UK LGBTIQ+ Sport & Physical Activity Alliance calls on UK Rugby Clubs to oppose Draft Transgender Guideline from World Rugby

Leading LGBTIQ+ sports organisations from the UK are calling upon UK Rugby Clubs to stand with them to oppose new proposals from World Rugby which would see transgender women being banned from playing.

Michelle Daltry who represents LGBT+ Sport Cymru on the Alliance said:

“We are asking rugby clubs at all levels of the game to stand with us against a ruling that is exclusionary and that will impact some of the most vulnerable people in the community”

World Rugby have shared their Draft Guideline with Alliance members, who following analysis, have firmly rejected it on the basis that:

  • it draws upon research that is non-athlete and non-rugby specific and which uses inaccurate modelling to reach its conclusions;
  • it presents no evidence of physical performance and ability to play safely of trans women;
  • it takes no account of the current situation of transgender rugby players providing no baseline or impact assessment;
  • many questions are raised about impartiality and bias of the process and many of its contributors.

As a result, it is the considered view of the Alliance that the Draft Guideline reaches conclusions which are wholly disproportionate to the evidence it considers, with the blanket exclusion of transgender women being entirely unjustified.

Dr Sheree Bekker, a sports injury specialist from the Department for Health at the University of Bath said:

“Any exclusionary policy in women’s sport hurts all women. This policy approach enacts a particular structural violence against trans women.

Pitting safety against fairness is a false dichotomy.

If size discrepancy is the main safety concern (note: this is contested as it appears to be based on comparing cis men and cis women in this case), then we must ask why a blanket ban is the best approach. As an injury prevention researcher, we know that preventing injury is more about skill/technique training and conditioning than anything else. Indeed, other approaches to size discrepancies are being taken in rugby elsewhere (e.g. weight-restricted competition).

Women’s rights and trans rights are not in opposition. Whilst discussion of sex/gender may seem like an issue that is incredibly complex in the binary world of sport, we can and should hold space for a different vision of gender inclusive sport. Indeed, this already exists in women’s rugby right now.”

The Alliance now calls upon World Rugby to suspend implementation of its Transgender Guideline and to commission a thorough, peer reviewed and evidence based investigation into issues of safety, and allow trans athletes to continue playing the game they love in a safe and welcoming environment.

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