All-girls' school? I could use some advice.

the mouse that roared's picture

So it's the middle of April, college-decision-making time for seniors like me. Except that most seniors are not juggling gender identity, seven or eight academic and extracurricular interests, and gap year questions all at once in a college decision.

So here's the dilemma: I'm questioning my gender a fair bit. I'm not really sure if it's just a factor or not fitting in in high school or what. I may be a woman--an unconventional one. I may not be. I really don't know. I don't care so much about clothes and fashion or even gender roles. I feel like everyone can just be themselves, and that's fine. Most of my friends are not stereotypical embodiments of their genders. But I don't know how I feel about people's perceptions of me as a female and of my biological state of femaleness.

But I've gotten into three all-girls schools and four co-ed ones. My instincts draw me to Smith--it's the one school I feel I'd regret going to, and I feel like I'd be supported at and comfortable. But they don't have gender identity in their non-discrimination policy, and though there is a trans group on campus, it sounds like the college sometimes kicks students out if they want to transition.

So... ahh! What do I do? I have no idea where I want to go, and I'd like to follow my instincts, but what happens if I turn out not to be female? Maybe a freshman year at Smith would help me figure the whole thing out. If I need to transfer after that, maybe that would work. But maybe I need to suck it up, go to a school that feels a bit less like home, and not take any gender identity risks.

Any thoughts?

whateversexual_llama's picture

I don't really know much

I don't really know much about colleges or gender identity but I do know that Smith is a really good college, and there's a lovely lesbian there (okay, she's my aunt) who you may be able to talk to. She's a councelor to help with "anything that could mess with your learning," and maybe you could ask her about the Smith trannie experience. Um... PM me if you want her name. I probably shouldn't just stick it in here, lol.

Whatever I did, I didn't do it.

corcra-carraig's picture

As said above, ask

As said above, ask someone.

And tell me how it goes. I'm in the same situation as you; considering Smith, Barnard, and another all-girls school but in the mid-west and I categorize myself as genderqueer.

Good Luck.

the mouse that roared's picture

For Smith

Check out Tangent--it's a trans rights group on campus.

No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless; there is too much work to do.--Dorothy Day

jojojo's picture


... try to contact someone from the trans rights group at Smith. They probably want to convince you to come to Smith (they'll be happy about another ally). But they will also be able to tell you about the overall climate, and should know more about campus policy with regards to transgender.

You write: "it sounds like the college sometimes kicks students out if they want to transition"
Try to verify if this is true. You should base your decision on proper information, not "it sounds like" speculation.

My instinctual advice is: follow your instincts. (but still, get more information.)
Yet, I guess if you want to transition properly within college time, having to transfer might be an extra burden which is worth avoiding. On the other hand, you might be able to come out (and start living) as transgender (without fully transitioning), while staying at Smith.

Have you seen Transgeneration? It is a film or TV series (documentory) about four American transgender college students. One is female-to-male and at an all-girls' school. The school is cool with it, even though the respective student might have had to convince work on them first. But in the end the school officials say you have to be female at the point of admissions, but not necessarily at graduation day. I don't remember which school it was.

Really difficult choice... Do your instincts clearly favor Smith by a distance? Or is there another college for which you could make a special place in your heart? And, disregarding for a moment possible troubles at transitioning, would you favor an all-girls' environment over a coed one?

I don't know how much time it takes to transition fully. In the Netherlands there is a certain (legal/medical) minimum time between someone's decision to transition and the actual transition. I don't know about the U.S., but perhaps if you'd make up your mind that you want to transition, you would not actually get to the point until you almost graduate from college. In that case, you could perhaps just as well go to Smith and (if you want) transition after college...

Good luck!!

We have all been injured, profoundly. (Donna Haraway)
I Am Out, Therefore I Am. (Okay, mostly.)

the mouse that roared's picture


My first choice would be to go to a coed school in consortium with an all-girls school--go to Amherst and be near Smith, or to Haverford and be near Bryn Mawr. Then I would have access to gayness and supportiveness if I wanted it, but I wouldn't be overwhelmed by femaleness. But I was rejected from Amherst and waitlisted at Haverford.

It's down to Brandeis (which is pretty gay and has gender identity as part of its non-discrimination policy, Bryn Mawr, and Smith--mostly. Bard has all the majors I want, and Lewis and Clark gave me a scholarship and has gender-neutral housing. But those first three are my favorites. Smith doesn't have a creative writing program, which I would really like, but the consortium has a lot of classes combined. Brandeis would be a great choice if it weren't so close to my house (30 minutes! Eep!). I feel fondest of Smith, a lot of warmth coming from it, like I won't have any trouble making friends or fitting in. This doesn't have much to do with it being all-girls. I feel kind of neutral on that point. I like having boys as friends as well as girls. Brandeis and Bryn Mawr feel more intellectual, but a bit colder. Lewis and Clark is a nice option--I have a lot of family in Portland--but I'm not sure how good it is academically.

I want to choose my college carefully, as I did not fit in well in high school and I just want to be around my own people at college.

I guess I could love Brandeis, or even Bard or L&C, but I don't like them as much as the all-girls schools. I wish I'd just gotten into Amherst, not because it's competitive, but because then I wouldn't have to think. But that's not productive... I need to figure out whether Smith's wanting to apply its femaleness to me will be too oppressive and weigh out its good characteristics. Maybe it'll be painful but I'll figure myself out. Maybe it's a mess I just don't want to get into. Other people have done it, so it's a possibility. Maybe it's just not one I want to deal with.

No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless; there is too much work to do.--Dorothy Day

ejgarfunkel's picture


I'm somewhat in the same boat as you are. If you haven't seen "TransGeneration", it's a documentary that follows four college students making gender transitions. One is a FtM who attends Smith. I think it offers some good insights into the community there, but I've never been on the campus so I'm not entirely sure how accurate it might be.

Anyway, best of luck and hopefully you'll find a place where you're comfortable.

the mouse that roared's picture

I most definitely want to

I most definitely want to see that movie! Hmm... maybe I can get the GSA to do it...

Thanks for the advice. Good luck with your own decisions!

No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless; there is too much work to do.--Dorothy Day

lookin to the future...'s picture


okay.. here i go again pimping my school... ha ha... i will be attending lewis and clark in the fall as a freshman... you will not find a more transgender friendly campus anywhere... the gender neutral housing is awesome....

academically.... has always been a good school and is getting better each year..... was rated by someone (i don't remember.... newsweek, US news and world report, someone.....) who said it was academically the second toughest school in the northwest to get into (behind whitman in e. washington)... the law school and the english departments are top notch.... the creative writing program is awesome too.... a ton of seattle/portland authors are L&C grads.... basically i love this school.....

let me know if you have any other questions... i would love to talk to you about the school! :)

good luck with everything!!!! :)

Toph's picture

I already made my decision

I already made my decision for Truman back in early January. I just followed my gut is all I did, and I think you should do that. But, I understand the need to confirm that instinct.

Well, trans people not being protected under the school non-discrimination statement may be a problem. Like everyone said, get first hand info. When considering Baker as one of my college choices, I right out asked the college rep, "And how are queers treated there?" He laughed (nicely) saying that he's never been asked that question so bluntly, but he said it was a gay-friendly school. So, sometimes all it takes is a question, at least over the phone because they're not in your face.

I think it's very convenient that whateversexual_llama has an aunt there that you can contact. How lucky can you get?

Oh, and goodluck!

~May the spirits guide your every assure you please her in all the right places XD

the mouse that roared's picture


I talked to someone at Tangent, which broke up last year, and ze was very negative about Smith. It sounded like ze had had some bad political etc. experiences in the past, but the first time I read it it scared the kabonzas out of me. They also sacked the trans counseling person two years ago. But she also said that Tangent isn't such a bad place to go as a genderqueer person, though ze wouldn't recommend going there if you already didn't think you fit the mold. Ze had done this and regretted it, wanting to transfer.

Hmm... I'm checking out some recent articles on women's schools and transgenderism. Maybe it'll work out. Of course it'll work out.

No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless; there is too much work to do.--Dorothy Day

-Ruby-'s picture


This is an interesting topic to read through.
Things are really different in Canada. We don't have all-girls universities/colleges. At least, none that I've ever heard of. I disagree with single-gender education, whether it's for elementary, hiskewl, or college-age people. I know they've done studies and showed that girls were more academically successful in all-girl's schools, had a better learning environment and blahblahblah... but it's a CO-ED world, and eventually we should all learn how to be comfortable in a co-ed setting. I can't even imagine what a single-sex university would be like. ALL girls, ALL the time? What a nightmare... I would NEVER want to be in a place like that. I am VERY girly, VERY gay, VERY feminist... but i would NOT choose to put myself in an all-female environment. I have been in university for 3 years, and the most fun part of being here was meeting new people... and at least half of those people have been male.
In terms of finding queer/trans support, you can do your research, but you're not really gonna know how you feel about the school until you've been there for a while and experienced it firsthand. At every school there are awesome supportive people who can help you, and fucked up assholes who can make your life a living hell. Ultimately you have to take care of yourself, which it sounds like you do, so I'm sure your experience will be fine no matter where you go. You can always change schools, i know tons of people who have done it and i may do it too. School is just school, it's not going to make or break you unless you let it, so don't psych yourself out! :o)

the mouse that roared's picture

Hmm... maybe I have been

Hmm... maybe I have been freaking out about this a bit overmuch. I so much want to have a good time in college, and do all these excellent amazing idealized things, but maybe I need to lower my sights a bit and just let what comes to me come. Not like I should be passive, but I should relax some. I guess Smith just fit so many of my ideals about what college should be. It's hard to give up that. But, well, I don't necessarily want to be without guys all the time. It feels safer and it doesn't.

I tried to talk to my art teacher about it today, but I didn't tell her I was questioning gender. There were people around all the time. She did tell me, though, that I have so many factors in what I want in a college that it's mind-boggling. Strip it down to the basics, and then transfer if I want to. She advised to just go for the academics. That sounds like a plan to me.

So... maybe it's just between Bard, Brandeis, or Lewis & Clark. I LOVE the opportunities at Bryn Mawr and Smith--atmosphere, 4-year dorms, good food, academics, gay girls everywhere, consortiums... but maybe I need to put myself somewhere else.

No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless; there is too much work to do.--Dorothy Day

lookin to the future...'s picture

good luck...

good luck making your decision....

and your part about gay girls everywhere at Bryn Mawr and Smith.... well there are times when i am down at lewis and clark and swear we outnumber the straight girls.... okay, just wishful thinking but it's pretty close... ha ha ;)

sugarmagnolia's picture

didn't one of the transmale

didn't one of the transmale students on transgeneration go to smith? you could try and check out the dvds and check out his experiences. in general i wouldn't recommend an all-girls school, just because that's not how life really is, and it's kind of awesome to have as many points of view and perception as possible... i find the more diversity (gender, or anything) the more likely i am to learn something. aside from that... try not to stress too much, it'll work out one way or another. they put so much needless stress on highschool seniors it's ridiculous. just like any other college for any other reason, if you do go to smith and eventually decide to transition and feel that smith really isn't the right place, you can transfer. our paths in life are rarely linear, so just hang in there and try to enjoy as much of it as possible (could i possibly sound more cliche?) good luck :)

"freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose"

Elana's picture

So I'm currently at Mount

So I'm currently at Mount Holyoke and have some suggestions for you when considering schools. It's easiest for me to talk on aim if you have it. My sn is edbreche If you don't have aim feel free to email me, and I'll be glad to give you some suggestions.

dykehalo's picture

You should try it out for a

You should try it out for a year... if it doesn't work.. it doesn't work.

cynical1inthecorner's picture

I agree with dykehalo--go

I agree with dykehalo--go with your instincts. Go to Smith. It seems like you really like it; I think it'd be kinda ridiculous not to go because something might happen, and you might be genderqueer. If it does turn out to be true, and you are genderqueer, remember you aren't stuck at the school; you can transfer. Mean while, if you like the school, go there.

And also--remember you've only talked to one transgendered person there. Their experience is individual to them--I'd talk to a few more people (if possible) and see what they say. Maybe they're all negative, maybe not.

Hope I've helped (and not been completely redundant).

Good luck!

the mouse that roared's picture


I did decide to go to Smith! It turns out Smith has 30-60 trans students, which is a lot more than most schools. When I visited last week, the constant references to it being a women's school bothered me. And the completely huge amount of women felt weird. So I'm not sure if it'll work out in the end, but I feel like Smith is a great place for me to start out. So it's off to Smith I go! I am staying on the waitlist for Haverford: coed, but I can even major at (and flirt with the girls at) Bryn Mawr. Perfect!

Brandeis did seem very gay and trans friendly. If anyone is interested, it's not at all a bad choice.

Thanks for the advice everyone. If anyone needs to talk about this to someone in the future, im or pm me. I am in the process of becoming a walking dictionary on this topic.

No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless; there is too much work to do.--Dorothy Day