Barnard College announced on Thursday that it will admit transgender women. Barnard joins a growing list of women’s colleges that have finally begun to create policies addressing both the admission and graduation of trans women.

The New York Times reports:

The new policy, which the board of trustees approved on Wednesday, welcomes applicants who “consistently live and identify as women, regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth.” Students who enter as female and then transition to male while at Barnard will be able to stay at the college and receive a Barnard degree.

Transgender men, who were assigned female at birth but identify as men at the time of application, are ineligible for admission, as are students who identify as neither gender, regardless of their birth sex.

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Prior to the announcement, Barnard did not have any formal policy regarding the admission of trans women. The new policy, while certainly not perfect, is a step in the right direction; it closely follows the admission guidelines at Smith and Wellesley.

Despite progress, many other women’s colleges continue to lag behind. For example, Hollins University in Virginia (which, in full disclosure, is my alma mater) will only accept applicants born male if they have completed both sex reassignment surgery and the legal transformation. Hollins students who transition from female to male are considered ineligible for a degree.

Women’s college have been slow to address the admission and graduation of trans students looking, at times, seemingly out-of-touch with an issue that should be central to their campuses. Of all places, women’s colleges should be a place where gender is understood as an amorphous and shifting concept.

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“Gender is at the center of a women’s college experience in a way that it’s not at a coeducational school,” Barnard English professor and trans woman Jennifer Finney Boylan told the New York Times. “So if you’re a young trans person trying to figure out who you are, and struggling with gender throughout your whole life, of course you’d come to one of these schools, because it’s going to help you figure out who you are.”

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