Voters on Morehouse’s board of trustees approved the decision last Saturday, April 13, meaning trans men will be allowed to study at the Atlanta college as early as 2020. Officials heralded the policy change as a move toward a more inclusive campus.
“I think Morehouse having the courage to speak to issues of masculinity in today’s environment is important,” David Thomas, the college’s president, told AP. “For 152 years, the world has, in some way, seen Morehouse as the West Point of black male development.”
Morehouse alumni include civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., prolific filmmaker Spike Lee, and former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.
The move follows a similar 2017 decision from Spelman College, a women’s HBCU also located in Atlanta. Like Morehouse and Spelman, a handful of other gendered colleges and universities around the country have also changed their admissions policies in an effort to be more trans-inclusive.
However, LGBTQ advocates in the black community have taken issue with the fine print of Morehouse’s new policy. In an op-ed for The Grio, writer Imara Jones pointed out that the updated admissions policy prohibits trans women and gender non-conforming people who were assigned male at birth, but do not identify as men, from applying.
Additionally, students who transition from male to female during their studies at Morehouse won’t automatically be eligible to receive a degree.
I encourage y’all to read Morehouse’s new Trans policy CAREFULLY. This ain’t it. Any student who who transitions from M to F or begins to self-identify as a woman/femme while at Morehouse will no longer be eligible to matriculate at Morehouse College.
— R A M O N (@_iamramonj) April 13, 2019
“Doing so only further reinforces the stigma which fuels violence against trans women, as well as those who are femme identified,” Jones wrote, “and it is the latest example of the interests of Black men trumping those of Black women in the fight for Black liberation in our community.”
LGBTQ students at Morehouse have encountered homophobia in the past, too. According to AP, a 2002 attack on a 19-year-old student who was believed to be making a sexual advance on another student resulted in a fractured skull for the victim—and a 10-year prison sentence for his attacker.