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Private women’s university in U.S. rejects transgender applicant

Calliope Wong was rejected because she's not recognized as a female in her home state. (Facebook)Calliope Wong was rejected because she's not recognized as a female in her home state. (Facebook)Calliope Wong, 17, will not be attending Smith College in the fall.

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts all-women's college returned the high school senior's application and fee. Attached was a letter that explained that she failed to qualify to attend because is not legally recognized as a female in the home state of Connecticut, the Advocate reports.

"I cried the day my papers came back. I still feel like crying," Wong writes on her blog, explaining that the rejection was the second of its kind from the college.

Debra Shaver, Smith College's dean of admission, wrote in a letter to Wong that explained, "Smith is a women's college, which means that undergraduate applicants to Smith must be female at the time of admission."

In order for Wong to be recognized as female in Connecticut, she would have to undergo a costly and complicated sexual confirmation surgery.

Also see: First lingerie made for transgender women

Wong writes on her blog that transgender women are rarely prepared for reassignment surgery at 17 or 18.

"It’s a monumental personal decision that usually arises from years of introspection and deliberation," she writes, adding, "Transwomen may not even feel the need for genital surgery. Some transwomen do not experience extreme dysphoria about the state of their genitalia, and opt not to undergo vaginoplasty."

"I am not a rapist; I am not a criminal, and it is not fair to assume that I am such a person," Wong says. "Thing is, I’m a girl who just wants her fair shot at Smith."

The college does welcome transgender students, but only if they legally identify as female at the time of admission.

Transgender men are also welcome, but only if they transition after they become students.

"Like most women’s colleges, Smith expects that, to be eligible for review, a student’s application and supporting documentation (transcripts, recommendations, etc.) will reflect her status as a woman," the college's Gender Identity & Expression webpage states.

Also see: Transgender child, 6, banned from bathroom

According to
the Keystone Student Voice, Wong has identified as a female for most of her adolescence. Her FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), however, identifies her as male.

"As a transsexual girl, I am still a legitimate girl," Wong argues.

"Yes, I was born into a body with typically male parts. But I identify and am living as female. Prevailing scientific and medical opinions support the fact that who I am identity-wise is different from the gender identity typically associated my physical body."

News of Wong's rejection from Smith quickly spread across social media platforms. Facebook groups like Smith Q&A and Trans Women Belong at Smith College popped up in support of the teenager.

Broad Recognition, Yale's feminist magazine, ran an extensive feature on Wong's uncomfortable situation:

"FAFSA forms aside, even if Calliope had not needed or requested financial aid, would she have been eligible for admission? Quite frankly, probably not," writes Sarah Giovanniello.

"If this had been the case, the admissions office could have found myriad other reasons not to admit her. In fact, they never needed a reason at all: private colleges can deny admission to anyone without justifying their decision. Dean Shaver’s decision to deny Calliope the right to have her application read at all therefore communicates a clear and deliberate message to the school’s applicants, current students, and alumni."

Also see: Manitoba teen under fire for trying to start gay-straight alliance at his high school

Wong doesn't plan to appeal Smith's decision, she tells The Huffington Post in an email. She does, however, plan on fighting for equal rights.

"I continue working so that others who care about equal rights have access to the truth," Wong writes. "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.

Wong recently congratulated Alex Sennello, her friend and fellow transwoman, who was accepted into Simmons College, another women's college in Massachusetts. With Sennello's acceptance was a $20,000 scholarship for her photography work and student activism in the trans community.

"Feel free to keep the pressure on Smith College, so this might be possible at Smith College as soon as possible," Wong challenges her blog readers.

Watch the video below about new guidelines for transgender students in Massachusetts.

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