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Bryn Mawr's updated admissions policy

marian.bechtel's picture


Two days ago, we received some exciting news on Bryn Mawr's campus: Bryn Mawr has updated their admissions policy to explicitly be inclusive of "transwomen and of intersex individuals who live and identify as women at the time of application," as well as "intersex individuals who do not identify as male." However, the statement also said that "those assigned female at birth who have taken medical or legal steps to identify as male are not eligible for admission." Having been a part of the movement for an inclusive admissions policy, this is, of course, incredibly exciting news and a wonderful first step in the right direction for Bryn Mawr.

However, there were some aspects of this statement that did raise some questions for me. First of all, there is no mention of non-binary applicants (aside from the "intersex individuals who do not identify as male"), making such individuals seem invisible in the eyes of the administration. Secondly, I am skeptical about the policy that "In cases where an applicant’s gender identity is not clearly reflected in their application materials, the College may request additional information, which could include verifiable legal or medical steps taken to affirm gender." While they do say in the statement that they intend to be inclusive and flexible, I am intruiged/nervous to see how this works. Asking a person to "prove" their gender could create many problems and obstacles for certain individuals - I am thinking particularly of those applicants who may not have come out to their parents, family, friends, doctors, etc. yet for whatever reason, and see Bryn Mawr as their first chance to truly be open about their gender in an open and accepting community. It also creates an unfair bias for those trans/intersex/non-binary individuals with more privilege (financial/class privilege in particular) if they are going to require verification of gender identity from medical or legal records. For an 17-18 year old to be able to have taken medical or legal steps in their transition already requires in most cases at least parental support (which many may not have) and substantial finances. I am worried that this need to "verify" gender through medical or legal records could lead to an alienating of those trans/intersex/non-binary folks who do not have parental support or funds to take medical or legal steps in their transition. 

Lastly, the non-acceptance of transmen who have already taken medical or legal steps in their transition raises some questions for me about what Bryn Mawr is and should be. I do not necessarily agree or disagree with this decision, but it does make me question who Bryn Mawr is for. While I wholly support Bryn Mawr being a "women's space" that is inclusive of transwomen, intersex individuals, and non-binary folks, I also feel that at it's core, Bryn Mawr is a wonderful space for those who are marginalized by gender in the rest of the world - and this includes transmen. I have no conclusion to this thought really, just things to ponder.

Despite these qualms/questions, however, I am still overjoyed with this decision on Bryn Mawr's part. I am so proud of Bryn Mawr for opening up its doors to transwomen, and I believe Bryn Mawr is taking some great steps in the right direction. Though not perfect, this is really great.