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Mermaids Press

As the fifth major sporting body looks set to announce a ban on trans women athletes that will directly prevent trans girls’ participation in sports at a grassroots level, Mermaids is publishing our open letter urging the UK’s four national sporting bodies to support trans-inclusive policies across all sports.

The letter, which urges sporting bodies to start from a point of inclusion, received more than 2,100 signatures from individuals and organisations, including Stonewall, LGBT Foundation, British Kickboxing Council, cyclist Dr Veronica Ivy, former footballer Neville Southall and RuPaul’s Drag Race UK’s Divina De Campo. 

To date, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), FINA (International Swimming Federation), IRL (International Rugby League) and British Triathlon have all announced policies banning trans women athletes from competing in international elite competitions, with more bans poised to follow, including from England’s Rugby Football Union on Friday 29 July.

We are extremely saddened and disappointed by these discriminatory and unfounded blanket exclusions and know the repercussions that decisions made at the elite level have for the trans, non-binary and gender-diverse young people we support. 

We have heard heartbreaking stories from children as young as nine who are being refused permission to join their local swimming club or banned from taking part in their school’s sports day, and once again, the persecution and ostracisation of the trans community are being legitimised and reinforced on a wider scale.

Verity Smith, Sports Inclusion Manager at Mermaids said: “As a trans man who played rugby at an elite level for 26 years, I’m outraged by the way trans women athletes and young girls alike are being banned from playing the sports they love. 

“Sport is a fundamental part of childhood. It teaches young people important life lessons about teamwork, building confidence and navigating new environments, along with the numerous physical and emotional benefits that make us who we are. 

“These bans are robbing young people from these experiences and, effectively, denying them a childhood.”

One of the signatories, Kate Nicholson-Russell from The London Otters Rowing Club, said: “Trans inclusion in sport at every level is important to us. 

“We are disappointed to see sporting bodies across the UK introducing bans excluding trans women from the top-level sport. This directly contradicts the IOC (International Olympic Committee) framework for sports inclusion and causes direct harm to trans people looking to get involved in sport – this is why we have signed Mermaids’ open letter.” 

We ask you to join us in raising awareness of the dangerous consequences these trans-exclusive bans have on an already vulnerable and marginalised community, and help us put pressure on the UK’s sporting public bodies to take action by encouraging sporting governing bodies to support trans-inclusive policies in their sports.