(Curtis Cronn/Flickr)

Transgender students that identify as female will now be considered for enrollment at Mills College, an all-female school in Oakland. Mills is the only single-sex college in the country to have a published policy for transgender applicants. We’ll discuss the details of the new policy, and whether it would affect the core identity of the school as a women’s college, especially in light of strong campus opposition to going co-ed in the past.

Guests:
Brian O'Rourke, vice president for enrollment management at Mills College
Tess Filbeck-Bates, upcoming senior at Mills College
Sonj Basha, upcoming senior at Mills College
Brad Dacus, constitutional attorney and president of the Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit legal defense organization

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    Mr. Krasny, the dispute about women in the locker room took place around 30 years ago – hopefully people have moved on a bit since then.

  • Ross

    Your guest keeps speaking about the choice that is gender identity…

  • Taz

    Why do cisgender people get “pronouns” and transgender people get “preferred pronouns”?

    • Ross

      ‘preferred pronoun’ is a profoundly insulting term, IMHO. it implies that multiple are acceptable

      • Lynnew73

        multiple are acceptable

    • trex_sam

      Because cisgender people prefer the pronouns prevalently used in society. They accept the gender they are born with. Transgender, genderqueer, and non-confroming gender people don’t, and therefore don’t always prefer to use society’s typical label for their gender/sex.

      • Taz

        Oh, I know. I’m nonbinary. I’m just pointing out the use of language — saying that trans people get only “preferred” pronouns (when really, it’s not a preference; in many cases, it’s absolutely crucial to feeling alive and respected as a human) invalidates the pronouns, in a way.

        • trex_sam

          Ah! I get it. My misunderstanding of where the emphasis in your tone was. Thanks for your clarification. I’m bi-gendered and I actually have 0 pronoun preference, but I agree with your original statement now that I understand it better. 😀

    • James

      Exactly!

    • James

      Something that bothers me is when people say ‘I don’t care what pronouns you.use for me’

      You have to be in a serious place of privilege to be able to feel that way and a lot of people don’t acknowlege that.

  • Taz

    Also, why is a panel discussing women’s issues and trans issues composed of what sounds like entirely cisgender men?

  • trite

    Amazing that the undergraduates at Mills do not know who Camille Paglia is and her status in the history of writing on feminism.

    • Pamela Trounstine

      Did you just make an assumption about a whole, non-homegenous group of people on the basis of one statement?

      • trite

        Actually, no. I was speaking of the two people who represented the College on the show. Your assumption was incorrect.

        • Pamela Trounstine

          I’m sorry, 2 statements. I am with Beki.

    • Beki McElvain

      I was an undergrad at Mills and I can say with great confidence that most of us know who Camille Paglia is and her status in the history of writing on feminism. Not sure why/how these folks don’t.

  • Taz

    The thing is, trans women are women and trans men are men. Admitting a trans man to a women’s college just for the sake of, well, being “biologically female” is wrong; but colleges must be careful, of course, to not be transphobic in writing policies that exclude trans men from attending women’s colleges and so on.

  • Taz

    But trans women being admitted to women’s college is wonderful — especially considering the history of trans women being denied access to spaces such as various Womyn’s Music Festivals (which are for “womyn-born-womyn,” one of the most transmisogynistic phrases ever written).

  • Maggie

    I’ve considered Mills College for grad school in the past and hearing that they’ve been so innovative with regards to respecting gender identity of applicants only makes me more eager to explore opportunities there. I do not identify as transgender but I think it’s crucial to support this (hopefully) growing trend across the nation, so that one day it can be greater reflected in public policy.

    • thatgirl

      I have an MPP from Mills. I would highly recommend it!

  • KBuena

    I think it’s funny that on the locker room doors at Mills Pool, there is a sign front. D center stating that children over a certain age must use the gender appropriate locker room.

  • Ben Rawner

    I applaud Mills’ action on this change. does your panel think this change will be possible at more traditional schools? And also do they think that this change was more easily performed at a female school versus a males only school?

  • Jim

    Michael, please ask Sacha(sp?) how she defines “normal”, and “self-possessed”.
    It may help her if you provide her(?) a transcript of her speech today and a mirror..
    Tuning out now…

  • RA

    Since i’ve been in the Bay Area for years i appreciate this is one of those Bay Area things and i tend to overlook the various inconsistencies… but:

    Men are presumably excluded because of their (well, our) sexually aggressive, patriarchal, rape-culturey ways. Ok… So i really don’t get how all these other “fluid” people, or just boring old lesbians aren’t similarly threatening, triggering, etc.

    • Kat

      Lesbians aren’t ‘rapey’, that’s why.

    • JoRo

      As a Mills alum, I don’t think that’s an accurate description of why Mills is a woman’s college. It’s not really about men being excluded. It’s about creating an educational space where women are prioritized.

  • Kate Rhoades

    Thank God Kieth isn’t going to Mills.

    • Lynnew73

      Yes, thank god! We don’t want him (or you)!

      • Kate Rhoades

        harsh burn!

  • Mills Alum

    I do feel a need to provide a voice of dissent, here.
    I struggle with transforming the classroom dynamic from one of women who have been raised in that gender coming together, to one which includes women who may have been raised with male privilege. I don’t deny that trans or gender queer students also face challenges in the classroom, but I would argue that women’s education was established to meet a great and persistent problem of disparity in educational involvement and leadership opportunities among young women and girls–not to protect marginalized populations, at large. That that issue still exists indicates to me that we have a continued need for women focused education–designed for girls who have been expected from infancy to be a great wife, but not a president, working mother, or executive.

    • Ross

      Very interesting point

    • Taz

      Trans women are women. “Raised with male privilege” and then becoming a part of a community with a 41% attempted suicide rate and a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered…
      I’m not seeing much privilege here.

      • Lynnew73

        word.

      • Kat

        Male privelege isn’t not applied or errased because someone doesn’t want it. I can’t deny my white privelege as much a I think it is unfair to have. If a male child is read as a boy, that child will procure male privelege, no matter how they identify. If that child transitions as an adult they will still retain some of the benefit of male privelege. I’m not saying that transwomen have it easy, I’m saying they have it different – that’s ok to acknowledge.

        • JoRo

          I think this really depends on the person and context. Do you know many trans women? Have you known many gender-fluid children? I have seen children who others considered male to be profoundly feminine-presenting, and this significantly disrupted any male privilege that might have otherwise come their way. Have you read Suzanne Pharr’s “Homophobia, a weapon of Sexism”? It’s really worth a read. Free download here: http://suzannepharr.typepad.com/politicalhandywoman/2007/11/download-homoph.html

  • Maggie

    Gotta love that aggressive “condition” and “disorder” language.

  • Taz

    You know, I’m used to reading the comments on an article about feminism or trans issues and seeing the most horrible, bilious things said by people hiding behind anonymity. But here, I am mostly seeing comments that encourage and support trans people. This gives me hope.

    • chrisnfolsom

      Wait until this thread is listed on some conservative activists blogs…

      • Taz

        Oh nooooooooo!

    • Maggie

      Times are changing! Let’s hope this gets some national attention and other schools (private and public) make the conscious decision to do right by all of their students.

  • chrisnfolsom

    We need to understand that people are not all born one way or the other – some have both, some have very little bias. We either choose to ignore this situation and not allow those others to integrate into society or we find ways to allow for these differences.

    Remember that this is really just a large issue now because it is new and in time will be just another color in the spectrum of humanity we have (or God has created) that we accept without thought like multiculturalism or women in sports, or even women getting an education which is one of the reason’s for Mills creation in the first place.

  • Kate Rhoades

    Judith Butler needs to call in.

  • James

    I am a trans man who experiences physical dysphoria and I found the assertion that gender is entirely a social construct to be really problematic. What I have, the entire reason that I am taking difficult steps to transition, is something that I cannot change. If I lived alone on an island for the rest of my life, my body would still feel alien and I would still feel the need to do something about it. If my gender was an ‘identity’ or a ‘choice’, I would choose to live as a cis woman and get on with my life, bht if I were to do that in reality I woud still feel absolutely wrong and I would still have the physical symptoms that come with dysphoria.
    Whenever people like myself try to speak up in these kinds of conversations we get brushed off, ignored and attacked, but dysphoria is very real, for many being trans really is a life shattering medical condition, and this still needs to be addressed.

  • chrisnfolsom

    I just want to say as a non gender challenged individual (within reason) that one of the largest issues to me here is how to deal with this issue and our children. As adults we can deal with much of this – or ignore it – but as was recently brought forward in some books in sexual education that deal with gender it is difficult. With Children you do need to have some structure and cannot always deal with every variation of a given behavior or situation – depending on age they can’t process many of these situations in meaningful ways. I know this is not exactly on topic and I don’t see this necessarily as a problem with college students but we really need to give people ways to deal with these issues in society as it has never really been dealt with before. Simply beating people over the head may work over time but it is creating quite a bit of resentment.

  • Jim

    Michael, your guest expressed the opinion that “something in the human genome” allows horrific behavior. I agree. Only “proper” cultural values can keep the “something” in the bottle. Not all cultures are equal, not all people are equal, not all religions are equal. Humans are not perfectible. Your guest doesn’t sound like a “progressive”, how did he get on the air?.

    • Ivy

      I don’t know… Brad Dacus was not an appropriate guest for this program. He is completely out of touch. He was basically harping on this genitalia or that genitalia… He was very bizarre. He clearly thought he was coming across as progressive, but it was just a thin skin of outdated language and understanding.

      • Jim

        ——————————————–

  • Klinkman

    I am confused about this entire issue. Why do we need a new set of gender distinctions in the first place? I get there may be a small (very small) group of people who do not prefer traditional pronouns, and I am the first to try and make someone comfortable in my home or place of business. But this gender neutral effort seems to be about getting the entire population to conform to those wishes, a giant uphill battle. What is at the root of it? Can a thoughtful gender-neutral-preferring person please reply about why this is so important to you? Please dispel my belief that it’s just about attention-getting. And the other question is why is this only important in young people? I have never seen someone, say older 30 or 35 with the same concerns. Thanks

    • Pamela Trounstine

      Imagine that you are interested in a challenging liberal arts education, you visit colleges, you meet professors, and Mills has the right program for you. You arrive at Mills, where you are free to be– you are encouraged to be– yourself, some people feeling like that’s the case for the very first time, and you are given room by your peers to figure out just exactly what that means. If one of things you figure out is that you are a transgender male (I don’t mean to overgeneralize how someone would come to that determination, just saying that it can happen in 4 years of college/young adult life) wouldn’t a policy that says you can be yourself AND graduate with your intended course of study and with the professors you have come to know (and Mills is a very small school) be important for you? I would be upset, as a ciswoman, if I felt a classmate was not free to be themselves and/or welcome anymore. It’s not like our society is doing such a great job of understanding in 2014. Those of us who have been there see Mills is a safe place to stay and learn and grow, a place to be challenged but not rejected. Nor do we hate men. Mills is just really serious about academics and opportunities for women.

      • Klinkman

        thank you Pamela. I agree Mills’ policy is the right thing for them,
        for their students and faculty. I believe Mills is progressive in this
        aspect of self identification, and women’s rights in general. My
        question is to the broader trans population. Why is this recent
        phenomenon of neutral identity so important beyond progressive
        institutions like Mills? Facebook for example. I mean this really only
        affects, what, .5% or less of the population? But Facebook has defined
        57 (or so) neutral gender identifications. Really? Why?

        Perhaps
        my numbers aren’t right, but it’s still a really small number of the
        total population. Why is it important that new and multiple categories
        be defined for such a tiny portion of the population? And does the
        entire rest of the world need to conform to your whims?

        It really
        comes down to who do you want to have sex with, right? male anatomy
        on male anatomy, or female with female, or male with female? Or is
        there another choice I’m missing? (concede there is another even
        smaller percentage ambiguous sexual types [hermaphrodites]
        I’m excluding for this discussion)

        Please explain why “them, us,
        none, etc” is so important. I am eager to hear an answer that it is
        not simply about getting attention. Thanks,

    • Lynnew73

      I am in my forties and I know of many “older” people who support this, including myself.

      • Klinkman

        support isn’t really the issue. The why is. thanks

  • Pamela Trounstine

    As a Mills alum, I am proud of my alma mater’s decision and believe that the clear documented policy is a great thing for current students. If it makes you uncomfortable, Mills is probably not the place for you right now. If it sounds like a welcoming place that you or a young person you know with college decisions to make would like to be a part of, consider Mills. It was a great education, but it was also a great college experience, and one I wouldn’t trade for anything.

  • psych09

    I applaud the courage demonstrated by the students, faculty, and staff at Mills College in establishing this policy, and being willing to have this conversation in the public sphere.

    Three points:

    1) I must respectfully disagree with the caller who claimed this to be a distraction. Protest and struggle for civil, societal, and political rights has gone hand-in-hand with education, and students have been at the forefront of these movements.

    2) That John Hopkins blanketly does not perform “sex reassignment therapy” is the result of one religiously conservative psychiatrist with an axe to grind. It has no grounding in empirical evidence, it does not represent the state of the field of psychology, and is directly counter to the guidelines of both the APA and the AMA.

    3) Suggesting that somehow respecting the rights of one of the most underprivileged, misunderstood, and marginalized segments of our society poses some nebulous risk to the rights of others is some of the most superb doublespeak I’ve encountered. I know it isn’t a new tactic, but disheartening nonetheless.

  • Kat

    I applaud inclusion at Mills! However, I see that females are still oppressed on the basis of their sex, not gender identity or gender expression. Because of this, I will continue to support sex segregated spaces which focus entirely on females (regardless of gender identity or expression) and their unique experience of growing up in a patriarchy, where the needs of men are seen paramount. That being said, I understand transwomen have their own experiences of growing up in a patriarchy and I hope Mills’ policy will pave the way for greater understanding all women have for each other.

  • M___Townsend

    What an extraordinary institution Mills College is! What a beautiful example of walking the talk of Diversity and Inclusion. Hats off to the students, faculty, and administrators who came together to create a more open and welcoming academic environment! The guests representing Mills College did a great job explaining the intricacies on which the inclusion policy is based.

    As with all hour-long programs on this topic, there is never enough time to fully develop an informed discussion. On the topic of Gender, yes, there are social aspects to how we express gender culturally and individually, however, this obscures the fact that people still have an inner-sense of which sex they are. Society can mandate the gender expression of individuals, but no amount of discussion, threats, or therapies will modify the individual’s internal knowledge of his/her/shim’s gender identity. Psychiatrists, psychologists, religionists, politicians, and institutions have all tried to do this and failed.

    There is an aspect of this show that I found deeply disturbing: it was the choice of Mr. Brad Dacus, representing the Pacific Justice Institute, as an expert in religious freedom and the Constitution.

    1) What Mr. Dacus is not— is an expert on Gender Identity Dysphoria (correct name: Gender Dysphoria) or for that matter, Gender Identity. He claims that Gender Dysphoria is a mental illness. It is not, just as Homosexuality isn’t considered a mental illness. When there is an impact on mental health, the main cause is from social and political problems imposed on queer and transpeople as members of a highly stigmatized minority, and not from the condition itself per se. All professional medical science, medical, and psychology associations consider this a medical issue that may require transgender-positive, supportive interventions.

    2) He puts forth the already disproven idea that gender identity is incontrovertibly linked to genitals, when in fact it is hard-wired in the brain before birth and is expressed in a spectrum of behaviors. Mr. Dacus claims that there are only two sexes, but this is not supported by the research findings on intersex people that show that sex is a spectrum. Psychological interventions meant to ‘change’ gender identity— which cannot be done— is considered malpractice and a human rights abuse. Readers who are interested: please see the very interesting presentations of Dr. Veronica Drantz explaining the neurology of sexual orientation and gender identity.

    3) He cites a research study on gender non-conforming children who either grow out of it, identify as gay, or identify as trans. Mr. Dacus argues that since some children do not end up trans, therefore all children do not have to end up trans, as if all that is required is some psychological therapy (read: reparative therapy). This is not what the study really says: gender non-conformity is not unusual in children, and a small portion of them may well identify as Trans as they move to puberty. This research says nothing about changing gender identities. Readers should note that the Pacific Justice Institute advocates reparative therapy, now held to be an unethical practice. (In California, it is an illegal practice)

    4) He cites the closing of the gender program at Johns Hopkins during the 80’s as proof that ‘mentally ill’ and ‘suicidal’ trans patients should not be treated medically. The research on which the gender program at Johns Hopkins was not based on rigorous science, just as research on the nature and ‘causes’ of homosexuality had been proven to be based on poor science. These ideas have been long discredited. What Mr. Dacus does not say is that gender programs made a comeback in the 90’s, this time on an evidence-based footing. He claims that there is no benefit to medical interventions. If this is the case, how does he explain the documented client success rate above 97%, and the removal of medical treatment restrictions by Medicare and elsewhere?

    5) He represents the diverse sexual orientations of post-transition transpeople as a failure to adhere to a hetero-normative model. A failure to whom? A problem to whom?

    6) He advocates respect for people who de-transition. Was this ever in doubt?

    7) He advocates education to fight bigotry and harassment, but to bolster his arguments, he cites discredited, out-of-date research that is completely refuted by current science. He claims that any current scientific findings are ‘controversial’, when in fact there is universal agreement that trans and queer identities are normal. This is not new science!! This is the same pattern shown in his infamous, fear-based, Proposition 8 campaign efforts. How does this make him a credible guest to the audience?

    I listen to Forum because the discussions are thoughtful and informative. I define ‘informative’ to mean that recognized subject matter experts present ideas that can be explored through reason and reflection. I can see how there would be useful insights from the religious community. But if the ‘insights’ are based on misrepresenting or omitting the facts, how does that help the audience? It only takes seconds on the internet to find recognized authorities on Gender Identity. It only takes seconds to find that the anti-LGBT Pacific Justice Institute is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, who track such groups. Did the staff of Forum and KQED know this? Was that what they intended? Would KQED invite the KKK as an authority on Black civil rights? What were the religious views of other religious organizations?

    As a member of the Queer and Trans communities, I feel exploited when distorted and inaccurate information is disseminated through mass-media unchallenged. People like Mr. Dacus don’t illuminate this complex issue, but instead sell the idea that trans and queer people are unstable, violent, illegitimate, distrusted and feared. I am let-down by Forum and KQED. Please correct this problem.

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