tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
[personal profile] tim
A couple weeks ago, Zoe Moyer, a student at Wellesley and writer for the Wellesley news, emailed me asking my opinion about a petition to make Wellesley admissions gender-neutral. I explained that in my opinion, Wellesley is already not a single-sex institution and the question is whether to admit people who were coercively assigned male at birth, not whether to admit men (since Wellesley already admits men, provided they were coercively assigned female at birth).

The article was published last week, but unfortunately, it appears I didn't make myself very clear in my comments, as the first part of the passage where my name is mentioned is accurate about my views, but the second part isn't. I wrote the following email to Zoe:
I'm afraid that something I wrote in my email may have
been unclear, because of this quote:

'Because transgender women are also allowed to apply to Wellesley,
Chevalier said that Wellesley "need[s] to be honest…and stop referring
to [itself] as a single-sex college.'"

The quote makes it look like I believe that trans women are not women,
and that's absolutely something I do not believe. Trans women don't
make Wellesley not-a-single-sex-college; trans *men* do. The quote
would reflect what I believe if "women" was changed to "men". Would
you mind printing a correction? I would hate for anyone to come away
from the article thinking that I said something that was so erasing of
trans women's personhood.

Anyway, I just thought I would post this here in case anyone came across the article and thought that my view is that admitting trans women (which Wellesley never does in practice, except for those women who have corrected their gender documentation and can avoid disclosing their trans status, as far as I know, so that's also a bit confusing) makes Wellesley not-single-sex.

If anyone is interested, my original reply from which the quotes from me are derived:

On Sun, Feb 5, 2012 at 5:39 AM, Zoe E Moyer wrote:
> Dear Mr. Chevalier,
> I am a current Wellesley student writing for the Wellesley newspaper on a
> petition that was begun by a student here to make Wellesley co-educational.
> Your story was mentioned in our Community discussion about the petition, and
> I was wondering if you could give your opinion for the article.
> If you have a moment, I am very interested in your responses to the
> following questions:
> 1. Why did you choose Wellesley? Was it because or in spite of it being a
> single-sex institution?

At the time when I was applying to colleges (I was 15 years old then),
I was not aware that I was a trans man. Wellesley being a historically
women's college played a minor positive role in my decision (as a
feminist, I thought it could only be a good thing), but I chose
Wellesley mainly because of my experience taking classes there
(through a program that allows high school students living in
Wellesley to take classes at the college, though I was not in high
school) and my belief that as a homeschooler without the usual
high-school-related credentials, it was one of the best schools that I
had a good chance of getting into (since I had recommendations from
Wellesley faculty).

> 2. Did you find a support network while attending Wellesley for being a
> gender-questioning student? If yes, please elaborate.

I wouldn't say there was a formal network, and I wasn't consciously
questioning my gender until late in my junior year. I knew a few other
students (one through the "Gender, Marriage and Family" class I took
in the anthro department as a junior) who were questioning their
genders as well, but they weren't incredibly close friends.

> 3. Without weighing in the total disrespect from the admissions office you
> have since experienced, would you make the same choice to attend Wellesley
> as an undergraduate today if given the opportunity to change your
> 18-year-old self's college decision or, based on your experience at
> Wellesley and following graduation (with the Wellesley alum networks and
> college connections), would you choose a more typical co-ed institution?
> 4. With weighing in your experience with the admissions office, would you
> choose Wellesley again?

I'd prefer not to answer this.

> 5. Some students have said that they support a limited co-ed policy, opening
> the Wellesley community to trans women and women-identifying men only rather
> than all genders. What is your opinion on this?

I find this a strange question, as Wellesley is already open to trans
women: it's open to women, and trans women are women. Trans women are
not a different gender from cis women. If there is a policy barring
trans women from being admitted, I'm not aware of it, especially given
that Wellesley has at least one (and probably more) trans woman as an
alumna. I don't know what a "woman-identifying man" is -- that sounds
like a contradiction in terms.

So it doesn't sound like that "limited" policy would change anything.

> 6. Do you believe Wellesley should remain a single-sex college (based on
> gender as stated on the birth certificate)?

Wellesley is already not a single-sex college, as it admits men -- for
example, me. My sex (determined by my brain, the same way everyone
determines their sex and everyone still knows what their sex would be
even if their body mysteriously changed) is male, and always has been,
even when I wasn't aware of it. Also, I'm not sure what the question
about birth certificates has to do with it, since at least when I
applied to Wellesley, I did not have to submit a copy of my birth
certificate (although I'm aware that apparently, the Common
Application now asks for "sex listed on your birth certificate").

Birth certificates do not state gender, which is impossible to
determine in an infant -- they state an observer's guess as to whether
or not an infant has a phallus that will someday be able to play the
penetrative role in normative heterosexual intercourse. This guess
reflects neither sex nor gender.

I don't have an opinion on whether Wellesley should admit cis men, but
I do think that if they are going to be a college that admits women
(which, again, includes trans women) and trans men, they need to be
honest about that and stop referring to themselves as a single-sex
college. The criteria Wellesley uses to determine an applicant's
gender (name, and pronouns used in recommendation letters) do not
necessarily reflect a person's real (internal) sex or gender, so it's
just incorrect to say that they only admit women. (The same goes if
they use the Common Application information that requests "birth
certificate sex", since for many people, including me, the sex on
their birth certificate does not reflect their true sex.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-20 07:33 pm (UTC)
juli: hill, guardrail, bright blue sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] juli
You were clear. You were no doubt deliberately taken out of context to give the appearance of authority to the views of someone who said "woman-identifying men" to, presumably, refer to trans women. :(

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-20 07:42 pm (UTC)
juli: hill, guardrail, bright blue sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] juli
Indeed. It's probably beneficial for you to assume good faith, but I'm content to assume bad faith when someone who purports to be covering an issue in which some level of understanding of gender identity and trans issues would seem to be a requirement uses a non-phrase like "woman-identifying man". Bad faith may be the wrong word; willful ignorance supported by being comfortable-enconced in heinous, privileged views? Or perhaps I'm just contrarian — if you'd assumed bad faith, my response could well have been some attempt at apology :) "Woman-identifying man" just blows my mind, though.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-20 07:46 pm (UTC)
juli: hill, guardrail, bright blue sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] juli
It makes more sense (?) if you consider the opposite (assuming the usual binary thinking) phrase: man-identifying woman. I mean, that's not an uncommon understanding of trans men in "certain circles". After all, trans men are just lapsed womyn.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-20 11:48 pm (UTC)
miang: Miang Hawwa (with Opiomorph), Xenogears: May God's love be with you (and there's nothing I can do). (Default)
From: [personal profile] miang
OMFG, "women-identifying men." It's the hyphen that makes it for me. The only way I can possibly shove that into some kind of sense is if I picture a man helpfully pointing out women as they cross the street or something: "There goes one! There's one. That's one too. And another..." I wonder how you get that job. Self-appointed, no doubt.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-21 12:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rjmccall.livejournal.com
If we only had some women-identifying-men-identifying people working for hospitals, we'd finally be able to accurately fill out the "sex" field on birth certificates, and Wellesley's application forms would make some sense.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-02-21 02:44 am (UTC)
juli: hill, guardrail, bright blue sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] juli
Could he mansplain who is and isn't a woman? That would really help me out, since I can't figure out other people's genders for myself, and need someone to help me out with as much condescension as possible, since I've been told that I'm a woman.


tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

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