Mills inspired the world in 1990 when student activists organized to prevent the dilution of women’s education by admitting men to the college. The students and alumni protestedaa against this idea — that was created unfairly and for profit — and created the chant, “Strong Women! Proud Women! All Women! Mills Women!”
Successful in reversing the decision at the undergraduate level, Mills remains an institution dedicated to women’s empowerment and education, but not all women are welcome here. Unfortunately, Mills has yet to adopt a policy that acknowledges the full range of gender expressions of those who aspire to be Mills women.
Despite being coercively assigned male gender at birth, transwomen are women too. Mills should celebrate their brave truths rather than reinforce prejudices against certain queer women.
Transmen are admitted to Mills, and indeed the College provides a safe space for many to transition. Yet hypocritically, transwomen who have not (or are unable to) change their government IDs from “Sex: M” to “Sex: F” are not allowed here, which privileges people who have money and can afford the extremely expensive cost of therapy, hormones, and other things needed to be recognized as female by the state. This policy also privileges those who have solidified their gender identity and who are older than 18 (as gender and name changes often require parental approval before 18).
Officially changing one’s gender or name can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on location, which means Mills is inadvertently admitting students based on class. The policy is heterosexist because it offensively places time limits on transitioning, a personal experience that cannot be sped up by strangers or educational institutions; nor should it require government validation, because we should all respect chosen pronouns and names. Everyone must have the freedom to discover their true gender and to be accepted when they do declare it.
Mills can only better advance social justice and empower women by accepting a diverse student body that encompasses the entire spectrum of what it means to be
Mills’ current admissions policy alienates other members of the LGBTQIIA community. Where do intersex people fall in the admissions process? If someone finds out they have mostly male reproductive organs, are they suddenly less welcome in the school? For people who have varying concepts of their gender, can they only apply on days when they are feeling more like a woman? All of these people will benefit from an education for women, and each different perspective on womanhood will only further enrich our community.
It’s surprising that Mills is practicing the opposite of what it teaches and preaches, which is social justice and equality. There is a strong queer community supported by professors and peers alike. For example, Thea Hillman, who has served on Mills’ Board of Trustees, is also a literary and verbal advocate for the intersex community.
By refusing to consider all who identify as women, Mills may soon be left behind by ever-progressing state and local anti-prejudice laws. Regardless, Mills should make the statement that anyone who does not identify as a man should have opportunities outside of male-centered, “co-educational” institutions.
In 2004, Oakland enacted Chapter 9.44, becoming one of the first U.S. jurisdictions to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, government and government-funded or supported services. Similarly, California has already taken steps to protect genderqueer students in its schools under California Education Code § 200.
Mills is a great institution because it stands for activism, and thus it is not afraid to accept when it must change. As a member of the Mills Community, I urge Mills to write a clear doctrine for its admissions process that will bring the full diversity of femininity to our campus. I advise that Mills practice acceptance of all who identify as a woman, female or genderqueer.
Mills now celebrates those protests of 1990. How many more protests are needed until Mills is finally fortified as a safe place for all women?