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“WE WANT TO DO THE RIGHT THING”
Spar, the Barnard president, says the issue is hardly brand new; she’s been thinking about transgender admissions since she took her position in 2008. After listening to various views, she feels it boils down to “a split in how people defined what a women’s college is.”
“For part of the community, that mission is defined as educating women,” Spar says. “For another part, it’s about providing a space for gender-oppressed minorities. And when you come down to it, that divide affects how you see the issue of transgender admissions.”
“We really want to do the right thing,” Spar says. “We just have to figure out what the right thing is.”
“WE DON’T WANT TO BE ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY”
Caleb LoSchiavo, 22, a graduating senior, was born female but, upon arrival at Barnard, began a gradual transition. An Italian and psychology major, LoSchiavo changed names legally last year.
“I arrived here and realized that I wasn’t female,” LoSchiavo says. “I didn’t fit into this idea of womanhood.”
LoSchiavo, who identifies as neither male nor female but “gender fluid,” has been active in transgender issues on campus, and senses that Barnard is ready to admit transgender students: “It would look really regressive and behind the times to say ‘no.’ We don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.”
But how to define the policy? LoSchiavo thinks Barnard should admit anyone except those who identify as male. That would exclude trans men.
“If you KNOW you’re a man, then a women’s college is not your place,” LoSchiavo says. “Men have male privilege, that’s a fact. If people see you as a man, you’re going to be treated with more respect. Men don’t need to be at a women’s college to see themselves reflected in leadership. They can look at the entire history of our nation.”
Article continues below“THIS IS PART OF BARNARD’S MISSION”
If Barnard’s decision goes that way, it would effectively exclude someone like Mark King, a music major who’s just completed junior year and is a trans man.
King, 21, began identifying as a male at 16 or 17. But he didn’t come out publicly until he’d arrived at Barnard. “In high school, there are just so many people who know you, so many people to get past,” he says. “It was excellent to come to Barnard and introduce myself as I am.”
King always gets the same question: “Why would a trans man want to come to Barnard?” His answer is that Barnard is not MORE rigid because it’s a women’s college; it’s less.
“Barnard appealed to me as a trans person because I knew that the environment here was much more accepting, and that people were completely open and happy to learn about other people’s experiences,” he says.
King, who among other initiatives has worked with the college to establish gender-inclusive bathrooms in every Barnard building, agrees with many that the first priority is to get trans women accepted.
“But,” he says, “I think Barnard should admit all students for whom womanhood is or HAS BEEN part of their identity.”
To bolster his case, King points to Barnard’s very mission statement, which says that the school “embraces its responsibility to address issues of gender in all of their complexity and urgency, and to help students achieve the personal strength that will enable them to meet the challenges they will encounter throughout their lives.”