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Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

Wheaton College Restricts Employees’ Use of Preferred Pronouns

By Kathryn Post
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Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. (RNS Photo: Emily Miller)

Wheaton College, a flagship evangelical school in Wheaton, Illinois, recently updated its student and employee handbooks to restrict employees’ ability to designate personal pronouns and to elaborate on the school’s position on trans/nonbinary students and faculty.

“The College does not permit the statement of preferred personal pronouns by employees when conducting College business, when on a platform where they are publicly identified as College employees, and/or when using the College brand in print or digital media, except when employees are required to submit such pronouns when registering for a conference or for membership in a professional organization,” new language in the student handbook says.

Updates to the handbook, which were approved in October and shared with employees in December and with students in January, clarify that the college does not endorse the statement of preferred pronouns by employees or students of Wheaton. While the handbook exclusively recognizes the pronouns he/him/his and she/her/hers as reflective of the “created biological binary,” it does not appear to explicitly prohibit students from using or stating preferred pronouns, including they/them pronouns.

In an email to media, a spokesperson for the college confirmed that Wheaton had updated its policy on gender and sexuality in both the student and employee handbooks, the latter of which is not publicly available. “Although it had been more than a decade since the policy was last updated, substantive changes to the policy were minimal,” the spokesperson wrote. “The biblical principles and theological convictions on gender and sexuality articulated in the College’s Statement of Faith and Community Covenant have not changed.”

Previous versions of the student handbook indicate, and the new language affirms, that Wheaton College “considers the decision to undergo a medical transition or to engage in other persistent actions or behaviors at variance with one’s birth sex” to violate the school’s theological commitments. However, the new language goes on to say the college would consider hiring or enrolling people who’ve transitioned if it does not violate the college’s religious convictions (for instance, if the transition took place before that person became a Christian, or to address a unique medical situation). The handbook does not define what falls within its definition of a “medical transition” from a person’s “birth sex.”

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Both the previous and current versions of the student handbook make clear that the college believes God created sex to occur in the context of a marriage between a man and a woman and prohibit “same-sex sexual behavior,” including marriages, civil unions or dating relationships. The handbook also has and continues to clarify that Wheaton hopes to be a loving community that respects and cares for all members, including those who “experience incongruity between birth sex and gender identity.”

On Monday, a new Instagram account called Wheaton Watchdog, which says it was created by Wheaton alumni, posted a screenshot of the updated language in the student handbook. 

The account criticized the college for its position, stating that queer persons “will never feel welcome or safe on campus.”

Kathryn Post is a reporter for Religion News Service based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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12 Responses

    1. I like this website because it’s nice staying up to date on what’s happening in Christian news. I do find the website confusing though. I believe Julie Roys is a self-proclaimed conservative complementarian, and yet you almost never see a positive story about a conservative complementarian church. In fact, it seems they go out of their way to try to find any little negative thing. On the other hand, stories about LGBTQ issues are always written in a positive light.

  1. This is a very encouraging story to see here! But I wonder, is it posted here to paint Wheaton in a negative light, or is it posted to draw attention to an institution “restoring the truth, restoring the church?” Praise God for fidelity to scripture on the part of Wheaton.

    1. It’s news. We simply report the facts. No doubt, to some, this is an encouraging story, but to others, it’s a concerning one. Depends on the reader. But the journalist’s job is simply to report.

  2. Wheaton is quite influential in the Christian college community, and so I expect others to follow suit. I do wonder if THIS is where they need to be spending their time. Are there REALLY that many trans/binary individuals beating down Wheaton’s doors? If not, is this just grandstanding?
    Also, as someone with a gender-neutral name, I often indicate my pronouns for clarity that I am a woman. I know that nuance has been lost in this alleged “war” about gender identity (I’ve had all sorts of assumptions and accusations hurled at me for having “she/her” listed on my profiles and in my email signature), but I’d like for that to be remembered.

    1. The very fact that there is already a student Instagram account shows this is at Wheaton’s (and likely other Christian universities) doorstep.

  3. The whole “My Pronouns” shtick is badly overdone to the point of absurdity.
    The ultimate First World Problem.

    1. It’s not a first world problem; last time I checked we have only one planet.
      But in some places on this planet asserting anything non-binary could lead to prison. Think Uganda and Museveni.

  4. If “queer persons don’t feel welcome or safe on campus “ they have the option to go somewhere else. They have been forewarned.

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