Up until last year, the idea of transgender students studying in a known women’s college would have been unthinkable. Things are apparently changing especially this year, and traditional all-girls colleges are welcoming trannies in their campuses with open arms.
Ninotska Love will become one of the first transgender women to attend Wellesley College in the school’s 147-year history.
Love, 28, was born in Ecuador but escaped to the U.S. in 2009 after being kidnapped and threatened because of her gender identity. She now feels so thankful to be here.
Her acceptance at Wellesley College illustrates the momentous shift that’s happening at a wave of women’s colleges that have started accepting trans women. Since 2014, there are about eight women’s colleges that have moved to allowing trans gender starting at Mills College in Oakland, California. Then there’s Wellesley, followed by Smith, Bryn Mawr, and Barnard colleges, getting the distinction as the last of the so-called Seven Sisters women’s colleges to make the grand shift. More women’s colleges may be opening their doors to trans, but are being more quiet about the “big leap.”
Genny Beemyn, director of the Stonewall Center at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a resource center group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, says: “ I think it’s a step forward, one that’s long overdue. If they say they’re women, then saying they can’t attend is denying their identities and marginalizing them.”
It remains difficult to determine the number of trans in women’s colleges because many schools that accept them have hesitations admitting how many trans they have allowed to enroll, citing privacy issues. Then there are those who fear the backlash from alumni and donors who don’t support the change of accepting trans in the women’s colleges. Some schools want to protect their trans students from outside scrutiny.
There are also increasing pressure on colleges to better meet the needs of trans students like gender-neutral bathrooms, medical insurance that covers hormone treatments and letting students pick their pronouns.
Some alumni are strongly opposed to the idea and trend of allowing trans into traditional women’s colleges arguing that such undermines the institutional mission to empower women.
There are also those like Hollins University that will only accept trans if the students have completed their legal and surgical transition from male to female.