Challenging Gender at a Women’s Institution: Transgender Admission and Inclusion at Smith College
AbstractThis case study examines the factors that influenced Smith College’s decision to consider accepting transgender women for admission. In 2013, Smith rejected the application of Calliope Wong, a prospective transgender student, because of the sex listed on her documentation. Wong started a campaign for Smith to change its policies regarding trans people, which led to questions about how women’s colleges across the country should operate in the twenty-first century. Wong’s campaign also drew attention to students who enter women’s colleges as women-identified but later transition to another gender identity. Smith College, among other institutions, had to decide to what degree it would welcome gender minorities and provide support services for these students. Over time, women’s colleges have adapted their missions to reflect changing attitudes about gender, while holding true to their founding principles. As society increasingly views gender as a spectrum and widens its definition of feminism, students, alumni, and administrators of women’s colleges grapple with how to reconcile ideological evolution with time-honored traditions.