More Women’s Colleges Admitting Transgender Students - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

More Women’s Colleges Admitting Transgender Students

Email




by Collin Binkley, Associated Press

WELLESLEY, Mass. — Until last year, Ninotska Love would have been barred from attending Wellesley College. She’s an accomplished student who has persevered through hardship, but under longstanding rules, the college would have rejected her.

Now the rules have changed. This week, Love will become one of the first transgender women to attend Wellesley in the school’s 147-year history.

Genny Beemyn is director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

“For me to be accepted to one of the best colleges for women in the nation, it is a big validation of the person that I have become. At first I couldn’t believe it,” said Love, 28, who was born in Ecuador but fled to the U.S. in 2009 after being kidnapped and threatened because of her gender identity. “I’m so thankful to be here.”

Her arrival on campus reflects a quiet but momentous shift that’s taking place at a wave of women’s colleges that have begun allowing trans women. But even as many schools embrace shifting views on gender, some have been reluctant to change amid lingering differences over the role of women’s colleges.

Since 2014, at least eight women’s colleges have moved to allow trans women, starting with Mills College in Oakland, California. Joining Wellesley in 2015 were Smith, Bryn Mawr and Barnard colleges, the last of the so-called Seven Sisters women’s colleges to make the change. Advocates say others have likely done so without advertising it.

On Tuesday, Spelman College, an HBCU that is also only one of two that are an all-women’s college, released an email statement saying the school will admit trans women beginning with the 2018-2019 academic year.

  Panel: American Society Not ‘Post-Racial,’ despite African-American President

“Like same-sex colleges all over the country, the College is taking into account evolving definitions of gender identity in a changing world and taking steps to ensure that our policies and plans reflect those changes in a manner that is consistent with our mission and the law,” said Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, Spelman’s president, in the email statement.

“Spelman College, a historically Black college whose mission is to serve high-achieving Black women, will consider for admission women students, including students who consistently live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth,” the statement read.

Experts are praising the move by women’s institutions to expand their enrollment to now include transgender students.

“I think it’s a step forward, one that’s long overdue,” said Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a resource group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. “If they say they’re women, then saying that they can’t attend is denying their identities and marginalizing them.”

Just how many trans women are attending women’s colleges remains unknown. Many schools that now accept them won’t say how many they enroll, if any, citing privacy concerns. Schools including Smith and Mount Holyoke colleges say they don’t track the gender identities of their students.

Chicora Martin, vice president of student life and dean of students at Mills College, said some fear backlash from alumni or donors who don’t support the change, and they want to protect students from outside scrutiny. At Mills, 8 percent of more than 700 undergraduates identify as trans women.

  Survey: Minority Business School Professors

“I think that’s something they don’t want to draw to their students,” Martin said. “Ultimately the attention is drawn to them, and that can be negative attention.”

Colleges of all types have faced increasing pressure to meet the needs of trans men and women, who make up an estimated 0.7 percent of the nation’s youths. Some schools have responded by offering gender-neutral bathrooms and medical insurance that covers hormone treatments, or by letting students pick their gender pronouns.

Still, alumnae of some women’s colleges have opposed the admissions change, saying it undermines the institutional mission to empower women. Leaders at some schools counter that women’s colleges were founded to educate those who have been marginalized because of their gender.

“That’s always been the historic role of women’s colleges,” Martin said. “The definition of gender and gender identity has broadened, and yet it’s still very much that mission.”

Some schools have resisted widening their gender policies. At Hollins University, a private school of about 800 in Virginia, trans women can be accepted only if they have completed a legal and surgical transition from male to female, which legally entitles them to consideration anyway.

Hollins spokesman Jeff Hodges said the policy “supports how the university defines its mission as an undergraduate institution of higher learning for women.”

At Wellesley, Love said she knows of at least one other trans woman starting this week. Wellesley leaders said that they don’t comment on the gender identities of specific students but that they welcome Love to the school’s “community of outstanding women.”

  Fayetteville State at Forefront of Cyber Security

“As the leading liberal arts college for women, Wellesley’s mission is to educate women who will make a difference in the world – and those women represent diversity in every dimension,” Sofiya Cabalquinto, a college spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Love is considering a major in women’s and gender studies and later hopes to become a civil rights lawyer for LGBT students and immigrants. It’s a goal shaped by her own past; Love says she illegally entered Texas from Mexico before being granted asylum because of her persecution in Ecuador.

Her first job in the U.S. was cleaning dorms at a college in North Carolina. She later moved to New York City and started classes at LaGuardia Community College, where she earned academic honors and gained support from the Kaplan Educational Foundation, which helps low-income and minority students transfer to four-year universities.

Love was accepted to a dozen colleges but says Wellesley was always her top choice.

“I knew that it would be a challenge; I knew that it would be difficult,” she said, “but at the same time I knew that I can make a difference – and I knew that I can show to other people that we transgender women are humans, too.”

Contributing: Tiffany Pennamon

RELATED ARTICLES >>
Accessibility Is Hallmark of Vargas Presidency Kendall Basham, who graduated in May 2017 from Southeast Missouri State University, always had been an admirer of the university president, Dr. Carlos Vargas-Aburto. To surprise Basham on her birthday, Dylan Kennedy, a senior and vice president of So...
UCLA Course to Examine Race Through Lens of Black Horror Films, Literature Tananarive Due is bringing a highly anticipated Get Out-inspired course to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) this semester. Tananarive Due The “The Sunken Place: Racism, Survival and Black Horror Aesthetic” course is based on di...
Innovative Strategies for HBCUs Proposed at CBC Conference WASHINGTON — A range of solutions and strategies — from the adoption of new business models to one-on-one mentoring from African Americans who’ve attained C-Suite positions — emerged Thursday at the inaugural HBCU “braintrust” of the Congressional Bl...
Brigham Young University Ends Ban on Caffeinated Soda Sales SALT LAKE CITY — Mormon church-owned Brigham Young University ended a six-decade ban Thursday on the sale of caffeinated soft drinks on campus, surprising students by posting a picture of a can of Coca-Cola on Twitter and just two words: “It’s happen...
Semantic Tags: