Morehouse College considers enrolling transgender students

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Morehouse College asked its alumni if the Historically Black College & University for men should admit transgender students. Reaction from some LGBTQ graduates is mixed.

The Atlanta school, one of about 100 HBCUs in the country, sent the five-question survey earlier in July, referencing “the establishment of a transgender policy.” The opening paragraph of the survey, per News One:

We at Morehouse College respect and support every individual’s right to self-identification as they pursue their education at our world-class institution. As an all men’s college, we know that the identity discussion can be a very complex topic to consider. But Morehouse has a history of leading the nation in difficult discussions that have paved the way for positive change and social justice for all Americans. Morehouse is considering the establishment of a Transgender Policy to set protocol for admissions and student life. This issue is one that we as a community must engage in with sensitivity and respect for one another without ever losing focus on the mission of our College.

Then alumni were asked to agree or disagree with five questions.

1. Morehouse should admit students who self-identify as men, regardless of their gender at birth.
2. Morehouse shouldn’t admit students who self-identify as women, regardless of their gender at birth.
3. If a Morehouse student transitions from a man to a woman while at the College, the student should be allowed to continue their education and graduate from the College.
4. Does a policy that expels a student who transitions from a man to a woman align with the mission of the College?
5. Does a policy that allows a woman to graduate align with the mission of the College.

In a tersely worded email to Project Q Atlanta, Morehouse officials confirmed the school is considering enrolling transgender students but offered no details on when a decision would be made.

“Yes, we did release a survey. No, there is not a timeline,” D. Aileen Dodd, a Morehouse senior manager of media and public relations, wrote in an email.

If Morehouse updates its policy, the school would join neighbor Spelman College, an HBCU for women. The school began admitting transgender students this year. Keo Chaad O’Neal became what is believed to be the first openly transgender man to graduate from Spelman earlier this year.

Reaction to the survey and admitting transgender students was mixed among some LGBTQ Morehouse alums.

“I am definitely open to female-to-male transgender students but not sure why male-to-female trans students would want to attend an all-male school,” said James L. Hicks, an out 1984 graduate. “I wouldn't say I'm opposed, just confused.”

Timothy Tukes called the survey “amateur and deplorable.” Tukes, who describes themself as transgender and non-binary, graduated in 2017.

“There are many graduates and faculty who could have assisted with the survey as I assume it was made haphazardly by those who lack formal instruction in how to ethically propose, author and administer a survey,” Tukes said.

Tukes also found it “troubling” that the survey was released soon after Vice published an article on what it’s like to be a white student at Morehouse.

“The survey asked questions like does admitting trans women align with the mission of Morehouse College, whereas I believe it’s hypocritical to say admitting white male students is mission-oriented as well,” Tukes said.

The issue of gender nonconformity at Morehouse is not a new one. In 2009, the school updated its dress code, which included a ban on traditionally women’s clothing like dresses, tops, tunics, purses and pumps. Vibe Magazine subsequently reported on a group of gender nonconforming students challenging the policy. They dubbed themselves The Plastics as a reference to the 2004 film “Mean Girls.”

Buzzfeed explored the issue in-depth in a 2015 story.

“As single-sex campuses around the country begin to publicly grapple with the expanding expressions of gender identity, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are often left out of the national dialogue,” wrote Buzzfeed reporter Hannah Giorgis. “The face of queer activism — on campuses or otherwise — is often white, affluent, and masculine. But queerness on HBCU campuses, where diversity defies simple categorization, challenges assumptions about race, gender, and sexuality alike.”

In 2012, the school began offering LGBTQ-centric courses. But in 2014, vandals littered the campuses of Morehouse and Spelman with anti-gay insults during the schools' Pride week.

Two Georgia-based HBCUs –Spelman and Savannah State – were among the dozen that met with the Human Rights Campaign earlier this month to discuss LGBTQ issues. Morehouse did not take part.

Photo via Facebook


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