One of the Seven Sister colleges has amended its policy to include transgender students in its applicant pool. This action is a big step towards inclusion of transwomen and also raises the question of what it means to create a safe female space.
On February 7th the Board of Trustees at Bryn Mawr College voted to accept the recommendation to review the university's mission regarding transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming applicants.
According to the College’s news site:
“…the applicant pool will be inclusive of transwomen and of intersex individuals who live and identify as women at the time of application. Intersex individuals who do not identify as male are also eligible for admission. Those assigned female at birth who have taken medical or legal steps to identify as male are not eligible for admission.”
Cases in which the gender of the applicant is not easily determinable, the College may request additional information, which could include verifiable legal or medical steps taken to affirm gender. With that information in hand, the school intends to be as inclusive as possible.
Bryn Mawr’s decision harkens back to Wellesley College and its decision to allow transmale students to attend the traditionally women’s college. This created a heated discussion, most notably seen the New York Times article “When Women Become Men at Wellesley.”
Much of the controversy arose from students feeling like a transman, especially a white man, should not be in student leadership positions at a woman’s college. For the student in question, it was an issue of where the line should be drawn, asking, “At trans men? At transmasculine students? What about students who are simply questioning their gender? Shouldn’t students be “free to explore” without fearing their decision will make them unwelcome?”
These are the questions that will most likely arise as Bryn Mawr moves forward with the new policy. While there will be an adjustment period, these attempts at inclusion are key to creating a safe space for all women.
At the very least it seems that the college is determined to embrace these new students, as shown in President Kim Cassidy’s letter:
“I appreciate the work of our Board, its affirmation of the College’s mission as a women’s college and its guidelines for implementing that mission, and am pleased the College will now be more explicit about welcoming transgender, non-binary and gender nonconforming applicants,“ said Bryn Mawr College President Kim Cassidy.
images c/o: autostraddle and jezebelPrincess Weekes is a part-time bookseller and a full-time writer with a Master’s in English from Brooklyn College. A former intern at BUST magazine, she has since written articles for The Mary Sue, BUST and maintains her own video channel under the name Melina Pendulum, discussing the intersection of pop culture, feminism and race. She is currently working on a fantasy novel about black witches during the Jim Crow era, while attempting to purchase every liquid lipstick the world has to offer.