Q&A Stages Protest in Support of Admitting Trans Women

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Kyle Kaplan '15 Editor-in-Chief

Parents and Smith students gathered around a Q&A protest of more than 100 people last Saturday, Oct. 25 in front of the Campus Center. Q&A, Smith’s only organization rallying for the college to change its admission policy for trans women, held this protest as a follow up to their meeting with the Board of Trustees two weeks prior.

“I’m smart enough to know when I’m not wanted in a room,” UMass Amherst sophomore Justin Kilian yelled, handing out information sheets to anyone who stopped to watch her call and response with the other protestors. Kilian, who has identified as a woman since age 4, stated in an interview that she originally wanted to go to Smith.

When asked, if Smith were to change its admission policy, whether she would want to attend, she said, “No. I would not, not after all this. But I want to make sure my sisters have the option to go here.”  The policy currently denies admission to trans women whose official documents do not list them as female.

The protest took place during Parents’ Weekend. Many students who posted on the anonymous forum, Smith Confessional were concerned it would incite negative responses from parents, especially those who do not have access to or may be intolerant of conversations surrounding trans issues. One Smith Confessional  poster wrote on Oct. 21, “I’m not saying visibility is bad or that I don’t support the trans* movement, I just want to point out that by staging this protest you are jeopardizing some current Smithies’ relationships with their families and their ability to enjoy parents weekend.”

Parents and people walking through Smith campus did approach protestors with questions. Local Ben Prather asked what a trans woman is, and when informed, continued to say, “If you’re going to accept people who identify as men, why not women?”

The parents of one protester, Jason McGourty ’17, participated in the protest, both holding up signs demanding that Smith College change its admission policy. Frank McGourty, Jason’s father, said, “I support my child, and other children finding their identity.” His mother Jane interjected, “I not only support Jason, but celebrate him. Life is too short not to be who you really are.”

The primary focus of Q&A is to push Smith admissions to create a policy that includes trans women regardless of the gender marker on their official documents. They explained at the panel the previous day and on their website that this is not an option for all trans women, who may come from states that require gender reassignment surgery in order to get their gender markers changed. This surgery can cost as much as one year’s tuition. It is just one of many obstacles Q&A’s website lists for trans women who want to change the gender on their official documents. Others include discrimination from parents and teachers, who may refuse their necessary participation.

“They are not making us a priority,” Kilian shouted. She then instructed, “I will not walk back into the closet. Call the board of trustees, email them. Let them know what they’re doing is wrong.”