The End of Single-Sex Higher Ed
by Kelsey Paff
As transgender people have increasingly come under the public eye, all-female colleges have caved to pressure to admit trans women—that is, persons identifiably male at birth who now identify as female. But doing so undermines these colleges' mission of educating the next generation of female leaders. Let’s celebrate our differences and our similarities. But let’s not call ourselves something we’re not.
As one enters Mount Holyoke College’s Williston Memorial Library, a 1905 Westminster Hall-inspired structure, its grandeur stands out: thick wooden beams, perpendicular Gothic windowpanes, stone capitals. Great women studied on this campus: Emily Dickinson, Frances Perkins, Dr. Virginia Apgar.
Fewer and fewer all-women’s higher educational institutions are left in the United States. Those remaining—colleges like Mount Holyoke, Smith, Wellesley, Bryn Mawr, and Barnard—pride themselves on their guiding commitment to fostering the minds of tomorrow’s female leaders. It is thisexclusivity of service that has always set Mount Holyoke and other all-women’s colleges apart from co-ed liberal arts colleges.
Yet in September of 2014, Mount Holyoke College announced that, in addition to accepting female applicants and trans men (female-to-male transgenders), it would now accept trans women. In sum, the following peopleare invited to apply for admission:
- Biologically born female; identifies as a woman
- Biologically born female; identifies as a man
- Biologically born female; identifies as other/they/ze
- Biologically born female; does not identify as either woman or man
- Biologically born male; identifies as woman
- Biologically born male; identifies as other/they/ze and when “other/they” identity includes woman
- Biologically born with both male and female anatomy (Intersex); identifies as a woman
Other women’s colleges have gradually adopted this policy as well. However, it wasn’t until the recent high-profile transition of Bruce Jenner to “Caitlyn” that Barnard College announced that it too will be accepting trans women starting with the class of 2020. Barnard is the last of the Seven Sisters Colleges to change its admissions policy.