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Women’s bowling club takes down advice warning ‘transsexuals’ not to ‘vamp up’ after backlash over ‘archaic’ policy

Vic Parsons October 24, 2020
Women's bowling club facing backlash over 'archaic' transgender policy

Hayling Island Bowls Club, where trans woman Stella Moore has played for nine months. (Hayling Island Bowls)

A women’s bowling club has removed advice on its website saying that “transsexual” women shouldn’t “vamp up” after backlash to its “archaic” policy on transgender inclusion.

The first part of the Portsmouth & District Women’s Bowling Association policy, which is still on its website, stipulates that only trans people who’ve had their gender legally recognised can play on the team corresponding to their gender identity, unless they “underwent gender reassignment surgery before puberty”.

Gender-affirming surgeries are only available to over-18’s in the UK.

The second part of the trans policy, which has now been taken off the website, constituted a list of behaviours and scenarios that supposedly offered advice to aspiring trans bowlers.

“Even though the transsexual will wish to present obviously as a female, she will do best by presenting herself in an understated fashion, including not wearing too much make-up (few lady bowlers ‘vamp-up’ on the green!),” stated the Portsmouth & District Women’s Bowling Association policy, which it told Portsmouth’s The News was issued by Bowls England in 2014.

“The transsexual should show goodwill by freely involving in aspects of the social activities, fund-raising, food preparation. This allows other members (women and men) to become used to her being around en femme,” the policy continued.

“The transsexual must similarly understand the concerns that club members may have. She will gain most sympathy by activing reasonably, with a friendly manner.”

The policy also advised clubs to write to opposition teams ahead of competitive matches, to “advise” them of the presence of a “transsexual” on their team, emphasising that they are “a pleasant and likeable person and who will not embarrass anyone involved in the game(s) involved”.

The club helpfully adds: “One should also understand is that, though many transsexuals will not expect to be visually undetectable, partly because they were reassigned after many years of life in their genetic sex, a proportion of transsexuals will be undetectable in their altered gender role.”

“The transsexual and the ladies agree together how changing and toilet facilities will be managed,” the policy, which was issued four years after the Equality Act 2010 was passed, concluded.

“She must accept that she will have to be reasonable in this, just for others to become comfortable with her. (In practice, ladies’ toilet cubicles are closed and toilets shouldn’t present a problem, but ladies’ sensibilities are understood). The transsexual might do well to come to games already changed, for now, to enable her to just change shoes in the main clubhouse (lots of us already do that when playing away games).”

Women’s bowling club facing backlash for ‘archaic’ policy after refusing to let a trans woman play unless she had surgery.

The Portsmouth & District Women’s Bowling Association deleted the part of its policy recommending trans women “not wear too much make-up” after being contacted by Portsmouth media about a 67-year-old trans woman who the club refused to let play.

Stella Moore, from Hayling Island, came out as trans three years ago and has been a member of the Hayling Island Bowls Club for nine months.

But the Portsmouth & District Women’s Bowling Association told her she couldn’t play for the women’s league team unless she had her gender legally recognised – an arduous and expensive process – or until three years after she’d had gender-affirming surgery. Stella, like tens of thousands of trans people in the UK, is on a waiting list for gender-related healthcare – she’s been waiting for three years.

“It is so frustrating that we have to prove ourselves time and again,” said Stella.

“My club and my team wants me to play because they think that I am good enough and I only want to be on the team if I am.

“I think the league is in the dark ages and the rules are archaic. I understand if it was a sport like boxing then there would need to more considerations but this is bowls.

“It is a sport that has brought me happiness at a time when I have been very sad and depressed.”

Bowls England told The News that it was reviewing its trans policy.

Jon Cockcroft, Bowls England chief executive, said: “We are proud of the intrinsically inclusive nature of our sport and our aim is to create an environment which is accessible and fair to all.

“We will be reviewing and updating our transgender policy ahead of the 2021 season.

“This more detailed work will provide greater clarity for all stakeholders within our sport to help avoid situations such as this.”

The president of the Portsmouth & District Women’s Bowling Association said: “This is a very emotive subject, one that obviously needs to be revisited by those who make the rulings.

“I am advised that Bowls England and Sport England are in discussions on this very subject but these discussions are in their early stages and nothing new has been published at this present time.”

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