RFU vote on transgender women in rugby union a ‘massive step backwards’ | Rugby Union News

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There are calls for the Rugby Football Union to think more deeply about plans to ban trans women from playing rugby in England; The RFU council will vote on Friday on whether it’s safe for trans women to take part in the game; It follows a review of its gender participation policy

Last Updated: 28/07/22 2:03pm


Transgender rugby player Alix Fitzgerald says she feels sad that she could be excluded from playing rugby after the RFU Council vote on the issue.

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Transgender rugby player Alix Fitzgerald says she feels sad that she could be excluded from playing rugby after the RFU Council vote on the issue.

Transgender rugby player Alix Fitzgerald says she feels sad that she could be excluded from playing rugby after the RFU Council vote on the issue.

Every season Alix fills her diary with her rugby club’s fixture list. This summer though, she says she dare not write them down.

On Friday, the council of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) will vote on whether to bring in new rules on gender participation.

If approved, it would mean only those assigned female at birth will be allowed to play rugby alongside other women.

Transgender women like Alix will effectively be banned from the sport in England.

“I’ll be honest with you. If I thought for one moment I was a danger to the people in front of me or the people I play with, I wouldn’t do this. I have no desire to hurt anybody at all, accidentally or not,” she tells Sky Sports.

Safety and fairness are at the heart of this debate.

The RFU says “the inclusion of trans people assigned male at birth in female contact rugby, cannot be balanced against considerations of safety and fairness.”

East London Vixens

East London Vixens

After a two-year consultation, the sport’s governing body has recommended that, until such a time as new science is available, it is better to take a precautionary approach.

Alix, who is 54, plays for the East London Vixens. She is one of seven transgender women in England who have been permitted to play rugby by the sport’s governing body.

“I am not the largest person on this team, I am not the strongest person on this team. That argument is a very dangerous one for rugby to go down, simply because, who’s big enough? And who’s too big?

“There are people on this team that are bigger than me, so if I’m too big, are they too big? And that’s just not right because rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes.”

Current regulations mean that transgender women who wish to play rugby in England are assessed on a case-by-case basis. While this avoids a blanket ban, the RFU says it is not without its difficulties and doesn’t necessarily ensure inclusion.

East London Vixens vice-chair Kat Salthouse is urging the RFU  to take a step back and do more research

East London Vixens vice-chair Kat Salthouse is urging the RFU to take a step back and do more research

Kat Salthouse is the vice-chairwoman of the East London Rugby Club. She plays alongside Alix and describes Friday’s vote as a “massive step backwards”.

“In my four years of playing alongside Alix, I’ve never had any safety concerns. Alix is no more of a risk to myself, my team-mates, or our opposition than we are to ourselves playing a contact sport.

“We’re in a society now where we need to be more open and accepting of the people around us.”

Kat describes the move as a “kick in the teeth” and is urging the RFU to take a step back; to look at who is affected by this change in policy and to do more research.

The governing body says it has been a difficult decision and has not been made lightly or without research and consultation, saying “advantages in strength, stamina and physique brought about by male puberty are significant and retained even after testosterone suppression”.

If the RFU Council votes in favour of the changes then they will be introduced ahead of the 2022/23 season.



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