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Call to Action: Transgender

Leelah Alcorn’s suicide put a tragic young face on a community that remains marginalized. This week, let's tackle that discrimination in higher education.

Hey Ronation –

Last week the news of Leelah Alcorn’s suicide provoked a firestorm of reaction on social media, and captured the attention of national news organizations. It put a tragic, young face on a community that continues to be marginalized, rejected by outdated laws, and confronted with  daily discrimination. Alcorn, who was frustrated that her parents did not support her identifying as transgender and was feeling isolated and depressed, killed herself by walking in front of a tractor trailer on Interstate 71. Alcorn wrote a public suicide note posted on Tumblr, “My death needs to mean something”.

Numerous studies have now shown that transgender people face injustice and disproportionate discrimination every day --  in their homes, in school systems, in exclusionary workplaces, in the military, at the store, the doctors’ office, before landlords, police, and judges.

This week, we want to tackle that discrimination in one place – higher education.

Smith College in Northampton, Mass. has refused the application of at least one transgender student and experienced organized protests on campus against their admission policy. It’s in the details; currently, Smith’s admission policy states: “Like most women’s colleges, Smith expects that, to be eligible for review, a student’s application and supporting documentation (transcripts, recommendations, etc.) will reflect her identity as a woman.

Compare that to Simmons College’s admission policy: “All applicants to the undergraduate program who were assigned female at birth and/or applicants who self-identify as women are eligible to apply for admission.”

Smith officials declined our requests for an interview but explained in a statement: “We do require that a prospective student's application and supporting materials consistently identify her as a woman.” Last year, Smith launched a study group to review their policies, but the first openly transgender student at the college told us that progress there is “glacial”, leaving Smith “lag[ging] far behind” other women’s colleges.

Last year, Simmons, as well as Mount Holyoke and Mills College, created a more inclusive policy accepting students who identify as women, regardless of their sex assigned at birth.

Urge Smith to do the same.

For this week’s Call to Action, tweet the following: .@SmithCollege Change your policy. Join other top women's colleges by changing the eligibility requirements for transgender applicants.

And tweet @RonanDaily with your thoughts.

We’ll be reading all your responses, sharing some on the air – and letting you know how Smith responds.


Team Ronan