Whenever I think about Bryn Mawr’s institutional memory, especially as it relates to trans inclusion, I’m reminded of a series of conversations I had with an alum who I shadowed as part of an externship during winter break my sophomore year. She graduated in 1997, 20 years before I will graduate, and it was fascinating to hear about her experiences and try to communicate about our similar but also incredibly different visions of Bryn Mawr.
My externship was before Bryn Mawr changed its admissions policy about accepting trans students, but trans inclusion was a major topic of conversation for current students and alums. Although the alum I talked to was supportive of Bryn Mawr accepting trans women, she was much more confused about trans men and non-binary students and their place at Bryn Mawr. I struggled trying to explain my hope of Bryn Mawr embracing greater inclusivity across the board to someone with a more narrow idea of what a women’s college should be. Although that kind of resistance exists within the current student body as well, I got the feeling that my Class of ’17 conception of what Bryn Mawr is and what it should be was vastly different from her Class of ’97 one. We shared so many of the same memories of Bryn Mawr, from our identical red lanterns to our favorite Art History professors, but we had different basic definitions of who should have access to Bryn Mawr.
On an unrelated note, I’ve been thinking a lot about May Day gifts and passing down Bryn Mawr’s heritage. What does it mean for documenting Bryn Mawr history that many of us personally have pieces of Bryn Mawr life that have been handed down for years? I have a few items that were originally from the 90s and early 00s, which I never thought of as very valuable. I only recently remembered them because I have some hell schedules from 10-15 years ago that are interesting to consider at as the school reevaluates the tradition. Since there are no records of May Day gifts, we have no idea of what artifacts are being passed down. I’m sure they would form a very different story about Bryn Mawr history than the one found in the official college archives.