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Gender Fluidity: A Dialogue with Donovan Ackley


Donovan Ackley is a person with an intersex identity and is an active member of the national and global intersex community. Donovan’s starting point is body diversity, acknowledging that across species (including humans) biological sex itself can be complicated and even surprising: A person can be ambiguous at birth, emerge as a different biological sex than assigned through natural changes at puberty or mid-life, or discover through medical tests a different genetic code or internal organs than expected. Cultures around the world throughout history have often embraced and even honored this diversity. European colonialism with Christian missionary activity coincide as the shared factor in cultures in which this diversity has been suppressed.

Gender and sex are not the same, though for most people they are closely related. Since even biological sex is more complex than many of us have been taught, the idea that gender is a spectrum (not two polar opposites) can become easier to understand. Gender is the way a person experiences and expresses who they are, along a spectrum from feminine to masculine and all points in between. For some people, this is a dynamic experience that includes movement and change that can include people who have transitioned from one gender to another, people who are genderfluid, and other forms of gender expression and identity.

After after coming out as LGBTQI+ in 2013, Donovan Ackley III, Ph.D.’s career path changed from 15 years as full-time undergraduate college professor and Department Chair in religion toward more creative, trauma-informed, intersectional continuing education and community organizing. Using a collaborative learning community-building approach, Dr. Ackley currently teaches at universities, public schools and community organizations, specializing in Mental Health and Spirituality, LGBTQ+ studies, Trauma Recovery Yoga, and other evidence-based, embodied mindfulness practices to build resilience both digitally and in person.

Recent projects include helping to launch an 8-course continuing studies LGBTQ+ Leadership Certificate (Applied Wisdom Institute/University of Redlands, 2020); consulting on the curriculum “Fearfully & Wonderfully Made: Scripture and the New Science of Gender” (2021) & documentary film “Stories of Intersex & Faith” (2019); helping launch & accredit national non-profit peer support line Trans Lifeline, including its online staff & volunteer training (2014-2018); designing & teaching the classroom course “Yoga: Ancient Philosophy, Modern Practice” (University of Redlands, 2015-2017); and residential trauma-informed case management & intake screening for people in recovery from addiction with co-occurring mental health issues, including staff training on LGBTQIA+ diversity and inclusive care for McAlister Institute, 2018-2019).

Donovan volunteers in the bass section of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus and with the queer neighborhood watch / crisis prevention nonprofit Stonewall Citizens Patrol. Some of his many books and articles, both academic and mainstream, including his new book Sex and Sacrament: A Queer Liberation Theology of Prayer & Worship (2021), are linked at his Academia archive and his Amazon Author page.

Convener: Jim Garrison, President, Ubiquity University

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