Wellesley college says no to transgender men: How do other women's universities stack up?

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Earlier this week, students at the women-only Wellesley College voted to open up admission to all transgender and nonbinary students, including trans men.

“Wellesley was founded as a women’s college because they wanted to create a safe and supportive learning environment for people who were marginalized based on gender,” Ailie Wood, a student who helped author the ballot question, told the college’s student paper. "Past, present and future trans and nonbinary students at Wellesley should feel like the College has their back, acknowledges their identity, and supports their access to a Wellesley education.”

But the student vote was nonbinding. In response to the results, the president issued a statement saying “there is no plan to revisit our mission as a women’s college or our admissions policy.”

“For nearly 150 years, Wellesley’s mission has been to provide an excellent liberal arts education to women who will make a difference in the world," President Paula Johnson said. “Wellesley admits eligible applicants who consistently identify and live as women, including cis, trans and nonbinary students.”

Students who identify as men remain ineligible to attend the Massachusetts college.

Here’s a look at different women’s colleges’ approach to trans (and nonbinary) students.

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Which women’s colleges accept trans students?

A study published in 2019 found that most of the country’s roughly three dozen women’s colleges in existence at the time considered applications from transgender women. Twenty-one schools admitted students based solely on self-identification and six after specified types of gender transition. (The number of women's colleges has dwindled over the decades, with many going co-ed to survive.)

California's Mills College, which has since merged with a co-ed university, in 2014 became the first women’s college to explicitly include trans women in its admissions policy.

Wellesley followed soon after that, announcing in 2015 that it would begin accepting applications from any student who “lives” and “consistently identifies” as a woman though still restricting access to other trans individuals. Many others updated their policies around the same time, opening up admission slightly to include trans women.

Non-religious colleges as well as those in the Northeast were significantly more likely than religious schools in other regions to have extended admission to at least some trans students, according to the 2019 study. A snapshot:

  • Barnard College – New York, New York: “Barnard will consider for admission those applicants who consistently live and identify as women, regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth.”

  • Bennett College – Greensboro, North Carolina: It became the first single-gender historically black college and university to establish a trans policy, admitting “self-identified women and people assigned female at birth who do not fit into the gender binary.”

  • Smith College – Northampton, Massachusetts: “People who identify as women – cis, trans and nonbinary women – are eligible to apply.”

  • Stephens College – Columbia, Missouri: The college's “undergraduate residential women’s program will continue to admit and enroll students who are women and who live as women, just as it always has. It will also admit and enroll students who were not born female, but who identify and live as women; those students will need to provide legal documentation that they are legally women or that they are transitioning to female.”

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Which women’s colleges accept trans men?

Wellesley’s decision to uphold its women-only admissions policy appears to put the college in the majority. Most women’s colleges do not admit trans men, though many of them allow students to complete their studies if they transition to men after enrolling.

For example, Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania notes on its website that it recognizes “that gender is fluid and that traditional notions of gender identity and expression can be limiting” and “that students may express new gender identities while at Bryn Mawr and beyond.”

The 2019 analysis found six women’s colleges that considered applications from trans men without limitations, and another five under limited circumstances.

They include:

A small number of schools, meanwhile, require trans men who transition after being admitted to leave the college or transfer into a co-ed program.

Bennett College, for example, in its policy says: “If a student decides to self-identify as a male, the student will no longer be eligible to receive a degree.” At Stephens College, students who transition from or no longer identify as female can finish the given semester before they have to leave.

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Contact Alia Wong at (202) 507-2256 or awong@usatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @aliaemily.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wellesley referendum rejects trans men: How do other colleges compare?