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Transgender faculty issues


transgender issues in the USAEvangelical university in the USA is trying to get rid of transgender professor.

Theology professor Heath Adam Ackley is facing loss of employment at Azusa Pacific University (APU) in California, after fifteen years of service.  Why?

Because Heath Adam Ackley used to be Heather Ann Clements.

Professor of systematic theology and an ordained minister, Ackley changed his name and gender identity and plans to go through a surgical transformation.

But controversy broke out after Ackley informed Human Resources of the name change.

Azusa Pacific University is a private higher educational institution near Los Angeles with a student body of nearly 10,000.

According to APU’s website, the university is committed to fostering “a strong, clear, unswervingly evangelical Christian worldview that permeates the university and guides its activity,” and holds to “the historic Christian understanding of Scripture” by reaffirming that “sexuality is a gift from God and basic to human identity as well as a matter of behavioral expression.”

Azusa Pacific University has released a statement on the current issue saying: “University leadership is engaged in thoughtful conversations with our faculty member in order to honor the contribution and treat all parties with dignity and respect while upholding the values of the university.

“It is an ongoing conversation, and therefore, a confidential matter.”

Ackley, who is going through a divorce from her second husband, has stated that APU has asked her to resign effective at the end of the academic year and he is in agreement that he might not be “the best fit.”

What is at issue still is whether Ackley will be allowed to continue teaching for the rest of the academic year.

Students at APU have been largely supportive of Ackley and have set up a petition at to try and keep their professor.

Nursing student Natasha Hanright, who converted to Christianity after attending APU, but recently became an atheist, said that her faith in Christianity was shaken by the “hate” other students gave her for practicing Buddhism before coming to college.

Hanright said, “(Professor Ackley) brought me so close to loving God again, as close as anyone could have ever had. She accepted me. She made me want to love God.”

Similarly, Margaret van der Bie said, “He’s the greatest professor I’ve ever taken, so by taking him out of the classroom, especially mid-semester, is doing the students a huge disservice and it’s a huge loss to the university.”

But some students do find Ackley’s transgender identity a challenge to their faith.

One said, “[It’s] unfortunate that [Clements] couldn’t realize that God made her perfect in his image and accept that she was a female not a male trapped in a woman’s body,” and continued, “We live in a sad world where people don’t see that God made us all in his image and that we don’t need to change for it.”

Yet this position appears to be less prominent than those who see Ackley as a good teacher who should be allowed to continue.

For, as another student claimed, “the vast majority of us hate what APU is doing.”

“It’s the top that deserves the shame and blame for the firing of a good man. … I am ashamed of the actions of my school and the constant close-mindedness in regard to the LGBT community and especially Professor Ackley. Nothing in the actions of my university reflects the God I love.”

Ackley has reflected upon the agonising struggle to come to terms with his gender identity.

“I really wrestled with it, of course, being someone who was trained in biblical scholarship and theological study and that was, that is, Christian,” said Ackley.

Spiritual counselors advised him to ignore his preferred identity for the sake of his family, but as a result, Ackley self-medicated, and started cutting his body and starving himself.

So it’s no surprise that Ackley describes his transition as being “from being a mentally ill woman to being a sane, transgendered man.”

Transgendered students and faculty members in the UK are protected by legislation, according to the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU).

ECU says, “Higher education institutions have a legal responsibility to protect the rights of trans people, both staff and students, and to ensure individuals do not suffer from any direct or indirect discrimination, victimisation or harassment, and are supported in any process of transition.”

As such, Oxford University has recently changed its dress code for examinations to create equity for transgender students.

Under the new regulations, students taking exams or attending formal occasions will no longer have to wear ceremonial clothing that is specific to their gender.

It will mean men will be able to sit tests in skirts and stockings and women will have the option of wearing suits and bow ties rather than the very strict requirements they had all faced.

In the meantime, words of support have come from Joy Ladin, a transgender professor at Yeshiva University, a Jewish institution in New York.

She said,  “Some may think that religious universities are driven in this regard by fear of God, but there is no verse in the Bible in which God says, “Thou shalt not employ a transgender professor.”

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