1. VC*

      We don’t need to let anyone “get around” someone’s pronouns, either. If Jane doesn’t like calling Alex they/them, Jane can find a new job somewhere there aren’t any trans or NB people, or Jane can grow up and can get over Janeself.

    2. FridayFriyay*

      This would likely also be legally protected discrimination, but would probably be much more difficult to prove. It would still be microaggressive at best, and definitely icky.

    3. Theo*

      This is still misgendering. Trust me, as trans people, we can tell when people are avoiding using our pronouns because they’re bigots.

    4. Hamish*

      No. Please stop recommending this. As a trans person, it’s just as obvious to me when someone weirdly twists their language to always say “Hamish” instead of ever using any pronouns for me. It’s extremely clear why they do it. Suggesting this as a solution is enabling transphobia.

  40. D3*

    It seems as though you think that getting Jane to respect Alex is the only success, and anything else is failure.
    The opposite is true.
    Success is a safe workplace for everyone. Jane is a threat to Alex. Fire Jane and make your workplace safe for all!

  41. Jubilance*

    OMG I’m tired just reading this. Poor Alex.

    It annoys me greatly how organizations of all sizes will bend over backward and give multiple chances to someone like Jane…but if the situation was reversed and Alex was the one harassing her coworker, they probably wouldn’t get the same grace and benefit of the doubt. I’m so tired of it.

    Jane needs to be fired yesterday – she’s not going to change and start respecting all of her colleagues. If Jane doesn’t go, you’re going to have a bigger problem on your hands, like Alex (and potentially other staff) leaving because of Jane’s antics.

    1. Older and bolder*

      If I were a patron and saw that activity, you’d have a bigger problem from me. (Just to be clear, I’m straight. Justice is everyone’s business.)

  42. Keymaster of Gozer*

    With all this focus on Jane’s feelings, and Jane’s warnings and talks to Jane to ensure she still has your respect….

    …what’s being done about the very real and serious harm this is doing to Alex? They’re essentially being told to endure a hostile environment. This must be absolutely shredding their mental state.

    Jane is a howling bigot. She’s saying she cannot stop harassing anyone who she thinks deserves it but it’s ok because….she believes it’s ok??

    That’s not how law works. If she thought it acceptable to scream obscene words at unwed mothers in the workplace, or refuse to speak to anyone of a different belief she’d probably still think she’d be right. Legally though, she’s not. Or morally for that matter.

    Summary: she’s toxic nuclear waste. Get rid of quick.

    1. MistOrMister*

      The line about calming Jane down over the fact that she hurt another person because SHE isn’t a bad person really got me. Maybe Jane is a good manipulator. Because who goes into a meeting hearing stop doing this as it hurts your colleague and manages to get it turned into, sometimes we make mistakes and that’s ok. She didn’t make a mistake. She is deliberately using the wrong pronouns and cornered Alex in an apparently very hostile manner. I don’t understand why so much effort is being made to make Jane feel comfortable at the expense of what is probably the majority of the rest of the staff. Having multiple training session in the hopes that “now Jane will get it!!” makes no sense. What the entite staff needs is for Jane to be told in no uncertain terms that she either uses the correct pronouns or she can pack her things and leave.

      And really, how difficult is it to avoid using pronouns if you don’t want to?? It might sound strange, but anywhere you would use a pronoun for a person you can use their name. If someone asks where Alex is, instead of saying they went to the restroom, Jane can say Alex went to the restroom. It’s really not that hard. Granted Jane could just suck it up and use the pronouns but she’s horrible so….

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Jane is aggressively hostile, and trying to dress it up with ‘but I’m not a bad person and it upsets me if you say so!’. Pure. Manipulation.

        Frankly I wouldn’t trust her with anything.

  43. Amethystmoon*

    I know many Christians who would use the pronouns because they actually believe in loving their neighbor without exceptions. It’s not right to use religion as an excuse for intolerance.

  44. Cthulhu's Librarian*

    Presumably you wouldn’t tolerate Jane deliberately misgendering members of the public who use your facility. So why on earth are you tolerating her deliberately misgendering other members of your staff?

    Presumably you wouldn’t tolerate a member of the public mistreating Alex in this way. So why on earth are you tolerating a member of your staff doing it?

    Presumably you wouldn’t tolerate a member of the public launching into an accusatory speech based on their religious views at another member of the public, either. So again, why are you tolerating one of your staff members doing it?

    Presumably you wouldn’t tolerate any other person being harassed for any reason within your facility. So why are you tolerating Alex being harassed?

    Step up as the manager, and do the right thing. Jane can abide by your work place policies, resign, or be fired. Her religion is irrelevant, and you’ve let her use it as a shield for too long already.

  45. SJJ*

    “There was an incident a few months ago when Jane cornered Alex and repeatedly demanded from them what “people of faith” are supposed to do because it’s against her religion to use they/them pronouns.”

    I seem to have missed that commandment.

    You just need to tell her that she will fall in line. It’s up to her whether it’s the corporate line, or the unemployment line.

  46. MuseumChick*

    If you really wanted to give her one final chance, remember what Alison says here ” She can believe whatever she wants, but she needs to treat everyone at work respectfully and follow your workplace policies.” That is basically what you need to tell her. One of the many expectations for her job is that she treats her co-workers with respect and that absolutely includes using their preferred pronouns. This is your final word on the subject and if Jane chooses to not respect Alex it will have serious consequences on her employment with you.

  47. Laney Boggs*

    I understand “backed Alex into a corner” is mostly metaphorical, but that should have been the absolute last straw, and she should have been fired for harassment.

    Get rid of her, yesterday. (Also, her religion almost definitely does not say that. She is using it as a cover to be nasty and hateful. Maybe that will help you reframe it, LW).

    1. FridayFriyay*

      I know this type and I’d be shocked if “backed Alex into a corner” was not literal rather than metaphorical. When it happens to you it is terrifying.

    2. JSPA*

      OP is on treacherous and unrewarding ground, thinking about religion, vis-a-vis Jane. After all, OP absolutely cannot debate religion with Jane; and Jane’s own home church may in fact explicitly teach EXACTLY what Jane is doing (too many are).

      This isn’t a religious issue or a philosophical issue or even (anymore) a teaching / learning opportunity about gender. It’s 100% about professionalism. Jane is not displaying professionalism, and will be let go for being unprofessional.

  48. Rusty Shackelford*

    Bad news, Jane. My religion forbids women from working outside the home. Pack your crap and get out.

  49. Clorinda*

    “Male and female created he THEM.”
    It’s right there in Genesis. Calling Alex “them” seems very Biblical.
    And how do you even misgender someone while speaking to them? Second person pronouns have no gender. Jane must have gone out of her way to do that.

    1. Allypopx*

      I think that’s a plural them but beside the point, the bible also doesn’t say be a bigoted jerk to your coworker.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      It’s misgendering because they do not feel they are either Male or Female. By using gendered pronouns you are then rendering that person, which is wrong and therefore called misgendering

      1. Dahlia*

        No Clorinda meant you don’t use third-person pronouns talking to someone directly. “You” is not gendered in English. I don’t walk up to my friend Martha and go “How is she today? She looks good!”

        Also let’s not define Alex’s gender identity without knowing them. We don’t know anything about it besides that they’re nonbinary and use they/them pronouns.

  50. Sleepy*

    This sucks. I had a direct report who was not “with it” on gender issues, but I had several conversations with her about it and she totally rethought her position, updated her language, and became a vocal advocate for making trans folk feel safe.

    So I know that transformation can happen when you extend a colleague this kind of grace, but…it clearly hasn’t happened here.

  51. bluephone*

    Jane knows she’s being a jerk-face and hiding behind her religion to do it (the one overriding law of Christianity is “love others as I have loved you”). She could stop anytime she wanted. She doesn’t want to stop. She has been given way too many chances, at the expense of Alex’s safety (and other employees who may not feel comfortable coming out, precisely because they see and hear Jane being a butt-head).
    Fire Jane before Alex sues the whole group for harassment or tries to kill themselves or something. God knows Jane will land on her feet at some Qanon-run place quickly enough where she can scream about genders all day long to the other inmates.

  52. Sawbonz, MD*

    I consider myself to be a good Christian but it seems like a lot of other people who claim to also be good Christians conveniently forget that we’re supposed to be good to one another; not shun, hurt or try to ignore someone’s right to exist. I wish people like the letter writer could really step back and see what their actions look like to others; ugly.

  53. Chilipepper*

    Hard agree with everyone here who says you are privileging Jane over Alex and every other employee and every patron. It’s not good.

    Has Jane objected to any materials you have that mention more than two genders (for example a medical book or online database that has information about children born with genitals that are not clearly male or female never mind one that is literally about transgender) or any materials you have that use they/them as singular pronouns? If not, this is about harassing Alex and nothing more.

  54. BethRA*

    This: “We ended this conversation with the acknowledgement that everyone makes mistakes (that doesn’t make us “bad people” — just humans)” makes me furious here.

    Jane isn’t “making mistakes” – Jane is doing this deliberately. She’s not accidentally using the wrong pronouns in conversation, she is knowingly, intentionally refusing to address Alex correctly. She knowingly, intentionally, cornered Alex and berated them.

    I don’t mean to pile on, OP, but Jane deserves to be fired, and Alex deserves and apology from you and the organization.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I rather suspect Jane to be one of the types who’ll post all over social media about how people like her are the ones TRULY being oppressed in today’s society.

    2. Tuesday*

      Right – if you make a mistake, you try to correct it and not make it again. Jane didn’t make a mistake, and it sounds like she was upfront about that. I think OP is wanting to see it as a mistake and wanting Jane to be on a “learning journey,” but that’s just not what’s happening.

    3. aebhel*

      Yeah. ‘Mistakes’ are along the lines of accidentally using the wrong pronoun for someone, apologizing, and correcting oneself. Jane is not making a mistake. Jane is choosing this behavior, and OP is choosing to let her get away with it.

    4. Worldwalker*

      Exactly. Wearing mismatched socks is a mistake. Repeatedly misgendering Alex is a choice.