Published over a year ago, the CNN article titled, “Male, female or neither? Gender Identity Debated at Same-sex Colleges” by Stephanie Chen touches apon the challenges facing same sex universities as they begin to adopt transgender policies. The article feature two single sex institutions: Morehouse (all mens) and Mount Holyoke (all womens).
“After interviewing more than 30 administrators at women’s colleges, Marine [a trans scholar] said there are concerns that alumni will react negatively to the idea of allowing cross-dressing or nongender-conforming students on campus. As a result, they could refuse to donate money to the school.”
However. “in 2003, a student-led initiative at Smith College replaced gender-specific language in the student government constitution such as “she” and “her” with more neutral terms. ”
Is Hollins responsible to its alumni or its current students?
Smith changed its constitution to be more inclusive almost ten years ago! We adopted our policy four years ago… is hollins stuck in the past?
After reading about Smith’s success, what student-led initiative would you like to create? What change would you like to see?
The New York Times wrote an article titled “When Girls Will Be Boys” addressing transgender students at single sex institutions as early as 2008. This is the same year our transgender policy was introduced. Here is just an excerpt of what the author, Alissa Quart, wrote:
“Same-sex colleges have always been test beds for transformations among American women. … It was, after all, at all-female schools that many young women first began to question the very notion of femininity. … For [some scholars], femaleness did not automatically produce femininity and maleness did not produce masculinity: gender was fluid and variable, something to be fashioned, and could shift in character depending on the culture or the time period. As some see it, the presence of trans students at single-sex colleges is simply a logical extension of this intellectual tradition.”
Are transgender students an extension of a all women’s education?
“A Man in the Women’s College” by Adam Polaski from March 21, 2011 tells the story of Aden, a trans male who encountered harassment while at an all womens university near Boston. Despite some tension with students and administration he appreciates his all womens education.
Specifically Aden said, “It’s really helped me to become a different kind of man. I think if I were at a co-ed institution, I would have tried harder to fit into the mold of what a man should be, stereotypically. And I think there wasn’t that pressure—I could be whoever I wanted to be because I was one of the few boys there. I definitely think it pushed me to go beyond what people expect a man to be.”
Aden also said, “They’re very good at [the college] at being open to the lesbian community, but that sometimes takes away from being open to transgender people. We’re kind of the forgotten group in ‘LGBT.’
Does Hollins support the transgender community in the same way it supports the lesbian community?
Hollins is not alone. Other all womens universities are also examining their transgender policies, as discussed in depth in the article “Women’s Colleges Examine Transgender Policies” By Allie Grasgreen from USA Today.
This national publication points to all womens universities such as Agnes Scott, which recently introduced gender neutral bathrooms, and Mount Holyoke, which offers gender neutral housing. The article also discussed Smith College’s policy which states, “Once admitted, any student who completes the college’s graduation requirements will be awarded a degree.” Grasgreen also mentions that, “One residence life official at Smith said she knows students who have transitioned to male while at the college and graduated.”
The author then writes, “That’s how it works at women’s colleges these days, but as recently as five years ago it was a different story, said D. Chase James Catalano, director of Syracuse University’s LGBT Resource Center.” Catalano, a trans male, is also doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and has worked on these issues with Mount Holyoke and Smith.
This article was written in August, two months prior to the infamous chronicle article. If USA Today knew about our transgender policy, I wonder what they would have said about us.
Four years ago Hollins introduced into transgender policy. Is Hollins stuck in the past?
While other all-womens universities evolve to support their student communities, how is Hollins transitioning? What will you do to help Hollins transition?