Target: Debra Shaver, Dean of Admission for Smith College
Goal: Insist that Smith College change discriminatory policies against transgender women who have not undergone surgeries.
Smith College is a private women’s college in Massachusetts. However, the college’s policies have recently led some to question whether or not it is truly a college which is friendly to all women. Smith has rejected the application of a transgender teenager, Calliope Wong, on the basis of the fact that her “FAFSA indicates [her] gender as male.” Her application for student aid indicates the same gender that remains on her birth certificate. What’s especially problematic about Smith College’s decision is that, in order for the sex of “female” to be recognized on a birth certificate, Wong would have to prove that she has had gender-reassignment surgery.
Wong herself writes: “In order to be legally recognized as ‘female’ on my birth certificate according to BOTH Massachusetts and Connecticut law, I have to undergo vaginoplasty (feminizing genital surgery). From what I understand, Smith College will only evaluate me as a ‘real’ girl if I get sex reassignment surgery.”
Many trans women of Wong’s age are not deemed physically ready for vaginoplasty, and still other trans women opt never to undergo this surgery. Such a decision is highly personal, highly dramatic, and varies from woman to woman. What’s more, to add insult to injury, Smith College allows a number of trans men to remain at the college, thereby showing through its policies that it does not take the identities of either transfeminine or transmasculine people seriously.
Many students at Smith College are not pleased with this turn of events and have stood in solidarity with Calliope Wong. Alumni and students from colleges across the nation have posted to social media with signs which read, “Trans Women Belong at Smith.” Sign this petition to insist that a woman should not have to undergo a specific surgery simply to prove that she is a woman when many trans women live their lives as women without any surgery on their genitalia.
Dear Debra Shaver,
I am writing to you to implore that your college review its policies pertaining to student admissions. Currently, Smith College allows trans men to remain at the school while identifying as men. Meanwhile, you have now denied a young woman’s gender identity simply because she has not undergone a surgery which many young women are not ready for in the first place.
In both cases, this is not respectful of transgender identity. Transgender men are men. They are not “men-lite” or “men who are really women,” but simply men, and therefore it makes little sense for them to be allowed to remain in a woman-only space while trans women are denied access. The term for this is known as transmisogyny, or the specific mistreatment of transfeminine people while favoring transmasculine people. Such a practice actually replicates the misogyny of mainstream society, as it is inevitably trans women who get the short end of the stick.
A woman’s college, ideally a safe space for all women, can and should do better than this. The unfair laws of the state and federal government, which make trans identity all about surgery, essentially argue that all of Calliope Wong’s womanhood is denied by the presence of “male” genitalia. This makes the root of identity itself not in the mind but in the genitalia. As a woman who advocates for women, you should find this offensive and know better than to reduce another woman to the status of her genitalia.
Please reconsider your college’s admission policies in light of the inherent unfairness of the state and federal laws against transgender men and women. Transgender identity should be taken seriously, for both trans men and trans women.
[Your Name Here]