Gym Teacher, Byron "Tanner" Cross, presumes to have a religious right to abuse vulnerable trans kids
Gym Teacher, Byron “Tanner” Cross, presumes to have a religious right to abuse vulnerable trans kids | public domain image

A Loudoun County, VA physical education teacher insists that he will not follow school district policy and address students according to preferred pronouns.

Byron “Tanner” Cross told the school board: “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. It’s lying to a child, it’s abuse to a child, and it’s sinning against our God.”

Surprise, surprise:

  1. Cross has been placed on paid leave.
  2. Cross has become the Christian Right’s victim du jour and now enjoys faux hero status.
  3. Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBTQ hate group, is now representing Cross in plans to sue the school board.

Obviously, Byron “Tanner” Cross is an imbecile. Cross has decided that Christian doctrine is incontrovertible truth — objective truth be damned. According to medical science a transgender female is, for all intents and purposes a female in spite of the fact that she has male chromosomes.

The science has also concluded that gender dysphoria is underpinned by a biological component According to the Endocrine Society, the biological component is “durable.”

“The Supreme Court has determined that government employers have the right to control workplace speech.”

The science regarding gender is based upon evidence. In contrast, Mr. Cross’ dogmatic beliefs are based on scripture. Mr. Cross would have us preference the scripture at the expense of gender-expansive kids. That is not a fair fair bargain. Byron “Tanner” Cross asserts that he has license to abuse children that he does not approve of due to religious doctrine.

In his tirade to the school board, Mr. Cross referenced the 60 Minutes misadventure. The fact that some adults transitioned and then detransitioned has absolutely no bearing on how trans youth should be treated in public schools.

As I said, Byron “Tanner” Cross is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier of life.

Moreover, kids do not transition in a vacuum. They do so in accord with parental and medical guidance. Who the fuck is Mr. Cross to substitute his judgment for that of a student’s parents and doctors?

Moreover, unless Mr. Cross has a seat on the school board that I am unaware of, he has no right to challenge district policy. Cross did not say that he disagreed with the policy. He stated that he would not comply.

The law is clear. The Supreme Court has determined that government employers have the right to control workplace speech. In that regard, government employees are not protected by the First Amendment.

Even in the instance where the 6th Circuit reversed a lower court decision to dismiss a similar case, it only ruled “in the light most favorable to the plaintiff” that the matter should go to trial.

Furthermore, in that case the victim was a college student, presumably an adult.

As a former CEO I will state quite vigorously that the workplace is not a democratic institution. Even employee-owned enterprises have management appointed by those employees. Management makes decisions based upon productivity, efficiency, the intended organizational culture and other factors.

“Mr. Cross is free to believe that Tinkerbell is a living goddess.”

No employer in the history of the world has ever formed policy that has universal approval among its workforce. However, employers have an expectation that people will comply with policies. Slavery having been abolished, no one is compelled to work for an organization with policies the employer disagrees with.

“People like Byron “Tanner” Cross are mistakenly wed to the notion that their approval is important to others. “

There is a simpler and more basic issue.

Let us assume that Cross conforms to the policy and addresses a trans girl with feminine pronouns. What are the consequences? His faith remains unchanged. His job is not compromised. His religious beliefs remain the same. He accepts the reality of living in a diverse society. No one dies.

On the other hand, if he does not conform to the rules then he risks doing real damage to a highly vulnerable and fragile kid with enough on her plate. At the same time he sets a very poor example for his students.

This issue is very easy to consider when weighing the two alternatives.

Let’s make our way to religious freedom™. Mr. Cross is free to believe that Tinkerbell is a living goddess. However, in a civil society Cross cannot impose that belief on everyone else.

We can reasonably speculate that Byron “Tanner” Cross is no fan of marriage equality. What happens when Cross is discourteous to a gay fellow teacher? What happens when he disparages that gay teacher’s husband and their marriage?

People like Byron “Tanner” Cross are mistakenly wed to the notion that their approval is important to others. A transgender youth neither seeks nor requires Cross’ approval. He or she is certainly not obliged to tolerate Cross’ disrespect notwithstanding the power differential between a student and a teacher.

By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.