In an effort to be more inclusive, the undergraduate admissions office is considering adding to the gender options on its freshman application. Currently, the only choices available are “female” and “male.”
The office is considering adding a “trans*” option, as well as a blank box to allow applicants to type in their own gender identity. However, Abigail Francis, director of LGBT services at MIT, said that the additional gender identification options have not yet been finalized.
According to Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill ’86, changes will not be made in time for this year’s application cycle.
“What we have been currently talking about is how we can separate asking about gender identity from sexual orientation, and therefore how we might change the way we ask about gender,” Schmill wrote in an email to The Tech. “This is complicated by our system and reporting requirements, but we are exploring how we might best accomplish this in the future.”
Francis hopes that updating the gender question will “provide applicants with more ways to identify their gender beyond the traditional binary options of male and female.”
Samuel O. Brinton ’14, who identifies as a gender-fluid individual, said he was “very excited to see MIT take the next steps in recognizing that all genders are respected and important to recognize.”
“When you see the familiar ‘male’ and ‘female’ box options on a day-to-day basis, you are painfully reminded that unless you fit into these two categories, you are not recognized by the system and its benefits,” Brinton told The Tech.
Hannah S. Wirtshafter, a graduate student at MIT, likes the blank box option but thinks that listing trans* as a separate option “excludes and otherizes trans* people who identify as, and thus are, male and female.” In addition, she expressed concern that adding a trans* option would put a burden on trans* people to disclose this information.
This isn’t the first time that MIT has updated its application process to allow LGBTQ applicants to share about how they identify. Two years ago, MIT added an optional question on sexual orientation, joining only two other U.S. colleges (Elmhurst College and the University of Iowa) in asking about sexual orientation at the time.
“We did this because for some students, our questions were limiting — some students felt that the questions as we had them did not allow them to properly describe themselves,” wrote Schmill. “Adding these questions allows us to better understand a student’s context. The application is designed to get to know students as people, and this can be an important part of a student’s identity and background.”
He added, “We also wanted to send a strong message that MIT is a place that is welcoming to all students.”