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Following World Rugby’s publication of new transgender guidelines in October 2020, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has also conducted a review of its transgender policy and eligibility criteria for playing contact rugby union in England.

HAVE YOUR SAY!

The RFU has now opened an external consultation period which will run until 5pm on 16 April 2021.

Our Trans Inclusion in Sports Youth Worker, Verity Smith (he/him) has taken a look at the policy and consultation, which has been launched on Trans Day of Visibility 2021.

Hi everyone, okay let’s take a look at this!

POLICY WINS:

It’s good to see improved inclusion for trans and male identifying players including  non-binary players as well as a more mindful ‘case-by-case’ flexible approach around individuals regarding Under 18s. It’s good to see acknowledgment of the variety of physical and psychological differences that take place during puberty, and the limited medical options and long waiting times available for different care pathways.

POLICY PROBLEMS:

Trans women who are over 170cm (around 5”6)  and 90kg (around 14 stone) would need to have an assessment on their size but no cisgender female or male players will be assesed on their height and weight. As we know, rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes. This policy needs to be fair for all, regardless of gender identity. This seems discriminatory.

I’ve played women who are well over 6 feet in height and more than 20 stone in weight. As a 5”6, 14 stone trans man, why should I be subjected to restrictions when my cis’ teammmates aren’t? We have a problem in sport, where trans people are treated differently to cis’ players and that’ll put trans, including non-binary people off from getting involved with sport at all levels.

Trans and gender diverse young people should be able to share sporting dreams with their peers without being made to feel ‘othered’ because of the size and shape of their bodies. It’s a real worry that the guidelines could lead to eating disorders and other harmful attempts to try and meet policy requirements. 

CONCLUSION:

Change, just like Rugby, is all about taking steps in the right direction, and this policy has some positives. It’s good to see supportive policies for trans and gender diverse under 18s.  It’s also good to see a policy to support trans male players. However, we’re concerned by a height and weight aspect for trans women.

Rugby is a sport for all and women come in all shapes and sizes. These rules cannot be imposed on one group of people, without looking at everyone else. On the week we launched Mermaids Sport: #ActiveAboutInclusion, we’re disappointed that the current policy will effectively mean many trans players, particularly trans women, will be blocked from taking part in Rugby Union games. Forcing players to comply with height and weight restrictions just because they’re trans, when cisgender players face no such restrictions, is discriminatory. We thank the RFU for its attempt to make rugby more inclusive for trans players, but unfortunately, they must TRY harder.