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Thursday, October 16, 2014
This Modern World

Gotta love this long thumbsucker on the problems transgendered people bring to all-women colleges.  I swear at least ten times I had to stop to laugh at the pretzel logic on display:

From the start, Timothy introduced himself as “masculine-of-center genderqueer.” He asked everyone at Wellesley to use male pronouns and the name Timothy, which he’d chosen for himself.
For the most part, everyone respected his request. After all, he wasn’t the only trans student on campus. Some two dozen other matriculating students at Wellesley don’t identify as women. Of those, a half-dozen or so were trans men, people born female who identified as men, some of whom had begun taking testosterone to change their bodies. The rest said they were transgender or genderqueer, rejecting the idea of gender entirely or identifying somewhere between female and male; many, like Timothy, called themselves transmasculine. Though his gender identity differed from that of most of his classmates, he generally felt comfortable at his new school.
 Now it is important to understand that Timothy was considered female for most of her life.  She was born with internal and not external plumbing.  And I'm not trying to poke fun at her/him; I can respect the choice to identify as a man, even though she's attending a women-only college.  But it does illustrate the problems inherent in this era of gender fluidity.  And when he decided to run for office, things really got confusing:

Last spring, as a sophomore, Timothy decided to run for a seat on the student-government cabinet, the highest position that an openly trans student had ever sought at Wellesley. The post he sought was multicultural affairs coordinator, or “MAC,” responsible for promoting “a culture of diversity” among students and staff and faculty members. Along with Timothy, three women of color indicated their intent to run for the seat. But when they dropped out for various unrelated reasons before the race really began, he was alone on the ballot. An anonymous lobbying effort began on Facebook, pushing students to vote “abstain.” Enough “abstains” would deny Timothy the minimum number of votes Wellesley required, forcing a new election for the seat and providing an opportunity for other candidates to come forward. The “Campaign to Abstain” argument was simple: Of all the people at a multiethnic women’s college who could hold the school’s “diversity” seat, the least fitting one was a white man.
 Now remember, Timothy had only been a man (we'll leave the white part out) for a little over a year; for the most part he had been a girl.  But the school and the students had been so accepting of his gender decision that he magically transformed into the symbol of the patriarchy.  No, I'm not kidding:

I asked Timothy what he thought about that argument, as we sat on a bench overlooking the tranquil lake on campus during orientation. He pointed out that he has important contributions to make to the MAC position. After all, at Wellesley, masculine-of-center students are cultural minorities; by numbers alone, they’re about as minor as a minority can be. And yet Timothy said he felt conflicted about taking a leadership spot. “The patriarchy is alive and well,” he said. “I don’t want to perpetuate it.”
 The article just continues on in that vein forever.  Professors at these female-only schools have gotten used to defaulting to "she/her" when talking about people (instead of the patriarchal he/him), but now even that causes controversy:

At times, professors find themselves walking a fine line. Thomas Cushman, who has taught sociology at Wellesley for the last 25 years, first found out about Wellesley’s trans population five years ago, after a student in one of his courses showed up at Cushman’s office and introduced himself as a trans male. The student pointed out that every example Cushman gave in class referred to women, and every generic pronoun he used was female, as in “Ask your classmate if she. . . . " He told Cushman that Wellesley could no longer call itself a “women’s college,” given the presence of trans men, and he asked Cushman to use male pronouns and male examples more often, so trans students didn’t feel excluded. Cushman said he would abide by whatever pronoun individual students requested for themselves, but he drew the line at changing his emphasis on women.
“All my life here,” Cushman told me, “I’ve been compelled to use the female pronoun more generously to get away from the sexist ‘he.’ I think it’s important to evoke the idea that women are part of humanity. That should be affirmed, especially after being denied for so long. Look, I teach at a women’s college, so whenever I can make women’s identity central to that experience, I try to do that. Being asked to change that is a bit ironic. I don’t agree that this is a ‘historically’ women’s college. It is still a women’s college.”
No surprise, women who are taking male hormones are starting to dominate athletically:

Last spring, Alex Poon won Wellesley’s 131-year-old hoop-rolling race, an annual spirit-building competition among seniors. Alex’s mother was the hoop-rolling champion of the Class of ’82 and had long ago taught her daughters the ways of the hoop, on the assumption that they would one day attend her alma mater. (One of Alex’s older sisters was Wellesley Class of ’11; another went to Bryn Mawr.) Alex was a former Girl Scout who attended an all-girls high school. But unknown to his mother, he was using Google to search for an explanation for his confusing feelings. By the time Alex applied to Wellesley, he secretly knew he was trans but was nonetheless certain Wellesley was a good fit. For one thing, going there was a family tradition; for another, it was a place where gender could be reimagined. In his sophomore year at Wellesley, he went public with his transgender status.
On hoop-rolling day, Alex — wearing a cap backward on his buzz-cut hair — broke through the finish-line streamer. President H. Kim Bottomly took a selfie with him, each with a wide smile. A small local newspaper covered the event, noting that for the first time in the school’s history, the winner was a man. And yet the page on Wellesley’s website devoted to school traditions continues to describe the race as if it involves only women. “Back in the day, it was proclaimed that whoever won the Hoop Roll would be the first to get married. In the status-seeking 1980s, she was the first to be C.E.O. Now we just say that the winner will be the first to achieve happiness and success, whatever that means to her.” But Alex isn’t a her, and he told me that his happiness and success includes being recognized for what he is: a man.
 And sexually:

Another difficult conversation about trans students touches on the disproportionate attention they receive on campus. “The female-identified students somehow place more value on those students,” said Rose Layton, a lesbian who said she views trans students as competitors in the campus dating scene. “They flirt with them, hook up with them. And it’s not just the hetero women, but even people in the queer community. The trans men are always getting this extra bit of acknowledgment. Even though we’re in a women’s college, the fact is men and masculinity get more attention and more value in this social dynamic than women do.”
Jesse Austin noticed the paradox when he returned to campus with a man’s build and full swath of beard stubble after nearly two years on testosterone. “That was the first time in my life I was popular! People were clamoring to date me.”
 Now you might think that there's an obvious answer to this problem: Just get rid of the young women who decide that they are young men.  Ah, but that raises another problem: what to do about young men who decide they are women?

While trans men are allowed at most women’s colleges if they identify as female when applying, trans women — people raised male who go on to identify as women — have found it nearly impossible to get through the campus gates. Arguably, a trans woman’s identity is more compatible with a women’s college than a trans man’s is. But most women’s colleges require that all of an applicant’s documentation indicate the candidate is female.
And of course they have benefitted from the patriarchy all their lives:

"What if someone who is male-bodied comes here genuinely identified as female, and then decides after a year or two that they identify as male — and wants to stay at Wellesley? How’s that different from admitting a biological male who identifies as a man? Trans men are a different case; we were raised female, we know what it’s like to be treated as females and we have been discriminated against as females. We get what life has been like for women."
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