"All trans women’s experiences are women’s experiences because a woman is experiencing them."
All experiences had by every trans woman are women’s experiences.
All of them.
Even her pre-transition experiences still are women’s experiences. The experience of passing for male and denying that you can be anything else? Falls fully into the range of women’s experiences, because it is a thing experienced by women.
A trans woman’s experiences don’t start counting as women’s experiences when she begins to be routinely read as cis. Or when she presents herself as a woman, read as cis or not. Or when they match up to some arbitrary degree in some arbitrary way to cis experiences (and then not when they are unique). Or when she decides to transition.
Trans womanhood is not an imitation of cis womanhood, to be validated only to the extent it is successful as an imitation.
Many things are experienced by both trans and cis women, but trans women’s experiences are women’s experiences, no matter how many observers would say a cis woman wouldn’t experience it.
When I tried applying to Smith, I was flabbergasted at how completely rigid their standards of what makes a transwoman a real woman were.
You have to have a gender therapist sign off.
You have to have female pronouns in all of your letters.
You have to have a name change and a legal sex change with letters of expectation for surgery.
Not everybody is going to/can afford these things. That doesn’t make us any less women.
I told the lady I was speaking to thank you very much, but no, and hung up.
Read our FAQ here for more questions we get a lot! Read our Policy Reform page for more specific details as well.
1. Can trans women be admitted to Smith? What is the current policy?
Yes, but the question is which trans women. Smith’s policy means in most cases that only trans women who have been over 18 for a significant amount of time (so not most young women applying to college), have very supportive families and schools, are of considerable financial means, have access to lots of free time, and (in many states but not all) want surgery can apply.
Thus, most trans women will be unable to meet these requirements. This is an exclusion policy in all but name. Although Smith has been receptive to our negotiations in the past, and has altered some of their policy (so that Disability and Financial Aid Office docs do not count towards gender), Smith has refused to negotiate with us further to change these requirements.
Although this is an imperfect solution in that many young trans women might not have people who could write these letters for them, it is one that we feel the administration will be most likely to feel comfortable with and it would open up access for many women. It’s a great start.
7. Will admitting trans women cause Smith to lose its Title IX status?
According to the legal experts we consulted, and Smith’s lawyers, no. Smith is aware that trans women have attended Smith and are attending Smith currently.
Thank you for your support!
thank you so much! i’m so sorry you were treated unfairly by this institution, and you are certainly not alone in that. take care.
Smith is already “coed” in that there are trans men here.. As an org, we do not organize around trans male issues. Admitting women, who happen to be trans, does nothing to alter Smith’s status as a womens’ college. Please read our FAQ for more information.
We are focusing our resources where they are most needed, which is advocating for trans women’s acceptance and safety at Smith. Other Smithies are free to found their own org to deal with trans mens issues if they so please!
More on trans women at Smith:
In February of 2010, I applied to the Ada Comstock program for nontraditional students at Smith College. I had just finished a program in theater at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where I graduated with a 3.9 GPA. I applied with excellent professor reviews, and with two additional glowing letters of recommendation, one from Jeanne Vaccarro, Smith alum and current Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Sexuality Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (then a professor of performance and women’s studies at Hunter College, NYU and Rutgers); and one from Ezra Nepon, then the grassroots fundraising coordinator at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, where I had been a volunteer for five years.
In my essay, I indicated my wish to study with Len Berkman, the current Anne Hesseltine Hoyt Professor of Theatre at Smith, because I admired his scholarship in feminist theater, and had seen him speak at a production of Sarah Ruhl’s Passion Play at Irondale Ensemble in Brooklyn, New York, where I live. I proposed several specific playwriting projects that I wanted to work on at Smith, and expressed admiration for their theatrical production facilities, which I had observed while on a campus visit. (They really are stunning.) I detailed my own experience in co-founding my own feminist theater collective, Theater Transgression, which at the time was working on producing a version of Antigone with an all-transgender cast (I played Eurydice), along with other experiences that had shaped my vision as a performing artist in New York. Since then, I was mentioned on The Huffington Post in a round-up of Twenty Transgender Artists You Should Know.
I encountered only minor snags of explicit gender trouble through my application process. I think that this is helped by the fact that my FAFSA lists me as female, as do all of my college records. The only thing that tipped them off bureaucratically to the fact that I am trans was my high school transcript, which cannot be changed or amended, as it is a non-computerized paper record. Fortunately, another recent Smith alum friend of mine who had worked in the admissions office (and who has since transitioned and now identifies as male, ironically) made some calls to advocate on my behalf, and my records were consolidated and I was granted the opportunity to go through the full admissions process. I did not mention being transgender during my interview.
Also, I will admit something here on Tumblr that I have never told anyone else before: in order to get the last of my application materials in before the deadline, I delivered them to Northhampton myself, via Amtrak from New York city, and stuffed them in the mailbox at the admissions office at like 10pm the night before the last day of application. There were no late busses back to New York that night, and I didn’t have the money for a hotel room, so I slept on the bench outside the station, in the snow. It was uncomfortable, sure, but I am tough — I’ve crashed in a lot of weird places before.
The reason I’m telling you this, though, is not to showcase my own failure to plan ahead (arguably a negative quality in a a college applicant, sure) but to show you how very much I wanted this. It was so important to me. I had been shuffled through large state schools my entire academic career up until that point, where you have to fight and scrape for everything: opportunity, resources, attention from faculty. Where there’s never enough money and everything is held together with duct tape and the arts are a laughable afterthought. In applying to Smith, what I had hoped for was a chance to shine. To be told that artistically, intellectually, that what I was doing mattered on some level. That as a feminist, and as a woman, that my work was important. Maybe those are immature reasons, but what can I say? I cared about this.
I was not accepted to the program.
One can only speculate about why this might be: the 2009-2010 fiscal year was a difficult one for Smith College, as their endowment had been significantly slashed due to the financial crisis, which meant that they accepted only half as many Ada Comstock applicants as they had the previous year. Certainly my rejection letter contained that old soft blow, “We received so many qualified applicants this year…” and I’m sure they did. But given that I have never heard of an out trans woman being accepted at Smith, I have to wonder.
I have heard of trans women attending Smith, but only those who have gone through the application process in strictest stealth. Thus, though trans women have gone to Smith, if anyone in the administration knows about it, they aren’t talking. This is, of course, in laughable contrast to the vibrant and visible culture of transmasculinity on campus, which has received much media attention and is the butt of plenty of LBTQ community jokes (“Oh, she’s going to Smith to meet boiz.”)
I jumped through all the right hoops, and I still didn’t get in. Calliope had a few bureaucratic loose ends out there, and didn’t even get a chance to apply. This is a problem. It’s a problem because trans women face a constant crisis of education, housing and jobs. It almost doesn’t need to be said that it is bizarre that a women’s college with a social justice mission continues to reject promising applicants because they happened to be particularly marginalized women.
I believe in trans women and I think that we are one of the world’s most neglected, undervalued resources. I believe that with support and encouragement, we can thrive and change the world. I only wish Smith College did, too.
Addendum: if any other trans women out there have had the experience of being denied admission to Smith, I’d like to hear from you — email@example.com.
Trans women should have to jump through hoops their cis sisters do not when applying to Smith. College admissions are a hard enough process as is. Admissions should not need F gender markers on high school transcripts or letters of recommendation. This is an exclusion policy.