Mills College, a women's college in Oakland, California, is allowing female-identified transgender students to enroll. This makes Mills the first of the country's 119 single-sex colleges to have an official policy for transgender students, reports CBS.
Brian O'Rourke, vice president for enrollment management, told KQED, "This is really just a codification of our practice for several years." According to O'Rourke, between three and five of applicants each year identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, and making clear the admissions policy for these students will make the application process easier and less stressful.
However, in its article on the new policy KQED quoted Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, which is known to be anti-LGBT. Dacus said that the school could encounter some legal and privacy issues, providing KQED with the ridiculous and insensitive example:
"For example, if you have someone who’s transgender, perhaps they haven’t had the surgery. They’re still biologically, physically male,” he said. “Then the school needs to be very sensitive to the privacy interests of females, for instance, who may not feel comfortable changing in the same locker room or showering.”
Dacus has made other outlandish statements in the past, which GLAAD has tracked in our Commentator Accountability Project. For instance, he said that a law desgined to protect transgender students in California would turn schools into a "horror film." On the same issue, he said the law was "hideous, unbelievable, and unthinkable." He served as a spokesperson for Proposition 8, defended a pastor who said gay people deserve to be stoned to death, and claimed that "the homosexual lifestyle gives boys an average lifespan of the age of 40. It's worse than being a chain cigarette smoker." Reporters citing Mills' news as reported by KQED should take caution before giving credibility to Dacus' statement.
Students at the college also spoke to KQED, voicing their support for the policy and their pride in their school's inclusiveness. Tess Fillbeck-Bates said "When people can be authentically who they are – that's who Mills is." And Sonj Basha, who identifies as gender non-conforming and prefers gender-neutral pronouns, said "I take all of my identities into consideration, and I think Mills also prides itself on understanding intersectionality."
For student Skylar Crownover, he will be able to complete his degree under the new policy, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Crownover enrolled at the college as female before beginning his transition soon after. No all-male colleges admit transgender students, and Crownover believes it may be a while before these schools follow in the footsteps of Mills. He said "It would be really incredible if a trans man could go to a men's college…I think it would be the next frontier."
Mills has a plethora of resources for LGBT students. The Diversity and Social Justice Resource Center runs programs to create dialogues around gender and sexuality, and there are many student and alumni organizations devoted to supporting LGBT students, creating safe spaces, and taking action to promote diversity. According to the website, in 2012 more than one third of the senior class self-identified as lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender, or gender queer. The "new" transgender student enrollment policy is in fact nothing new for them, but rather a clearer statement to ensure that transgender students know they are welcome.
Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle.