In August, Mills College in Oakland updated its definition of “female” for its applicants to include transgender women, transgender men, nonbinary and intersex people. The move set a precedent for numerous other women’s colleges, including Mount Holyoke and Wellesley, all of which have written up new transgender acceptance policies.
A brief overview of gender terminology: transgender refers to a person whose gender does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. Cisgender refers to a person whose gender does. AMAB stands for Assigned Male At Birth and AFAB stands for Assigned Female At Birth. Genderfluid refers to someone whose gender identity is in motion and changes day-to-day.
Mills’ transgender acceptance policy now admits all who identify as female, regardless of their assigned sex at birth. Students assigned to the female sex at birth who identify as transgender or genderfluid are accepted; those born female who have undergone a legal sex change to male are ineligible to apply, but if they undergo a change while enrolled they will not be expelled. Mills’ student president, Skylar Crownover, applied to the college as a woman, but during his time there transitioned to male.
In fact, it was his experience at Mills that prompted Skylar to learn more about his gender experiences and educate himself about what he was going through, something he had never done before. “I’d had feelings around gender forever,” Crownover told Oakland North, but “it wasn’t something I even had words for.”
He found those words first in the gender studies classes at Mills, which induced him to look online to discover more.
Some worry that the change in policies at women’s colleges, whose existence historically have served as a haven for the marginalized voices of women in a male-dominated society, has been sullied with the arrival of non-women students. That nature, however, is what has attracted many trans people, whose gender identities make them targets or victims in the larger world.