America’s only all-male historically black college — Morehouse College — will admit biological females who identify as males starting in the fall 2020, which the Associated Press said is a “major shift” for the Atlanta institution where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other famed figures attended.
But biological men who identify as women won’t be allowed in, the policy states.
In addition, the policy “affects students who transition while enrolled at Morehouse. Once admitted, students are expected to continue to self-identify as men throughout their matriculation at Morehouse. If a student transitions from a man to a woman, that student will no longer be eligible to matriculate at Morehouse.”
The policy also said that the school “will continue to use masculine pronouns, the language of brotherhood, and other gendered language that reflects its mission as an institution designed to develop men with disciplined minds who will lead lives of leadership and service.”
What did Morehouse’s president have to say?
“I think Morehouse having the courage to speak to issues of masculinity in today’s environment is important,” Morehouse College President David Thomas told the AP. “For 152 years, the world has, in some way, seen Morehouse as the West Point of black male development.”
Controversial filmmaker Spike Lee and former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson also are alumni of the school, the outlet said, adding that about two dozen historically black colleges have adopted transgender policies of some form.
What did an LGBT equality group have to say?
A spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign — the largest LBGT equality group in America — told the AP it’s a step in the right direction.
“Young people are incredibly supportive of LGBT equality, including transgender equality,” Sarah McBride told the outlet. “Schools are responding in kind. In many ways, our college campuses look like the country we’ll have in 10 or 15 years. There are a lot of reasons for hope.”
More from the AP:
Morehouse has had challenges around LGBT issues, most notably the 2002 attack of a 19-year-old student accused of beating a fellow student with a baseball bat who he mistakenly thought was making a sexual advance.
Gregory Love’s skull was fractured in the beating. Aaron Price was found guilty of assault and initially sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The incident was widely seen as reflective of a larger and pervasive attitude toward the LGBT community among African Americans.
Thomas acknowledged that historically black colleges and universities — mainly established after the Civil War with the help of religious institutions like the Baptist and Methodist churches — face added challenges in addressing issues of gender and sexuality because of opposition in black churches.
“I can’t speak for all HBCUs, but we know in the black church there has largely been silence on this issue,” Thomas added to the outlet. “I can imagine there may be people who would say, ‘Why would you even raise this?’ I say to those people we live in an era now where silence on these issues is actually not helpful. For us, as a school for men, it’s important for us to set clear expectations about what that means. That’s what we’re trying to do with this policy.”
The AP also said Morehouse in 2009 updated its dress code, “in part to address a handful of students who were wearing women’s clothing on campus.” The outlet said Morehouse offered its first LGBT course in 2013 and has a scholars program named for civil and gay rights icon Bayard Rustin.