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Simmons College Opens Its Doors to Trans Students

Simmons College Opens Its Doors to Trans Students


The Boston school has become the third U.S. women's college to clarify its stance towards trans women and men amidst heated conversations about the future of single-gender institutions.

Yet another women's college is making explicit its promise to welcome transgender students -- this time in Boston.

The president of Simmons College, Helen Drinan, announced earlier this month that the school will formally allow trans students to enroll, reports the Boston Globe.

Prior to Drinan's campus-wide announcement, Simmons, a private women's college, had reportedly been admitting trans students for years but had never stated its policy explicitly. Now, the administration has made it clear that anyone who identifies as female, as well as trans men and nonbinary people who were assigned "female" at birth, will be considered for undergraduate admission.

The policy change is slightly less far-reaching than Mount Holyoke College, which earlier this year stated that its admission office would also accept students who were assigned "male" at birth if they identify as nonbinary, genderqueer, as neither gender, or as both male and female.

With this decision, Simmons now joins Mount Holyoke College and Mills College in efforts to become proactively trans-inclusive. As Drinan explained in her announcement, "Traditional notions of womanhood and femaleness are being challenged, and new laws are emerging to protect transgender individuals."

In recent years, the U.S.'s 40 women's colleges have faced increasing pressure to define their stance towards trans applicants. The ensuing conversations have, according to the Globe, raised questions about these colleges' "identities as women-only institutions."

Smith College, in particular, came under criticism last year when it denied an application from trans student Calliope Wong because she was not legally recognized as female in her home state of Connecticut.

After a petition gathered 4,000 signatures in support of Wong, Smith's dean of admissions, Debra Shaver, announced in May that a committee would begin meeting this September to discuss the needs of prospective trans students. In the meantime, Smith officials say they have temporarily stopped rejecting applications from trans women.

Meanwhile, a recent New York Times piece has drawn attention to Wellesley College's continued resistance to admitting trans women, even as some trans male students are arguing that the college should change its identity to that of a "siblinghood" rather than a "sisterhood." In return, many trans advocates, including trans men, have argued for the value of maintaining "women-only" institutions, while noting a percieved hypocrisy in schools that that refuse admittance to trans people who identify as male prior to applying -- but still allow trans men who transition partway through college to remain enrolled.

While these debates continue, one reality has become clear: Trans students benefit when institutions explicitly acknowledge their existence and needs.

Danny Boucher, a trans male Simmons junior agreed in an interview with the Globe. "It's a relief to have those things written down and set in stone," he said. "Simmons is aligning itself right now on the right side of history."

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Mitch Kellaway