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Staff Editorial | The New Republic’s piece on trans students at women’s colleges

Recently The New Republic published an opinions piece about transgender rights and admission to women’s colleges. In this piece, freelance writer Monica Potts discusses how transgender students pose a threat to the mission statements of women’s colleges, using the matter of feminism and women’s rights as a means to justify her statements. The New Republic even changed the piece’s headline from “Trans Activism is Threatening Women’s Colleges’ Mission” to “Why Women’s Colleges Still Matter in the Age of Trans Activism”. 

The Campanil felt that it was not only difficult to read this opinions piece, but it was also misinforming and wrong for a work to perpetuate transphobia in higher education. We believed that it was wrong for Potts to consider her ideas as feminism by promoting exclusivity at women’s colleges. Even with the changed headline, we cannot ignore its problematic issues about trans activism at women’s colleges. 

The Campanil recognizes the importance of inclusivity at a women’s college.  Mills College was the first women’s college to officially admit transgender students last year, stating that the College will admit self-identified women and students that were assigned to female sex at birth and identify as transgender or gender fluid. Before then, Mills would consider transgender applicants who self-identified as a woman on a case-by-case basis. We feel that Mills College’s new policy takes a great step towards inclusivity on campus and that Potts’ piece opposes what Mills strives to attain for diversity.

At the same time, The Campanil knows about the significance of respecting identities, particularly for those who are transgender and gender-variant. We feel that Potts’ piece in The New Republic did not understand that importance. For instance, Potts equates gender with biology multiple times, using Eve Ensler’s play “Vagina Monologues” to “prove” her point. The fact that Potts refers to “Vagina Monologues,” a work already criticized for its lack of diversity and narrow definition of womanhood, should not be used to justify the transphobia in this piece. Overall, we feel that her argument was misguided and invalidating to transgender and gender variant people. 

The Campanil also notices the usage of feminism as a means of justification for this opinions piece. According to Potts, women’s colleges are “still allowed to exclude certain applicants based on gender because there’s still a need to their exclusionary existence.”  She furthers her argument by stating that women must advocate for their own rights and struggles, perpetuating cissexism through her statements.

Although the piece attempts to show the struggles that most women face, it ignores that women’s rights and LGBTQIA rights may be interconnected. The Campanil believes that feminism fights for equality for all, and transgender and gender variant should be included in that fight. Overall, we feel that this opinions piece did not capture feminism and equality, especially for transgender people in women’s colleges. 

The Campanil feels that The New Republic published an opinions piece that did not create an open and productive dialogue to move forward for inclusivity and safe spaces in higher education, especially in women’s colleges. We acknowledge Mills’s mission statement involving diversity and social justice through education. Mills and other women’s colleges are working to become an institution for marginalized genders, and transgender people are a part of that category.