Trans man accuses The Sunday Times of ‘witch hunt’ after using his photo for story about trans women playing rugby

The Sunday Times is under fire over its story, which used a photo of Verity Smith

The Sunday Times has been accused of scaremongering after using a picture of a transgender man to illustrate a story about trans women in sport.

The newspaper ran a piece titled “Injury fears over rugby’s trans women off pitch” that reported on opposition to transgender-inclusive guidance from anti-trans pressure group Fair Play for Women.

Although the story focused on claims that trans women have a biological advantage in the sport, the newspaper illustrated the story with a photo of rugby player Verity Smith, a transgender man.

Smith told PinkNews: “I was Googling the rugby results and that comes up from The Times. One, I’m not a trans woman, and two, if you put my name into Google, it says I’m a trans man.

“My picture should never be under that headline to sensationalise it. They don’t know anything about my life, or who I am, or anything.”

Verity Smith stayed in the closet for years to keep playing rugby.

Smith, 37, played for the Rotherham Ladies team for years before transitioning, explaining: “I hid who I was, because of the fact I love my sport, but I couldn’t come out.”

When the Rugby Football Union adopted more inclusive rules, he began to transition and started to take hormones while still playing for the club.

However, Smith has since left the club and now plays in Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair Rugby, a mixed-gender and ability team.

He has complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation about the inaccurate use of his photo and name in the Sunday Times story.

Smith said: “We need people to stand up for trans women, and for trans people in sport.

“They’re on a bit of a witch hunt and we need our governing bodies to stand up for us.

“I think people are scared of what they don’t understand, and on top of that there’s people putting so much wrong information out there, who are not actually speaking to the people involved.”

Sunday Times story branded ‘weak and misleading’.

He was supported by trans groups including Mermaids, who made clear: “We stand in solidarity with @VeritySmith19 who is an inspiration to our kids and young people.

“Verity is a kind and brave guy and a great sportsman. The Sunday Times has used Verity’s image without permission or communication in a weak and misleading story. Stay strong V.???”

The Sunday Times has since replaced all mention of Smith with references to Kelly Morgan, a trans woman.

The newspaper has also changed the headline of the piece, and printed a retraction, saying: “The use of the photograph [of Verity Smith] in this context was inappropriate and misleading in terms of both his gender and his views.

“Verity Smith is not a trans woman, does not share the view that trans women in sport pose a safety risk, and advocates for trans inclusion in sport. We apologise for this error.”

PinkNews has contacted The Sunday Times for comment.