A Virginia elementary school gym teacher has been put on leave after publicly opposing a school policy to refer to trans students by their preferred pronouns.
Byron “Tanner” Cross, a gym teacher at Leesburg Elementary School, spoke at a Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) board meeting on Tuesday (25 March), condemning the school board’s recently adopted trans-inclusive policies.
One policy, 8040, requires all LCPS staff to use the “chosen name and gender pronouns” of trans students, “regardless of the name and gender recorded in the student’s permanent educational record”.
Cross told the school board meeting that he would not follow the policies because they go against his religious beliefs, and he wouldn’t “affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa”. He then discussed an anti-trans 60 Minutes special that featured interviews with individuals who later regretted their decision to transition.
Cross cited the interviews in the programme, saying the individuals “felt led astray because of the lack of pushback or how easy it was to make physical changes to their bodies”. He claimed that respecting trans children by referring to them by their preferred pronouns and chosen names is tantamount to “lying” and “abuse to a child” and “sinning against our God”.
“It is not my intention to hurt anyone, but there are certain truths that we must face when ready,” Cross said. “We condemn school policies … because it will damage children, defile the holy image of God.”
He continued: “I love all of my students, but I will never lie to them regardless of the consequences.
“I am a teacher, but I serve God first, and I will not affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa because it’s against my religion.”
Cross was placed on paid administrative leave on Thursday (27 May), according to The Loudoun Times-Mirror.
The outlet reported parents received an email from Leesburg Elementary School principal Shawn Lacy on Thursday that said Cross was placed on leave. But Lacy said the school could “offer no further information” on the situation because “this involves a personnel matter”.
The teacher’s wife, Angela Cross, confirmed in a Facebook post on Friday (28 May) that her husband was put on leave “as a result of his speaking out”, the Daily Mail reported.
The 60 Minutes segment that Cross cited in his speech before the LCPS meeting has faced enormous backlash from LGBT+ activists. GLAAD slammed the 60 Minutes segment in a series of posts on Twitter. The LGBT+ advocacy group described the segment as “shameful” and an attempt at “fearmongering about trans youth”.
Trans actor and activist Laverne Cox also spoke out against the show in a lengthy video on Instagram. She pointed out that most healthcare professionals agree that gender affirming care for trans people is “very successful” and has “been around for decades”.
She added that the 60 Minutes programme was focused on medical transition, and she said she found that “fundamentally dehumanising”.
“Our humanity should not be up for public debate, and what I felt watching that 60 Minutes segment last night is again we have trans identity up for debate,” Cox said.