Republican senator Mike Lee attacks Mormon university professor for having a trans child

Utah senator Mike Lee

Republican senator Mike Lee has joined in a Twitter pile-on attacking a professor who told her students she has a transgender child.

A professor at Mormon-led Brigham Young University (BYU) has been widely attacked by right-wingers after she reportedly told a class that her eight-year-old is trans.

BYU professor Sarah Coyne was hit with a wave of hate on Twitter, with users calling for her to be fired after her lecture on 30 March was criticised by conservative student-run newspaper Cougar Chronicle, which equated being trans with “cross-dressing”. 

Senior Utah senator Lee then tweeted the article to his over 90,000 followers, with the caption: “Commonplace at most universities, but BYU?”

Coyne quickly found herself a target of hate after Lee’s tweet, with one Twitter user claiming: “The woke/Satan mind virus has been allowed to … infiltrate BYU.”

Coyne responded in The Salt Lake Tribune, saying: “Trans kids have been villainized on a really awful level … [Our families] have become a political story when we are just trying to live.”

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A student-led petition backing the professor has circulated, claiming Coyne had prefaced her lecture by explaining the Mormon church’s stance on LGBTQ+ identities.

“At no point did she promote transitioning or any other practice that was contrary to what the church teaches, but instead focused on the mental and emotional pain and difficulty that has come with her child’s experience,” it reads.

The petition called for support for the professor, and criticised Cougar Chronicle’s article, claiming the author had not attended Coyne’s class.

A BYU spokesperson said: “Class discussions about LGBTQ+ issues are accepted as long as they do not contradict church doctrine or disparage church leaders.”

The Mormon church reportedly restricts church membership for trans and non-binary people, claiming in its handbook that gender means “biological sex at birth”.

Brigham Young University is a Mormon-led college in Utah. (George Frey/Getty)

Brigham Young University has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ policies, in line with Mormon church beliefs.

The Utah-based university’s strict religious policies are enshrined in its Honor Code, with students required to “live a chaste and virtuous life, including abstaining from any sexual relations outside a marriage between a man and a woman”.

Former BYU student Jillian Orr, 28, went viral in defiance of university policy in 2022 after sewing a Pride flag inside her graduation gown and flashing it to the audience as she crossed the stage to collect her diploma.

“I hope that they [other LGBTQ+ Mormons] recognise that the sooner they live their life authentically, the sooner they can tap into true happiness,” she said in an interview with Today.

“The faster you do the scary thing, the sooner you can be free.”

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