For the better part of a year, Smith College has been telegraphing that it would soon accept transgender student applications. On Monday, the women’s college flung open the curtain on its new admissions policy. And whether it realizes it or not, Smith has inadvertently done a great deal of damage to the idea of transgenderism. Indeed, Smith’s new official transgender policy suggests that, at least in some cases, the “trans” idea is merely make-believe.
Smith begins by insisting that it is still a women’s college and arguing that its new admissions standards do not change this character, but merely reaffirms the mission “in light of society’s evolving understanding of female identity.” The school then goes on to issue three separate directives about transgender persons:
(1) The college says that beginning this year, “Applicants who were assigned male at birth but identify as women are eligible for admission.” This suggests that Smith takes the idea of trans identity seriously—which is to say, that a man with male chromosomes and male physiology who says he is a woman is, in fact, a woman. If you take this position as a matter of principle, it means that one’s gender identity is an immutable, though internal, truth. This truth isn’t based on science or DNA, but one’s belief. Under this worldview, a person truly is whatever sex they say they are. Which is fair enough.
(2) Smith doubles down on this idea of the reality of transgenderism by saying that it will not accept trans females—that is, women who say they are men: “Smith does not accept applications from men. Those assigned female at birth but who now identify as male are not eligible for admission.”
So far, so good. People who traditionally prefer science over psychology might not endorse Smith’s decision, but it at least represents a coherent worldview.
(3) Smith then addresses the question of what happens with women who decide to become men during their undergraduate journey:
What is the impact of this decision on students who transition during their time at Smith?
The admission policy does not affect students who transition during their time at Smith. Once admitted, every student has the full support of the college and this includes transmen. And any student who completes the college’s graduation requirements will be awarded a Smith degree and welcomed into the Alumnae Association of Smith College.
This creates some dissonance. If “trans women” are really women who are allowed to apply, and “trans men” are really men who are not allowed to apply, then why would a woman who decides, the day after she fills out her application, that she is a man, be allowed to attend Smith? There are only two possible answers.
Either Smith is seeking to knowingly violate its charter by educating both women and men. Or Smith doesn’t view “trans men” as really being male at all. Smith thinks it’s all just make believe and are happy to let these women play dress-up on campus. Thus, Smith’s policy is quite instructive about what, when the chips are down, progressive identity politics really believes.
The “transgender moment” has been instructive in other ways, too. For starters, it has shown that the left’s allegiance to capital-“S” Science is only a sometimes thing. Progressives believe that science contains the definitive answers to all questions—except when it doesn’t, and we must accept the idea of deep, human truths, which might contradict science.
It has revealed that the mantra of biological destiny (that people have no choice in their sexual identity because we are each hard-wired a certain way), which was pushed relentlessly during the later gay-marriage struggles, will not be applied to the transgender movement (which blogger Steve Sailer delightfully refers to as “World War T”). That’s because in the transgender world, people are whatever they say they are, at any given point in time. So a woman can be a woman the day she applies to Smith, but a man the day after, and a women again five years later—and all three identities are valid and real.