A “non-binary” plays on women’s rugby team, allegedly injures multiple females

The world of sports has seen significant strides in promoting inclusivity and diversity, particularly in recognizing the rights of transgender athletes. However, recent events in the rugby community have ignited a heated debate surrounding safety and fairness when transgender players compete against cisgender athletes.

In a game between Stoney Creek and Fergus Highlanders in the Niagara Rugby Union, a notable incident took place involving a transgender player, referred to as Ash. Ash is a transitioning individual, moving from male to female, and had been cleared to participate in the women’s rugby league.

While the player has the right to pursue her passion and participate in the sport she loves, some female athletes have expressed concerns about the physical differences between cisgender and transitioning individuals. One female player described the experience of being tackled by Ash as “a whole other thing playing rugby against men.” The impact and force of Ash’s tackles were described as exceptionally powerful, surpassing anything they had encountered in competitive women’s rugby.

The debate over inclusion and safety intensified as some players raised comparisons with the Lia Thomas swimming controversy in the United States. However, one player aptly pointed out that swimming and rugby are vastly different sports, with rugby being a full-contact sport where collisions are inevitable.

Although Rugby Canada stands firm in welcoming transgender players, there are female athletes who feel uncomfortable competing against a transitioning opponent.

These players express reservations about facing someone who was previously identified as male, especially in a physically demanding sport like rugby, where size and strength significantly impact the game.

The complexity of this issue is evident, with all sides acknowledging the need for thoughtful discussions and measures to address concerns about player safety and fairness. Rugby Ontario has initiated discussions with Rugby Canada to develop action plans and communication strategies.

England’s The Rugby Football Union (RFU) Council and Rugby Football League (RFL) Board previously passed new laws excluding transgender women from participating in female rugby.

The new rule allows athletes to compete in the female division only if their sex recorded at birth is female.

RFU’s gender inclusion policy update will be effective from the start of the 2022-23 season.
The decision was based on scientific evidence and the principle of inclusion, while prioritizing safety and fairness for all participants.

Alix Fitzgerald, a transgender woman who previously played for the East London Vixens, expressed her desire not to harm anyone in the game.

Fiona McAnena of Fairplay for Women supported the decision and urged other athletic organizations to follow suit in preserving the integrity of women’s sports.