Anonymous Contributing Writer
Before now, it was my understanding that Q&A’s mission was exclusively to fight for trans women’s right to apply to Smith: a mission I wholeheartedly support. As such, I have enthusiastically advocated for your proposed policy changes in the past. However, in the wake of the trans and non-binary caucus held in September, my support for your group has diminished. It seems that recently Q&A’s mission has shifted from fighting for the admission of trans women at Smith to also denying admission to trans men. While I realize this stance does not vary from Smith’s current policy regarding trans men, I hope this letter will provide a closer look at the implications of supporting this decision.
I believe that in order to apply to Smith, one must answer “yes” to the following: Has your identity ever included woman or have you ever been perceived by society as a woman? Do you feel comfortable acknowledging your relationship with womanhood in order to support Smith as a woman-centered space?
For many trans men, sexism and misogyny does not end once they come out. For trans women, the sexism and misogyny they will experience has often just begun. Allowing trans men access to this space does not detract from Smith’s emphasis on women. I suggest that any person who has experienced womanhood, regardless of current gender identity, should be welcome here. To say that trans men’s previous experiences as women are irrelevant or that trans women’s socialization as men delegitimizes their identities as women perpetuates a binaristic, cis-normative way of thinking. Regardless of previous or current gender identity, people who have experienced womanhood from any lens have a valid and important role in forming communities that center on women and women’s issues. Trans women’s lived womanhood provides insight into misogyny and sexism, while trans men’s previous experience (and often their current lived experience, if they are perceived and thusly treated as women) engages them with the identity of “woman.”
I do not intend for this discussion to distract from trans women assuming their rightful place at Smith. I agree that the most important battle to win at this moment is trans women’s. However, this future victory should not come at the expense of trans men. I will admit that if I had not recently started exploring my own gender identity and if the caucus had not been held, I might not have realized this is an issue. The problem with the caucus was that the conclusion reached by its members was divided, yet only one opinion has been honored as the official stance of Q&A’s policy regarding trans men. Additionally, I might not have pressed the issue if not for two exchanges regarding trans men applying to Smith on the Q&A tumblr and a rather contentious post made on the Q&A Facebook page providing a link to an article on the blogging site Feministing, made in response to the recent NY Times article “When Women Become Men at Wellesley.” This post on Feministing harshly attempted to make the point that trans men have no place at women’s colleges; Q&A has recently taken a very definitive stance in favor of this. I believe Q&A would prefer this matter to be cut and dried; however, the question has proved to be more controversial than Q&A will admit and it needs to be dealt with in the most appropriate way.
The acceptance of students to Smith who have a variety of connections to womanhood enhances the experience of attending a women’s college by breaking down the binaristic and cis-normative notion of womanhood perpetuated by the college and reconstructing a more encompassing approach to womanhood in its place. Ultimately, this will require a shift in thinking of Smith as a women’s college where every student is female-identified into thinking of Smith as a women’s college where the most important goal is respecting students’ vastly different experiences of womanhood and combining them in order to eradicate the sexism and misogyny experienced by every Smith student.
My hope is that you will give serious consideration to what I have said here. Q&A is in a unique position of power given its ties with the administration and student body; at the very least, I believe conversation should resume regarding the issue of trans men at Smith. The student body’s opinions have not been sufficiently taken into consideration for Q&A to justify making this decision alone. I suggest that your backing of the college’s decision to exclude trans men from applying to Smith should be revoked until further consideration has been given.
For more information, see smithiespeaks.wordpress.com.