Thousands calling for Smith College to stop discriminating against trans women

More than three thousand people have joined a Smith College student group in their call for an end to Smith's refusal to even consider the applications of certain trans women.

In March, Smith denied admission to Calliope Wong because the gender marker on her FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid) form did not match her stated gender identity of female.  Despite Smith's reputation for being LGBTQ-friendly, this policy turns a blind eye to the many complications and challenges trans people – especially youth – can face when attempting to correct gender markers on various personal identification documents.

In response to Calliope's rejection, the student group Smith Q&A launched a social media campaign garnering support from Smith students, alumni, and supporters demanding a change in the admission policy and declaring that trans women belong at Smith College. Later the group launched a petition urging Smith to change its admissions policy. Thousands have already added their voices of support for women like Calliope.

"Through the pressure from this petition and the campaign in general, I hope that Smith College becomes a more responsible and transparent institution," said Calliope Wong. "What that means to me is that Smith College will no longer use arbitrary and legally dubious bars against transwomen in the application and admissions process." Smith Q&A's petition urging Smith to stop discriminating based on transgender status has already gathered more than 3,000 signatures.

Blogger and Yale student Sarah Giovanniello has been writing about Calliope's story. She noted that "the support the petition has received in just a few days is overwhelming. I hope that the widespread attention Calliope's case has gotten communicates to the Smith administration how important trans women's rights are and should be to the college's mission. Ideally, the college would commit providing trans women with the same level of support as any other applicants."

"Thousands of Smith's supporters are telling the school that it needs to end its policy of refusing to consider the applications of women whom they decide aren't 'woman enough' based on inconsistent documents," said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz. "Smith is setting a poor example to all of its students by not even accepting the applications of women like Calliope."

"To me, the inclusion of trans women at women's colleges is a feminist issue. Trans women experience misogyny on multiple levels, making it all the more important that they have access to affirmative women's spaces like Smith," said Smith Q&A member and student Elli Palmer.

Smith Q&A organizer Ollie Schwartz agreed, saying, "While Smith admissions policies remain muddled, one thing is becoming clear: our communities will not stand idly by while trans women are treated differently."

GLAAD applauds institutions like the Girl Scouts of America, which admit all young women into its troops regardless of their trans status. GLAAD and Smith Q&A urge Smith administrators to listen to the voices of the school's many students, graduates and supporters who are demanding an end to its current discriminatory policy. 

GLAAD will continue working with Calliope and Smith Q&A to raise awareness about the need for Smith to change its policy and become a safe and welcoming space for all women.

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