Over the past few years, more and more women’s colleges have been changing their policies to admit trans women as students to their colleges. Student activists at Salem College have been advocating for a similar policy to be put in place.
On June 27, Salem College faculty and students received an email informing them of an updated non-discrimination policy. The update is meant to function in the place of a trans policy that students have been asking for. The update stated that admissions to Salem College and Academy would only accept people with a legal sex categorization of female. The policy also gives protection to trans men that transition while they are in attendance at Salem College.
The updated non-discrimination policy has received positive and negative reactions. Many trans and non-binary students see the policy as being far from inclusive. Sociology professor Dr. Elroi Windsor is not as upset with the outcome of the policy. In Windsor’s experience, many students who have transitioned to more masculine identities on campus feared repercussions such as being asked to relocate to another school or even being kicked out. In their opinion, the protective nature of the policy for transmasculine students seemed to outweigh the possible exclusion of trans women.
Windsor noted that the policy is beneficial considering the realities of trans enrollment at Salem. “Trans women haven’t tried to apply here to my knowledge and to anyone that I’ve talked to that’s in admissions or student affairs. The reality of trans students and gender non-conforming and non-binary students has been dealing with transphobia in classrooms, in residence halls, in policies with name changes and pronoun preferences. Like all of these things have really been happening. To me, that’s the reality.”
However, Windsor acknowledges the flaws within the policy. “It’s an imperfect policy if you’re thinking about trans inclusivity but it’s not surprising to me that this is the best they could come up with given the constraints that they’re working with – those institutional and cultural constraints.”
Many students disagree with this view, affirming their belief that the imperfections of the policy outweigh the protections offered to trans male students. One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated that “it’s basically like one group gets a little more stability but we still have this huge looming transmisogyny around campus and that’s never positive.”
Even though it is possible for a trans woman to get a legal classification as female, it would be next to impossible for a trans woman to be admitted at Salem. One student, who wished to be addressed as Nicole, expressed concerns about the difficulty of meeting this policy’s criteria. “There are so many barriers for a transgender woman to get a legal designation as a woman especially in more conservative areas of the country. And especially as an eighteen year old coming out of high school.”
Sophomore Sonny Romano summed up many of the frustrations of those angered the policy; “The school is built on sisterhood, and how dare you admit your cis-ters, but not your sisters.”