This weekend, Spelman College will make history this commencement season when the school’s first openly transgender man graduates this weekend.
Earlier this week, Keo Chaad O’Neal, 21, shared this milestone, alongside photos of himself in his graduation gear.
“The first *openly* trans man to graduate from Spelman College,” the tweet said, including the hashtag #TransIsBeautiful. The tweet has now gone viral.
“Lots of people believed that because I was trans, I didn’t belong at Spelman but there was nowhere else I would rather be,” he told the Huffington Post about his roller-coaster college experience. “People still have their own opinions of me attending Spelman, but it’s because of Spelman why I am who I am.”
O’Neal began his college career at Spelman but moved to a predominantly white university his sophomore year in order to have the space to explore and expand his identity.
“I came back to Spelman my junior year because although I could flourish in my queerness, I felt like I was denying my blackness and I was nothing more than a body to those folks,” he said.
Last November, Spelman announced that it would accept students, starting next school year, who “consistently live and self-identify as women, regardless of their gender assignment at birth.”
“In adopting this admissions policy, Spelman continues its fervent belief in the power of the Spelman Sisterhood,” the letter said. “Students who choose Spelman come to our campus prepared to participate in a women’s college that is academically and intellectually rigorous, and affirms its core mission as the education and development of high-achieving Black women.”
While O’Neal lauds the institution for taking a step in the right direction, he told Blavity that the HBCU still isn’t quite ready to give the support and guidance his community needs to thrive.
“Spelman isn’t ready for such a great change to happen,” he said. “Spelman should have agreed to the policy but put it off for another five years to really plan and decide what was to happen on campus to ensure the comfort and safety of trans and queer students. Spelman doesn’t know how to handle the issues we are currently having with queer students; I’m not sure what will or if anything will change when trans women start attending.”
O’Neal has been accepted into a Ph.D. program for later this year, but plans to take some time off before school.