Trans Students Have Better Options On College Applications Now

The Universal College Application and the Common Application, standardized college forms used by many colleges and universities, have both decided to change their 2016-2017 applications to be more inclusive to trans students, according to Campus Pride.

Universal College Application announced on Monday that it would change its question about a prospective student’s sex and include a gender identity question — so instead of “sex,” students will see “legal sex” and the options “male” and “female.” The application also lets students opt to answer a question about gender identity, with the options, “woman,” “man,” and “self-identify.”

Later that day, Common Application also announced changes to its application. In the profile screen, the sex question will be modified to “sex assigned at birth.” Colleges that use the application will also be able to ask more questions to receive clearer data on students’ gender, and “new instructional information” will be available so that students can understand all of the options for identifying their sex and gender.

Campus Pride has also proposed that the Common Application add a question about sexual orientation so universities can better track data and identify students who could apply for scholarships for LGBT students, for example. In 2011, the Common Application rejected the idea of including gender identity and sexual orientation. The Universal College Application also leaves out sexual orientation.

The reason for including gender identity but not sexual orientation may have to do with concerns around Title IX compliance, said Shane Windmeyer, the executive director of Campus Pride. In the spring of 2014, the U.S. Department of Education announced that Title IX also bars discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The department’s report on Title IX and sexual violence reads, “Title IX’s sex discrimination prohibition extends to claims of discrimination based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity and OCR accepts such complaints for investigation.”

Trans rights have advanced very quickly at colleges in recent years. More Greek organizations are making it clear that they accept trans students, and universities have released guidelines and primers for being respectful about students’ gender identities. There are more gender-neutral bathrooms on campuses and women’s colleges that previously only accepted cisgender women are opening their doors to trans women. Universities are also showing more of an interest in data collection on trans students, as well as non-binary gender identities.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t continuing challenges with implementing these new policies well, or that universities and Greek organizations don’t have miles to go in their understanding of how to treat trans students fairly. But this is one more step in the right direction.