Problem and Solution? Transwomen’s Access to Private Women-Only Spaces

Women-Only2The political demand for transwomen’s access to private women-only spaces is predicated on a certain problem-and-solution logic. It can be summarized like this:

The problem is transwomen’s oppression in the form of institutional violence and social marginalization.

The solution to this problem is transwomen’s access to women-only space.

Following this reasoning, trans activists have repeatedly attacked private women-only spaces by insisting that transwomen be granted entrance to them regardless of the organizers’ wishes. Now, I spent three years studying problem solving in law school. During this time, I learned that there are many different ways to skin a cat. I mean, remedy a problem. I also learned that some solutions are better than others. I could spend hours talking about the legal mechanics of specific performance, market alternatives, restitution, injunctions, and monetary and punitive damages. But the bottom line is that the popular movement for trans activism seems to have completely lost sight of logical problem solving.

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An Open Letter to Smith College About Transwomen

Smith College has developed an Admissions Policy Study Group. If you would like to share your own thoughts about the admissions policy with the Study Group, you are encouraged to do so via this web form.


Dear Smith

Smith College Board of Trustees
College Hall 205
Smith College
Northampton, MA 01060

December 15, 2014

Dear Smith College Board of Trustees and President McCartney,

I am writing this open letter to express my strong and continuing support for Smith College’s female-only admissions policy. As a proud Smithie (’00), an attorney, and a vocal feminist, I have thought long and hard about the issues raised by the campaign for transwomen’s inclusion at Smith on the basis of their “gender identities.”

Ultimately, a theoretical deconstruction of the social category “woman” such that anyone and everyone can identify as a “woman” does not reflect the historical purpose of Smith College or the needs of its students.

Being a woman is not a spiritual or metaphysical experience. It is not a feeling and it is not a performative utterance. Being a woman is a lived experience with material consequences. Smith’s admission policy must reflect some clear limitations on male gender identification, lest the social category “woman” become entirely meaningless.

The slogans “transwomen are women” and “transwomen belong here” sound righteous at first, but on deeper analysis, they are also frustratingly simplistic. The full implications of the proposed policy change must be considered. There is much more at stake than validating identities and proving how open-minded we are.  In this letter, I will attempt to lay out some of the considerations that I believe must be taken into account and propose elements of a reasonable compromise. Continue reading