Educating women

A week ago, I wrote about how Bryn Mawr’s Health Center screwed up. Today, the Board of Trustees sent an e-mail where they got it right.

“It,” in this case, is the question of how to navigate complicated questions of individuals’ gender identity at an institution for women. The letter comes down on the side of gender identity trumping biology, which pleases me. (A person who, it should be noted, is cisgender and only affiliated with the college as an alumna.)

Of course, the devil is in the implementation details. The bar for living and identifying as a woman could be the applicant’s affirmation, or could be set inconveniently high. The letter addresses transgender and intersex applicants but not, for instance, individuals who identify as agender or gender fluid. (On my initial reading, I assumed they would be welcomed as applicants on the basis of general flexibility, inclusivity, and “not men.” But those identities do present a somewhat thornier philosophical challenge to the concept of a gendered institution, so perhaps they are not merely unaddressed corner cases but intentionally excluded on the basis of “not women.”) Time will tell.

It’s only a letter. But it’s a pretty good letter.