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Simmons College Transgender Acceptance Policy- A Simmons Alum Weighs In

Simmons College, Emmanuel’s next door  COF neighbor, has officially opened its doors to transgender students. This move makes Simmons the third college in the country and the second in Massachusetts to create an admissions policy that includes transgender and gender nonconforming students.

This admissions policy means that Simmons will formally accept students who were born female, irrespective of current gender identity, and also students who were born male and now identify themselves as female.

Although Simmons had been letting in transgender students for several years, the institution had never explicitly addressed its policy out right.

The president of Simmons College, Helen Drinan, said in her announcement that, “Traditional notions of womanhood and femaleness are being challenged, and new laws are emerging to protect transgender individuals.”

Photo by: Kyla Burke

Photo by: Kyla Burke

Currently Simmons is one of 48 other remaining women’s schools in the U.S.. Other women-only schools like Smith and Wellesley also have budding transgender male populations. Critics have argued that by welcoming transgender males, women’s colleges and universities are losing the idea of sisterhood, an idea that was the basis for many of these institutions from their conception. Many women-only institutions are being forced to re-examine their policies, and for some it means making the choice to remain exclusive or choosing to open its doors for all students, no matter how they choose to identify their womanhood.

For Simmons, the best choice was to support trans people by setting an example.

“I’m so excited about this and so proud to be an alumni of Simmons,” says Vee Rossi, who graduated Simmons College in 2014. Rossi identifies as genderqueer and says, “I fall somewhere in-between and outside of the binary, especially considering it’s more of a spectrum.”

“This type of progression is necessary when aiming for a world that judges less and accepts more. I believe that our generation is one that will bring with it into adulthood a social acceptance and progressive mindset that can make this world a lot more comfortable for a lot more people,” says Rossi.

Rossi says that Simmons is open and accepting, but refers to Simmons as somewhat of a bubble; and says it is easy to forget that outside of Simmons the world is much less accepting.

“I present myself masculinly, and I often confuse people or get dirty looks because people are wondering “is that a boy or is that a girl.” Simmons is one of the only places I’ve ever been where that never happened once,” says Rossi. “Regardless of my gender or my gender presentation at Simmons I was always accepted and thought of by more important attributes. When you’re trying to be in an environment where you can learn and grow, this is vital. It was the people I met in college who helped me to realize I didn’t have to fit into this binary that society created and being outside of it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.”

“Gender is a sensitive subject for a lot of people who struggle with understanding theirs and it’s hard living in a world that relies so heavily on choosing one. Gender is not blue and pink. There is a big grey area that deserves recognition in this world. Simmons has got inclusivity down,” says Rossi.

Simmons has a comprehensive plan for students who identify as transgender that ensures that their needs are met and offers many resources and support systems. According to their website, Simmons College offers optimal housing choices that enable individuals to check off if they would like their room be an LGBTQA safe space, trained res-life staff that serve as a resource for LGBTQA students, student health insurance that offers transgender health benefits, single stall/gender neutral restrooms on the academic and residential campus, and many student organizations that support gender expression and want to educate and support the community.

It is difficult to say what the future may hold for other single-gender institutions as the perception of gender in society continues to evolve. Rossi does not think this will cause colleges to change their policies right away, but that this issue is still extremely important.

“It’s one more safe space and that’s however many more lives affected in positive way. Maybe it will start some kind of societal movement… One can hope.”

 

Kyla Burke is a staff writer and editor of The Week’s End. Follow her on Twitter at @kkb_ .

Posted by on November 24, 2014. Filed under Around the Hub,Colleges of the Fenway. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.