Content warnings: mentions of gender dysphoria, descriptions of medicalization of intersex bodies
Are trans men eligible for admission?
No. Wellesley is deeply committed to our mission to educate women and the College is proud of its history of graduating women who demonstrate the value of women’s leadership. Wellesley does not accept applications from men. Those assigned female at birth who identify as men are not eligible for admission.
Are trans women eligible for admission?
Yes. Wellesley accepts applications from women. Those assigned male at birth who identify as women are eligible for admission.
Are individuals assigned female at birth who identify as non-binary eligible for admission?
Yes. That said, Wellesley is a college dedicated to the education of women. The College provides students with a uniquely empowering learning environment—one designed specifically to prepare women to thrive in a complex world. This singular focus on women is a critical part of the Wellesley experience. Wellesley accepts applications from those who were assigned female at birth and who feel they belong in our community of women.
—from the Mission and Gender Policy FAQ
When Wellesley changed its admissions policy to allow trans women to attend, it also codified the attendance of nonbinary people who are designated female at birth. As one of the nonbinary students already here, I found this aspect of the policy change both affirming and disconcerting. By creating a distinction between designated female at birth (DFAB) and designated male at birth (DMAB) nonbinary students, Wellesley again ties gender to genitalia. I’ve pointed this out time and time again, publicly and in private conversations, but in the past year it has become even more personal. Long story short, if my hormones were only slightly more irregular than they are now, I would have been designated male at birth myself.
I recently found out I have Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, or CAH, known for being the most common cause of intersex conditions. These conditions widely vary, with some, like mine, not apparent at birth. In my case, my body externally appears to be what doctors consider “female,” but my hormones and some related physical characteristics are very far from those of the typical person who is designated female at birth.
This has some far-reaching consequences, with the majority being cosmetic. My hair is thinning, and I have dark hairs on my upper lip and chin. I got my first period before I knew what a period was, and I stopped growing around age 10 or 11. By that point, my braces had already come and gone. At first, I just sort of shrugged off the diagnosis; okay, so here was a condition that could explain a lot of things that had happened to me in the past, but it wasn’t life-threatening and really wouldn’t interfere much with my future, right? The medical community looks at it very differently.
When my doctor called me with the final test results, she seemed to be nearly in tears. She wanted to immediately put me on two different types of birth control, regardless of the fact that I would need to be taken off of medications important to my mental health. She made me swear I wasn’t having sex. She repeatedly told me that even though chances were low that I could even have my own biological kids, I would need to have an abortion if I ever did get pregnant. The reason? If I was to have a child, that child would most likely have full-blown CAH resulting in ambiguous genitalia. In other words, any of my future kids would most likely be visibly intersex.
It took a few minutes after that phone call to digest what had just happened: my doctor was telling me it would be absolutely necessary to abort any potential kids of mine, on the off chance their genitalia did not match the medical definition of male or female. Honestly, I’m so glad this happened after I’d at least briefly educated myself on intersex issues, or I would have believed her out of fear and misunderstanding. Instead, I found myself scared by the level of ignorance within the medical community.
My new diagnosis led me to another train of thought, too: was this why I’m nonbinary? In my case, it seems as if all signs point to yes, and while I don’t subscribe to the thought that all transgender people have an underlying medical condition (nor do I think that “correcting” my condition would magically make me cis, nor do I want to be cis), I have found some personal comfort in an answer.
When I last went to the doctor, she prescribed me a medication that is typically taken by trans women, only at higher doses, to “feminize” my face (read: get rid of all hair growth). While in my younger years I would have clamoured for that prescription, now that I know myself better, I have mixed feelings about it. For now, I’m choosing to just keep a stockpile handy in case the current political climate leaves some trans women unable to access it in the future.
Finding out my body doesn’t fit into the medical box of “female” has made me like my body more. I feel more confident and find myself binding less often, more comfortable with the “womanly” parts of me now that I know neither my gender nor my body carries all traditional signs of womanhood. While I remain unsure of whether I will pursue hormone therapy or top surgery in the future, I now am more comfortable putting off that decision for a bit longer.
Even before my diagnosis, I knew that, as a nonbinary person, I have a nonbinary body. The difference now is doctors can see it that way, too—it’s only my college that has not yet come around. Binary sex categories are just as ridiculous as binary gender categories, and it’s time for Wellesley to abandon the idea that a person’s body must influence their gender. We need to give all nonbinary people who feel Wellesley is a good fit for them, no matter their genitalia, the opportunity to apply.
From February 2017 issue