Adam Ackley is a professor of systematic theology at Azusa Pacific University. For the past 15 years, the administration at the private Christian college has known him as Heather -- up until last week.
Ackley said he struggled for years living as a married woman. He now identifies himself as a transgender man and he is going through a divorce.
"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.
Ackley decided to tell APU about plans for a legal name change. Ackley says the university is concerned keeping him in the classroom would be a distraction and could affect future admissions and donations. He told his students the truth and that he might soon be replaced. He says they were in tears.
Azusa Pacific University has released a statement on the controversy, 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 says he wants to continue teaching until the end of the semester, but he believes he won't finish out his five-year contract. He doesn't regret discussing the name change, knowing that the conversation has brought about a much-needed dialogue.
"Although it has been painful in the last few days, deeply painful for all of us, and deeply stressful for all of us, it's certainly opened the dialogue in ways I've never seen this community dialogue about these kinds of issues," said Ackley.
Some students have formed an online petition to change the university's policy to protect transgender faculty and students.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated an online petition was started to get Ackley to stay at the university. The petition was started to change policy to protect transgender faculty and students.