An increasing number of women’s colleges have begun changing their admission policies to welcome trans women as students.
Spelman, a historically black college in Atlanta, recently became the most recent to make the change.
On September 5, the college announced that after a year of research and deliberations, they will update their admissions policy to welcome “students who consistently live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth” beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.
“Like same-sex colleges all over the country, Spelman is taking into account evolving definitions of gender identity in a changing world and taking steps to ensure that our policies and plans reflect those changes in a manner that is consistent with our mission and the law,” administrators wrote in a letter announcing the change to students, faculty, and staff.
“In adopting this admissions policy, Spelman continues its fervent belief in the power of the Spelman Sisterhood,” they added.
At least eight other women’s colleges have made similar policy changes to admit trans women since 2014, including Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mills, Mount Holyoke, Simmons, Scripps, Smith, and Wellesley. Others have likely done the same without publicizing the change.
Wellesley in Massachusetts officially changed their policy in 2015, but just welcomed Ninotska Love, one of the first trans students to attend in the college’s 147-year history, this fall.
“For me to be accepted to one of the best colleges for women in the nation, it is a big validation of the person that I have become,” 28-year-old Love, who was born in Ecuador but fled to the U.S. after being kidnapped and facing threats over to her gender identity, told the Associated Press. “At first I couldn’t believe it. I’m so thankful to be here.”
Love says she’d like to major in women’s and gender studies, and hopes to eventually become a civil rights lawyer for LGBT students and immigrants like herself.
“I knew that it would be a challenge,” she said of beginning her career at Wellesley. “I knew that it would be difficult, but at the same time I knew that I can make a difference — and I knew that I can show to other people that we transgender women are humans, too.”
Some schools have faced backlash from alumnae concerned that admitting trans women could undermine the mission of women’s colleges. But advocates say the heart of their mission has always been to educate people who’ve been marginalized because of their gender.
“That’s always been the historic role of women’s colleges,” Chicora Martin, vice president of student life and dean of students at Mills College told the AP. “The definition of gender and gender identity has broadened, and yet it’s still very much that mission.”