There's a debate unfolding at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif., as a transgender professor is apparently getting booted off campus. A one-time chair of theology and philosophy, H. Adam Ackley (formerly known as Professor Heather Ann Clements) is in the process of transitioning from female to male, a change that caught the ire of the evangelical university's leaders.
Ackley earlier in his life (left) and more recently (right) (Photo Credit: H. Adam Ackley)
In an extensive report on Religion News Service, the relationship between Ackley, 47, who taught at the school for 15 years, and APU is provided in detail. In sum, the professor claims that he is parting ways with the university after announcing plans for a gender reassignment.
It wasn't until very recently that the educator changed his name and made the life-altering decision to switch genders. While APU has reportedly agreed to pay Ackley through the end of the school year, health insurance isn't covering some of the procedures and treatments he needs to fully transition.
"They’re giving me privacy to transition but denying medical treatment to do that," Ackley told RNS, claiming that hormone treatment and surgery for his chest have both been denied.
The professor will also no longer be teaching his classes, as other instructors at APU will apparently take them over for the remainder of the year. Ackley is apparently meeting with a lawyer for the university to further discuss these matters.
It's unclear whether APU has policies against transgender identity, although many Christian organizations do not permit gay, lesbian or transgender individuals to openly serve. And based on Ackley's summary of the purported response to his reveal, APU seems uncomfortable with the scenario.
A screen shot from Ackley's profile on the APU website
The debate apparently became public after the professor took to his Facebook page last week and claimed that he was fired over his transgender identity, according to The Clause, the APU student newspaper. The outlet, which on Friday published an extensive story about the situation, offers additional context:
Last week, Ackley approached Dr. Teri Merrick, chairwoman of the Department of Theology and Philosophy, to inform her of his gender change. Ackley said Merrick, whom he described as a sister in Christ, asked him if he would like to dialogue more with colleagues about how to move forward with Clements’ gender change.
“And it made total sense. As soon as she said that, I said, thought, of course, of course I shouldn’t just coldly treat this purely as an HR matter,” Ackley said. “But neither have I wished to draw attention to myself. … It’s been very confusing to me. There really isn’t a roadmap for how a transgender person does this, nor of course for how a Christian community does this. We’re trying to deal with this in Christ and not just as an HR issue.”
Ackley said Dr. Mark Stanton, the university provost and a clinical psychologist, has affirmed Ackley‘s transgender identity, so Ackley does not feel any “quibble” about his gender.
In the end, though, the situation, as noted, apparently hasn't been entirely diplomatic between the two parties. While some may be understanding, concerns are being voiced over the impact the transition might have on students.
The Clause also published a screen shot of the initial Facebook post that brought the entire scenario to light, claiming that the message was subsequently deleted (later, Ackley said he should have used his words more carefully):
A screen shot from Facebook (Courtesy of The Clause)
Ackley said choice to embrace his transgender identity comes after stigmas surrounding the phenomenon have begun to wane among mental health professionals (the American Psychiatric Association removed "gender identity disorder" from its manual late last year).
In a video posted online, Ackley documented his life-long struggles to deal with his gender identity. Following internal strife and confusion, after becoming a baptized Christian at 18, the decision to follow his assigned gender followed -- a choice that he is now rejecting.
After Ackley's first marriage fell apart, he found himself struggling again in a second marriage (Ackley, who has two children, is currently in the process of a divorce again). Despite attempts to make the latter matrimony work, none of his actions assisted in overcoming his gender confusion.
At one point, hormones were administered to help make him feel like more of a female, the video proclaims, but apparently to no avail. The struggle was one that overtook him.
Watch the video, which includes Ackley's entire story, below:
Regardless of where one stands on LBGTQ issues, the details of these struggles were stunning.
"I secretly carved crosses on my body hidden by my clothing," said Ackley of his struggles to cope with trying to be a woman while internally feeling as though he were meant to be a man.
"Told by my spiritual advisers and then spouse that recovery, sanity and preservation of my family required me to deny my now recognized transgendered identity, I once again struggled with self-medicating, self-injuring and self-starving of the female body during a suicidal relapse," he added.
Here's an image of those crosses and self-inflicted injuries:
This screen shot from the aforementioned video shows some of the crosses and self-injuries that Ackley inflicted upon himself (Photo Credit: Heath Adam Ackley)
Now, Ackley says he wants to heal and move forward. How that jives with his departure from APU will be intriguing to observe, as the debate between the two parties doesn't appear to be concluded.
KABC-TV has more about this fascinating story:
The university, which hasn't expounded greatly on the matter, did release a brief statement.
"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," said APU. "It is an ongoing conversation, and therefore, a confidential matter."
Read more about the professor's story here. We'll leave you with a recent sermon that Ackley delivered about the struggles transgendered individuals face:
Featured Image Credit: H. Adam Ackley
(H/T: Religion News Service)