The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has banned trans women from participating on women’s teams, despite the fact that there are no out trans women in professional Welsh rugby. The rule was voted into effect by the WRU board on September 7.
“The new policy means contact rugby for players in the female category is limited to those whose sex was recorded as female at birth,” said the WRU board in a statement, noting that non-contact roles such as coaching and refereeing are still available to trans women.
The update reverses WRU’s long-held stance on trans participation. Said the WRU, “This is a departure from the previous policy which allowed for participation in the women’s game for transgender women depending on the outcome of a thorough medical process including testosterone tests prior to registration to play.”
The justification for the reversal is unspecified research that demonstrates “there are physical differences between those whose sex was assigned as male and those as female at birth, and advantages in strength, stamina and physique brought about by male puberty are significant and retained even after testosterone suppression.”
This contrasts with the stance taken by the International Olympics Committee, which ended mandatory testosterone tests in November of last year. Richard Budgett, the IOC’s medical and scientific director, told OutSports at the time, “It’s perfectly clear now that performance is not proportional to your endogenous, in-built testosterone.”
Given there are no trans women in Welsh rugby, the rule change might seem to have come from nowhere. However, it follows other rugby leagues that have enacted similar policies, including the Rugby Football Union in August and the Irish Rugby Football Union in July.
The RFU is currently facing legal action from transgender player Julie Curtiss, alleging that the policy constitutes discrimination under the UK’s Equality Act. The act states, “You must not be discriminated against because you are [trans], when your gender identity is different from the sex assigned to you when you were born.” At the same time, Section 195 of the same document makes an exception “to restrict participation of [trans] people in such competitions if this is necessary to uphold fair or safe competition, but not otherwise.” It will be up to the RFU to prove unfairness to justify a blanket ban.
The WRU, meanwhile, has said that it will revise their rules “as new evidence, research and insights become available.”
The statement ends by inviting affected players to speak out by contacting [email protected]