So. It’s been a while since I’ve written you all, folks. As far as I know, this will be the last update letter I will write you.
I guess this is it, for now. There’s no chance I can go to Smith College, as the administration has returned my application without reading it not once—but two times now.
The first time, the Office of Admission at Smith found fault with my transcript, which read “male.” Smith would not process my application, despite the fact that I had spoken to Dean of Admission extensively over the summer about who I was and my specific case. Still, I corrected the “male” clerical error with my school guidance staff and promptly sent back my application for review.
The second time was on March 5, five days ago. My FAFSA information reading “male” was targeted this time as the reason why I was not a woman in Smith’s eyes. I won’t give you an analysis of what was written; I’ll just leave you with a photograph of the letter at the end. You all can decide what it means for yourselves.
I don’t think there is or ever was any way to “win.” There was never any fair shot for me. But I tried my best to do things right. At least I can say that.
Yes, I cried the day my papers came back. I still feel like crying.
But right now I’m listening to “Zankoku na tenshi no te-ze,” also known as “Cruel Angel’s Thesis,”—probably best known as “the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime theme song”—on repeat, as I write this letter. And it strikes me, how appropriate.
For those of you who aren’t (yet) in the know, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a Japanese animation made in the 90s. Among other things, the show deals with existentialist and absurdist themes through a pathetic main character named Shinji. He’s utterly useless in the beginning and runs away from what he fears—accepting his life as his own. So, even as Shinji pilots the so-called “EVA 01,” humanity’s last hope against alien invaders called “Angels”—he is afraid. Of the ridiculous mess that is his reality, and of his potential to rise up and claim his life as his own. So he hates himself and does nothing.
I won’t give you all too long a summary of my favorite show. Just—Shinji learns to climb into his plugsuit, into the EVA 01, and learns not to run away. He claims his reality, and learns he is no more and no less than himself.
I love that show. It helps me to deal with this beautiful, terrible, confusing world.
The only thing I can do is accept responsibility for what I do, and what I believe, like Shinji Ikari from Evangelion. It’s the only pure, good, right option. And a person cannot sit down and do nothing, and still live.
I did something.
You helped me to believe I could do something.
Congratulations. You are all beautiful people. And I thank you, for being here with me.
I guess this is it, for now.
Not Done Yet.
I thought I was finished speaking when I wrote the last sentence to my supposedly-last post, “Thank You.” Apparently I’m not done. There’s something you all should be aware of. This comes to you in rough-story form, with all relevant folks addressed using the gender-neutral honorific Mx (instead of Mr, Ms, or Mrs).
I was going to wait until the weekend to write, but the information is the same regardless of how polished I write—and I feel this is necessary.
A few days ago, I heard back from some friends from Smith Q&A (a group in support of transwoman acceptance at Smith), who contacted others on my behalf about the legality of using the FAFSA as a bar against my admission.
Jon O’Bergh, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of the US Department of Education, gave some clarification on the matter. Mx. O’Bergh commented on the fact that, according to both the Dep of Ed and FAFSA, the self-reported sex indicator on the FAFSA is used for Selective Service only. Then Mx. O’Bergh referred me to Cameron Washington, Web Usability Specialist at FAFSA, for further clarification.
I won’t keep flitting about with a play-by-play of each specific person’s contribution to the (quite-substantial) email chain that built up. However, according to Mx. O’Bergh and Mx. Washington:
The FAFSA sex reported is only used for Selective Service purposes. Neither FAFSA nor the Department of Education cross-checks sex information with Social Security. The federal government is irrelevant in this conversation. All concerns about my hypothetical admission endangering Smith’s status as a historical women’s college receiving federal funding?
Irrelevant, and wrong. The government does not care about my sex marker.
Thus, Smith College’s decision not to process my application based on my FAFSA sex marker is at Smith’s sole discretion. Their hand was not forced; they chose this.
Smith College is fully capable of reviewing my application and making an admissions decision for me based on my credentials. Just—it’s so simple, really.
This is obvious discrimination on Smith’s part.
In case I didn’t mention earlier:
Dean Shaver’s words to me over the summer, when I was still trying to figure out Smith’s transgender-acceptance policies, were that: “It seems to me that if your teachers provide the language you suggest, all your pronouns would be female and therefore consistent with what Smith is expecting.” She spoke of school papers and transcripts consistently reflecting “female” for my application. Nowhere was there mention of FAFSA, a federal financial aid form.
I am quite convinced that Smith’s supposed transgender-acceptance policies have been evolving with every letter of this Tumblr posted, with every obstacle I manage to clear.
So, Smith chose this path.
Make it a hard walk, folks.
For the transwomen before me, who dealt with these kinds of policies in their time. For the transwomen to come, who should inherit a better and more just system.
5/7 Update: Trans* Women At Smith
For people who want updates about trans* women at Smith, major developments have happened in recent meetings with the administration and admissions. Here they are:
-Smith admissions will accept alternative documentation to confirm gender identity if there are inconsistent or non-female gender markers on admissions materials. It is still indeterminate what kind of language will be used on the website in the implementation of this change.
-Smith admissions will not consider financial aid/FAFSA documents when evaluating an applicant for consistent gender markers
-Smith will allow Q&A to create a “best practices” protocol for admissions employees to use when interacting with or advising trans applicants
-Further meetings with other administrators will discuss inclusion of information specific to trans women’s issues/transmisogyny during diversity trainings, use of preferred name in Smith documents and directories, and reporting/oversight on implementation of demands
-Smith can’t publish statistics about number of trans women applicants and acceptance ratios for confidentiality reasons, but might be able to direct trans women applicants to student organizers who can help oversee the process
-Student organizers and administrative officials will form a committee that will meet, ideally, 3 times a semester to talk about trans women’s inclusion at Smith college which will be co-facilitated by the student RCSG Coordinator (Q&A’s Emily Coffin) and Audrey Smith (Associate Vice President for Enrollment)
Published by Smith Q&A
fb: Smith Q&A