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Smith College rejects transgender applicant

12:35 PM, Mar 22, 2013   |    comments
A Facebook group called Smith Q&A is posting photos of women posing with signs supporting Calliope Wong, a rejected transgender applicant . (Photo: Smith Q&A Facebook page)
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(USA TODAY) Smith College, a private women's college in Massachusetts, has rejected Calliope Wong, a male-to-female transgender applicant because a government financial aid document registers Wong as male.

Wong posted the rejection letter to her Tumblr blog, sparking a wave of support on social media sites.

"Smith is a women's college, which means that undergraduate applicants to Smith must be female at the time of admission," the rejection letter, signed by the Dean of Admission, Debra Shaver, reads. "Your FAFSA indicates your gender as male. Therefore, Smith cannot process your application."

Members of Smith College varsity crew team, Smith alumni and students at other colleges pose with signs saying "Trans Women belong at Smith" on Facebook. Hundreds of others have flocked to social media to support Wong.

"I cried the day my papers came back. I still feel like crying," Wong posted on her blog.

State laws vary on changing gender on birth certificates.

Most states, including Connecticut, Wong's home state, and Massachusetts, where Smith College is located, require proof in the form of a court order or surgeon's letter that the individual's sex has been changed by surgical procedure.

Federally, a person must prove they have had a gender-reassignment surgery to change the gender on their social security or passport.

According to the Smith College website, the student body includes individuals who identify as transgender. The page also notes that "to be eligible for review, a student's application and supporting documentation (transcripts, recommendations, etc.) will reflect her status as a woman."

In an earlier post, Wong wrote: "But in order to be legally recognized as 'female' on my birth certificate according to BOTH Massachusetts and Connecticut law, I have to undergo vaginoplasty (feminizing genital surgery). From what I understand, Smith College will only evaluate me as a 'real' girl if I get sex reassignment surgery."

Wong adds: "Transwomen are most likely not ready for surgery at 17 or 18, the typical age of a college applicant. It's a monumental personal decision that usually arises from years of introspection and deliberation."

Wong told the Huffington Post that while she does not plan to appeal Smith's decision, she is in no way giving up on her cause.

"I continue working so that others who care about equal rights have access to the truth," Wong wrote to the Huffington Post in an e-mail. "And, most importantly, I do this for the transfolk after me, so that they might inherit better policies and a more just system of education.

Natalie DiBlasio, USA TODAY

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