The following list of questions is the best way that I’ve found to express my experience, and that is all I have to contribute right now. Questions I asked myself on a daily basis when I came out as transgender on the HWS campus:
Do I have to leave William Smith if I’m not a woman?
Would an attempt to change colleges out me as trans to my family?
What if I’m not exactly a Hobart man either?
Where do I go? Do I even belong here?
Should I compromise my own comfort and sense of self to blend in with my peers?
Will I out myself if I go to my school’s events dressed in a way that makes me feel okay in my body?
Would it be easier to just stop going to my school’s events altogether?
Am I a bad feminist if I don’t identify with William Smith?
Am I a bad feminist if I don’t want to educate my peers about gender on a daily basis?
Am I a bad transgender person if I don’t want to educate my peers about my gender on a daily basis?
Am I feeling up to explaining and defending the validity of my gender identity today?
Should I call this professor out for misgendering me repeatedly in front of the whole class?
Should I call out my classmates for following his example?
Should I expect them to learn to get it right? Is singular “they” really as hard to use as they make it out to be?
Should I just pick my battles?
Would I rather feel comfortable or make everyone around me feel comfortable?
How much eye contact do I need from straight cisgender people on campus to feel like a person today?
Why does everyone go quiet when I wear more masculine clothing and bind my chest?
Why do I feel like I’m suddenly invisible to everyone here?
A frat boy yelled “FAG” at me from his porch. Another one yelled the same thing out his car window. Does that mean he sees me as a man? Is that what it means to be part of the Hobart brotherhood?
Is that guy giving me extra room on the sidewalk because of how I look?
Am I as crazy as the media says trans people are?
Why should I make a big deal about this?
I mean, this only impacts me, right?
Why should the system change for me?
Am I going to be seen as demanding if I ask for space?
Will people feel threatened?
The single stall restroom in the basement is accessible enough, right?
Am I going to spend the rest of my life being asked what it was like to go to a women’s college as a transgender person?
Am I going to spend the rest of my life being asked what it was like to be the wrong gender for both Hobart and William Smith?
How many more people are going to ask me to share my feelings about the coordinate system?
Will it even matter what I tell them?
However, I also feel like I need to say that I find it reductive that this debate has had such a strong focus on trans and nonbinary students. Yes, we are (or were) part of the HWS community and were systematically erased by the coordinate system. At the same time, I think it’s incredibly important to acknowledge that trans and nonbinary students are not the only ones impacted by the culture surrounding the coordinate system. The coordinate system upholds the standard picture of a specific type of Hobart Statesman and William Smith woman. They are white, cisgender, heterosexual, and upper-middle class. I can’t define the way that I felt I didn’t fit that mold only based on my transgender identity. I often didn’t feel like part of the William Smith “sisterhood” because I was on scholarship, consistently had 2-3 jobs my last couple of years, had worn holes in all of my clothes, and still couldn’t afford to be there. I didn’t feel like part of the William Smith “sisterhood” when I was the only visibly queer person in the room and had been taught by experience that being out wasn’t safe. I know that many of my Black and Latinx classmates found more community with one another when neither Hobart nor William Smith made them feel particularly welcomed or acknowledged. If we’re going to have a serious discussion about the coordinate system, then we have to look at it intersectionally. Hobart and William Smith cannot move forward until we acknowledge that neither college is a homogeneous population of men or women.