Spelman Changes Admissions Policy, Will Admit Transgender Students in Fall 2018

Spelman College graduates on May 19, 2002 (Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)
Spelman College graduates on May 19, 2002 (Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)

As noted writer and transgender advocate Raquel Willis once declared, trans women are women. And so it follows that black trans women should be able to attend one of the world’s premier HBCUs created just for black women.


Turns out now they can.

Spelman College has stepped up, and President Mary Schmidt Campbell announced that the Atlanta-based school of about 2,200 students will now accept trans women as students starting in the 2018-2019 school year.

In a letter sent out to students Tuesday, Schmidt Campbell noted that the school’s admissions and enrollment policy had been updated. It reads in part:

Spelman College, a Historically Black College whose mission is to serve high-achieving black women, will consider for admission women students including students who consistently live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth. Spelman does not admit male students, including students who self-identify and live consistently as men, regardless of gender assignment at birth. If a woman is admitted and transitions to male while a student at Spelman, the college will permit that student to continue to matriculate at and graduate from Spelman.

The letter notes that last year, a task force of students, faculty, trustees and alumnae gathered to study the school’s admissions practices “as they apply to an evolving understanding and knowledge of gender.”

The letter also links to a list of “frequently asked questions” regarding the policy, answering questions like, “Is Spelman still a women’s college?” (Yes.) “How will Spelman know if a student is transgender?” (Self-disclosure.) “What resources will be offered to trans students?” (After full adoption of the policy, “all Spelman students receive the full support and guidance of college faculty, staff and administrators through graduation.”) “How will Spelman handle housing accommodation?” (On a case-by-case basis.)


Unlike Mills, Wellesley and some other predominantly white women’s colleges, transgender students who identify as men will not be admitted, though those students who transition to male after they’ve enrolled at Spelman will still be awarded a degree.

“In adopting this admissions policy, Spelman continues its fervent belief in the power of the Spelman Sisterhood,” the letter reads. “Students who choose Spelman come to our campus prepared to participate in a women’s college that is academically and intellectually rigorous, and affirms its core mission as the education and development of high-achieving black women.”


On the Spelman Facebook page, initial reactions, which were curated by the college, were proud and positive.

Illustration for article titled Spelman Changes Admissions Policy, Will Admit Transgender Students in Fall 2018

Students will also be able to send questions to an email address to be answered by members of the task force.

Read more at Spelman College.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.


I am so happy when Black women lead the charge of doing right. Moves like this build and unite communities and make me so proud.