WELLINGTON, 30 July (Reuters) – Questions about trans athletes participating in women’s sports have become explosive issues in recent years and report that World Rugby may soon ban them on the grounds that security is likely to intensify debates that are already anxious in New Zealand.
A draft report by World Rugby, obtained by the media last week, said there was a “20-30% greater risk” of injury if a female player was overcome by someone who had passed puberty.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Operating Officer Nicki Nicol told reporters last week that while the direct ban had not yet been codified, the report did seek “some restrictions for some trans women”.
“We have to admit it is based on research and evidence which is one of the recommendations,” Nicol said at a conference call.
“But we are encouraged by World Rugby to make policies that are relevant to our market.”
Nicol added that the situation was “complex” and would require several months of discussion before the NZR could even formulate a policy on issues that divided opinions.
Proponents of women’s sports argue that the natural physical benefits that a transgender woman receives from going through male puberty last long into adulthood and World Rugby research proves that it is a health and safety issue in contact sports.
They also see it as a matter of justice, a key driver of competitive sports and which has big consequences at an elite level, Save Women’s Sports New Zealand spokesman Ro Edge told Reuters.
“If they are mediocre athletes in the men’s field then they meet with the women’s division and win everything, how do you feel (as a competitor)?” Edge said.
“There is no justice in that, and the desire to be inclusive is to have unintended negative consequences for women and girls, because they lose in having fair and competitive sports.”
DIVERSITY AND HEALTH
However, transgender advocates say inclusiveness must be a major factor and that stopping trans athletes from participating in women’s sports only increases the stigma and discrimination they face.
“Trans people are generally discriminated against in every aspect of life,” Aotearoa Minority national coordinator Ahi Wi-Hongi told Reuters.
“We know that a very high percentage of trans people don’t play any sport because they don’t want to deal with discrimination or they feel they won’t be allowed or they will face negative feelings about playing from other people.”
One of the main problems for sports organizations is that they may not know how many trans athletes are competing.
Nicol said the NZR did not track gender identity in their player registration but said they wanted better information.
“Hopefully as we go along we will see a reduction in marginalization,” Nicol said.
But trans women are only a small part of the potential sports athlete group, said Gender Minority Aotearoa, Wi-Hongi, and those who have transitioned usually avoid sports that feature masculinity such as rugby.
A study at Waikato University in 2019 found that only 14% of trans-people participated in regular sports competitions compared to the national average of 26% for the general population.
Edge said that biological women have been marginalized in competitive sports for decades and that the pathway for women and girls into sports must be protected.
“Participation in sports is very valuable. Diversity in sports is also very important, “Edge said. “Everyone must have the ability to participate in sports in an inclusive and friendly environment. I really understood.
“But while everyone has the ability to play sports, they don’t have the right to play in whatever category they choose. We must protect the path for women and girls in sports. (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney and Peter Rutherford)