(In These Times) -- In April, dozens of students at the all-women’s Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, rallied outside the white Colonial building that houses the school’s admissions office. They were there to protest an admissions policy that they say discriminates against trans women. The action not only put pressure on Smith to become a more welcoming place for trans students, but also reignited a very old debate about transgender issues and “woman-only” spaces.
This is an established sore spot for Smith. While the school’s website says that “an application from a transgender student is treated no differently from other applications,” in 2013 a transgender woman named Calliope Wong had her application rejected, twice, on the grounds of her sex. On Wong’s blog, she wrote that the admissions department initially told her that if she was referred to by female pronouns in the standard application materials—high school transcript, three letters of recommendation and optional standardized test scores—she would be eligible for admission. Then her application was denied because her high school transcript described her as “male.” After working with her school to change the transcript and re-apply, she was rejected again, based on her FAFSA application, which also described her as male.
Wong posted to her blog a photo of her final rejection letter from Dean of Admission Debra Shaver, which included the line, “Smith is a women’s college, which means that undergraduate applicants to Smith must be female at the time of admission.”
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