Morehouse College, the country’s only all-male historically black collage, released a statement on April 13 announcing the approval of a new policy which would allow transgender male students to be considered for admission.
The policy will be enacted in fall 2020, according to a statement released by the university. The statement highlights key points of the strict men-only policy, like the fact that Morehouse expects students who enroll to maintain their gender identity as men throughout their entire academic career.
The policy says that “students [who] transition from a man to a woman” will be forced to leave the university unless the student in question writes a formal appeal and gets approved by a three-person committee chosen by the president.
“I believe I’m the only transsexual on campus,” said Morehouse student Tatiana Rafael. “I was told by the president that I’m the only fully transitioned woman in the school’s history.”
When Rafael first got admitted into the college, she wasn’t fully realized in terms of her gender identity.
“At that time I identified as male,” Rafael said. “I didn’t start physical transition until I was at Morehouse for six months.”
Under the new policy, Rafael will be grandfathered in and allowed to graduate, but future students who come out as trans women will not receive that opportunity.
Morehouse spokeswoman Aileen Dodd told CNN that “students who identified as trans women before 2020 are eligible to graduate from Morehouse, but are unpermitted to graduate from the school after 2020.”
“It’s a chance to make history,” Rafael said. “I’ll be the first ever fully transitioned woman to get a degree from Morehouse. I am very happy for trans men who will be able to attend, but the policy is negative in how it affects trans women who may apply to the school in the future. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide ‘I’m a trans woman.’ It’s a long journey of self-discovery, and to be penalized for having that realization is wrong.”
The policy also says that anyone who identifies as a woman may not enroll, but fails to address the existence of non-binary and otherwise genderqueer people.
“I still believe non-binary students are affected in ways I can’t understand,” Rafael said. “The policy has a potential to become a witch hunt. Non-binary students could be targeted by people who don’t understand how they identify.
Still, many critics say that the historical nature of Morehouse as a black male college must be preserved. Rafael disagrees, hoping that while she may be the first woman student on record since the 1930s, she won’t be the last.
“I think it’s bullshit, and here’s why,” Rafael said. “The history of the college is not all-male. Women went to Morehouse and graduated, although they were only accepted at the college during the Great Depression for a brief period of time. I think black masculinity has to make space for black women or else it’s not true masculinity. If the school’s history isn’t all male, why should the future be?”
In September of 2017, Spellman University enacted a similar admission policy which allows self-identifying women to qualify for admission regardless of their genitalia. While Spellman doesn’t accept self-identifying men, students who “transition to a male” are allowed to finish earning their degree.
Spellman’s policy also fails to address gender non-binary individuals. As for the possibility of Morehouse loosening its grip on masculinity, Rafael remains doubtful. “I don’t see the faculty and administration [opening the doors to non-men],” Rafael said. “It’s going to have to be a student-led effort.