With schools like Simmons College and Mount Holyoke adopting more gender-inclusive policies into the admissions process, other colleges have begun fighting for the same reforms. Now, students at the all-female Smith College are pushing for trans women to be accepted, signing a petition that they will not donate to Smith until the admissions office changes its policies. If we lived in a perfectly inclusive and accepting world, my next sentence would be, "The admissions office agreed it was about time they allowed trans women to attend Smith College, and everybody baked a cake of rainbows and smiles and was happy."
Since we do not live in a perfect world, nor do we live inside the plot of Mean Girls, we know the students' petition was not met without opposition. What surprised me, though, was that the opposition didn't come from random internet bigots, but rather, members of Smith's own alumnae. So you mean to tell me that some of the very women who benefited from the "special bonuses" a women's college offers (such as more regular interaction with faculty members) want to deny those opportunities to other women? Sounds like a pretty big stab in the back to me.
Here's what one alumna told Campus Reform:
"Transwomen are, by definition, male bodied and male socialized persons. This is not a value judgment; I have deep compassion for transwomen who sincerely wish to live as women. At the same time, I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect more than the empty rhetoric of identity politics (i.e., 'I am whatever I say I am') from males who apply to Smith as women. Smith must adopt objective criteria for admissions that are consistently applied and can withstand a legal challenge from non-trans male applicants."
Um. Am I the only one who feels like saying "I have deep compassion for trans women...At the same time..." is kind of a heck of a lot like saying, "I'm not racist, but..."?
I'm obviously not a researcher or an admissions counselor at Smith College, but are there actually any cisgender men out there who are trying to pose as transgender women to gain access to a women's college? Seriously? Is this even a real issue people are fighting against? Because it sounds pretty made-up to me.
The alumna in question asked Smith "to implement a policy that would require transwomen to produce documentation detailing their intent to fully and permanently transition to the opposite gender as evidenced by legal recognition of their new identity."
I have a lot of questions and a lot of sarcastic statements that I could make about this proposed policy. But I don't really need to use sarcasm because in all seriousness, you can't say that you have "deep compassion for transwomen" and then expect them to "prove" that they are trans, and that they are women. That's just messed up, plain and simple. And I for one don't think someone's intolerance is a valid enough reason to deny these women admission. If you agree, and want to sign the petition, you can do so here.
Update: After publication of this article, I heard from a 1986 Smith College alumna, who told me that my previous statements were based on the statements of one alumna, and that, "many, many many Smith alumnae welcome and support changes to the Smith admissions policy and look forward to the day when Smith truly fulfills its historic mission of educating women for the world." I'm sure I'm not the only one who is comforted to hear that, and I apologize if I gave the wrong impression of Smith's students or alumnae in the original version of this article.
Images: Kim Kruse / Flickr; Giphy