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Wellesley College students vote in favor of admitting trans men, nonbinary applicants to all-women school

Students at Wellesley College voted in favor of allowing transgender men and nonbinary applicants to apply to the historically all-women school in a referendum held Tuesday. 

The outcome of the election was announced Tuesday night. The ballot initiative passed, but the results of the referendum are not binding.

"Wellesley College acknowledges the result of the non-binding student ballot initiative," the institution said in a statement. "Although there is no plan to revisit its mission as a women's college or its admissions policy, the College will continue to engage all students, including transgender male and nonbinary students, in the important work of building an inclusive academic community where everyone feels they belong." 

The college currently only considers an applicant if the prospective student "lives as a woman and consistently identifies as a woman." Wellesley opened admissions to transgender women in 2015. 

The referendum also included a vote on making the language used at Wellesley more inclusive of nonbinary and trans students, the student newspaper reported. Current Wellesley policy is to use female pronouns and similarly gendered language in institutional communications. 

In a March 6 letter to students, Wellesley President Paula Johnson reiterated that the school will move forward with "our mission as a women's college." 

Johnson noted that some students who began identifying as male or nonbinary during their time at Wellesley feel excluded by the college's use of the words "women" and "alumnae." 

"We commit to doing more to acknowledge and respect individual identities," Johnson wrote. "Despite the best efforts of faculty and staff, we know that students regularly report being misgendered."

Around 2,500 students attend Wellesley. It's not clear how many of them identify as transgender or nonbinary.

The Wellesley News editorial board said they disapproved of and disagreed with Johnson's letter, and condemned what they called "the College's transphobic rhetoric."

"Transgender and nonbinary students have always belonged and will continue to belong at Wellesley, a historically women's college," they wrote in the editorial.

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