The Oxford University Rugby Football club has released a statement condemning the decision of the Rugby Football Union Council to imposed a on ban transgender women participating in women’s rugby. The RFU – the governing body for the sport in England – voted in favour of amending its participation policy last Friday.
The “Gender Participation Policy” means that transgender women will not be permitted to participate in female contact rugby competitions in England. The RFU claimed to be taking a “precautionary approach” to “ensure fair competition and safety” of competitors but recognized “it is not possible to equally balance fairness, safety and inclusion.” The new policy specifies that players in the female category will only be permitted if “the sex originally recorded at birth is female”.
OURFC’s statement said: “in the community game, we feel that it is of paramount importance to foster a welcoming community that values participation”. It suggested that the application of a blanket ban lacked “sufficient nuance” and did not adequately accommodate the distinctions between different levels of rugby.
OURFC stated that the circumstances did not command such a mandate, and “with fewer than ten transgender women playing community rugby under the current requirements, we feel that there was little justification to prioritise haste over a more representative canvassing of key stakeholders’ voices.”
Furthermore, they stated the decision felt “rushed” – OURFC were not consulted before the vote, despite being one of a very small number of clubs in the country that the decision immediately impacted, and therefore said that the consultation “failed to take into account the views of the very players this decision directly affects.”
The decision of the RFU has sparked considerable outrage nationwide. A tweet by the York RI Ladies Rugby Union team stated that the RFU were “on the wrong side of history,” and Mermaids, a charity supporting transgender children, tweeted that it was a “dark day for rugby.”