At Bryn Mawr: Exploring Transgender Further
In my second web event I questioned Bryn Mawr Colleges admission policy regarding transgender students. I wrote a mock scenario in which a prospective transwoman has a discussion with her mother about wanting to attend Bryn Mawr. In preparation for this project I talked to a few people in administrative positions at the College and was faced with requests at remaining anonymous in their answers. Because of the lack of receiving answers to my questions, I posed my web event as a question. Are transwoman allowed to apply to and attend Bryn Mawr College?
In my third web event, I traced the history of the College in regards to its mission and history of transgender topics. There have been several web events posted by Bryn Mawr students on Serendip, which were very informative and useful in my own movement towards gaining more knowledge of how to build a right relationship between Bryn Mawr College and transgender students. In this web event my focus switched from not only transwomen, but also transmen. I also used information on the Transgender Task Force, which was created in 2007. I noted that President McAuliffe approved the recommendations made by the task force in 2009.
Now, where do I go next? I’ve noted what I believe is Bryn Mawr’s role in the 21st century regarding transgender students. However, I don’t have enough facts. I lack information…knowledge…
In my journey through the last two web events, I noticed the lack of information for not only prospective transgender students, but also current transgender students. I started thinking about the recommendations made by the task force and found myself curious as to the implementation of these recommendations. What is it like at Bryn Mawr right now?
First stop: The Admissions Office at Bryn Mawr College
Here are some of the questions I asked and answers I received- The answers are not direct quotes
Q: What is the current admissions policy/who can apply to Bryn Mawr College?
A: Our admissions policy as a women’s college is to admit female students only. If it is unclear that an applicant to the College is female, we would approach the situation on an individual basis to gain a better understanding of the student’s circumstances. However, our policy to admit female students alone would not change.
Q: Ok…if students applying to Bryn Mawr are filling out the common application, which asks for the prospective students sex (not gender), then in what situation will it be “unclear that an applicant to the College is female”?
A: This has never happened, but hypothetically if the application stated a student is female, yet the recommendation letters and/or SAT scores referred to the student as male, we might start asking questions.
Q: Can transmen apply to Bryn Mawr?
Q: What if a transman is taking testosterone at the time of application?
A: It doesn’t matter, as long as they are legally female, they can still apply to Bryn Mawr.
Q: Can transwomen apply to Bryn Mawr?
A: No, only legally female students can apply to Bryn Mawr.
Q: So…it comes down the biological sex? It doesn’t matter if the student is a woman or a man?
A: Technically, yes. It is not the college’s intention to turn down transwomen because they may still have a penis. It all boils down to a person’s legal sex. In order for Bryn Mawr College to remain at an all women’s college status, we cannot admit legally male students, regardless of their gender identification.
So…if we admit transwomen, we will likely lose our status as an all women’s college and will be forced to identify as a co-ed school.
Q: One of the proposals that the Transgender Task Force recommended was a page on the Intercultural Affairs site talking about transgender topics. Do you know why this hasn’t happened?
A: It is meant to happen, but no one has taken the initiative to do it. The proposal was approved, it’s just that no one has actually sat down and made the page.
Second Stop: The Athletics Department
Q: Can all students at Bryn Mawr (undergraduate) participate in sports?
Q: How about varsity sports in particular? If a student starts taking testosterone, can they still participate?
A: No. The NCAA, which our varsity teams are a member of, does not allow athletes to participate in sports if they are taking T.
Q: What about club sports?
A: Anyone can participate in club sports, such as rugby. There are no rules stopping a student who is on T from participating in any club sport.
Q: When the renovations happened in the gym, there was supposed to be a single usage bathroom and/or rooms with private baths in it. I walked around the gym and didn’t see a room like this. Is there one in the gym?
A: Yes! There actually is. We have a locker room that has a bathroom and a shower in it. Absolutely anyone is welcome to use it and there is no gender designation to this locker room.
Q: Where is it? I looked everywhere and couldn’t find it…
A: It’s in the small hallway that the general women’s locker room is. The door says: Official’s Locker Room
Q: Does anyone know that this room exists? I don’t remember students being notified of this possibility and the sign on the door doesn’t indicate to me that I can use it.
A: Yeah, that is something that we could do. We need to notify the student body, faculty and staff that this room exists. Only one faculty member uses this room currently and besides this person we let the officials who come to varsity games use it.
Third Stop: Residential Life
Q: One of the recommendations of the Transgender Task Force was that the residence life staff, including students and professional staff receive information about transgender topics. Has this happened?
A: In, I believe 2008; we had information regarding transgender topics during Hall Advisors training. I’m not sure why, but we haven’t done that since.
Q: Has anything changed in dorms after the proposals were approved?
A: There are not single usage bathrooms on all floors, but for those floors that have them, they are automatically open to all students. For these bathrooms, there is no voting on whether students want it to be “Bryn Mawr students only” or “Women only” or anything like that.
In the last steps of my journey (at least for this class), I am frustrated. I better understand the College’s policy in admitting female students only, though I still do not like it. Can we change the definition of a woman? Can this definition include transwoman, legally? I am frustrated because I believe something needs to change and I want something to happen, but I don’t know how to move forward in regards to admitting those students who I believe should be able to attend Bryn Mawr.
So, for now I choose to focus on the reality of what is happening, what can happen, and what should happen.
The Transgender Task Force was a great step in the right direction. However, I am frustrated that the policies that were approved have either not been implemented, or have been implemented in an ineffective way.
*The College’s website does not have information that current and prospective transgender students can access.
*In the renovations the gym went through, a single usage locker room with a shower and a bathroom were created. However, what is the point of this space if no one knows of its existence and it is labeled “Official’s Locker Room”? I am again frustrated.
*I’m frustrated that there are so many single usage bathrooms on this campus, yet most of them still have a picture of a silly looking “girl” and “boy” designating them to a specific gender (and only 2 of many possible genders!).
*I don’t understand why it isn’t advertised that transgender students who are taking testosterone can still participate in club sports. Starting hormone therapy does not mean that you can no longer play sports. The NCAA does not allow for players to participate on a women’s team if they are on testosterone, but this only applies to the varsity teams on campus, not the club sports.
NEW….NCAA Policy on Transgender Student-Athlete Participation (NCAA Inclusion of Transgender Student-Athletes: August 2011 Issue)
1. A trans male (FTM) student-athlete who has received a medical exception for treatment with testosterone for diagnosed Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for purposes of NCAA competition may compete on a men’s team, but is no longer eligible to compete on a women’s team without changing that team status to a mixed team.
2. A trans female (MTF) student-athlete who is being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.
As a completion to this class, not my interest in the topic, I have made a 'mock pamphlet' for prospective students. Unlike the brochures and pamphlets prospective students currently receive, this pamphlet answers some questions about being a transgender student at Bryn Mawr. I tried to format the piece in a way that distinguishes the parts that I have directly quoted either out of a Bryn Mawr pamphlet, or the Bryn Mawr College official website (text in white). The sections I've added are in the lavender text.
My suggestions on moving forward:
The suggestions made my the Trans Task Force need to be implemented.
-All single use bathrooms need new signs that do not designate the bathroom to a single gender
-The locker room in the gym that anyone is allowed to use needs to have a more appropriate sign on its door. Students must be notified of the presence of this room
-All students, faculty and staff should receive informative training concerning transgender students
- The College needs brochures, pamphlets, and most importantly a more updated website which includes information for its current transgender students and is informative for prospective students
Here are the pages of some of the the pamphlet: