Tennessee Christian college suspends transgender student after top surgery

A transgender student was reportedly suspended from his Christian college in Tennessee hours after getting top surgery to further his transition.

Yanna Awtrey, 21, a student at Welch College — a private Free Will Baptist school near Nashville — started hormone replacement therapy earlier this year to aid with his transition before he underwent top surgery on Aug. 2, BuzzFeed News reported.

Awtrey told the outlet that he had experienced gender dysphoria — discomfort associated with a mismatch between a person’s biological sex and their gender identity — since puberty. He had not yet formally come out as transgender when he started school at Welch, according to BuzzFeed News.{mosads}

Awtrey did not tell his parents about the procedure, instead opting to stay with a couple who knew his parents, BuzzFeed reported. Awtrey reportedly told the couple that he was having an unspecified procedure.

But during the procedure, the couple contacted Awtrey’s parents and Welch College about his plans. Hours later, the vice president for student services, Jon Forlines, reportedly emailed Awtrey to tell him he wasn’t wecome back to campus.

“Please be aware that because of the choices you have made we will not be able to allow you to come back to the dorm,” the email read, according to BuzzFeed News. “We’re praying for you that the love of Christ will speak to your every need in the coming days.”

The school offered Awtrey temporary housing and money for food, but said he needed permission to come back to his dorm to get his belongings.

Awtrey took to social media to detail what had happened with his enrollment at Welch College, prompting the school to send him another message. According to BuzzFeed, the note told Awtrey to edit the post or the school would take back its offer to pay for a hotel.

“I have nowhere to permanently stay, and I can’t work for money for at least two months because of the recovery process,” Awtrey told the outlet. “It’s the best and worst day of my life.”

Awtrey told BuzzFeed that the school urged him to voluntarily withdraw his enrollment, which he declined, prompting to matter to be taken up by a disciplinary committee.

The committee held a hearing on Aug. 7, during which Forlines reportedly cited the student handbook, which bars “any kind of sexual immortality, impurity, including the use of pornography” and “engaging in acts of sex immorality, including premarital and extramarital relations, sexual advances and sexual perversion in any form.” Awtrey recorded the hearing and shared it with BuzzFeed.

The committee decided to suspend Awtrey for two semesters, according to the outlet, which noted that he did not think he would be welcomed back after his suspension.

“There’s just a lot of people that say everything’s all right now for transgender people and LGBT people, and my situation very much says that that is not the case,” Awtrey told BuzzFeed News.

In a written statement to The Hill, Welch College President Matt Pinson said while the school can’t comment on an individual student’s case, the college believes “individuals experiencing such confusion — and the distress that usually accompanies it — should be treated with love and compassion.”

“The College also believes that attempting to alter one’s bodily identity constitutes a rejection of God’s design for humanity,” he added. “We will continue to pray for all people experiencing gender confusion while also honoring the values of this institution and its sponsoring denomination, which are shared by the Christian tradition over two millennia.”

Title IX bars federally funded U.S. schools from discrimination on the basis of sex; Welch, however, is exempt from the rule because it is a private college. 

Tags LGBTQ nashville Religion Tennessee Transgender Welch College

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