Assumptions can be dangerous to people who are habitually marginalized.  One of the big assumptions that people make about the concept of “transgender” is that transgender is a subset of homosexual.  It is not.  I do not have data to turn to, but I have heard, as I shared in a diary last week, that about 1/4 of transgender people are gay or lesbian, 1/4 are heterosexual, 1/4 are bisexual and 1/4 are asexual.  

What exactly that says about the influence of the normalized control of gender and sexuality by our culture is something I’ll let other people discuss.

But the assumption has a large impact on the everyday lives of gender-variant people.  Even scientists studying sexually-transmitted diseases jump to the conclusion that transgender women are “men who have sex with men.”  And even direct evidence to the contrary often does not dissuade people from adopting the assumption.

Tonight I have two cases in point.

Lisa A Scott is a Minnesota transwoman who has filed suit against CSL Plasma because they refused to accept her blood donation.

CSL told state investigators that it has a policy forbidding transsexual people from donating blood or blood components.  There is no federal law prohibiting transsexual people from blood or plasma donation.

For decades there has been a restriction for men who have sex with men because of fear of transmitting the AIDS virus.

Scott’s attorney, John Klassen, notes that discrimination against transgender people “is happening throughout the country.”

Scott had gender confirmation surgery in 2006.  When she attempted to donate blood plasma, she was told by a CSL Plasma nurse:

You people can’t give plasma.

In her suit Scott avers that she has never been a gay man or had sexual contact with men.

The suit seeks damages in excess of $75,000 and payment of legal expenses, along with requiring the company to no longer discriminate against transgenders.

 photo Ackley_zpsbff1fb34.jpgMeanwhile, in Southern California, Azusa Pacific University professor H. Adam Ackley has been asked to resign from his position because he asked the administration to refer to him by changed name and to acknowledge his changed gender.

He has not broken any university code.  There are no rules that prohibit gender transition.  The only code they have is homosexual conduct, but Adam has not conducted in homosexual conduct.

–attorney Paul Southwick

The school and Ackley are currently negotiating to see if Ackley will at least be allowed to continue teaching for the rest of the semester.

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.

–APU statement

Ackley, who has been a theology professor at APU for fifteen years, has said that received an “overwhelming amount of support” from students and colleagues, as well as on social media, since his plight has surfaced.

It’s really the higher-level administrators motivated by more conservative-minded donors, parents of students and churches affiliated with the university.


I did not get a sense directly from the individuals with whom I was speaking that they had a theological problem with transgender identity.  I did get the message that it has to do with their concern that other people, such as donors, parents and churches connected to the university will have problems not understanding transgender identity.


Ackley also said that when he sought hormone treatment and “top surgery” for his chest, his insurance was denied.

They’re giving me privacy to transition but denying medical treatment to do that.


As for many transgender people, my experience of puberty was especially confusing (non-conforming) and I became anxious, depressed and hopeless.  Gender-bending in the late 1970s and early 1980s was a popular cultural trend that I embraced to get through my teens.


When the American Psychiatric Association removed “gender identity disorder” from its list of mental illnesses, Ackley says his doctors took him off his psychiatric medication and he finally felt validated.

You can’t change someone’s gender by giving them psychiatric medication.  If they’re born transgender, they’re always going to be transgender.  APA has finally realized that … so I was taken off all the psych meds at the beginning of this year.  I was told I am sane, and that I am a guy – I’m just a transgendered guy.  And that’s all I had to hear.


He chose the name Adam because Adam is said to have been created from the dust of the earth.  Adam is now in the process of divorcing his second husband.  He is looking forward to gender confirmation surgery.

That’s something that I look forward to being able to do, now that I’ve had my transgender identity affirmed and no longer treated as some sort of disorder by my medical and psychiatric professionals.  They now see me as a transgendered man who just needs to work towards living that reality and not trying to overcome it, as I used to be told to do.


Below is a sermon by Ackley, entitled Come as You Are!  God’s Good News for All People.  It is over 40 minutes in length.

When Adam approached his chair about his gender change, she (Dr. Teri Merrick) asked if Adam would like to dialogue about this with his colleagues.

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.  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 the university provost, Dr. Mark Stanton, who is also a clinical psychologist, affirmed his gender identity.  

But [my transition] triggers the issues of gender and sexuality about which this community and especially its wider constituents are confused.  We’re trying to put boundaries around it so people can learn.  This is a learning environment, not a political one. … I think the university is trying to help you have a learning environment as free from distractions as possible.


The big challenge has been the classroom, but all the other things seem to have fallen into place in ways that have felt honest and loving and gracious.

–Dr. Scott Daniels, dean of the School of Theology

Adam is most concerned about “minimizing student suffering.”

I think this is difficult stuff.  Real life gets messy, but that’s where the body of Christ rises to the occasion.  This is a great opportunity for us to show love in action.

–Dr. Kimberly Denu, special advisor to the university’s president and provost

1 comment

    • Robyn on September 28, 2013 at 12:12 am

    Having done the same when I came out…because there was a distinct possibility I would be escorted off campus and never see my students again…I feel a lot of empathy.

    His students have said the following, even if they seem to be struggling with pronouns:

    One of the greatest professors I’ve ever had.  We had no idea in the class. He talked a lot about depression and anxiety stuff, which makes a lot of more sense now in light of everything.

    –Will Roelof

    In that classroom (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.

    –Natasha Hanright

    Her classroom was like the safest place to be.  From the beginning she was telling us this is a safe place, even if you don’t have fully formulated thoughts, if you want to say something just say it.  I’m so inspired by her strength and the image she gives off, which is pure love and grace.  She’s so strong in her faith.

    –Maria Rangel

    There are more student responses from Wednesday.

    And it was not unexpected that some of those responses focused on homosexual activity.

    We don’t have to actually engage in it to be denounced for it.

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