Transgender admissions policies at women's colleges

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Smith College, the women's college that initially denied admission to Calliope Wong, revised their transgender admissions policy in 2015.

The admission of transgender students to women's colleges in the United States has been a subject of debate. Some colleges have changed their policy in favor of admitting transgender students, but there is little uniformity in definitional details.

Policy changes[edit]

Smith College[edit]

In 2013, high school senior Calliope Wong was denied acceptance to Smith College, one of the largest women's colleges in the United States, because she identified as a transgender woman. Wong marked her biological gender identity as male on her FAFSA, despite her self-identification as a woman. Subsequently, Smith deemed Wong inadmissible to the women's college and denied her application.[1] Smith students, led by a trans-activist organization, Q&A, protested the decision and began a petition encouraging Smith to revise their admissions policy to include trans women.[2] Although Smith was not the first women's college to amend their admissions policy, Wong's story catalyzed a nation-wide reconsideration of admissions policies at women's institutions. Smith College amended their policy to include admission of trans women in May 2015.[3]


Mills College, located in Oakland, California, was the first women's higher education institution to formally publish an inclusive policy accepting transgender women in 2014.[4] Since then, a total of 11 of the 39 Women's College Coalition (WCC) member institutions have revised their admissions policies to admit transgender women according to NBC News.[5] The schools are as follows: Mills College, Mount Holyoke College, Simmons College, Scripps College, Bryn Mawr College, Wellesley College, Smith College, Hollins University, Barnard College, Bennett College and most recently Spelman College. Yet, the policies at each institution vary and lack uniformity.[citation needed]

Different policies at women’s colleges across the country[edit]

Spelman College, the most recent women's institution to revise its admissions policy, determined the institution “will consider for admission women students, including students who consistently live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth.” [6] President of Spelman College, Mary S. Campbell, announced the revised admissions and enrollment policy in September 2017. The policy goes on to state that Spelman does not admit male students, regardless of their gender at birth; but, if a woman is admitted and decides to transition to male during their tenure at the college, they will be permitted to continue their studies and graduate from Spelman.[6] Spelman College is one of only two Historically Black Women's Colleges in the nation. Bennett College, located in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the only other Historically Black Women's College in the nation and adopted a similar policy in January 2017.[7]

Although Spelman College and other women's institutions across the country do not accept trans men, Mills College, the first women's institution to adopt “a formal admissions policy regarding transgender and transitioning,” does accept trans men.[7] Yet, Hollins University, located in Hollins, Virginia, does not accept trans men nor allow for those who transition from female to male during their matriculation at Hollins to continue their studies or graduate. Additionally, Hollins accepts trans women, but clarifies the stipulations regarding their admission in the following, “trans women will be considered for admissions if they have completed physical sexual reassignment surgery and legal transformation from male to female.” [7] Ultimately, the differences between the policies are determined by the individual institution's definition of womanhood and their varying degrees of inclusivity and/or exclusivity extended to the transgender community.[8]

Challenges against evolving transgender admissions policies[edit]

Although the exact number of trans women attending women's colleges nationwide is unknown, responses to the revised admissions policies have garnered mixed reactions over the past four years. Mills College, the first women's college to welcome trans students, reports approximately 8% of over 700 undergraduate students identify as transgender.[9] Despite the low visibility of trans women at women's colleges, these institutions continue to face backlash and criticism, specifically from alumnae, who often believe the policies disregard and veer away from the core mission and purpose of women's colleges. Although majority of alumnae, current students and the institutions themselves agree women's colleges were created to educate and empower women, the discrepancies in defining and labeling womanhood fuel the differences in opinions and the revised policies themselves.[8]

Furthermore, with the introduction and adoption of trans-inclusive admissions policies on these campuses, additional challenges include the day-to-day implementation of the policy, such as adequately providing academic and residential resources for trans students while ensuring a welcoming and inclusive collegiate environment.[10] Trans students even face the possibility of potential physical harassment and other forms of discrimination on traditional college campuses.[11]


  1. ^ "Opinion | Transgender Students at Women's Colleges". The New York Times. 2015-05-05. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  2. ^ "Thousands calling for Smith College to stop discriminating against trans women". GLAAD. 2013-04-09. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  3. ^ cmaadmin (2015-05-07). "Transwomen Applaud 'Evolving' Views Regarding Admissions". Diverse. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  4. ^ "Applying For Admission < Mills College". Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  5. ^ ""Trans women are women": Single-gender schools revisit admissions policies". NBC News. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  6. ^ a b "Spelman College becomes second women's HBCU to admit transgender women". NBC News. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  7. ^ a b c "Who can go to a women's college? That answer is evolving". Vox. Retrieved 2018-04-06.
  8. ^ a b Megan Nanney, and David I. Brunsma. (April 2017). "Moving Beyond Cis-Terhood : Determining Gender through Transgender Admittance Policies at U.S. Women's Colleges". Gender & Society. 31: 145–170. doi:10.1177/0891243217690100.
  9. ^ BINKLEY, COLLIN. "Women's colleges more welcoming to transgender students". Retrieved 2018-04-07.
  10. ^ Freitas, Annie (2017). "Beyond Acceptance: Serving the Needs of Transgender Students at Women's Colleges". Humboldt Journal of Social Relations. 39: 294–314. JSTOR 90007886.
  11. ^ "Trans Advocacy Archives". Campus Pride. Retrieved 2018-04-07.