Advocates Urge Smith College To Stop Discriminating Against Trans Women

Via "Smith Q & A" Facebook page.

GLAAD is joining advocates to call for an end to discrimination against the trans community as a whole at Smith College, a women's college in Massachusetts, after it rejected the application of a woman because she is transgender.

Calliope Wong, a high school senior and trans woman living in Connecticut, had exchanged email conversations with Smith's Dean of Admissions Debra Shaver, who suggested that it would be possible for a female student whose gender was not correctly identified in all of her application documents to be considered for acceptance. However, the rejection letter that Calliope received just a few months later specifically stated that she would not be considered because of the gender marker on her FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid) form, and because of the school's expectation "that it is consistently rejected throughout the application that the student is a woman."

For many transgender people, having consistent personal identification documents is no simple task, and may even be impossible. Rules on identification vary from state to state, or even from city to city, and from document to document, creating scenarios where a transgender person may have a driver's license showing their correct name and gender marker, but a birth certificate that can only be updated after the person has undergone specific surgeries - or that can never be changed at all. Calliope pointed out that even in states like her own Connecticut, which has a surgery requirement, it is unlikely that the typical trans woman applicant, at age 17 or 18, would be ready for surgery, even if they want it and can afford it.

If Smith College is to truly represent a diversity of women, is it fair to only allow those trans women who are able or willing to pursue consistent identification documents to apply?

 Via "Smith Q & A" Facebook page / jack laxson.

The Facebook page, 'Smith Q & A,' has an answer: 'trans women belong at Smith College.' The page features many photos of Smith students, alumni, and other supporters holding signs that express a need for change in the school's approach to trans women applicants. Smith is not the only women's college where treatment of transgender students is being challenged. At Salem College in North Carolina, administrators have yet to release a clear policy after discussing whether a currently enrolled student who is transitioning would be allowed to remain at the school. At Simmons College, a transgender woman was recently accepted for admission. 

On Monday, March 25, Calliope will be featured on HuffPost Live to speak about Smith's unfair stance on trans women applicants. Calliope will be joined by Sarah Giovanniello, a student and writer at Yale College's feminist magazine, Broad Recognition, and Noah Lewis of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF).

As Lori Adelman at Feministing noted, "Women’s colleges should not be in the business of policing people’s bodies or identities, or deciding what kinds of people get to qualify as 'women'...It’s both arbitrary and discriminatory to label a space as 'for women' and then deny access for many women just because they were not assigned female at birth."

GLAAD urges the administration to listen to the voices of the school's many students, graduates and supporters who are demanding an end to the discrimination against trans women applicants.