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The University of Richmond Department of Athletics “is committed to providing a positive experience and to enabling all student-athletes to fully participate in intercollegiate athletics without regard to race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression as indicated by NCAA and university policies as well as federal and state laws,” according to the department’s trans policy.

How does the Department of Athletics assist transgender student-athletes? How are these students affected by the policy?

As a starting point, The Collegian looked into the specifics of the department’s policy regarding transgender students, which was approved in October 2013. According to the policy, students who wish to compete on a Division I team not in accordance with their assigned birth gender must fulfill several requirements before doing so. 

First, student-athletes who get hormone treatment as part of their gender transition must request to participate on a varsity sports team. 

LaRee Sugg, the deputy director of athletics for policy and sport programs and senior woman administrator, said in an email that during this process, transgender student-athletes would be provided assistance per the Department of Athletics trans policy and in accordance with the NCAA rules and regulations.

According to the policy, this assistance includes the director of athletics -- or another designated member of the staff -- meeting with the student-athlete to review the process for participation. Additionally, several licensed health professionals work with the student-athlete to ensure that hormone treatment is administered in accordance with NCAA policy. 

After meeting with the student-athlete, the director of athletics or other designated staff member notifies the NCAA and Atlantic 10 Conference office of the student’s request.

A student’s athletic opportunities depend on a student’s transition and the hormone treatment they are receiving, the policy states.

According to the policy, trans men who are not receiving testosterone treatment may participate on a female or male sports team. 

Trans men who are receiving such treatment may no longer participate on a women’s team and must obtain a medical exemption from the NCAA in order to participate on a men’s team, as testosterone is a banned substance. 

However, trans women who do not get testosterone suppression treatment are unable to compete on a women’s team in accordance with the student’s gender identity.

The trans policy justifies this rule in its list of goals at the beginning of the policy. 

“Policies governing the participation of trans students in sports will be fair in light of tremendous variation among individuals in strength, size, musculature and ability,” one goal reads.

Trans women who get testosterone suppression treatments must complete one year of treatment before they participate on a women’s team. If a student’s request to participate on a team in accordance with his or her gender identity is denied, the student can appeal the decision. 

Sugg said that Richmond Athletics does its best to ensure that transgender student-athletes feel welcome.

“The Department of Athletics collaborates with Common Ground and variety of inclusion issues and programming, including those related to our LGBTQ community,” Sugg said.

When considering students’ access to facilities on and off campus, the department gives transgender students access to locker and hotel rooms in accordance with their gender identity. Separate safe and comfortable spaces for changing or lodging are also provided, if needed.

Sugg echoed the policy’s promise of confidentiality, as she was unable to provide any information about student-athletes who may identify as transgender. All discussions and accommodations are kept private and inconspicuous, according to the policy.

Transgender students’ preferred names and pronouns are honored in the policy, and Richmond Athletics outlines the consequences for incidents of bias and discrimination in detail.

Going forward, Richmond Athletics hopes to continue a dialogue with Common Ground, LGBTQ students and campus communities, Sugg said.

“We [are] committed to providing education and programming that assist with ensuring that athletics is an inclusive community for all student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans," Sugg said.

Contact features writer Cassie Coughlan at cassie.coughlan@richmond.edu.