I am about to graduate from a women’s college in Virginia. I have always loved it here: the people, the community. Generally, I feel safe. I feel secure. I know I can walk around campus holding hands with my girlfriend and no one will care. But trans issues at a women’s college are complicated. Again, I know I am safe, but there are constraints to that safety.
According to transgenderlaw.org, almost 400 colleges and universities have protections for genderqueer students. Some states are more progressive than others. It’s always a good idea to look up the policy at any college or university you are considering.
Written into the non-discrimination policy at my college, though, there are guidelines which transgender students must follow or risk expulsion. There are three things a student cannot do while attending the university as an undergraduate: 1. Begin hormone therapy, 2. Have any surgical procedure in the gender reassignment spectrum, and 3. Pursue a legal name change for a male name. Any of these “offences” constitute grounds for expulsion, allowing the student to finish the current semester but never to graduate. If the student lived in campus housing, it would also be evaluated to determine if that student could continue to live on campus as a male.
I can understand the thoughts behind this policy. It is a women’s college, and this is a very complicated issue. The point of a women’s college is for there to be no men, for women to build a community of their own and become stronger through that community.
Other women’s colleges, though, have taken a separate approach. Smith College as long as a student is admitted as a woman and completes the required course work, she or he is allowed to graduate. Smith stresses the importance of diversity and safety. Students even voted to remove pronouns from the constitution of the Student Government Association.
So what constitutes discrimination? Is my college’s policy more discrimination than not? Will Smith’s policy lead to a co-ed institution? Each of these questions are key in this debate, a debate going on behind the scenes at every women’s college across the country. What would you add to the discussion?