Spelman College just had its first trans male graduate and people on the campus, and the internet, are celebrating.
Spelman College is an HBCU (a historically black college/university) for women. That said, the university made the call to allow an openly trans male student to enroll.
Spelman made the announcement back in September of 2017 that it was going to revise its admissions and enrollment policy. This update to the policy allowed for trans people to register at the school.
College President Mary S. Campell wrote on the policy change and said, “If a woman is admitted and transitions to male while a student at Spelman, the College will permit that student to continue to matriculate at and graduate from Spelman.”
21-year-old Keo O’Neal’s story slightly fits that policy, though it’s a little more complicated than that.
O’Neal first enrolled at Spelman in 2014, but then transferred to a predominately white institution in his sophomore year. After that, he then returned to Spelman to finish out his Bachelor’s Degree.
“I came back to Spelman my junior year because although I could flourish in my queerness [at the PWI], I felt like I was denying my blackness, and I was nothing more than a body to those folks,” O’Neal told HuffPost.
Now, O’Neal is walking off campus with a degree in his hands and a smile on his face. In fact, that very smile has gone viral after O’Neal posted a picture of himself celebrating his graudation.
That said, not everything after Spelman’s policy change has been good. Where there is progress, there are those willing to fight it.
Several students reported having anti-LGBTQ messages slipped under their dorm room door as recently as earlier this month.
NewNowNext reported that students were receiving messages like “Keep Spelman safe. No Queers,” or, “Keep your tran[s] out of our bathrooms!” or even worse, “#DIE… We don’t want you here.”
O’Neal spoke on these issues and said that despite the great change Spelman is doing, the college has inadequately prepared itself and its students for the shift.
“I love that Spelman is progressing and opening its doors to trans women, but to me, it’s a bit reactionary,” O’Neal told Blavity. “Spelman doesn’t know how to handle the issues we are currently having with queer students; I’m not sure what will, if anything, change when trans women start attending.”
That said, there still good coming to the school as the first of hopefully many more transgender students has graduated from the institution. This is history in the making.
h/t:: NewNowNext, HuffPost, Blavity