News that sparks outrage: last week World Rugby announced that trans women will not be permitted to play in elite and international levels of the women's game, on the grounds that it is unsafe.
World Rugby, which controls global matches, explained its decision in a statement, saying that after months spent on examining the latest scientific research it had “concluded that safety and fairness cannot presently be assured for women competing against trans women in contact rugby”.
In addition, the document published by World Rugby said that “It is known that biological males (whose puberty and development is influenced by androgens/testosterone) are stronger by 25% to 50%, are 30% more powerful, 40% heavier, and about 15% faster than biological females. That combination of mass, strength, power and speed means that in a direct physical contest, ciswomen in all these domains will be at significant risk of injury.”
This is the first time an international sports federation bans transgender women from the competion in women’s game. The World Rugby’s decision is at odds with the rest of the sporting world: for example, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has allowed trans women to compete in women’s events since 2004.
Credit photo: RFU via Getty
At the moment, it is still up to each individual federation to decide whether to enforce the new rule or not. That’s why a number of leading rugby-playing nations opposed the ban, and organisation Rugby Football Union (RFU) is one of them. The ban will not stop women’s game in our country: trans women will still compete in English women’s matches if they maintain testosterone levels below a certain level for a year.
A spokeswoman for the society explained to Reuters “The RFU does not currently plan to adopt World Rugby transgender guidelines as it believes further scientific evidence is required. The RFU is committed to LGBTQ+ inclusion as well as safety and fairness across all levels of the game.”
Meanwhile, trans men are still allowed to play on teams with cisgender men. They, however, have to confirm that they understand there is a greater risk of injury by doing so.
Rugby has always been a sport that has embraced athletes of different sizes, shapes, abilities and gender identities, and now it is the first one to blindside its players and supporters. To date, those regulations are probably the most exclusionary policies for transgender athletes.
World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: "Rugby is a welcoming and inclusive sport and, while this has been a difficult decision to make, it has been taken following comprehensive consultation and engagement and for the right reasons, given the risk of injury. That said, we recognise that the science continues to evolve, and we are committed to regularly reviewing these guidelines, always seeking to be inclusive."
However, the World Rugby’s decision has been met with anger by the LGBTQ+ community. Athlete Ally, who’s mission is to end the rampant homophobia and transphobia in sport and to activate the athletic community to exercise their leadership to champion LGBTQI+ equality, publicly condemned the World Rugby’s ban, saying it is “in blatant opposition to the International Olympic Committee guidelines on transgender inclusion”. The group also slammed World Rugby for introducing the ban without a formal voting process, saying it was “alarming given the horrific human rights repercussions of this discriminatory ruling”.
Athlete Ally executive director Hudson Taylor also added: “Their decision to bar trans women from competing shows a lack of understanding about the complexities of performance, a lack of compassion for the rights and experiences of trans athletes, and perpetuates sexist ideas about female athleticism and potential for excellence.”
Written by Miriam Tagini