How Students at Women’s Colleges Feel About The “Transgender Controversy”

As Debby recently pointed out, recently published an article about trans people at same sex colleges. The article has created quite a stir on my campus, especially since some of our current students were quoted in the article. I could take this time to go on a rant about trans rights and how much it angers me that my fellow students are ridiculed for and questioned about their gender presentation and identity…but I’ll save that for another post and let my peers do the ranting.

Over the past few years, women’s colleges especially have had to come up with new guidelines to accept the presence of trans people on campus. Smith and Mount Holyoke, two of the Seven Sisters, both have policies that state that as long as you enter the college as a biological female, you’re good to go. But even this raises a lot of controversy amongst students and alums alike.

The issue is also highlighted in this article, which I found in the Boston Globe online.

When I presented the article to my peers and asked them for their thoughts, I was presented with a wide range of opinions. I have copy pasted them below- take from them what you will.

“I personally feel that ideally all women’s colleges are great for non-traditionally gender identified people, but like everything else in the world, the ideal situation is very rarely the actual one. In reality there will always be the assumption that people who attend all women colleges identify strictly as a women.”

-A 20 year old transman living in Boston

“On one hand, I’m glad to see this issue being discussed by a mainstream news source; visibility is good for raising the profile the transgender community and getting people who may never have thought much about gender to do so. On the other hand, the article is hugely problematic–confused, confusing, and not very informative. Talking about trans and non-binary students seems to be a step in the right direction, but since there are so few mainstream news stories about this, I want the ones that are published to be really good…On the up side, I’m pleased that Mount Holyoke and Smith are being shown in the press as welcoming to the trans and non-binary communities. While it’s true that some alumnae may not be comfortable with this, trans and genderqueer students are very present on these campuses and I believe that there should absolutely be space for them. Mount Holyoke and Smith are certainly not utopias where every gender presentation is celebrated, but I want young trans and genderqueer people to know that these are colleges that will provide them with safe space.”

-A female-identified junior at Mount Holyoke College

“It did not say anything. They basically just said “There are people who don’t fit the specified gender norms at same sex universities. We don’t have an opinion either way. They are just there.” Largely it was just a bunch of terms that I am not entirely sure they knew what they meant. Also, on a more personal note, the fact the first time it was posted referred to me with female pronouns was a little off-putting. “

-A sophomore transman at Mount Holyoke College, quoted using incorrect pronouns in the article

“I agree that the point of an all-women’s college is ALL WOMEN, but we have male students from nearby schools too, no? Nobody questions our 5-college policies. So why question policies about Mount Holyoke’s own students? I think we should start questioning why not all women who come to Mount Holyoke (having already transitioned from male to female) aren’t admitted. Of all people, these women should be let in to Mount Holyoke’s community, where they feel they belong, more so than with males.”

-A female-identified sophomore at Mount Holyoke College

“As a straight woman I believe that the transgender ‘controversy’ at same-sex schools (I mean all-women’s colleges- I know nothing of all-men’s colleges) is only a controversy if you believe that the purpose of an all female college environment is to keep out males as separate ‘hostile’ entities. What I believe is that an institution like Mount Holyoke is not ‘anti-male’, but rather one of the few places in our societies that is very female positive and supports the needs of women. With that viewpoint, I do not think that men or trans-men do not have a place at this college- as long as they are respectful to females (and people of all genders)- they can only enhance our diverse atmosphere.”

-A female-identified sophomore at Mount Holyoke College

About Michaela


Michaela is a recent Seven Sisters graduate with a self-designed degree in Sexuality Studies. When she's not blogging, you'll find her teaching Health and Wellness and A Cappella to high school students, helping women find properly fitting bras, and working as an editor on a documentary. She hopes to continue her education one day with a PhD in Feminist Anthropology.