Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Some Thoughts On Women's Colleges

Here are my thought about trans-women and trans-men attending a women’s college.

  • If a trans-man transitioned while he is at college, he should be able to stay there.
  • If a trans-woman transitioned before attending college, she should be able to attend a women’s college.
  • If a trans-man transitioned before attending college, he should not be allowed to attend a women’s college.

Women’s college should be for all those who identify as female.

There was an article in the New York Times Magazine by a Wellesley College graduate,
When Women Become Men at WellesleyBy Ruth Padawer
OCT. 15, 2014

A few schools have formulated responses to this dilemma, albeit very different ones. Hollins University, a small women’s college in Virginia, established a policy several years ago stating it would confer diplomas to only women. It also said that students who have surgery or begin hormone therapy to become men — or who legally take male names — will be “helped to transfer to another institution.” Mount Holyoke and Mills College, on the other hand, recently decided they will not only continue to welcome students who become trans men while at school but will also admit those who identify on their applications as trans men, noting that welcoming the former and not the latter seemed unjustifiably arbitrary.
I do see a difference; those who have transitioned before applying to the college identify a male and their documentation showed them as a male, while those who transitioned after enrolling had documentation showing them as a female.
Others are wary of opening Wellesley’s doors too quickly — including one of Wellesley’s trans men, who asked not to be named because he knew how unpopular his stance would be. He said that Wellesley should accept only trans women who have begun sex-changing medical treatment or have legally changed their names or sex on their driver’s licenses or birth certificates. “I know that’s a lot to ask of an 18-year-old just applying to college,” he said, “but at the same time, Wellesley needs to maintain its integrity as a safe space for women. What if someone who is male-bodied comes here genuinely identified as female, and then decides after a year or two that they identify as male — and wants to stay at Wellesley? How’s that different from admitting a biological male who identifies as a man? Trans men are a different case; we were raised female, we know what it’s like to be treated as females and we have been discriminated against as females. We get what life has been like for women.”

In May, Mills College became the first women’s college to broaden its admissions policy to include self-identified trans women, even those who haven’t legally or medically transitioned and even if their transcripts or recommendation letters refer to them as male. The new policy, which begins by affirming Mills’s commitment to remaining a women’s college, also welcomes biological females who identify anywhere on the gender spectrum, as long as they haven’t become legally male. The change grew out of two years of study by a committee of faculty and staff, which noted that Mills has always fought gender-based oppression and concluded, “Trans inclusiveness represents not an erasure but an updating of this mission.”
The Advocate had a rebuttal to the New York Times article, Tim Chevalier took exception to Ms. Padawer comment that allowing trans-women to attend a women’s college created a safety issue.
It may surprise some that many students and alums oppose the inclusion of trans women at Wellesley. It may surprise them even more that some of those students and alums are themselves trans men. It shouldn't; transmisogyny — misogyny directed specifically at trans women — is something I've encountered among other trans men from the first day I met a group of other trans men face-to-face. Trans women such as Jos Truitt and Julia Serano, among others, have written about the ostracism and contempt they've faced from trans men.

Padawer quoted one such trans man in her article who "asked not to be named because he knew how unpopular his stance would be." He told Padawer that Wellesley should deny admission to trans women because, "Wellesley needs to maintain its integrity as a safe space for women." I think this man's fear of having others associate his name with his "unpopular" (actually very popular) stance is linked to his contempt for trans women and his feigned concern for cisgender (non-trans) women's "safety." Because this isn't actually about keeping a safe space for women.

So rather than integrity, I suspect that what this student — and many others — value about Wellesley is a form of purity. I am not the first person to propose this — Emma Caterine's "Fear of a Trans College" and Dallas Denny's letter about cis lesbian separatists' ostracism of trans women both explore this theme.
I agree with Mr. Chevalier to deny a trans-woman to attend a women’s college is prejudicial. I do not understand why trans-men would want to go to a women’s college, it seems to me that they are denying their gender, if they are men why go to a women’s college?

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