Associated Press style changes distort facts about gender

I remember when I became Mrs. Richard Codden. Taking on a new name and a new identity as a married person gave me goose bumps.  Every time someone called me “Mrs. Codden,” it reminded me of the great gift named Rich that God had given me.

And, when I was sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office for my pre-natal visits, I dreamed of all the reasons why I had fallen in love so deeply with Rich. I knew he was going to make an excellent husband and father.

He has. Notice I used the word “he.” New style guidelines issued by the Associated Press, however, want us to rethink our ideas about gender and pronoun usage.

By Chris Codden

In our increasingly PC world, AP has declared “they” can sometimes be used as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun in part because “language around gender is evolving.” Why is this revision a big deal?

First, the Associated Press style guidelines assist journalists by providing a common standard. Most newspapers and magazines across the United States use these guidelines. While there are some publications, such as The New York Times, that have developed their own rules, a basic knowledge of AP style is considered essential for reporters.

Second, and more important, AP’s decision is one more example of efforts to systematically and subtly obliterate from our language our God-given identity as male or female. It promotes a false secular ideology by urging media to avoid making references in news stories that suggest there are only two sexes in the human race.

I can tell you my sixth-grade English teacher must be rolling in her grave about now, because she is the one who drilled into my head that you never use pronouns where the number doesn’t match. So, if I use “he,” that means one person.  If I use “they,” it describes more than one person.

On another front, Oregon may become the first U.S. state to allow persons to declare themselves without gender, or “nonbinary,” on their driver’s licenses and other state-issued identification cards. The term “nonbinary” presumes rejection of the two biological genders for which God created human beings. In Canada, there are provisions that someone can change his or her birth certificate from one sex to another.

Signs of hope

In all this chaos, we have lost sight of the fact that there are people who struggle with their sexual identity. Instead of offering them compassion and assistance, we change our language. In our lack of willingness to help persons heal from their confusion, instead of offering a fish, we give them a snake and remove any semblance that:

“God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…. God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good” (Genesis 1:27-28, 31).

I do not know how to stop this onslaught on the concrete fact that our creator made us male or female, which is truly a gift. I am puzzled how it has become acceptable to think that calling someone by their biological sex is somehow harmful to mankind.

Yet, there is a glimmer of hope.  There are actually a number of schools going the opposite direction, experimenting with single-sex classes. Back in 2002, the “No Child Left Behind” law cited single-sex classes as one “innovative” tool to boost achievement, finding that girls and boys really do learn better separately.
Unfortunately because anti-discrimination laws banned widespread use of such classes, separate classes were only allowed in certain instances, such as for sex education lessons. A change in federal regulations in 2006 gave schools more flexibility, allowing boys and girls to be separated as long as classes are voluntary and “substantially equal.”

The bottom line is that the sexes are truly complementary. We are not the same or unisex. We do things differently, listen differently and communicate very differently. I can tell you that after my own personal research over the last 40 years, this is a fact.

So, I am proud to be Mrs. Richard Clayton Codden, Jr. I am proud of my husband who is an outstanding father. Maybe one solution to this whole issue is to raise up and support all the fathers in the world. To let them know that their unique role as a father makes a huge difference in the lives of their children and the world. Their role is irreplaceable.

Then we could designate a special day to honor their contribution and call it Father’s Day.

Chris Codden is director of the Office of Marriage and Family of the Diocese of St. Cloud. Contact her at

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The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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