"What’s the deal with trans women at Smith?"
These are questions we get asked a lot. You can also view our answered tumblr messages here.
Feel free to ask us a new question, anonymously or otherwise, here.
1. Can trans women be admitted to Smith? What is the current policy?
Yes, if they have the time, resources (financial and otherwise), and know-how to meet Smith’s demanding requirements. Trans women have gone to Smith in the past and are currently enrolled at Smith.
We posted a very thorough explanation of recent policy reform developments on February 5, 2014. You can keep up with our policy reform efforts on this page as well as our Facebook.
2. Won’t trans women be a threat to survivors space?
Of course the safety needs of survivors are paramount, but the short answer is no. People of all genders and people with all different kinds of bodies can do sexual violence. It should also be noted that there are many folks in the Smith community, on the campus, and in the houses on a daily basis who are assigned male at birth, such as 5 college students, professors and other staff members, and visitors.
3. How would Smith be able to preserve its mission as a women’s college and still accept trans women?
This isn’t an easy question to answer. Here are a smattering of thoughts:
"Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. A college of and for the world, Smith links the power of the liberal arts to excellence in research and scholarship, developing leaders for society’s challenges."
— Smith College Mission
"Well, the wake up call has happened, and now it’s time for the Smith community to decide what they want their school to be. Do they want it to be a women’s college that’s open to all women? There’s a lot of potential here for Smith to take a major step forward in fulfilling its mission by opening its doors for some of the most marginalized women."
— "Skewed priorities mean Smith is not currently fulfilling its mission as a women’s college" by Jos on Feministing.com, who came and performed as part of the Q&A Girl Talk event
"We feel that the question(s) should not be, "Why are transgender students at Smith, and do they belong here?" but rather, "What can we do to make Smith College a safer and more supportive place for currently enrolled, future, and prospective transgender students? As well as ‘How can we begin to find room in our community for our sisters who are continually excluded?’"
— Tangent, chartered Smith Organization for trans issues, circa 2005-2006
4. But what about the men at Smith?
Q&A does not organize around issues of trans men. Q&A has no official stance on trans male Smithies. Our resources are best spent discussing and organizing around issues regarding the visibility, safety, and admission of trans women at Smith. Q&A members may have varying opinions regarding trans men at Smith, and some are trans men themselves, but we all agree trans women belong here.
5. Will admitting trans women affect my financial aid?
6. Will admitting trans women cause Smith to lose its Title IX status?
"Over the course of Calliope’s struggle, a number of readers of Calliope’s Tumblr suggested that Smith’s hands were tied: that Smith could not accept applicants who were still legally male (or create an official written policy on doing so) because this would violate Title IX and therefore jeopardize its government funding, status as a single-sex school, or both. Luckily for Calliope, Katherine Kraschel, graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Harvard Law School, thinks otherwise. In a 24-page note to the Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, Kraschel debunks the assertions that Title IX can be used to defend the exclusion of transgender applicants from single-sex institutions, and that the admission of a transgender individual would force the school to become co-educational. Kraschel begins by noting that although the original 1970s language of Title IX relies heavily on a strict gender binary, contemporary interpretations of Title IX and the related Title VII, also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, have expanded them to include gender as well as sex, and to protect gender nonconforming individuals (as seen in Smith v. City of Salem and Schwenk v. Hartford).
She goes on to explain, the Supreme Court has declared that single-sex schools must directly serve an “important governmental objective,” in this case ending gender discrimination, in order to justify discrimination/sex-based affirmative action. Kraschel puts forth Darwinder Sidhu’s argument that based upon previous cases such as United States v. Virginia and Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, in order for a private single-sex women’s college to justify single-sex discrimination it must adhere to five conditions: “(1) they must not perpetuate archaic gender stereotypes; (2) they must intentionally and directly assist a disadvantaged gender in a manner related to that disadvantage; (3) enrollment in the single-sex affirmative action program must be completely voluntary; (4) the single-sex affirmative action program must not include members of the non-disadvantaged gender; and (5) the single-sex affirmative action program must last no longer than the discriminatory conditions.” Because Title IX’s “based on sex” clause includes gender and protects gender-nonconforming individuals, transgender individuals fall under the umbrella of “disadvantaged gender,” and therefore their presence at a women’s college would not and does not cause the college to fail to adhere to the fourth condition. Indeed, Kraschel asserts, the inclusion of transgender individuals would not result in failure to adhere to any of the five conditions presented.”
— “’Just Check ‘Female’: Trans Women and Smith College Admissions" by Sarah Giovannielo in Broad Recognition, Yale’s feminist magazine
7. What’s wrong with calling trans women “male bodied”?
"While many act as if ‘biologically male’ is an objective, impartial scientific reality, this insistence in practice serves as a means for larger society to negate the identity of transgender individuals. As a trans woman, I’m expected to simply accept that I’m inescapably male, even if others deign to acknowledge me as a ‘male woman’, and act as if there are no gendered connotations in this designation. What I hear when people insist that I acknowledge that I am male is that I can only ever aspire to be a woman to a point.
No matter what lengths I go to to legitimize my identity, there will always be an external check in place to make sure that I know that the best I can hope for is being a woman with an asterisk. In other words, I can pretend to be a woman all I want, but “objective reality” will always say otherwise.
… If we decided to acknowledge the self-identification of transgender individuals as a valid reality, rather than a superficial, subjective, and flimsy role, and if we didn’t insist on the primacy of a sexual designation that is anything but objective
(chromosomes are not readily visible indicators of gender, rarely tested, and operate in ways far more complex than most people acknowledge, making designation by medical professionals in effect an educated guess)
then perhaps transgender individuals could be more easily accepted as who they are.”
— Kate Hache
"The two sex binary is a flawed social construct that literally has no basis in reality whatsoever. Some form of intersex characteristics happen in approximately 2% of all live births in humans. That’s 2 out of every 100 which in a world with billions of people is a lot of people that don’t fit into either “male” or “female” and that obviously doesn’t include trans* people which makes the statistics higher. And that also doesn’t include the people who aren’t technically intersex but also don’t fully fit the biological construct of what a male or female “should” be which is far far more people that you realize or most medical doctors willing to admit.
In our society sexing is based on 5 criteria:
- genes - XX or XY chromosomes with variations happening for XO, XXY, and XXX
- gonads - ovaries or testes except that people with vaginas can have testes, people with penises can have ovaries, and people can be born with both ovaries and testes
- genitalia - a penis or a vagina except that people can be born with both and men can have vaginas and women can have penises
- secondary sex characteristics - in theory men are supposed to have large amounts of thick, coarse body hair, a low waist/hip ratio, broad shoulders, undeveloped breasts, and deep voices while women are supposed to have small amounts of fine, light colored, soft body hair, a high waist/hip ratio, petite shoulders, developed breasts, and high voices except that in real life it’s entirely possible for people to have combination of those characteristics or for men to have “feminine” secondary sex characteristics and women to have “masculine” secondary sex characteristics
- hormone patterns - in theory men are supposed to be high testosterone and low estrogen and women are supposed to have high estrogen and low testosterone but in reality there is far far more variation within “each” sex than between “each” sex including women having “masculine” hormone patterns and men having “feminine” hormone patterns all without those people having any sort of “disease” or “disorder” or anything being wrong with them at all.
Once we take into account all 5 of those criteria an actual majority of people don’t line up with either male or female in all 5 areas which means it’s not possible to classify most people along the strict binary the way people like you would like to. So, sure, there are things in this world that qualify as technically male or technically female but the idea that there’s some sort of scientific basis for a strict binary where there are only ever two options and people are only ever male or female is laughable. It’s utter bullshit and trying to force people into those boxes when they don’t fit does a hell of a lot more harm than good. Nothing positive comes from that kind of bigotry while actually being willing to accept people as they are or as they choose to identify has legitimately positive outcomes in the world. ”
— Tumblr user RapeCultureRealities’s accessible explanation of many of the concepts in Anne Fausto-Sterling’s Sexing the Body
I really appreciate that you tag for thin people, but could you try to do it more consistently please? they fuck with my self image pretty badly :(
Oh no.. I’ve just been trying to use my best judgement, but I’ll tag more consistently from now on. Is #cw thin body ok? Sorry love.