Meredith College is known as a historically women’s college. However, not all of its current students are women. According to some of Meredith’s transgender students, students who are not cisgender are often left out of what being a Meredith Angel looks like. Some of these students shared their experiences of being transgender while attending Meredith with The Meredith Herald.
One trans student on campus, whose pronouns are he/him, explained that being part of the “cis-terhood” can be exhausting at times. “I have heard the same people say things along the lines of ‘Why would a trans man want to go here knowing that they will be misgendered often?...They go to an all women’s college and knew what they were signing up for when they decided to go here.’” Another trans student named Cypress, who requested only their first name be used and whose pronouns are they/them, detailed a similar experience. They came out as trans right before coming to Meredith and noted that cisgender, heterosexual (cishet) students make up the majority of the student body.
Both students said they had found a community on campus with other trans and LGBTQIA+ students. They explained how professors have also helped with their first year at Meredith. The first student said that Dr. Amy O’Keefe from the Department of History, Political Science and International Studies has created a safe space for him if he were to ever need it. Cypress noted that their professors and resident assistants (RA) have been respectful of using their name instead of their dead name. “If any of my teachers had a question about my name being different on their roll sheet, they would speak to me directly and only refer to me by the name I wanted,” they said.
Despite receiving support from some professors, trans students still feel as though their identities are forced to be hidden. The first student explained how frequently used terminology like “sister” and “ladies” at Meredith can make it even more difficult for trans students to feel seen. “I feel that there should be a recognition that not everyone at Meredith falls under the cisgender woman category or wants to be referred to as ‘sister,’” he said.
Cypress noted how those terms can be harmful, saying, “While I have found a good friend group that respects me, I can [understand] how Meredith staff referring to their students as if we are all women can be really damaging.” They went on to give an example for cishet students. “Just imagine going outside and everyone looks at you and calls you sir,” they said. “Maybe the first time it happens you can pass it off as a slip of the tongue, but if it happens all day, you will look at yourself differently and worry why people see you as a man. As someone who is trans, you are already constantly worried if you are passing as the gender you identify with, so being called the wrong word can crush you completely.”
As of now, Meredith does not have an official admissions policy about trans students or include anything about them in their nondiscrimination policy. Both students want Meredith to have an official policy that they accept trans students. “I wish that there would be more pushback on the College to formally accept and implement policies regarding trans individuals, regardless of how long it takes for the College to do so,” the first student said. He explained that if an official policy was made, he wouldn’t want trans students to be used as a marketing or diversity tactic.
Both students emphasized the importance of listening to the experiences of trans students. “Not all of us have the same experiences, some are worse or more painful than others, and some are wonderful and welcoming experiences,” the first student said. Cypress noted how listening to trans students should not come at the cost of forcing them to answer questions they don’t want to.
Based on these students’ experiences, it is clear that belonging is not universal for trans students at Meredith. There are aspects of the College’s policies and practices that exclude them from being part of our student body. Despite the challenges, Cypress offered a piece of advice for trans students: “As long as you are being true to yourself and you are enjoying yourself right now, that’s all that matters. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.”
By Aminah Jenkins, Staff Writer