Trans male rugby player condemns World Rugby’s decision to ban trans women

Trans rugby player Verity Smith has commented on World Rugby’s ban on trans women, stating that the policy is about “policing women’s bodies”.

The governing body for rugby announced earlier this month that it will ban trans women from playing at an elite level after a consultation process, which included contributions an anti-trans group called Fair Play For Women.

Many LGBTQ+ sporting organisations have criticized the decision, and many have questioned  how an extremely inconclusive body of research could be used to shut trans women out of the sport. Smith, a trans man, has previously competed on women’s rugby teams for over 26 years before transitioning. As a silent observer at the World Rugby forum in London in February, he witnessed the beginning of the process to ban trans women from playing rugby. 

“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.”

In an interview with Sky News in February, Smith said he doesn’t agree at all that allowing trans women to play rugby on teams with cis women is “dangerous”.

“Sport is for everyone. 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 also 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.”

Trans men will still be allowed to play on teams with cisgender men, but they will be forced to acknowledge that 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.

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