Editor's note: The Collegian signed the Transgender Inclusion Student Initiative.

First-year Liam Lassiter, a transgender student who identifies as male, said transphobia was everywhere at the University of Richmond. He recounted numerous occasions when people misgendered him, asked him what was "down his pants” and made him feel nervous about speaking up against the transphobia around him.

“It’s the quiet disrespect of identity, which is why when people do respect our identity, it’s so impactful and nice because we’re so used to people not caring about our identity,” Lassiter said.

It is for these occasions that Miranda Rosenblum, a senior who identifies as nonbinary, created the Transgender Inclusion Student Initiative.

“The experience of people being well-intentioned but uneducated seems to be a common theme,” Rosenblum said.

The goals, Rosenblum said, are to show trans students which organizations are making efforts to include them, and to create a dialogue about the transphobia at UR that has affected students such as Lassiter.

“Most people are not malicious in their intent," Rosenblum said. "It’s from a lack of education. So this is a way to bring the actual issue to light. The gap is between people wanting to be inclusive but having no idea how to begin.”

The initiative has five promises that the organizations that sign have pledged to uphold. These include using gender-inclusive language in official documents and speaking up when members make transphobic comments.

At the time of publishing, 84 student organizations have signed the initiative. View the list of those organizations here

“I tried to make this as accessible as a document as possible,” Rosenblum said. “This is all about basics.”

Chiara Solitario, a senior and the former president of the Westhampton College Government Association, worked with Rosenblum to make the initiative as flexible as possible so all different kinds of student organizations could sign according to each one’s unique administrative structure.

“Miranda worked really closely with administration, with RCSGA, WCGA and a variety of other organizations,” Solitario said.

Rosenblum emailed the initiative to the listed president of every student organization recognized by UR. Both the Richmond College Student Government Association and the Westhampton College Government Association signed the initiative.

“When people sign the statement, it’s showing an initiative to change,” Solitario said.

Since the initiative is student-based, there are no official consequences should an organization fail to uphold the promises.

The initiative is not about punishing organizations that make mistakes or do not sign, but to hold people accountable, Rosenblum said. With the initiative, if an organization falters in its commitments, people have the tools to have a conversation with the organization's members and know they’re coming from a good place.

Shaina D’Souza, a senior and a former Catholic Campus Student Ministry leadership team member, said she was excited that the members of her organization had decided to sign the initiative.

“All of us want to support an inclusive space regardless where on campus that is," D'Souza said. "There was a resounding ‘Yes, we’re going to sign it.’”

D’Souza said the members of the leadership team thought that actively supporting an inclusive community was beneficial to the Catholic Campus Student Ministry as an organization as well as to the UR community at large.

“Religion is for everyone," D'Souza said. "Spirituality is for everyone. We’re all students. We’re all figuring that out, and to feel like a space is inaccessible because of who you are is, I think, super sad.”

Sophomore Reilly Geritz, the former president of Club Field Hockey, signed for her club and reached out to Rosenblum with questions about the initiative.

“I wanted to correspond with them a little more to find out ways that Club Field Hockey could specifically improve inclusivity for trans students, as we are a coeducational club,” Geritz said. “I wanted to make sure that just because we’re a co-ed sport, we don’t get a free pass in implementing any of the changes that they suggested.”

As president when the initiative was sent out, Geritz said she had been particularly excited about the role she could play.

“It’s definitely something I took pride in, that I could mobilize my organization to sign this pledge,” Geritz said. “I was really excited that someone was taking the initiative for making organizations more inclusive.”

Although some organizations did not sign because of unwillingness, complications with changing leadership or simply disorganization, Greek organizations were unable to sign because of the national policies that bind each chapter to certain regulations.

“The Greek community wants to be as inclusive as we can, be supportive of the cause and comply with as many of the bullet points as possible," Caitlin Livesey, the president of Pi Beta Phi, said. "It’s just our written national policies that prevent us from signing it in full."

Although many sororities and fraternities are able to accept transgender women and men, respectively, they are unable to accept nonbinary students.

The Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Council and National Pan-Hellenic Council released a separate statement announcing their support and committing to the bullet points from Rosenblum’s initiative that they can uphold.

“The drafting of the statement was a collaborative process among the councils,” Guillaume Diaz, president of the Interfraternity Council, said in an email.

Rosenblum created a personal initiative that students can sign even if the organizations they are a part of did not.

“I want there to be a way … to say even though some of these organizations couldn’t sign here’s some of the things Greek life is doing to make it more inclusive,” Rosenblum said.

Although many student organizations did sign the initiative, many did not.

The Collegian contacted various organizations that did not sign the initiative, but none were willing to comment.

Some students expressed worry that organizations that did not sign would be viewed negatively.

“I want this to be about the trans people who need to feel safe and welcome on campus, and not about the backlash against organizations who may not be doing what they need to be doing to include trans people, Rosenblum said. 

“People who are worried about that backlash I think need to recognize that sometimes that backlash will be warranted. If they don’t want to make their policies trans-inclusive, they’ll have to own that.”

Contact news writer Logan Etheredge at logan.etheredge@richmond.edu.