Liberal arts college boots review board member for 'transphobic' graduation speech

Rev. Carlson joked about pronouns during a university graduation speech, saying God is choosing to go by "he and him today."

Updated: December 15, 2021 - 9:50pm

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Methodist Rev. Wally Carlson was dismissed on Wednesday from his position as a member of Millikin University's Institutional Review Board in Decatur, Illinois following his invocation speech at winter graduation. Students, faculty and alumni said that Carlson's comments were "transphobic."

Carlson began his invocation by pretending to answer a phone call from God.

"First of all, let's take care of the gender issue," he said. "He understands and he's sharing with you that there's no theological justification for it but he's choosing 'he' and 'him' today, doesn't like 'them' and 'they,' and just because this is probably irritating enough people that it's coming out this way, we're gonna stay away from 'she' and 'her.' "

Transgender student Nat Long, who goes by they/them pronouns, said, "I was just kind of sitting there like, you know, I was holding back tears… I really just wanted to celebrate my graduation, but I felt like I really couldn't."

Millikin issued an apology after the speech, writing: "Reverend Carlson's comments regarding gender neither reflect nor represent the values of our university. We were not aware of his remarks prior to Commencement and were equally as surprised and disappointed by them."

A spokesperson for the liberal arts school told the Herald & Review, "Rev. Carlson is no longer part of Millikin’s Institutional Review Board, effective immediately… That is our statement." 

The board did not comment on specifically why he was removed.

"Carlson, who did not immediately return calls for comment, had later posted a Facebook video in which he said he meant no disrespect at all but any misunderstanding was his fault for not making his meaning clear," Herald & Review reported.