To attend a women's college?
More and more women are entering women's colleges and leaving transmen. In that fantastic article in the New York Times, a trans-student at women's only Barnard in New York City explains both the positives and negatives of this complicated situation. Further into the article, the lines get even more blurry as gender is presented as a scale. This idea is very controversial, but if sexuality is a scale, why isn't gender thought of this way?
About 1 percent of people identify as transgendered. "The conventional thinking is that trans people feel they are “born in the wrong body.” But today many students who identify as trans are seeking not simply to change their sex but to create an identity outside or between established genders — they may refuse to use any gender pronouns whatsoever or take a gender-neutral name but never modify their bodies chemically or surgically." This fluidity of gender is not new thinking, in fact, many second wave feminists were advocates of these thoughts thirty years ago, which is a reason many transmen are choosing women's colleges.
But they are not always accepted at these colleges either. In a recent letter The Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly, charged "that admitting transmale students was, in effect, a way of “passively going coed” and that the “lifestyle choices” of these students was a bald negation of a women’s college charter. Trans students, they wrote, were simply “men seeking to take advantage of Mount Holyoke’s liberal and accepting atmosphere.”
Is this true?
If so, where else are these transmen to turn? While transgendered people are becoming more accepted, there is still a huge stigma against them in society, even amongst "progressives." Hate crimes are still sickeningly frequent, and there is no doubt transmen will face prejudice at many institutions. But is their presence a detriment to the women at these schools?
Some women feel that it is. The transmale interviewed for the article said he often feels lonely among his classmates, even being forced to move off-campus when his roommates complained of his presence.
And what about "he" and "she"? Many non-transgendered people are beginning to reject pronouns both for identification purposes and grammatically. Conservatives have been angered by early feminists attempts to replace "mankind" with "humankind" and "women" with "womyn." Will the same silly battle ensue? And are pronouns really necessary?
So, where do transmen go after graduating from their safe harbors, these women's (or womyn's) colleges? Because of the stigma against them often, they "disappear into big cities, working as bartenders with advanced degrees because there’s real prejudice against trans workers." Transmen and transwomen face discrimination throughout their lives. But, is discrimination in women's college really discrimination?
Maybe most telling is the interviewee's lighthearted shrug when asked if he will try to "pass" as a man without a history of being a women. "I won’t get a career that I can’t be out and trans in. I’m not planning to go into business."
I can only hope that him, and all other men and women in his position can continue to make such bold statements and live their lives in ways that allow them to.