calliowong

Good Game.

Hey everyone,

     Let me paint a little picture of me for you :)

     It’s finals season here at UConn (woof!), and yesterday night I was in the middle of reviewing Brit Lit and OChem second semester, looking over carbonyl chemistry and Hogarth’s “The Rake’s Progress.” Of course I checked my Facebook on A Study Break™. I learned that…well:

   Yesterday, Smith College announced that its admissions policy is now explicitly inclusive of “self identified trans women.” While there are language issues I have with Smith’s current policy–for example, not explicitly addressing nonbinary trans inclusion–I am happy; I am so tired, but happy.

     I remember when the entirety of This Campaign started in my junior year of high school with after-school conversations at the library: my friend Sarah Éloïse Giovanniello, who introduced me to Feminism™, had also sparked in me this notion that maybe I could apply to Smith College. I’d heard of how Smith, along with so many other women’s colleges, were such empowering places of higher ed–and I wanted to be a part of these spaces. I wanted inclusion, and solidarity, and strength through community.

     Further research didn’t yield any openly trans women at Smith, which struck me as odd. The demands for correct-pronoun gender markers on my school forms, which weren’t under my control, were odd. Until the debacle of the returned applications*, when it hit me: Smith’s administration did not want me or other trans women at Smith.

*Smith returned my application twice without review: the first time was because of Amity High School’s staff, which sent the app with clerical errors on my gender markers. The second time was due to my FAFSA, a federal financial aid doc, being marked “male” for selective service reasons.

     Smith didn’t want me, or other trans women.

So the media pitches began, and things started rolling.

     To all of the people who worked with me, alongside me, perpendicular to and opposing me: I guess this is good game, in which we shake hands after the match. From Smith QnA to GLAAD NYC, to the countless media organizations that lent me their space to speak, to the queer women and the women of color and the queer women of color who came before me and built the road to walk, to the people who sent me letters of support and solidarity that I read over at 2am in the morning during my senior year of high school during application AND finals season to remind myself why I was doing this–

Good game. I applaud you, and I applaud me, together.

     When I put my story out into the world, I originally just wanted one thing: for those institutions and individuals in power, to recognize that trans oppression is not silent. We will not be this time, are not to be, will never be crushed and silenced by you. 

     Smith College’s inclusion of trans women is one very small ripple in the pond of the world, I know. But it is a demonstration of the fact that there’s a lot of power you can’t see, propagated, emanating onwards and outwards. 

     There’s a lot of power you can’t see in trans women.

And though we are fabulous people, we’re stronger than we will ever look.


PS: I am not thinking of transferring to Smith College at this time. I’ve made my academic and social life here at UConn as a pre-med English major, and in another life–but this is the life I have right now, and I am enjoying it. 

HOWEVER, I think what is owed is an honorary degree from Smith College, addressed to Calliope Yuktuck Wong, as an honorary member of the Smith Class of 2017. Think we can make this happen? 

Calliope Yuktuck Wong,

Your friend.

Putting a face to Calliope Wong

After a single-query google search, and skimming a few links, a new picture of Calliope Wong formed in my mind. When it comes to trans*, pictures are important. In fact, they’re increasingly important, now that the term “transwoman” has been thoroughly coopted by men - eg Jennifer McCreath, Michelle O'Toole, Alexis Star etc.

When you read a sympathetic news article about “a young woman denied entry to a women’s college”, you tend to picture a young woman in your mind. As in, female. (At least, I do.) But Calliope is clearly, unambiguously male. It’s hard to believe that based on her appearance, anyone would classify her as a young woman.

Why does this even matter? Am I just being “looks-ist”? It matters because gender is a socially-assigned characteristic. Calliope is obviously a male, and is going to immediately, obviously stand out in an all-female environment.

Would things be any different if Calliope passed? A little, but not very much. If Calliope looked female, her presence would certainly be less disruptive. On the other hand, the point of female-only schools is to counter the effects of socialization under patriarchy. Female socialization is something that Calliope, who is obviously male, could not possibly have experienced.

Calliope's Honoring her Parents.

Hey, everyone.

It’s been over a year now since I started my campaign for trans woman inclusion at Smith College, and I’ve kept silent. I’ve not made any dorky Sherlock jokes or started any conversations about trans equality here, although—in case you’re wondering—I’ve been busy with other activism as part of the SPARKsummit intergenerational, intersectional (international as well) feminist organization. I’m a college sophomore now. The administration at Smith has paid some lip-service to trans inclusion since the campaign and petition, although their current policies are still ridiculous and unrealistic for the majority of trans women. You can read about the recent protest on campus here.

More than a year’s passed since that first letter to you. And life has moved on for me, in a lot of ways.

Me, at the beginning of the Smith Campaign.

Me, 12:40am, 7/21/2014.

I’m a premed-track English major at the UConn Honors program, and I’m both scared and excited about organic chemistry with four English classes next semester. I’ve since realized my gaming snobbery and am finally getting into League of Legends. My hair was, indeed, dark green for a while–now it’s fading into gold-brown, a weird color that somehow feels exactly right to me. The biggest change so far isn’t something that visible, though—having a year to figure out and come to terms and grow into myself has been kind to me.

I’m learning to feel my fear, but not to let it stop me or haunt me or turn me back from what I must do. I’m learning to look after myself, too. For once in my life I am aware that the proverbial Stamina Bar™ above my head isn’t infinite, and that it’s alright to ask for help rather than burning out alone. The past year has shown me that I am a person deserving of my own care, my own shield raised high.   

The truth is, it’s exactly my neglecting these lessons that’s prompted me to write this letter. I told myself when I started the first draft of this letter (about half a year ago) that I’d not draw this out more than necessary. It’s difficult, and I’ve been scared to ask for the past year, and I’m scared right now, but I’ve got to ask.

I need your help, everyone, in raising money for bottom surgery—also known as SRS (a somewhat outdated but still-popular term, “sex-reassignment surgery”) or GCS (gender confirmation surgery). I would like to raise $20,000 by August 29th to repay at least the monetary debt I owe to my parents, who have already pledged to fully fund the cost of my bottom surgery. I can only hope that I’ll be able to honor the support and love my parents have given me over many more years.

Of course I’ve been thinking about all the responses I could get for a long time now.

 I understand there are many worthy causes you could donate to, and I’m sure that what I ask seems outlandish. The sheer enormity of the amount I am asking for does not escape me—but the simple truth is that I want to repay in at least monetary terms, what my parents have freely given me.

I am wordlessly lucky to be my parents’ daughter. If not for them, there would be no activist Calliope Wong—there would be no campaign for trans equality in admissions at Smith, or any of it. I understand this is a great deal of money I am asking to raise. The timeframe I am looking at—about one month and a week—is also extremely short. But our power, in numbers, is so strong.

I know that not everyone is able to donate, and that is perfectly fine. Share on social media, if you’re able. I only ask that you remember—over 5,000 people signed the petition for my campaign, asking for trans women at Smith. With 5,000 supporters, repaying my monetary debt is also possible.

I write too much, now.

Just to say:

I would like to pay back the two people behind all of my efforts, my parents, so that I can finally put the question of “should I ask” and “did I try hard enough to honor them” to rest. Please, help me to repay this debt of love.

A few dollars from many, many friends will win this. I’m counting on you!

Here’s the donation page.

Thank you.

Calliope.