Women’s rugby should not be sacrificed at the altar of ‘inclusivity’, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
Biological men must not be allowed to play women’s rugby. This should go without saying, yet has been the subject of furious debate, particularly in England where the RFU Council recently voted to ban trans women from full-contact women’s rugby at all levels. This followed a two-year review that considered all available scientific evidence and included a survey which received over 11,000 responses.
‘The review and consultation concluded that detailed peer-reviewed research provides evidence that there are physical differences between those people whose sex originally recorded as male and those as female at birth, and advantages in strength, stamina and physique brought about by testosterone and male puberty are significant and retained even after testosterone suppression,’ explained the RFU, which has now fallen in line with World Rugby’s trans participation guidelines.
‘This science provides the basis of the new gender participation policy that concludes the inclusion of trans people originally recorded male at birth in female contact rugby cannot be balanced against considerations of safety and fairness.’
Before the vote, the RFU had assessed trans women who wanted to play rugby in England on a case-by-case basis. Now, only those whose sex is recorded female at birth will be allowed to play women’s rugby in England, while those whose sex is recorded female at birth may play men’s rugby if they provide written consent and undergo a risk assessment.
“Sense prevails”, I tweeted when the news broke. Others, though, were angered by the decision, with popular rugby analyst Squidge tweeting: “We follow the most bigoted sport in the world”.
When discussing this emotive issue with others, I always begin by asking the question: “Why do we have a women’s category in sport?” The answer is simple: Men are bigger and stronger than women, and if there was only one open category, it would be totally dominated by men. A closed women’s category was created so that women could compete against women on a level playing field.
While trans women (who remain biological men) can lower their testosterone levels by taking testosterone-suppressing medication, they retain the advantages gained by going through puberty as a male such as muscle mass, bone density and strength, which creates safety and fairness issues.
What would the legal ramifications for World Rugby and national unions be if a woman was seriously injured in a rugby match after scrumming against or being tackled by a trans woman opponent? And could you blame a woman for being upset if a biological man took her place in a women’s rugby team?
Quite simply, if trans women were allowed to play women’s rugby in the name of ‘inclusivity’, it would come at the expense of women who compete in a closed women’s category for a reason.
As South African sports scientist Ross Tucker has said in his informative Twitter threads on the subject, when it comes to sport it is not possible to balance the rights of trans women with those of women. There is only a choice to be made between the two, and rugby has made the right one.