Let's say that a person assigned male at birth identifies as a woman. At which stage of their transition process would they be allowed to claim themselves as a woman in the context of college applications or scholarships? Is merely identifying as a woman sufficient? Or maybe legally changing your gender is required?

Or if we look at it the other way around: At which point would a person assigned female at birth be required to identify themselves as a man in college applications?

Note that this question is of practical value as there are presumably hundreds of thousands of people in the US who identify with a different gender.

closed as off-topic by Azor Ahai, user3209815, corey979, Scientist, Vladhagen Oct 23 '18 at 15:34

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    As alluded-to in answers and comments below, there is a recent likely deterioration in the U.S.'s federal recognition of gender identity and related things. That is, in the most idiotic possible way, Trump's fed is currently pushing the idea that whatever genitals you're born with ARE your gender, your whatever, and that there will be no civil liberties (not to mention scholarship...) protection for people who don't fit. Sad times. – paul garrett Oct 23 '18 at 0:37
  • Related: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/118824/… – user14156 Oct 23 '18 at 3:40
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    No one is "born as a man" or "as a woman". Those are (adult) gender identities that develop over time. Your question would be clearer if you differentiated gender (e.g., roles like "woman", "boy", etc.) from sex (e.g., male). – Alexis Oct 23 '18 at 4:11
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    I updated to use the correct terminology (assigned X at birth) and also removed the "self-" from "self-identifying," as it seems a bit redundant. If you have a different meaning between "self-identifying" and "identifying," please clarify. Also, I guess I don't see the point of your second paragraph, since it's just describing the opposite case, and I don't know why you would suppose it would be treated any differently. – Azor Ahai Oct 23 '18 at 5:51
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    Since I voted to close the other question for being about admissions, I also voted to close this one, although this one is a lot easier to clean up and ask simply what rules govern how universities treat their students gender ... presumably those guidelines would cover UG and graduate enrollees as well as admissions cases. – Azor Ahai Oct 23 '18 at 5:52

Virtually all universities will follow the policies regarding gender identity that are promulgated by the U.S. Department of Education. To do otherwise would mean putting their access to federal funds at risk, since Title IX of the Civil Rights Act bans discrimination on the basis of sex by any institution that receives federal government assistance. Many institutions have an official statement somewhere (on their Web site, in the course bulletin, etc.) stating that the abide by these federal guidelines.

The Department of Education enunciates their interpretations of the law through what are known as "Dear Colleague Letters." The ones covering the question of how gender identity is defined may be found here, on the agency's Web page. In light of the current political situation, the Department of Education's rules cannot be seen as stable, at present, but the current state of guidance can be found there.

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    Does this also apply to private scholarships, generally? Can someone who self-identifies as female but didn't change their documents yet apply for a female-only scholarship? – user14156 Oct 22 '18 at 23:59
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    @JonathanReez That is up to the institution that grants or administers the scholarship. In my experience over the last few years, most scholarships seem to respect the gender identity that a student presents as, but I am sure there are some out there (some sponsored by religious groups, for example) that will not. – Buzz Oct 23 '18 at 0:04
  • @JonathanReez, private scholarships may be more or less regulated. Those that are would have a hard time denying a scholarship to someone self-identifying in one way or another. Lawsuits ensue. But they might validly ask for some "evidence" that you aren't just lying. A history of identification would help. But there are other people who don't categorize themselves either way. – Buffy Oct 23 '18 at 0:04
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    @ESR on the other side, as Buzz notes, they are potentially unstable in the current political climate, so the copied extracts might end up becoming outdated. – JAD Oct 23 '18 at 6:47
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    "...The ones covering the question of how gender identity is defined may be found here, on the agency's Web page.... " To avoid link rot, could the content of the link maybe summarized shortly? – Trilarion Oct 23 '18 at 8:20

In the US, every university is different, though some State systems have several universities that follow the same rules.

In general however, your gender is self defined. You are what you say you are, though some people will want to argue with you about it. Gender is a very complex phenomenon, and none of the aspects of it are purely binary. There is your "plumbing", which has more than two forms. There is your brain, which determines how you think of yourself. There is your hormonal system, which has something to do with how you feel. None of these are binary and for some people they are in conflict with one another. Trying to give a formal definition is a fool's game, though some try to play it.

You are what you think you are. Universities are more likely than not to respect that, with some exceptions for religious colleges. It isn't so simple/nice for pre-college education which can be overly influenced by conservative political/religious factors.

The news in the past couple of days has indicated that the current administration might try to "define-away" transsexual people by defining your "sex" as your plumbing at birth. But, funny thing, that isn't binary, and some people are born with intersex (mixed) genitals. Humans are complex. Trying to define us to be simple, is, again, a fool's game.

  • "Universities are more likely than not to respect that..." That is probably the interesting part with regard to the question. Maybe it could be extended a bit more or examples could be given. – Trilarion Oct 23 '18 at 8:24
  • Removed discussion about gender biology vs. self-definition, as this is not the place for a philosophy discussion. Take it to Academia Chat. – eykanal Oct 23 '18 at 15:44