Bryn Mawr College has become the fifth women’s college in the country to update its admission policy to include transgender applicants.
The announcement was posted last week on the college’s website, stating the inclusive policy includes trans women and intersex individuals who do not identify as male.
The board of trustees voted to accept the recommendation from a five-member group had been looking at the college’s undergraduate admissions policy since October, regarding transgender and gender nonconforming applicants.
College board chair Arlene Gibson said in a letter to students, “Bryn Mawr continues its clear mission to educate women to be future leaders, but it also recognizes that conceptions of gender are changing and that the College must respond to these changes.”
Alumna Maria Aghazarian helped start the Change.org petition that requested the admission policy be updated.
“What we have now, finally, is an announcement that trans women are allowed to apply to Bryn Mawr without their applications being thrown out because certain gender markers on different documentation may not match,” she said.
She notes this is beginning of a long process and highlighted the recent murders of several trans women as an example of why they should be included in women’s spaces.
“The fact that people are still acting like trans women don’t have a place at women’s college is appalling, considering the facts of what goes on in everyday life,” she said. “It’s really important to me that Bryn Mawr as a women’s college should accept and support all women, including and especially trans women.”
After Mount Holyoke, Bryn Mawr became the second of “Seven Sisters” schools — which also include Barnard College, Smith College, Wellesley College, Radcliffe College and Vassar College — to clarify its policy toward transgender applicants. Vassar and Radcliffe, which merged with Harvard, are co-educational.
Sophomore Natalie Difrank signed the Change.org petition that requested the admission policy be updated.
“I think it’s a really positive change,” she said. “It’s been a while that Bryn Mawr has been discussing it and a lot of conversations have been happening on campus and within the Seven Sisters colleges as a whole.”
Bryn Mawr senior Rhett Richardson runs the student club, GenderQuest, which supports and advocates for transgender and gender nonconforming students.
“I was very glad that they finally made something official and took a stance on it that was very active,” he said. “And I’m obviously very glad that trans women are going to be included.”
Richardson was happy about the decision but says it’s a clarification, not a change.
“I don’t think that they actually changed any of the policy,” he said. “From my understanding, they just made it more transparent.”
People raised as male who identify as women — trans women — will be eligible, but women who have taken medical or legal steps to identify as male will not.
Richardson likes that the policy puts some limits on including trans men — people raised as female who identify as male.
“I do think that having men in the space does detract from the fact that it’s a women’s college,” he said.
Sophomore DiFrank thinks this a progressive moment in women’s colleges, but agrees with Richardson.
“I still think that Bryn Mawr should be a women’s college,” she said. “I think that it’s really powerful to be around and surrounded by women and see them in positions of power.”
Richardson notes there is still inconsistency with the policy.
“So, we’re including some nonbinary people, but not necessarily all. It’s just really unfair honestly,” he said. “They changed the policy to address that gender concepts are changing worldwide, and I feel like they didn’t actually do that.”
If an applicant’s gender identity is not clear in the application, the college may require verification of gender.
School officials say the policy will be updated with the new guidelines before the 2015-16 application cycle. College President Kim Cassidy expects it posted on the college website by April.