Transgender Azusa Pacific University professor reveals male identity
By Sadie Whitelocks
PUBLISHED: 12:26 EST, 24 September 2013 | UPDATED: 14:47 EST, 24 September 2013
A theology professor at a Christian college is set to be replaced in his role after coming out as transgender.
For 15 years Heath Adam Ackley taught at Azusa Pacific University in California under the name Dr Heather Ann Clements, but recently he broke the news to students - and his husband - that he had been hiding his gender identity.
The 47-year-old told Religion News Service that the institution agreed to pay him for the rest of the academic year, however, because his revelation could present a 'distraction', it's preferred that other professors take over his classes.
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True identity: For his entire life Heath Adam Ackley, 47, was known name Dr Heather Clements (left) but now the theology professor is intent on making the full transition to male after coming out as transgender (right)
'I did not get a sense directly from the individuals with whom I was speaking that they had a theological problem with transgender identity,' Mr Ackley said.
'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.'
'I have transitioned from being a mentally ill woman to being a sane, transgendered man'
In the meantime the university released a statement to ABC News, reading: '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.'
Most of Mr Ackley's students, who had 'no idea' about his gender issues, have spoken out in his defense.
Big risk: Mr Ackley is now set to lose his job at Azusa Pacific University in California after revealing his gender identity - he is also in the process of getting divorced from his husband
Loyal member of staff: He has been teaching theology at the Christian institution for 15 years
One student claimed that he was a 'good man' who shouldn’t be removed from the university. They wrote: '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.'
'I've never been fully myself, I've always been living a lie, not exactly on purpose but that was the best truth I knew at the time'
Another added: 'I am a current student at APU and I just met Adam about a week ago. Just speaking to him I was completely moved. I was devastated to learn about his dismissal. I pray for a change.'
However, some responses have been less positive in nature, opining that the professor is not seeing matters from a Biblical perspective.
Mr Ackley said that he accepted his transgender identity this year after the American Psychiatric Association removed 'gender identity disorder' from the list of mental illnesses in its manual.
When returning to teach this fall he decided to tell his employer about plans for a legal name change.
Finding himself: Mr Ackley said that he accepted his transgender identity this year after the American Psychiatric Association removed 'gender identity disorder' from the list of mental illnesses in its manual
But he says his news was not greeted with enthusiasm and higher ups said keeping him in the classroom would be a distraction and could affect future admissions and donations.
The Azusa Pacific University still lists Mr Ackley on its website as Dr Heather Ann Clements. The accompanying picture shows him with long blonde hair, wearing dropper earrings and make-up.
But today he sports short cropped hair, a natural complexion and masculine attire.
'I am a current student at APU and I just met Adam about a week ago. Just speaking to him I was completely moved'
He said that as a teenager he struggled with identity questions and became 'anxious, depressed and hopeless'.
In a bid to get through that period in his life, during the late Seventies and early Eighties, he embraced gender-bending, which was a popular cultural trend at the time.
Later in life, growing in a Christian family, he tried to conform to womanhood as best he could and got married. His first marriage failed, and he went on to marry again. His past relationships resulted in two children and he is now seeking a divorce.
'I’ve never been fully myself, I’ve always been living a lie, not exactly on purpose but that was the best truth I knew at the time.
Big secret: Students at Azusa Pacific University (pictured) said they had no idea about the professor's gender
'This year has been a transition from being a mentally ill woman to being a sane, transgendered man,' he said.
In a bid to complete his male-to-female transformation he now hopes to get hormone treatment and surgery.
Mr Ackley, says if he is forced to resign he has received offers from other Christian and non-religious institutions to teach or consult.
To his fans, he concluded via YouTube: 'Thank you for all of the amazing love and support!'
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