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Trans rugby player Verity Smith claims World Rugby ban is about ‘policing women’s bodies’

Patrick Kelleher October 28, 2020
Verity Smith World Rugby trans ban

Verity Smith (Screenshot from Sky News report)

Trans rugby player Verity Smith has hit out at World Rugby’s ban on trans women, saying the policy is about “policing women’s bodies”.

The world governing body for rugby announced on 9 October that it was banning trans women from playing at an elite level after a consultation process that included contributions from anti-trans pressure group Fair Play For Women.

LGBT+ sporting organisations have been critical of the decision, with many questioning how a largely inconclusive body of research was used to shut trans women out of the sport.

Smith, a trans man, had competed on women’s rugby teams for 26 years before he transitioned. He was a silent observer at the World Rugby forum in London in February, which kickstarted the process that ultimately banned trans women from playing.

Trans rugby player Verity Smith says ban is ‘about policing women’s bodies’.

“It’s about policing female bodies,” Smith told The New York Times.

“These governing bodies automatically assume that all female-bodied athletes are not as strong as male-bodied ones, when that simply isn’t the case.”

Speaking to Sky News in February, Smith said he doesn’t agree that allowing trans women to play rugby is “dangerous”.

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

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

World governing body for rugby claimed allowing trans women to play the sport would pose a safety risk to cisgender women.

There was disappointment, but not surprise, when World Rugby announced that it would be introducing a new policy preventing trans women from playing at an elite level.

The decision came following a nine-month long consultation process which kicked off with a forum in London in February.

In a policy document, the governing body said allowing trans women to play rugby would pose a safety risk to cisgender women.

Meanwhile, trans men will be allowed to play on teams with cisgender men, but they will be forced to confirm that they understand there is a greater risk of injury by doing so.

World Rugby said its policy will not preclude national unions from “flexibility” in approaches at a grassroots level, but trans women will be strictly forbidden from playing at an elite or international level. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) later announced that it would not be adopting World Rugby’s policy, meaning trans women can still play rugby union on women’s teams in England.

The policy change makes World Rugby the first global sport governing body to impose a blanket ban on trans women at an elite level.

The ban was condemned by LGBT+ sporting organisation Athlete Ally, who said experts had “cherry-picked data from a body of evidence that has been widely contested”.

It was also criticised by Stonewall CEO Nancy Kelley, who said: “Important polices like this should be based on robust, relevant evidence and work closely with trans people playing in the sport.”

 

More: Fair Play For Women, rugby football union, trans rugby ban, trans women, Verity Smith, world rugby

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