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World Rugby told its heinous ban on trans women ‘has no scientific basis’ and ‘will only hurt trans people’ by leading academics

Patrick Kelleher September 2, 2020
International Gay Rugby slams proposed ban on trans women in sport

Stock photo. (Unsplash)

A proposed World Rugby ban on trans women has been criticised by more than 80 leading academics, who say there is “no evidence” to support it.

In a wide-ranging letter, 84 leading academics working across sport, public health and sociology question the scientific justification for World Rugby’s reported proposal to ban trans women from competing on women’s teams.

“We are opposed to World Rugby’s proposed ban of an entire population group from playing women’s rugby: non-binary people assumed male at birth and transgender women,” said the letter, reported by The Guardian Tuesday (September 1).

“There is no peer-reviewed, scientific evidence to justify a ban which would only be harmful to trans and gender diverse people.

The group of academics goes on to say that the proposed policy would not just affect a “fringe population”, and cites data from the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 3.4 per cent of American students are gender diverse.

“To develop appropriate guidelines requires ongoing work with transgender athletes and community representatives, and engagement with rigours, peer-reviewed evidence,” it adds.

“These guidelines fail on both accounts.”

A draft World Rugby document, leaked last month, argued that trans women should be prevented from playing alongside cis women because of their “significant” physical advantage. Trans men would still be allowed to play alongside cis men.

The proposed ban comes after the global governing body invited “expert voices”, including anti-trans campaign group Fair Play For Women, to participate in a forum about the role of trans people in the sport earlier this year.

The sports body defended its process while responding to the letter, insisting that it has only tried to balance “inclusion, safety and fairness”.

World Rugby trans women ban condemned by LGBT+ sports bodies.

Speaking to PinkNews in July, LGBT+ sport group Athlete Ally urged World Rugby to “draw from already existing inclusion policies developed by medical experts and designed to promote safety and fairness for all, such as the IOC guidelines which have been in place for years without issue”.

“Trans women play sports for the same reason cisgender women do: for the love of the game, and the love of the lifelong community it brings,” the organisation added.

“No one should be denied the lifesaving power of sport.”

Speaking at the World Rugby London forum earlier this year, rugby player and trans man Verity Smith said changes to the current policy – which is based on the rules introduced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2003 – would risk shutting trans players out of the sport altogether.

“I don’t think it”s dangerous,” Smith told Sky News at the time.

“Sport is for everybody, I’ve had to play women over a foot taller than me. I’ve had to play women a lot bigger size-wise than me. So why would it be a danger?”

“We all go into sport, rugby especially, knowing that it’s a contact sport. When you go into international games, look at your scrum half, look at your front row, over a foot and a half difference sometimes.”

PinkNews has contacted World Rugby for comment.

More: Transgender, world rugby

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