Athlete Ally: World Rugby Ban on Trans Athletes Discriminatory and Dangerous

October 9, 2020 (New York, NY) — Athlete Ally responded today to news that World Rugby has adopted new guidelines that outright ban transgender women from participating in the sport at all levels, making World Rugby the first global sport governing body to issue a blanket ban against transgender athletes.

Over 100 international athletes and officials and sport governing bodies such as USA Rugby, Rugby Canada, and Rugby Australia issued statements against the ban after it was introduced by World Rugby in July. This ban is in blatant opposition to the International Olympic Committee guidelines on transgender inclusion, which have been developed to ensure fair and safe competition for all. This decision was also approved without a formal voting process, which is especially alarming given the horrific human rights repercussions of this discriminatory ruling.

“Instead of respecting their supposedly open consultation process, and listening to numerous Rugby Nations such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the US who oppose this ban, World Rugby has decided to adopt a transphobic policy lacking supporting evidence and rooted in poor science a month before the official vote was meant to take place,” said trans rugby player Grace McKenzie. “This decision from World Rugby immediately calls into question their guiding principles of diversity and inclusion, and puts them behind all other international governing sport bodies in creating a welcoming environment for their athletes”

“World Rugby’s ban is rooted in cherry-picked data from a body of evidence that has been widely contested,” said Hudson Taylor, Executive Director of Athlete Ally. “Their decision to bar trans women from competing shows a lack of understanding about the complexities of performance, a lack of compassion for the rights and experiences of trans athletes, and perpetuates sexist ideas about female athleticism and potential for excellence.”

World Rugby, in developing this ban, has been working closely with conservative hate groups like Fair Play for Women, who have a documented history of working to strip rights away from transgender people in the UK and using sport to shield their vehemently anti-trans agenda. In ignoring global outcry from athletes, coaches and referees around the world who disagree with the ban, it is clear that World Rugby only incorporated feedback that aligned with their discriminatory agenda.

“At a time when violence against transgender women is at an all-time high and sport is quite literally a lifeline, World Rugby is taking concrete steps to further vilify and dehumanize trans women, all while hiding behind a guise of inclusion, ” said Anne Lieberman, Director of Policy and Programs at Athlete Ally. “Rugby has always been a sport for all, and this decision goes against expert-approved guidelines followed at the Olympic level. Trans women do not pose a threat to women’s safety, and we encourage World Rugby to conduct a thorough study into the true threats to women’s safety, such as sexual abuse and harassment, and lack of resources for women players and coaches.

Our hearts go out to the global rugby community whose values as athletes are clearly not represented by the leadership at World Rugby. We are devastated by this ruling, and will continue to fight for the rights of trans athletes to be fully who they are in all areas of life, especially and including in sport.”

“I am beyond angry that in 2020, any entity would walk all over human rights like World Rugby just did,” said Naima Reddick, USA Rugby athlete. “Rugby is supposed to be about integrity.”

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