The Man in the Women’s College

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About Adam Polaski

Adam Polaski is a rising senior journalism major at Ithaca College, where he enjoys writing, reading, and procrastinating entrance into the big, bad, post-academia world. He also writes for The Bilerico Project and The New Gay. Email him at apolaski7[at]gmail[dot]com.


  1. This is the kind of content I am glad to see on Good Men Project.

  2. This is a good reminder that not all men experience manhood the same way.

    It also raises a few issues about woman-only schools. On the one hand, it’s terrific that women get to experience an education where they don’t have to be concerned with inter-gender dynamics on top of everything else. On the other, it does suppose the category “woman” to be an obvious and well-defined one, and it simply isn’t.

    Our society is reaching a point where people who are intersex and people who have nonbinary genders are finding our voices. Until now, the common solution was to say “such people are a rare enough exception as to be easily ignored”. Ignorance is no longer an option, so what next? Isolation? Integration?

    The one thing that’s clear is that a birth certificate can only tell you that someone was born, anything more is strictly conjecture.

  3. This article is great and disgusting all at the same time.

    Great in that Aden’s story is fascinating and frustrating, disgusting in that he was not supported by the very community that SHOULD have been among his most vocal allies.

    I wonder how the story would have changed if Aden had been born a man and transitioned to a woman? Would these lovely ladies at the college have welcomed ‘her’ with open arms? IME, women’s only schools are very heavy on liberal politics, diversity, equal rights, feminism and sort of weirdly obsessed with alternative sexualities (Im not saying alternative sexualities are weird, just the fact that sometimes in these environments you get a strange reverse discrimination where heterosexuals are looked down on rather than all things and orientations being equal). Given that this is my experience of all female colleges, I’m stunned that Aden was not publically and loudly supported. After all, this was a (biological) female who was struggling with sexual identity, presumably no different than a female struggling with her identity as a lesbian or a femal struggling with her identity regarding anything else.

    This school should be ashamed of itself. Best of luck to Aden.

  4. I really enjoyed this article. I am having a hard enough time transitioning at my big, co-ed university! Best of luck to Aden as he continues down the road.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Seems like this women-only college failed to do its legal homework. I can’t believe no one ever saw this coming, that someone could be admitted as a female and transition to male. Relatively rare, granted, but this is why colleges have attorneys and consultants on retainer. They must have had all sorts of contingency plans, like for an accidental enrollment of a male student.

    I agree that these gender categories are not as absolute as bureaucracies pretend they are. It raises what seems like a silly question – how does the college know it’s admitting a female student and not a male student? What prevents a “male” student from “lying” or “passing”? I assume the college has to take the applicant’s word for it (and the word of the letters of recommendation), and there’s no DNA test or physical inspection.(Not that those are always precise either.)

    The administration’s approach was out of line, and the student comments were unfortunate. I can see the argument that what he heard from other students was hate speech, but I would cut the students a little slack. They behaved immaturely, but bear in mind that in their minds they signed up for a women-only academic experience. They probably felt a little betrayed, as unfair as that is. I think that’s why the administration panicked a little bit – what will the alumni think? Are the parents going to pull their daughters out? What makes my school special anymore?

  6. Strangely, this article raised for me an entirely different point:

    Are de jure women’s colleges anymore sexist than de facto men’s colleges? Can we even continue in the tradition of allowing specific women’s spaces to balance out the slowly — but surely! — integration of men’s spaces? I mean, my campus’s women’s center deals with gender issues, yet they still call it a women’s center, and consequently men dealing with gender issues are left out in the cold.

    This article raises the situation of an all-female college being unable to deal with a gender-issue about being a guy! (A trans guy.)

    And that situation, while not as bad as other examples I’ve read about integration of transgendered people into the gender movement, does exemplify that women are just as bad as men at discriminating against people who don’t fit into neat little gendered boxes.

    Great article!

    • I like the idea of gender-specific spaces, and I think that they can be really important places for people to come to terms with their gender identities. I also think that if they’re available for women, logically they should be available for men too.

      • Indeed. But the problem is that male-specific spaces are being attacked for being sexist, while women-specific spaces are not being attacked at all. It seems hypocritical to deny a man access to a woman’s college if we can’t deny women access to a men’s college.

        Also, I notice Time says he should have been expelled, and that’s a shame, since transgender people have it hard enough as it is without discriminating against them for their sexual identity.

        The whole issue of transgenderism seems to me as a reason to get rid of gender-specific spaces, because by their very nature they’re discriminatory to people who don’t subscribe to a single gender, and seem only to complicate the problems of sexism.

  7. Is this college women-only ? – Yes, it seems so.

    Are women-only spaces important ? – Yes, at least I have been told so.

    Is Aden a women ? – No, he identified as a man.

    I am not going to say that he wasn’t treated inappropriately and that these students weren’t discriminating or cruel to him, but technically, from the moment he openly identified as male, this college was not his place to be. It seems the only reason why he was allowed to stay to begin with is because, according to his birth certificate, he was female. He basically used his status as a ‘not real man’ to keep his place there and I think he would have been expelled otherwise.

  8. So are all-male spaces inherently misogynist? What are you even saying, man. You need some common sense.

  9. Wait, he’s upset because as a *MALE* in an *ALL FEMALE* school, he was greeted with some level of trepidation and hostility? How is this news? No doubt a biological male would have been driven out with pitchforks and torches.

    • Banana Fish says:

      Yes, but at the beginning of the article it explains that he would have liked to transfer to a co-ed school, but did not want to go through the process again after transferring once. It would stall his graduation. In any case, no one should be disrespected based on their gender in any environment.
      Also, I find your comment about pitchforks and torches propagating the stereotype of militant, misandrist feminists at woman’s school.

  10. wellokaythen says:

    Even women-only colleges are not strictly female spaces in all senses. I don’t know the specifics of the school, but I’m guessing the “women-only” applies most absolutely to the student body, as in “only female students.” I would be very surprised if there were no males at all among the faculty, staff, administrators, subcontractors, board of regents, investors, donors, etc.

    My point is that it is probably already a partially integrated community where men contribute to the larger whole. I know there’s a lot of rhetoric within higher education circles that talks about a college as a “community” of all the people working and studying there. Maybe the student body (so to speak) is a special case and deserves a separate, segregated existence, but I find it hard to believe that the college is a totally woman-only place. (Maybe I’m naïve, but at the very least I assume there are male authors on the class reading lists and some of those authors might actually be treated with some academic respect. If it’s good enough for others in the community, why not for students?)

    If there were absolutely no male employees, no male donors, no males on the governing committees, and no male visiting lecturers, I would actually be very impressed.

    • What do you mean by “impressed”?

      • wellokaythen says:

        By “impressed” I don’t mean ideologically impressed, like “yay, good job!” I mean that it would take a lot of commitment and some serious recruiting policies to make that happen. Perhaps I am indulging in more gender stereotypes, but seriously, no males on campus at all? That would take a massive effort and a massive monitoring system. No males who are construction workers, campus police, emergency workers called to campus, no custodial staff, no physical plant employees, no delivery drivers, no male visiting scholars? Would not even take money from male donors? — that would be really insane.

        My point is that the campus is probably already integrated in some ways, so as I see it the burden is to prove that the student body shouldn’t be also. I meant “impressed” in the sense that a tsunami is a massively impressive force, not that it would be a good thing.

  11. I doubt a trans woman could transition, or be accepted until legally female, in a women’s college, despite living, identifying etc 24/7 as a woman.

    So the condition of entry for a trans woman? 20k $, and the health level to do it (blood clots, overweight, currently smoking, etc and the doc won’t do it). Not to mention, the need to do studies (so transitioning young enough).

    • S. Elizabeth says:

      Women’s colleges base their admissions decisions on the sex of the individual at birth, and to apply to these schools you must submit your social security number or other verification. So no, a trans woman would not be able to be admitted; it would also open a floodgate, and would probably result in the institution going co-ed.

  12. Happily Married says:

    IDK. I feel for Aden, but none of us get everything we want, nor should we. Either postpone the transition until graduation, or transfer to another school. I don’t mean to seem unsympathetic. Consider a student with a serious illness or unusual family emergency. That student must make choices based on the cards he or she is dealt. In a way this is the same thing. Life is about choices. Aden may not have “chosen” to be transgendered, but how he deals with it is his choice. I’m not saying to hide anything. I’m saying show some class. Die to self a little bit. Put a plan in place. That alone would relieve anxiety and be empowering.

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