Welsh Rugby Union bans trans women – despite having zero trans pro players in women’s game

Female rugby in the air catching the ball

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has banned transgender women from competing in its female category.

On Wednesday (7 September), the WRU board voted for new policy enacting the ban, despite stating there are currently no trans players in professional Welsh women’s rugby.

The new policy states: “Contact rugby for players in the female category is limited to those whose sex was recorded as female at birth”. 

The move follows similar decisions made by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), in August 2022, and England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU), in July 2022, to ban trans women from women’s games.

A statement released by the WRU states the new policy is a departure from its previous stance “which allowed for participation in women’s game for transgender women” dependent on the outcome of a medical process, which included testosterone tests prior to registration to play. 

It cited research which, it said, provided evidence of physical differences between those whose sex was assigned as male and those as female at birth. 

It went on to claim advantages in strength, stamina and physique brought about by puberty are “significant and retained” even after testosterone suppression. 

This is despite the International Olympics Committee medical and scientific director Richard Budgett having previously said it’s “perfectly clear that performance is not proportional to your endogenous, in-built testosterone”, when announcing an end to IOC-mandated testosterone limits.

Despite the regression on trans inclusion, WRU said it “works hard and proactively on the vitally important area of inclusion throughout the game in Wales” and is “committed to an ongoing review of the policy as new evidence, research and insights become available”.

England rugby bosses face legal action

Following the Rugby Football Union (RFU) banning trans women from competing in July, it will now face legal action mounted by transgender player, Julie Curtiss.

Curtiss, 52, dreamed of playing for Hove RFC’s women’s team.

The Daily Telegraph reported that the 52-year-old issued the RFU with a pre-action protocol letter as she believes the policy discriminates against her under section seven of the Equality Act 2010. 

A pre-action protocol letter is a legal document written in the aim of resolving dispute before court proceedings start. 

The 2010 act protects people from discrimination in the workplace and wider society.

It 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.”

It’s likely the RFU will claim it has acted in accordance with Section 195 of the act, which states “makes it lawful to restrict participation of [trans] people in such competitions if this is necessary to uphold fair or safe competition, but not otherwise”.

A six-page letter submitted to the RFU by London-based law firm, Russell Cooke, said: “It is difficult to see how a blanket ban with no exceptions could be justified as necessary.

“Allowing a particular trans woman to play in the female category for contact rugby may not raise any issues in respect of fair competition or the safety of competitors, and if so her exclusion cannot be justified.”

An RFU spokesperson told the BBC: “We are in receipt of a pre-action letter of claim and will be responding via our appointed lawyers.

“We believe any potential claim is without merit and we will robustly defend the case.”

Anyone affected by the latest change in policy is encouraged to contact [email protected].