Oral History- Joss Wright

Joss Wright, a Bryn Mawr College alum from the class of 2012, kindly agreed to be interviewed for oral history research about their experiences related to gender expression while they attended Bryn Mawr.

Wright discusses their own identity as genderqueer, their experiences before, during and after college, and their beliefs about what Bryn Mawr needs to work on to be more inclusive of trans students.


Coming to Bryn Mawr opened up a community for them that had a very different attitude about gender expression than their religious high school background included.

"This is a place that prioritizes women... I think that that was definitely a big shift [from their high school experiences]. It was a good shift, but it was definitely a shift."

In regards to their personal process of coming to understand their gender identity, Wright says "I would rather have done this here [at Bryn Mawr] than I think anywhere else."

In Wright's experience, the world inside the "Bryn Mawr bubble" is very different- and in some ways feels safer- than the world outside. They explain that Bryn Mawr provided a place where acceptance and support for queer students seemed more likely. "Almost everyone here is super LGBTQ+ positive and accepting and affirming and great. And faculty and staff members are by and large positive and accepting and affirming and great. And then I went out into the world and that’s not always the case. ...It wasn’t an issue there. I don’t have that world now."

At Bryn Mawr, Wright could expect that people knew more about the complexity of gender and sexuality identities than the average person might, because these are things students talked about on campus on a regular basis: "It’s so hard to come out and to explain yourself every single time. At Bryn Mawr it’s kind of already built in. It was a conversation we were having, at the very least. In the world outside of Bryn Mawr, it’s not. The conversation isn’t happening in the same way. It might be happening in certain select spheres of people who tend to have a particular age bias and, like, liberal bias, or liberal slant. But it’s not a conversation that’s being had overwhelmingly frequently."

 Because Bryn Mawr is known as a place that is accepting of queer identities, students like Wright may feel more free to expression their gender identity or play with gender expression in different ways, because the bubble can provide a safe space. It's a place where, according to Wright, you know that there will be other students you can relate to, and even people who do not identify the same way you do are likely to have a basic understanding of what different labels mean so that coming out doesn't always become "story time". 

"It feels safer if you know that someone else is like you also."

However, just because queer identities are generally more accepted on campus than in other places doesn't mean that trans students at Bryn Mawr are always supported or always feel safe and included. Wright mentions some instances when being a student at a women's college who did not identify as a woman was associated with tension between the student and professors, other students or fellow club members.

The interview concludes with Wright's opinions regarding the inclusion of trans students at the college. Wright is working with other alums to encourage the administration to "get trans women their rightful place on campus". They believe that the college's admissions priority should be making the admissions process more accessible for trans women. In addition, they would like to see Bryn Mawr be inclusive of all transgender students- trans women, trans men, and students with a variety of gender identities, who identify outside the gender binary.

"The school needs to do- and by the school I mean the student body, the alums and the administration- needs to do a better job of recognizing that trans issues are real. They’re not going to go away."

Note: Wright's legal first name is used in the introduction of this recording for legal purposes, but their preferred name is Joss, so that is what I use in every other part of this page.