feature image via Mt Holyoke College
It’s not really a secret that the elite women’s colleges known as the Seven Sisters are bastions of queerness, or at least a specific brand of it. That makes it particularly disappointing that they remain so woefully behind the times when it comes to transgender acceptance. Of the five schools that still have not gone co-ed, only Mount Holyoke has adopted rules that encourage and allow trans women to apply and be admitted. The remaining schools — Smith, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, and Barnard — either specifically or vaguely exclude trans women from admission. Most often, this exclusion hinges around vague references to “female-only” admissions. This week, despite increasingly vocal support from the student population, the Smith College Board of Trustee has pushed the issue off for “study”, meaning the earliest trans women could be admitted is the fall of 2016.
A group called “Smith College Q&A” has been pressing the school’s administration for a more inclusive for admission policy for two years now. Last Saturday, the group met with the college’s Board of Trustees to address their concerns, a meeting which “did not go well” according to Q&A’s blog. It appeared the administration wasn’t nearly as interested in a legitimate dialogue as the students had hoped. According to their post:
“Although Q&A was told they were there to discuss their policy proposal, during the 25-minute meeting the Board read the policy and asked a couple clarifying questions, with very little follow up to what a new admissions and educational policies would look like implemented. These clarifying questions were unnecessarily invasive — with one Trustee claiming she wanted to be a “Devil’s advocate” in this discussion — despite the fact that Q&A representatives provided educational packets that addressed any curiosities the Board might have.”
Smith has been at the focus of much of the criticism regarding the exclusion of trans women among women’s colleges, particularly after their highly-publicized rejection of Calliope Wong after providing her complicated, conflicting information about her admissibility. Q&A isn’t taking the Board’s reticence lightly, however. They’ve launched a change.org petition and have planned a protest on Thursday on Smith’s campus to press the adminitration for action.
Similar presses for inclusion are being made by students and alumnae at the Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, and Barnard. Shortly after Mount Holyoke’s announcement, a group from Bryn Mawr released an open letter pressing the college’s administration to craft a clear trans-inclusive admissions policy. In it, they chide Bryn Mawr for getting away from its core mission by excluding trans women:
“Bryn Mawr’s current approach to handling trans student applicants is ineffective and insufficient. As long as Bryn Mawr continues to exclude trans and nonbinary students, it continues to neglect its essential educational mission. Bryn Mawr has a long history as an institution that offers educational opportunities to students who face discrimination because of their gender. The time has come to expand Bryn Mawr’s safe, supportive community to fully include trans students and other gender minorities.”
Wellesley College has adopted a similar party line to Smith with their president, Kim Bottomly, announcing in September that the institution would take undertake a year-long “conversation” about the concept of womanhood. She states:
“We recognize that the issues of gender identity and transgender experience are relevant and complex. We must build a better understanding of these issues and determine what current policies and practices might need revision in light of this understanding”
She appointed a committee to examine the issue, which is due to issue its report sometime this spring.
The press from alums for trans women to be included at Manhattan’s Barnard College has been particularly fierce. Last spring, Dean Spade — founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Barnard graduate — spoke at town hall on meeting on campus, pressing for action by the administration to adopt policies inclusive of trans women. A few months later Spade co-wrote an op-ed with Smith alum Avi Cummings denouncing women’s college as being on the “wrong side of history.” They write:
“By effectively saying “no,” women’s colleges are endorsing and strengthening a concept at the root of transphobia: the belief that trans people are not who we say we are. Whether written into policies or informally practiced, this fundamental denial of trans people’s identities leads directly to our communities being disproportionately turned away from education, healthcare, housing and jobs, and disproportionately profiled by the police and immigration authorities.”
Interestingly, both Spade and Cummings are trans. They’re trans men. Historically, trans men have had a place (even if that place is somewhat complicated) within the student body of liberal women’s colleges due to admissions policies heavily focusing on government-sanctioned “femaleness” as opposed to a more complex concept of womanhood. Barnard, to its credit, has signaled at least some degree of increasing trans acceptance by awarding its first Anna Quindlen Writer-in-Residence position to trans writer Jennifer Finney Boylan.
Earlier this year California’s Mills College, which is not associated with the historic Seven Sisters group, broke ground on trans acceptance in women’s colleges when it announced that it would accept students who identified as women, regardless of birth-assigned sex. Mills was the first US women’s college to adopt such language for its admission guidance. While it appears there’s at least a begrudging move towards similar policies at other prominent women’s colleges, it appears that it could be at least 2016 before any of those schools see a trans woman walk through their doors.
Personally, I’m kind of disgusted Jennifer Finney Boylan is teaching at Barnard when younger trans women can’t even attend the school. Yeah, yeah, I know, changing ‘hearts and minds’ bit by bit… that might have meant something in, say, 2004, but them lagging behind now is just disgusting. As usual, it took a genuinely progressive West Coast school like Mills to break barriers.
Equally if not more disgusting were comments in the NY Times article about trans men at Wellesley by an unnamed trans man undergrad. He stated he belonged at the school but trans women without SRS didn’t. Seriously dude??
Right, because what if a trans woman enters a woman’s school and then changes their mind? And besides, at least trans men have been socialized as women. And so on. I’m surprised he didn’t raise bathroom panic!
As for Jenny, are you suggesting she should have turned down the job? But I certainly agree that Barnard’s hiring her does not necessarily signal an increasing acceptance by the school of the possibility of admitting trans female students. After all, Barnard already has cis male faculty members, which means exactly nothing in terms of admitting cis male students.
“Jenny should have turned it down.”
That’s what I wish she did (but then, she didn’t exactly ask me). No, her being hired signaled absolutely zero about their policies. To the point where I don’t get why it was mentioned in the article or why we should think it’s significant. She’s made a lot of rep off of writing about her trans experience (not to mention multiple Oprah appearances). IMO she owes it to community members who don’t have her privilege to fight for their rights, and I don’t for one second believe that’s why she’s at Barnard.
You forgot the regular gig as a New York Times columnist!
She’s at Barnard because they gave her an endowed professorship, and because (I’m sure) she’s making more than she did at Colby. I like Jenny as a person (we’ve met, but aren’t exactly pals), but agree with you completely.
Looks like 28 members of the Smith Board of Trustees are boomers, 2 are early Xers, and 2 are recent graduates (possibly student reps?). Given that, I see little chance of progress on this issue until there is generational change. This the generation that formulated anti-trans theories and made adherence to the dogma mandatory if you wanted to build a career in the feminist academic community prior to the 2000s. Those minds are not going to be changed and boomers will not voluntarily clear the way for later generations.
While I agree with your pessimism with regard to immediate change, please don’t blame baby boomers for formulating anti-trans theories! I don’t think a single one of the second wave feminists who formulated those theories was a baby boomer. They were all quite a bit older than that.
A Baby Boomer.
This really upsets me. I’m a senior in high school and am applying at Smith and Wellesley, though this is really making me reconsider. You would think that a women’s college above all would recognize the importance of providing a safe space for women, regardless of the gender assigned at birth.
This isn’t entirely factual. Bryn Mawr has admitted trans women before and is deep in the process to change our mission statement. Here is an email our president sent us on 10/02/2014:
October 2, 2014
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
I write to update you on conversations and activity around Bryn Mawr’s admission of and support for transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming students. During the week of September 8th more than 150 faculty, staff and students from all three schools attended two community listening sessions. While the issues here are complex, our community embraced that complexity in an honest, open and nuanced exchange. I found these sessions to be productive and helpful in understanding the many perspectives on this issue.
At its meeting on September 20th, the Board of Trustees engaged this topic with the goal of outlining a process for reviewing our current policy in the context of the larger mission that it supports, and achieving clarity around how to communicate our mission, policies and practices. Because the issues at hand go directly to our mission, the final decision as to how we go forward rests with the Board. The Board will make its decision after thoroughly considering the issue as well as community perspectives. The fact that we had already begun to engage in community dialogue was helpful to the Board in crafting a productive process and in determining how to effectively consider community input.
Below I outline the Board’s process:
Fall Semester 2014:
The Board creates a Board subgroup (supported by members of the administration) to gather input and educate itself on the implications of various ways of defining our mission. The charge to this subgroup is to provide advice to the full Board on the question of gender in our mission and on broad guidelines/guardrails around what our admissions policy should be given the Board’s decision on mission.
The subgroup will:
· read extensively on this issue (we are currently curating a list of resources and have received many suggestions from students, faculty and alumnae/i)
· consider viewpoints expressed at community meetings and other planned gatherings (the subgroup will organize additional meetings as needed), as well as from documents received
· consider perspectives shared by students, faculty, staff and alumnae/i through open email addresses for this purpose (see below)
· consult with inside (within the Bryn Mawr community) and outside experts
· consider legal implications of possible courses of action
· consult with the Undergraduate Admissions Committee (faculty committee).
It is important to note that there are two sets of issues that have been raised in community discussions. In addition to requests to clarify our admissions policy, there is concern about the campus climate for transgender and gender nonconforming students and community members. The focus for Board consideration will be admissions policy, as that policy necessarily reflects institutional mission. As the subgroup does its work, however, it may provide input to the administration on issues of campus climate.
Ongoing: I will communicate with the campus and alumnae/i community about the process of research and listening in which we are engaged. Various members of the administration and staff will work with the community to continue efforts to educate each other about these issues and to create a campus environment that is supportive of all students.
Sometime between November and February: After thorough consideration, the Board subgroup will share their advice with the full Board for discussion. The Board will then make a decision that will guide our path going forward. This decision will include a clear statement of the mission of the College and guidelines for an admissions policy that is aligned with our mission.
February – April: A working group composed of trustees, students, staff and faculty will review our existing admissions policy in light of the Board’s decisions. This group will also advise on related matters, such as changes to official College documents and the website. Final approval of the policy is the joint responsibility of the administration and the faculty, respecting the Board’s direction on mission.
The diversity of gender identity and expression we experience today has varied implications for women’s colleges. The process of consultation and review outlined above is in keeping with our commitment to thoughtful decision-making and shared governance and provides us with the time to consider the complexity of the issues that have been raised for our community. If you have questions about the way we will proceed, please contact Emily Espenshade, Chief of Staff, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conversation about this topic continues in a variety of forums and venues on campus, including the first Diversity Conversation of the year – Gender Expression, Gender Identity and Trans Inclusion at Bryn Mawr: Then and Now, tomorrow, Friday, October 3, 12:00 – 1:30 pm at Aelwyd, Cambrian Row.
Because some people were not able to attend the community listening sessions or may not be comfortable sharing their views in a public forum, we have created an email address, email@example.com, that community members can use to share their thoughts and perspectives. I invite you to write to firstname.lastname@example.org with comments on the College’s policy regarding the admission of and support for transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming students. Please note that this email address is intended to be a place for expression of perspectives rather than questions; emails will be read by members of the senior administration and the Board working group, but emails will not receive an individual response. We have also created an email address for alumnae/i to use and will be sharing it with them in the next few days.
Lastly, I want to share two new initiatives designed to support students on campus. Earlier this fall, the College put in place a process for students who wish to change their preferred name or gender marker in campus databases that generate class lists and other records. These options are described on the Registrar’s website and on the IS Techbar. We have also taken steps to implement gender-inclusive signage for single-user restrooms outside the dorms. I appreciate the work that students have done to survey, identify and record the restrooms that need new signage. We have used this research to order new signage that will arrive by the end of October. It will not be possible to change all signage simultaneously or immediately, but we will install signs as quickly as we are able with attention to the priorities identified by our student researchers.
I appreciate the thoughtfulness and respect with which the community has engaged this topic and look forward to our continued conversation.
With best wishes,
That email makes no mention of accommodating trans women. It isn’t acknowledging the group that ought to explicitly be welcome at a women’s college and that they currently explicitly discriminate against. Women.
I noticed that too. A whole lot of words there, but the words “trans women” never appear.
Oh, women’s colleges. Please don’t stop being a “bastion of queerness,” but in the illustrious words of Janet Mock, “Get it the f*ck together.”
Even if they’re arguing for us this time, I’m always suspicious when trans men chime in on this if they’re not telling their own to stop applying to women’s colleges.
It’s also pretty contemptible how they generally frame this as about how it “hurts” THEM when they *voluntarily choose to misgender themselves in order to access women’s space,* then demand that women bend over backwards to center them and remake women’s space in order to be more accommodating to their manhood. Like… you’re not the one being wronged here, bro, trans women are, and you are the one benefitting from it at our expense (and the expense of the women already at the college who wanted a women’s space).
The language of Holyoke’s policy is p cringe-inducing, I wish they’d read Mari’s last Gender article…
I have a lot of feelings regarding AFAB trans people in women’s spaces (considering that this is a question I am constantly considering because it’s pretty much my entire life).
On one hand, I agree that trans dudes shouldn’t be applying to women’s colleges (and shouldn’t try to participate in women’s spaces as equals in general), because, y’know, they aren’t women. At the same time, I feel weird about explicitly excluding trans dudes because I know so many trans people that came out in college, many more so than in high school. And the last thing you need to be worrying about when you’re trying to deal with gender things is “is my school going to kick me out?”, especially when you’re already trying to navigate “is my family going to kick me out?”.
I also feel weird about nonbinary AFAB people in women’s spaces. Because yeah, we are not women. But at the same time, it’d be fucking fantastic if someone could tell the rest of the world that. Ideally, as AFAB nonbinary people, we would not need to seek out women’s spaces to feel safe and able to talk about things. But the world has made things very clear that I, as a non-dude, don’t belong in male-dominated spaces. I’ll admit that I also don’t really belong in women’s spaces, but if I leave them, I truly feel as though there is no place for me to go*. So I feel really stuck and left out in the cold. And yeah, eventually, I hope that there are spaces where nb folks can get together and not feel like interlopers, that time is not here now.
*Online communities are great, don’t get me wrong. But they are also woefully inadequate.
First: I’m genderfluid and CAMAB. I have no idea where so fucking many cafab nonbinary people get off thinking that they are the sum total of genderqueerness and that we don’t exist.
The fact that I’m also a woman does not change that I am LESS welcome in women’s spaces than you are. I’ve actually had the ~lovely~ experience of being pressured out of a women’s group by a cafab genderqueer person, who was decidedly not a woman and even identified closely to maleness. You might ALSO notice that Holyoke’s current policies on nonbinary people are to let in any cafab person, but only camab people who are also women (like myself).
And you have the fucking gall to lecture me about what it’s like having nowhere to go. ~Thanks so much for your totally-not-transmisogynist concern for specifically-CAFAB nonbinary folks. God forbid trans women and our massive social capital go unchecked.~
You might also notice, in my post, I was talking stictly about trans MEN. And no, they shouldn’t just “[not] try to participate in women’s spaces as equals in general”, they shouldn’t be participating and inserting their men’s voices in at ALL.
I also didn’t and don’t advocate that they should be kicked out if they realize they’re men while there. Mind, all the men in that situation who DO have the means to leave and transfer to another school, absolutely should. However, them being ‘kicked out’ is about as far from the reality as you can get. Just look at the trans bro who was elected class president, and gave a speech about how the real tragedy of patriarchy is that trans men aren’t [always] given full access to be the partriarchs :'( One of the most important aspects of women’s space is not having men there, not having the male gaze, not having men inserting themselves and asserting dominance and talking over women in every fucking situation. When trans men are centered at these institutions, all the women there have that taken away.
The apparently super controversial opinion is that women’s spaces shouldn’t be prioritizing men over women, ever. Trans men are not men lite, they are men, with all the misogyny and chauvinism and entitlement that entails. And yet there is so much concern about how the menz feel, and none for the women at these institutions.
Reasons I did not speak about the trans feminine experience: I am not a trans feminine person. I cannot speak about that because that is not my experience.
And that’s really shitty that a AFAB genderqueer person did that to you. You belong in women’s spaces if you ID as a woman, point blank. (I think that any transfeminine person belongs in women’s spaces as well, I just think that they also may not feel welcome in many cases and I generally don’t have enough knowledge to speak for transfeminine folk bc they have vastly different experiences from me).
I don’t think I disagreed with the fact that trans men’s voices shouldn’t be prioritized over women’s voices? But I have a hard time saying that trans guys should NEVER participate in women’s spaces because 1.) they do have some unique perspectives on how women vs men are treated (which, yes, trans women would also share and should be given priority because they’re women) and 2.) I know a lot of trans dudes who were very into feminism and in women’s spaces prior to realizing the gender thing, and it seems weird to say that their experiences are no longer relevant because of they came to a new understanding of themselves. But I also get that they are men and men in women’s spaces are also not welcome.
But like, also realize that I’m speaking from my own experiences. I’m not trying to attack you or invalidate your own experiences. I can really only speak about my own experiences of feeling unwelcome in a lot of spaces. This does not in any way invalidate feelings of unwelcome that you’ve faced. And that’s really shitty because it’d be great if there were only one way people were shitty about gender because it’d be easier to face and change, but people are shitty about gender in a variety of ways.
Oh please. You’re not a trans man, but you spoke on their behalf. And you may not SAY or even think that you’re prioritizing trans men over women, but once again, you focused entirely on how exclusion of trans men affects them, and not how inclusion of trans men affects women.
And no, trans men do not have ANYTHING worth adding to women’s spaces, and their presence there disrupts them. Having men present means the male gaze is present. It means their extreme propensity to talk over everyone else, center themselves, and demand that they be the focus are all present. The presence of men in a women’s space limits what discussions women can have. Maybe this isn’t an experience you share, but despite my best efforts, in person when men are around I’m constantly far more self-conscious, self-censoring, meeker, because I’m fucking terrified of them.
I don’t care if a man is ~so feminist.~ He still brings the same dynamics into the space, and overwhelmingly, “‘”‘”feminist”‘”‘” men are exactly as toxic, but are putting on a charade that drops fast enough to give you whiplash the second they’re criticized. And no, trans men ~feminists~ are not remotely different on this front, except they’re even more likely to speak over women’s experiences and mansplain and claim authority. Not to mention the general attitude of ‘sexism is wrong because I’M not a woman, I should be benefitting more from it, that’s the real injuustice.’
Thanks, Hollis, for speaking about the complexity around defining women’s space. If we simply say ‘women’s spaces are only for people who affirmatively identify as women,’ we exclude non-binary folks (AFAB or AMAB or otherwise) who are on the receiving end of patriarchal oppression just as much as are women. Equally, I have trans male friends I care deeply about who did not come out or fully grapple with their gender until college (and trans female, although those women attended coed universities) and I believe that coming out and transition is challenging and charged enough that it would be cruel to require those men to transfer. All I see coming from that is peopke waiting to come out and weathering more dysphoria. All that is to say that rigid policies around women’s space can be helpful in creating a safe space for women, but that comes at the expense of people who do not clearly ID as women but who are marked by their gender in a cissexist and patriarchal society.
Aside: the male gaze is definitely a concern, however, it is a result of socialization, and I do not see any evidence that trans men have the same relationship to the gaze as cismen, likely because of the gendered childrearing that is inescapable in America.
To your aside: I have definitely seen trans dudes with a ton of male gaze that is equal or greater than the average cis guy. It’s not common, and I’m not entirely sure where it comes from, but it definitely exists.
And yeah, I agree that drawing a line of “women’s spaces” is complicated. And it’s crappy that a choice needs to be made between making women feel safe and including nonbinary folks.
I’m coming from a place where I spend a lot of time in male-dominated spaces and it’s abundantly clear that I have far more in common with the women in those spaces than the dudes (and also I don’t want more in common with the dudes because I am not about their homophobia, transphobia, and sexism), but that also feels weird and misgendering to me to participate in those spaces-as-a-woman, which I’m currently doing (#thankscloset). And also, I’m doing this because I don’t foresee coming out to go great for me/I’m concerned about possible violence directed against my person (because god forbid those dudes now have to consider that they might not be 100% straight because they find me attractive?!).
Ohhh my god that is not remotely how socialization and gender work, if it were then there wouldn’t BE trans people. And you’re also parroting the exact same transmisogynist dreck that posits that trans women are ~socialized as men,~ so.
Socialization is not nearly as simple as people saying “you’re a X which means XYZ,” it’s the mass-scale narratives everywhere in our culture that we’re all exposed to, the everyday interactions we observe and that teach us what ‘normal’ is and what our place is, it’s the dynamics throughout everything and how we internalize them and relate to them and (sometimes) dissect and question them.
But yeah, YOU’VE never ‘seen any evidence’ of trans mens’ misogyny or had to experience it firsthand, so clearly Not All (trans) Men are like that. Ugh.
What I never understand about you “all men are terrible!” feminist is how you can celebrate womenhood for being so powerful in one breath and in then assume that all women wither like delicate flowers whenever a man gets too close in the other. It is infantilizing, generalizing and insulting.
Yeah, it sucks that you have been wronged by men in your life, but not everyone has had your life experience. Most women get along with men just fine during their daily lives. Heck, I know a few men that I can trust to have more nuanced gender discussion then some of the women I know.
Let me repeat that. I know a FEW MEN are more opened minded about gender stuff then SOME WOMEN. I am not saying all men and I am not saying all women and only from my experience. Your experience of all men being assholes in gender issues can coexist with my experience because we are both different people who have lived different lives.
Also your argument that transmen have no value in women spaces is wrong. My girlfriend is a transwomen and we have talked at length about her time “being in deep undercover” (aka before she transitioned) and how it is different/same from her dude friends childhoods and mine (who are all cis) And they have been very enlightening for the both of us.
I actually trust her as an authority on male gender stuff, because while she is not a man, she still learned how to act like one (emotions are bad, repression and anger are good) and just how damaging it can be because she stopped acting like one and is now on the other side.
We recently made friends with a transman and his male gaze has not rendered me and my girlfriend completely helpless to the point where we are both sobbing messes on the ground as he explains our childhoods. No, we have all had civil conversations like adults and his experience has only made our live all the more richer.
Im sorry again that men have traumatised you, but your experience is not every woman’s experience. Telling women that they cannot handle a transman in a womens college space (who most likely transitioned there and did not infiltrate it like some kind of agent for the patriarchy) is infantilizing. We are adults, we know what is best for ourselves, just as you know what is best for you.
It’s this kind of pedantic bullshit is why I don’t like policed gender only spaces. All your arguments about how male gaze is kryptonite to women, and all men will talk over women because all women are too delicate to tell them to shut up is the exact same bullshit TERFs uses against trans women.
Women are not delicate flowers that men can effortlessly destroy. Please stop assuming they are.
I am a woman talking about MY OWN experiences. You’re the only one talking about wilting flowers and whatever the fuck – what I said is that the presence of men *changes the dynamic,* that some conversations just won’t happen with them around. Which is the entire reason women’s spaces exist. And also undeniably true; look at any university women’s studies class and the inevitable three or four men in attendance who invariably try to dominate and talk over women, and generally waste time, derail discussions, and take up a huge amount of space. Again, note, that ‘try to’! Of course they aren’t kryptonite, but they are always disruptive, always taking away from the space.
And yeah, I have been traumatized by men, I have cPTSD from it, and I absolutely do hate them. And I’m not alone in that. It’s almost like there should be safe spaces for us, where we don’t have to deal with men, where the needs of women like me are prioritized over men’s. It’s almost like that’s exactly what we’re talking about, and what you’re trying to take away, all while you condescendingly feign sympathy. If you actually had any, you wouldn’t treat ‘that person has been abused’ as a character flaw to mock and insult and blame.
I also like how you’re trying to insult me by characterizing me as both an ~evil hateful misandrist~ and also a ~fragile delicate flower~ at the same time. Because that makes sense! Good thing you can also blame transmisogyny on trans women rather than acknowledging your own.
Why exactly are you here on Autostraddle, anyway, if you don’t see any value in women’s spaces and you hate “‘men are terrible!’ feminists”? This IS a women’s space. And one that sells “Misandrist” t-shirts. If you don’t like women’s spaces or feel a need for them, feel free to leave and not subject yourself to an atmosphere you hate.
“Having men present means the male gaze is present. It means their extreme propensity to talk over everyone else, center themselves, and demand that they be the focus are all present.”
“look at any university women’s studies class and the inevitable three or four men in attendance who invariably try to dominate and talk over women, and generally waste time, derail discussions, and take up a huge amount of space.”
Your assertion that these generalizations all apply to trans men as much as cis men is, in my experience, as much of an ipse dixit — and as much b.s. — as the exact same generalized assertions made by TERFs about trans women.
That said, I dislike as much as anyone the notion that “of course” it’s OK for trans men to stay at women’s colleges after transition (nobody seems to need a “study” to make that decision), but admitting women who happen to be trans (unless they’ve accomplished things legally and even medically that are virtually impossible for a high school senior, even assuming that everyone wanted them) is something that has to be studied for God knows how many years — in accordance with a lengthy protocol that fails to mention trans women even once — before anything changes.
(I’m replying down here because the comment chain only goes so far)
So, I realized that I was doing a very terrible job about what I was trying to say, and I’d like to apologize for that and try to clarify.
Because when I say “women’s spaces” I mean “spaces where gender discrimination does not occur” because currently “women’s spaces” are the only places where that is close to being true. This is inherently crappy, and ideally we can create spaces where that’s true that aren’t exclusively “women’s spaces”, but I think that it’s pretty harsh to leave non-cis dudes out to dry until those spaces exist.
I don’t personally feel a need for women’s spaces either, but some people do and making sure that those spaces continue to exist and that they are open to and welcoming of trans women is important. It took me a while to understand this, because I value the relationships I have with the men in my life, and feel no need to seperate myself from them. However, my experiances are not universal. For some people, women’s spaces are the only spaces where they can feel safe and comfortable, and their needs are important too.
It don’t think that someone wanting to attend a women’s college means that they hate men or that they are delicate flowers who cannot function in the presence of men, it just means they personally feel that they will learn better and feel more comfortable in a women’s space.
That said, I also think it’s important to keep in mind that people’s understanding on their own gender isn’t always static, and that because of this their will inevitably be some students at women’s colleges who are not women. Telling trans men and non-binary students who come out in college that they are no longer welcome doesn’t seem right. Transition is a stressful enough process without suddenly being told that you’re no longer wanted in the place you’ve made your home. This is a complex issue, but I think it’s possible to recognzie the importance of women’s spaces and to simultaniously recognize that aggressivly policing who is allowed into them benefits no one.
Holyoke’s language is pretty gross, but they accept anyone except cis men, which is keeping with the initial purpose of women’s colleges: to provide education to people who face gender based discrimination.
Trans men experience this differently than women, but they and non binary folk need access to safe spaces on basis of gender too. The vast majority of not cis men spaces are women’s spaces, so until we get around to creating and appropriately naming spaces for all people who face gender based discrimination, trans men and non binary folk need to be welcomed in some women’s spaces, and women’s colleges are a clear place to do this.
You either believe trans women are women, or you don’t. The fact that there has to be any debate or research at all is absolutely disgusting. Delaying the decision any more is a slap in the face of trans women everywhere.
The “reserach” excuse is getting extremely old. There are women who were AMAB and some of them would like to attend women’s colleges. What else do these schools need to know?
I do think it’s important to continue looking into how to make college campuses safer and more accomodating for trans women, but you need actual trans women students who can explain what they need to feel comfortable to do that reserach effectively.
It’s also so bizarre, like, saying they need to ‘figure out how this will impact their mission statements?’ What? WHAT? Acknowledging trans women as women shouldn’t impact your mission statements at all?
The depressing thing is, I’m pretty sure they’re more focused on how to make their mission statements mesh with the fact that they want trans men in and trans women out. Since that, uh, actually is at odds.
I’d imagine that there are some practical matters that are quite difficult, though. For example, how would the school determine if an applicant is a woman? If the only requirement were an affirmation from the applicant, then you’d probably end up with a large number of applicants who were actually cis men. Making it more difficult, like requiring a legal gender change is probably also not a good idea, because that would be inaccessible to many transwomen who are only 18 years old. Seems like it might be hard to create a filter that is good at excluding cis men and also good at including transwomen. I’m not saying that this is the only problem and that transmysogeny isn’t also a big factor here, but I can see it as being a consideration.
I doubt that many (if any) cis men would pretend to be trans women in order to attend a women’s college, when they can simply apply one of the vast majority of schools that accept students of all genders. These people would have to either present as women while attending, which the vast majority of men would never consider attempting, or reveal that they were really cis men, which (if they were even allowed to complete their degrees) would make them very unpopular on a women’s college campus.
I believe that self-identification is enough and that no one should have prove their gender. That said, if men pretending to be trans was really the concern then all of these schools would at least accept applications from trans women who could demonstrate that their gender identity was genuine (e.g. an affidavit from a therapist, a driver’s license with a female gender marker, medical records showing a prescription for HRT, etc.). Most women’s colleges don’t, so this is clearly not the issue.
If this was the first year that the admission of trans women was under discussion at these schools, I might buy the excuse that there were legitmate logistical concerns that required a little bit of reserach. But it is 2014 and those excuses have long since become ridiculous. The continued delay is the result of transphobia/transmisogyny.
Dialethia, I pretty much agree with everything you’re saying here. Just wanted to comment on this:
I’m not sure what you mean by “present as women” here. My understanding is that gender presentation is regarded as a separate axis from gender identity. There are women (both trans and cis) who are masculine, and there are men (both trans and cis) who are feminine.
“then you’d probably end up with a large number of applicants who were actually cis men” Um, David, I think you’ve watched too many bad sitcoms.
:) You might be right about that.