Published On: Wed, Sep 10th, 2014

Massachusetts all-women’s college changes rules to accept transgender applicant

An all-women’s college in South Hadley, Mass., has expanded its definition of “women” with a new admissions policy this week to allow for of transgender applicants.
On Tuesday, Mount Holyoke College President Lynn Pasquerella announced in her convocation speech that the school would accept openly transgender students, including students who were born male but identify themselves as women.
Only men are excluded as according to Mount Holyoke’s new admission policy, the school will now permit the following types of transgender students to apply for admission:
·         Biologically born female; identifies as a woman.
·         Biologically born female; identifies as a man.
·         Biologically born female; identifies as other/they/ze.
·         Biologically born female; does not identify as either woman or man.
·         Biologically born male; identifies as woman.
·         Biologically born male; identifies as other/they/ze and when “other/they” identity includes woman.
·         Biologically born with both male and female anatomy (Intersex); identifies as a woman.
photo Marcus Werthmann

photo Marcus Werthmann

The school’s policy notes one identity category still barred from admission: “Biologically born male; identifies as man.”

The policy change comes after Mills College in Oakland, Calif., announced this summer it would accept “self-identified women” into its all-women’s school—the first single-sex college in the United States to publicly establish such a policy.
Mount Holyoke is the first school among the historic “Seven Sisters” women’s colleges—one-time female equivalents of the Ivy League schools—to outline a policy admitting transgendered students on the sole basis of self-identification.
These new admissions policies reveal a trend toward viewing traditional categories of male and female as discriminatory in some cases. In recent months, single-sex schools, including Mount Holyoke, have been under pressure by student advocacy groups to admit transgender men and women. The student group MHC Femmepowered earlier this year posted photos of students expressing support for transgender women at Mount Holyoke.
“There’s a recognition that these old categories, the gender binary, is rejected by many people today,” Pasquerella told me on Wednesday. “So how do we accommodate that in an institution that is committed to women’s education, first and foremost?”
It is noteworthy to explain that a male student could attend the school if he identified as a woman at the time of his initial admittance and then later changed his self-identity to “male.” Mount Holyoke’s policy says it would not ask such students to leave once they are admitted.
Mount Holyoke applicants won’t have to provide any doctor’s records or documentation to prove they have consistently identified as a gender other than their birth gender. The students will not be required to have undergone surgery or hormonal treatments. Instead, the school will rely on how the student identifies himself or herself.
“Many students will choose leaving home for college as an opportunity to explore or proclaim new identities,” the school’s admission policy says. “Whether a student transitions suddenly or has a long history with a particular gender identity will not have an impact on how their application for admission is assessed.”
Mount Holyoke expects students to act in good faith.
Pasquerella told me if a male student applied as a woman for “fraudulent purposes,” such as to try to crack open the door to coeducation, it would be a violation of the school’s honor code and grounds for dismissal.
She added that “if we accept the notion of gender fluidity, then we would allow, as we have now, students who come in as women and who graduate as men,” she said.
Mount Holyoke, a school of 2,200 students, already has at least one transgendered student enrolled.
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- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco


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