It’s college-admissions season, and students across the country are finding out whether they’ve been admitted the institutions they’d like to attend. One student, however, doesn’t have to worry about being judged academically unqualified — Calliope Wong received this letter from Smith College, an all-female institution.
On her blog, Wong writes, “I am a male-to-female transsexual girl. And I am still bent on applying and getting a fair shot at Smith admission, just like any other girl.” Wong recognizes that Smith’s admissions guidelines say “Smith only considers female applicants for undergraduate admission,” and explains, “The research I’ve done on Smith’s trans-policies seems to strongly suggest that, regardless of a transwoman’s character and academic merit as a student, she will not be given the same consideration for her application.”
Wong goes on, though, to lay out arguments why such an application should be eligible, explaining that “I am still a legitimate girl. Yes, I was born into a body with typically male parts. But I identify and am living as female. Prevailing scientific and medical opinions support the fact that who I am identity-wise is different from the gender identity typically associated my physical body.” The crux of the problem, we’re told, is that “from what I understand, Smith College will only evaluate me as a ‘real’ girl if I get sex reassignment surgery,” but suggests that this is an illegitimate demand, because it is too expensive, 17- and 18-year-olds are typically considered too young for the surgery, and many transwomen don’t ever feel the need for it.
The dejected applicant summarizes: “If I understand Smith correctly, this is perhaps the most obscene of rights violations that I have ever witnessed from a school. It’s not a loud and boisterous violation, which is all the worse: its sly wording hurts just as much but is hard to detect.”
Wong told the New York Daily News that “schools should be focused on building our next generation of leaders, not discriminating against them.”
Smith seems to be quite accommodating for those transgender students who have been admitted: They explain at the website of their “Resource Center for Gender and Sexuality,” for instance, that transgender students can change their names on Smith’s internal network and in their school e-mail addresses, though for some purposes, only legal name changes are recognized. In 2007, The Boston Globe Magazine wrote about women admitted to Smith who later decide to become men.
The women’s college, located in Northampton, Mass., was once an elite college nationally, and remains one of the most competitive all-female colleges in America. Alumnae include Gloria Steinem, Julia Child, and Sylvia Plath, and more recently, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and freshman Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin.