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All "Women's" College

aybala50's picture

Both the conversation and the letter are fictitious. I do not know what the college's response would be to a student who sent in a letter of a similar manner. I can speculate based on informal conversations and in these conversatinons I was never given a definitive answer, which is what inspired this project.

Sex: biological distinctions between males and females
Gender: based on societal factors such as values, perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes

Casey- A high school senior in the process of deciding what colleges to apply to. She is a trans woman who has male biological sex organs.


Mom: Hey Casey, how is the application stuff going? Can I help?

Casey: Good and I think I'm ok

Mom: Just okay? When is everything due? Are you on top of it?

Casey: I still have a few weeks before the apps are due. Right now I'm trying to decide if I want to apply to Bryn Mawr College ED

Mom: ED is really serious. Are you sure? Tell me more about Bryn Mawr

Casey: I really think it's the right place for me Mom. Bryn Mawr is an amazing liberal arts school, it's not too far from home and it's an all women's college

Mom: It sounds like you love it, but I'm worried-- how strick are they when they say "women's college"?

Casey: Mom we've talked about this. I'm a woman and I don't think that I have to justify it to some admissions people

Mom: Casey, I get it. I'm on board and I support you. It may have taken me a while to get here but I get it. That being said, everyone may not get it-- even at a liberal arts school like Bryn Mawr

Casey: Why not? Both Sarah and Meagan said that Bryn Mawr is a very accepting community. I really feel like I belong there. Do you think they would really turn me down because of my body?

Mom: I honestly don't know. I just don't want you to get your hopes up. bryn Mawr sounds amazing but it is a business as well as a school and as such I'm sure theere are rules and policies that might make things difficult for you

Casey: I looked at the website and it doesn't say anything about rejecting trans students. Afterall it is called a WOMEN'S college, it doesn't say all female or only vagina's can enter!

Mom: True..I'm glad you looked, but my guess is that it isn't something they would display and that there have been few if any applicants like you. I bet it is more a case by case thing rather than something they would say on the website

Casey: But both Sarah and Meagan have told me that there are a lot of queer students and there are FTM trans students. If there are men at the school already, why wouldn't they accept me, a woman?

Mom: Honestly, they might. I don't know. But there is a big difference--for people who might not be as understanding-- could see a big difference in identifying as a man but having female parts vs. having male parts and identifying as a woman

Casey: Ok, I get where you are coming from, but Bryn Mawr isn't like that. The school was built for the purpose of giving women the opportunity for a more equal education. Won't Bryn Mawr see my status as a trans woman as a good fit for their purpose!? I am a woman and I will not receive as good of an education as I would receive at Bryn Mawr at just any other school. Are you telling me it would be better for me to go to a co-ed school?

Mom: No. I'm all about the single sex education and do think it would be good for you in a way. Casey, I worry that some people, even at Bryn Mawr, will not be understanding or may not want you, with male organs, at an all women's college--and in turn i worry you will get emotionally hurt which might effect your education and education is what is most important when looking at schools.

Casey: Mom I know, but I can do this...I already hear enough crap from people at school now and I have been for years. I've gotten to a point where I am comfortable with myself and truly feel taht I am a woman. I am always going to run into people who don't get it, but I feel like going to a co-ed school will be worse. Don't you think that people will be more accepting at Bryn Mawr? You can't just keep me in a bubble hoping that no one will hurt me. No matter where I end up going I will have to face people who don't get it, even at Bryn Mawr, but that doesn't change the fact that I a a woman and I want to receive my education at Bryn Mawr.

Mom: I get that--and I know it has n ot been easy for you making it to where you are now. I think we both just need to be realistic. I can't hold on to and protect you forever and Casey, you may not get into Bryn Mawr despite the fact that you are a woman. You have to fill out applications to get into schools. Under your sex- what are you gonig to fill out? If your sex is your organs, like you have explained to me to help me understand, how can you honestly answer that you are female? If you answer honestly that in sex you are a male- I don't think Bryn mawr will see past that.

Casey: They ask for my sex on the applicatinon? I'll find a way around it Mom, I'm sure if I just talked to them...if they just saw that I truly am a woman..I don't understand's an all WOMEN'S college, why do they care about whether I have a penis so much if I am a woman?

Mom: I don't know Casey, you are just always running into this wall and have to overcome the prejudices. I think you should write them, or call them. Be honest and say why you want to go to Bryn Mawr. Just be prepared for the worst Casey- I don't want you to get your hopes up and get hurt.

Casey: Fine I will send them a letter, but what do I say? I feel uncomfortable with the idea of having to proove to them that I am a woman. Fuck this is not fair

Mom: I know it isn't fair, baby. Life isn't fair and I'm so sorry. I don't think you have to prove that you are a woman. It is how you feel..who you are. No one should question your feelings and your self. Just like no one questions you if you say you are cold even when it is hot out. This is just a statement of fact in regards to your feelings. Say why you are qualified to go to Bryn Mawr then just ask them about the detail of having male sex organs. Make them want you and ignore the rest.

Casey: Ok..thanks Mom

Mom: Not a problem let me know if you need any help. I love you.


                                                                                                                                                              Casey Anderson
                                                                                                                                                              1111 Francis Dr.
                                                                                                                                                              Gaithersburg, MD


Bryn Mawr College
Admissions Committee
101 North Merion Ave.
Bryn Mawr, PA

To Whom It May Concern,

Through my research on Bryn Mawr College I have discovered that it is truly an institution with a sense of community, a liberal atmosphere and excellent academics. These are characteristics that I believe are an integral part of an education. Additionally, several of my close friends who have attended Bryn Mawr have felt, as women, that Bryn Mawr is truly a place of empowerment.

I am interested in a school that empowers and celebrates strong women. I am looking for and can handle this environment because of my past experiences. For the past three years I have been a member of Student Council at my high school and this year I am the president. I founded and have been leading the Reading Club at for the past two years. In addition to my extra curricular activities at my high school I have also been a tutoring students at a local middle school and have been participating in that program for the past four years. Academically I rank in the top ten percent of my high school and am a National Merit Scholar.

I am a proud and confident woman.  I truly believe will be a great addition to the Bryn Mawr community, as well as benefiting from it greatly. I have struggled in my feelings as a woman, as I was born with male sex organs. In my experience in over coming societal disapproval for my feelings and choices, I feel that I have learned a great deal about myself. I am a woman, despite the fact that I was born with male sex organs. I feel that Bryn Mawr is an ideal environment for me to grow as a woman, surrounded by equally ambitious women.

That being said, I do have some reservations in my application to Bryn Mawr. Am I allowed to apply to this institution as a male to female transgender individual? As I am a woman, despite my biological make up, I feel that I belong and would benefit highly from Bryn Mawr College. I also feel that my experiences and perspective would truly enrich the Bryn Mawr community.

I would appreciate hearing from you in regards to my application process. Thank you for your time in considering me as a prospective student for Bryn Mawr College. I can be contacted at 555-555-5555 or


Casey Anderson




Kaye's picture

trans-forming higher education

What a creative way to highlight key differences between sex and gender!  Your webevent brings me back to Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" address to the women's convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851 (a generation before Bryn Mawr was founded.)  We read this speech out loud earlier this semester in a different context, but I wonder how would women's colleges answer that question today if it were posed by a trans woman with male genitals?

By giving voice to a potential MtF (or is it better expressed as MtW?) applicant to BMC, you not only question admissions policies for trans-individuals at "women's" colleges, but provide a platform for potentially generative dialogue for reviewing Bryn Mawr's mission/vision for education.  The homepage on BMC's website highlights "extraordinary leadership for women...vibrant, diverse community...classic, unforgettable campus (italics in text)."  But what do  these terms (leadership,women, diversity, community, classic) mean today?  Although it may be clear from Bryn Mawr's history what these terms signified when it was founded in 1885, I wonder how Bryn Mawr might want to (need to?) rearticulate these categories in 2011.  One opportunity to have these discussions might arise when Bryn Mawr seeks reaccreditation as a degree-granting institution of higher education.  (Academic institutions are regularly asked to revisit their missions and visions as they prepare for reaccreditation or by the visiting team who reviews the college.  For Haverford and Bryn Mawr, our accreditation unit is the Middle States Commission on Higher Education:  These may not be easy conversations to have, but I do think they are critical.

Amophrast's picture

This is a really great

This is a really great project and I would be interested in talking to people in admissions to get a clear answer on how this works, or at least what they would send in reply.

I think it would be ALSO interesting to look at how BMC treats its trans graduates. I know at one women's college an alum was rejected to be an interviewer for prospective students because he was FtM. I wonder if it makes a difference in either situation if the student/alum is pre or post-op or on hormones, etc.