On Wednesday, Mills College, based in Oakland, California, becomes the first all-women’s college in the U.S. to openly welcome transgender and gender non-conforming students. No other single-sex college has such a policy, which has prompted controversy and protest on some campuses.
The new policy at Mills finds numerous ways to accommodate trans students while still maintaining an identity as a women’s college:
- Any student who self-identifies as a woman is welcome, regardless of what sex she was assigned at birth.
- Applicants “who do not fit into the gender binary” are welcome so long as they were assigned “female” at birth.
- Students who enroll but later identify as a man and begin to transition may stay and graduate.
- Students who were assigned “female” at birth but who already legally identify as a man are not eligible for the undergraduate program.
Brian O’Rourke, vice president of enrollment and admissions, told SFGate that about three to five of the college’s 1,000 undergraduates identify as transgender or gender non-conforming every year. Students say that the campus has already been welcoming, but that the new policy codifies it officially.
Smith College in Massachusetts has faced numerous campus protests since 2013, when it refused admission to Calliope Wong, an applicant who identified as a transgender woman. The college told Wong that her financial aid forms still identified her as male, and thus she was ineligible to enroll. Despite ongoing rallies over a year later, Smith refuses to answer questions about its policy or consider any changes.
There are currently 119 single-sex universities across the U.S., 48 of which are women’s colleges.