What do these policies do beyond admissions and does what trans* inclusion looks like in practice? In other words, (how) do women’s colleges go from trans* admitting to trans* serving?
"Open Gates, Broken Promises" p. 4-5
While few in number, gender-selective colleges have become a central site of public discourse surrounding the presence of transgender students. Because such colleges rely on bounded conceptions of sex (or, as discussed, gender) to determine who can and cannot be eligible for admissions, the enrollment and matriculation of transgender students pose a challenge to these definitions. In effect, the central organizing logic of the gendered institution becomes undone, or rather, re-done as such colleges have also attempted to create new admissions policies to accommodate such population changes. As such, this poses the sociological question of how these colleges are defined: by the sex of the student body, or gender? In this review, I first synthesize the small, yet growing academic literature on transgender students and policies at single-sex/gender diverse colleges. I then draw upon theorizations of gendered and queer organizations to analyze attempts to or transgender organizations through the adoption of transgender inclusive policies and practices. As Schilt and Westbrook (2014) have noted, the enactment of gendered policies is, at its core, about upholding the logic of gender segregation by determining what gender means through alignments of biomedical, identity, and legal criteria. I ask how the construction and enforcement of transgender inclusive policies within gender-specific colleges both rearticulates and transcends the gendering of organizations. In answering this, this research contributes to three research concerns within Sociology of Gender: 1) educational experiences and outcomes beyond the gender binary; 2) (re)gendered and transgender-inclusive organizations; and 3) critical transgender policy development. In sum, this paper rethinks gender as central organizing principals and products of organizations; not simply in terms of the identities that are listed in policies or present in spaces, but in the negotiation of gender’s construction between interactional and institutional level.
OPEN GATES, BROKEN PROMISES: INCLUSION POLICIES AND TRANSGENDER STUDENT EXPERIENCES IN GENDER-SELECTIVE COLLEGES
Since 2013, over half of all gender-selective women’s colleges in the United States have adopted admission policies that outline varying biological, social, and legal criteria for who may apply to their institution. In effect, these policies opened the gates to admission, driven by the goal to be more inclusive to transgender applicants, especially trans* women. This dissertation examines if and how these policies enact missions of social justice, diversity, and inclusion through the informal practices, production, and regulation of gender on campus. How do gender-selective women’s colleges go from trans* admitting to trans* serving? Through a nine-month ethnography of trans* admission policies at two gender-selective women’s colleges, including 126 interviews with students, alumni, faculty, staff, and administrators; archival document analysis regarding trans* and queer history on campus; and participant observation of events and spaces on campus with trans* students, my objective is to describe the world that takes shape when gender and feminism become institutionalized, routine, and used as descriptions to both include and exclude. I contend that the impact of these admission policies is not limited to the application process, but rather the experiences of matriculated students are shaped by the gendered norms and discourses structured within the policies themselves. Findings suggest that despite the fact that these policies, formally, allow for transgender students to apply and enroll to gender-selective women’s colleges, institutionalized commitments to inclusion obscure and even intensify existing gender inequality, particularly for students who do not fit within normative ideals of the “right way to be trans*” including those who are low-income, non-white, and trans* men. Because the feminist missions of these colleges continue to reaffirm an ideal of white, cisgender womanhood on campus, the extent to which these inclusion policies were able to make fundamental structural changes in how gendered power, resources, and opportunities are distributed was limited at best. As such, this dissertation is a call to think about gender as an institutional product; not simply in terms of the politics that are attached to the experiences, bodies, and identities, but in the very constitution of gender as a social category. As an ethnography of how these categories become comprehensible, admissible, and livable, this dissertation complicates our understanding of how policies work, how gender is reinforced in the women’s college setting, and how to transform institutional practices through a trans* justice framework.
Rethinking LGBTQIA Students and Collegiate Contexts: Identity, Policies, and Campus Climate, with Kari Dockendorff and Z Nicolazzo
While there has been an ongoing push within postsecondary education for “data-driven decision-making,” there has been some provocative questioning of just what it means to collect data and develop policies to accommodate trans* populations. The relative lack of interrogation about such policy-making signals the ways in which institutional sexism reinforces and bolsters the ongoing effects of transgender oppression. This chapter discusses how calls for collecting certain types of data that already exist (e.g., climate data) or are rift with problematic assumptions and often become overly simplified (e.g., demographic data) continue to serve as impediments to forward policy-based progress. Rather, this chapter discusses what data is needed in order to chart a course for trans*formative change in postsecondary education, highlighting several ongoing initiatives to collect data with and alongside transgender students, faculty, and staff to further gender justice. The chapter closes with a vision of what trans*formational policies could look like across educational contexts and spaces.
Intersectionality and Higher Education: Identity and Inequality on College Campuses
Outcry and protest arose in 2013 when Smith College, a women’s college in Massachusetts, denied admission to Calliope Wong, a trans* woman, because her financial aid form indicated her sex as male. Since then, at least 20 women’s colleges have adopted admissions policies outlining varying biological, social, and legal criteria for who may apply to the institution. In this chapter, I complicate our understanding of gendered policies as a relationship between identity, biology, and legal status leading to trans* precarity. Rather than sex/gender serving as the sole institutional barrier for trans* individuals at these institutions, the utilization of an intersectional analysis can highlight how even seemingly inclusive institutional policies may still exclude the most marginalized students. I call for higher education practitioners and policy makers to rethink adding trans* identities to pre-existing nondiscrimination policies that invite students into broken systems. I emphasize trickle-up justice and policy building led by the students to assist with addressing the multiple, interlocking systems of inequalities preventing full inclusion and participation within postsecondary systems of education.
Advances in Gender Research: Gender Panic, Gender Policy (vol. 24)
This study highlights the nuances and strategies of boundary construction in regards to the social category of woman. I propose that researchers expand theorizations of gendered boundary negotiation to consider the ways in which boundaries are drawn not only as a form of panic and exclusion but also as a response to such panics to promote inclusivity and diversity.
Gender & Society 31(2):145-170, with David Brunsma
In 2013, controversy sparked student protests, campus debates, and national attention when Smith College denied admittance to Calliope Wong—a trans woman. Since then, eight women’s colleges have revised their admissions policies to include different gender identities such as trans women and genderqueer people. Given the recency of such policies, we interrogate the ways the category “woman” is determined through certain alignments of biology-, legal-, and identity-based criteria. Through an inductive analysis of administrative scripts appearing both in student newspapers and in trans admittance policies, we highlight two areas U.S. women’s colleges straddle while creating these policies: inclusion/exclusion scripts of self-identification and legal documentation, and tradition-/activism-speak. Through these tensions, women’s college admittance policies not only construct “womanhood” but also serve as regulatory norms that redo gender as a structuring agent within the gendered organization.
Current Admissions Policies
Below, I have compiled all existing policies regarding transgender admissions at gender-selective colleges in the US (including women's, men's, and coordinate colleges), noting that these policies are inconsistent, perpetuate normative ideals, and create administrative barriers for trans students, and organizing identity into discrete categories of a table is both incomplete and problematic. As policies change, I will do my best to maintain and update this information.
For more information about these policies and resources, see TransAdmissionPolicy.org.
Also recommended is the Trans Student Educational Resources Model Admissions Policy on Transgender Students at Women's Colleges.
Saint Benedict and Saint John’s; Morehouse and Spelman; Hobart and William Smith, and Stern and Yeshiva are Coordinate Colleges.
Barnard (Columbia), Notre Dame (Maryland University), Russell Sage (Sage), and Scripps (Claremont) are colleges within a larger co-educational university system or have close relationships with co-educational colleges.
Mary Baldwin, Ursuline & and Texas Woman’s are colleges that are predominantly for women, but accept (cis) male undergraduates
Hampden-Sydney, St. John, Moorehouse, Wabash, Hobart, and Yeshiva are colleges for men
Moorehouse, Bennett, and Spelman are HBCUs