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World Rugby's proposed ban on transgender women sparks outcry
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2020-08-15

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Citing recent research, a 38-page World Rugby transgender working group draft document is proposing a ban on transgender women from playing women's rugby.

An anonymous leaked the draft document to The Guardian. Windy City Times was unable to obtain the document for verification.

This proposal has sparked an outcry among rugby players world-wide, including the Chicago Dragons Rugby Football Club.

"The latest proposed guidelines from World Rugby, which were recently leaked to the media, would tighten playing restrictions for trans men, and ban trans women from playing rugby entirely," said Chicago Dragons Diversity and Inclusion Chair Matt Dela Cruz in a Facebook post. "The proposal attempts to implement an irrational standard based on incomplete research and will negatively affect all trans and non-binary players.

"These guidelines, geared [toward] elite rugby players, would negatively affect amateur rugby players, who make up most of the world's rugby participants. These guidelines actively turn away the trans and non-binary community from the sport of rugby, in part, because they will be forced to undergo invasive medical tests.

"The Chicago Dragons cannot accept these discriminatory practices from World Rugby. These practices go against the values of inclusion and respect both within our club and the sport of rugby itself. The culture of rugby is deeply rooted in a tradition of community and support, both on and off of the pitch.

"We always maintain that the only requirement to play rugby with the Chicago Dragons is: you want to play rugby with us. The Chicago Dragons stand with our trans family and the trans community. We are committed to an environment of inclusivity and respect for everyone. We will not tolerate hate, disrespect, and injustice within our community. Rugby is a sport for everyone, period, full stop. Everyone, regardless of history, gender status, or any other reason someone might be turned away out of ignorance or intolerance, has the right to call rugby 'Our Sport.' The Chicago Dragons have been a member of International Gay Rugby ( IGR ) since 2003, and are proud to stand with IGR in its opposition to these proposed guidelines."

"IGR and our 89 member clubs are founded on the principles of inclusion," said IGR Chairperson Karl Ainscough Gates. "Our main objective is to eliminate discrimination in the sport. IGR and World Rugby have been working together since 2012 in an effort to ensure the inclusive nature of the sport remains as one of its strongest characteristics. IGR is fully committed to ensuring the highest safety standards possible for all players.

"The proposed Transgender Guideline that World Rugby has sent for feedback could negate all of the positive strides the sport has previously. The safety conclusions of the guidelines modeling are based on an extremely limited body of non-rugby specific research and are only being applied to certain players because they are transgender. Cisgender women with the same percentage of safety risk to other athletes would be able to continue to play. Cisgender men playing with the same percentage of safety risk to their own bodies would continue to play with no additional barriers. This is direct and active discrimination against transgender athletes, individuals involved in rugby around the world are actively saying this is not acceptable and cannot stand."

In an emailed statement to this publication, a World Rugby spokesperson said, "World Rugby and its unions are united in their commitment to ensuring a safe and inclusive playing environment at all levels of the game. In line with this commitment, and in light of the latest peer-reviewed research, World Rugby has undertaken a wide-ranging review of its rugby-specific transgender guidelines in order to best reflect the modern playing landscape and scientific evidence.

"This comprehensive, transparent and inclusive review of the available research was driven by the ground-breaking transgender participation workshop in February attended by socio-ethics, science, medical, risk and legal experts. Throughout the process, World Rugby has sought to balance safety and inclusivity. The latest peer reviewed research confirms that a reduction of testosterone does not lead to a proportionate reduction in mass, muscle mass, strength or power.

"These important determinants of injury risk and performance remain significantly elevated after testosterone suppression. This presents a clear safety risk when transgender women play women's contact rugby and this position is reflected within draft guidelines that are currently out for stakeholder consultation prior to the World Rugby Council considering the matter later this year.

"Rugby is an inclusive and welcoming sport and World Rugby is fully committed to continuing to work with relevant groups to explore appropriate participation pathways for transgender athletes and is funding further research into the safe participation of all players in rugby. This is in addition to extensive non-contact participation such as tag rugby and touch rugby, avenues that are available to everyone at union level. We are not in a position to comment further on or share the draft guidelines as they are currently out for consultation."

The working group included Director Dr. Nicola Williams from the anti-trans United Kingdom based organization, Fair Play For Women, among others. Fair Play For Women has come out in opposition to the proposed Gender Recognition Act in the UK.

"World Rugby must be commended for their bravery and integrity by tackling the topic of transgender eligibility in women's rugby head on," said Williams. "They created the opportunity for open, transparent, and respectful dialogue on a politically sensitive topic combined with rigorous data analysis. World Rugby have set the gold standard for how all sports should now approach this; evidence-based policy making that delivers inclusion where possible but always safety first."

In an emailed statement to this publication, World Rugby said, "The World Rugby Council is set to consider the matter in November."

As of this publication date, a Change.org petition, "Keep Rugby Open to Trans Women Athletes," has garnered more than 16,000 signatures.


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