Two all-female colleges, Mills College in Oakland, CA, and Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA, recently became the first two universities in the United States to officially admit male transgender students, biological males who identify as women.
President Lynn Pasquerella at Mount Holyoke, the oldest all-female college in the nation, stated, “Just as early feminists argued that reducing women to their biological functions was a foundation of women’s oppression, we acknowledge that gender identity is not reducible to the body.” According to Medical News Today, “Sex refers to the biological and physiological characteristics, while gender refers to behaviors, roles, expectations, and activities in society.”
Mills College will be accepting “students who are legally assigned to the female sex, but who identify as transgender or gender fluid” and “students who were not assigned to the female sex at birth but live and identify as women.”
At Mount Holyoke, the possible gender preferences include: biologically born female and identifies as a woman; biologically born female and identifies as a man; biologically born female and identifies as other/they/ze; biologically born female and does not identify as either woman or man; biologically born male and identifies as woman; biologically born male and identifies as other/they/ze and when “other/they” identity includes woman; and biologically born with both male and female anatomy (Intersex) and identifies as a woman. Mount Holyoke senior Jennie Ochteriski said, “Mount Holyoke can be this pioneering progressive change and hopefully spread that message to other women’s colleges across the country — that trans women do belong in women’s spaces like Mount Holyoke.”
Students at other all-female colleges such as Barnard and Smith are speaking out for similar changes. Though Mills and Mount Holyoke are the trendsetters for this new acceptance of gender identity, it is expected that many other all-female schools will follow in pursuit of a more accepting environment. Barnard students recently commented, “[We] struggle against a transphobic admissions policy that blatantly denies the legitimacy of people’s self-identification. We do not support the administration’s replication of a culture of transphobia and state practices that refuse trans individuals equal access to higher education.”
Wellseylan transgender student Jesse Austin stated, “I had no idea that gender was something you could change. I just thought I needed to make myself fit into these fixed places: There are boys, and there are girls. I knew I didn’t fit; I just didn’t know what was wrong with me.”
(Sources: NY Times, The College Fix, PBS)