rugby trans women in sport women in sport

Trans Women in Rugby

Before I start this article in earnest, I’d like to make one, unequivocal statement: trans women are women. Feminism, and the fight for queer people’s rights, are incomplete and one-dimensional without the inclusion of trans women, and if you disagree with this then we are fundamentally opposed, and this article may not be for you.

Whether trans women and girls should be included in women’s and girls’ rugby, and how unconditionally they should be allowed to play, is a debate that keeps returning. Most recently, it has been fuelled by France’s landmark decision to officially allow trans women to play at all levels, as long as their hormone levels are within their rules.

As well as lots of support, this decision has unearthed vitriolic transphobia that I will not link here. Over the next few paragraphs I will discuss some of the recent anti-trans arguments I have seen, and then some of the ways I believe we can help.

Many people are vehemently opposed to allowing children and teens to transition in any way. This is despite the fact that the hormones are completely reversible, and also entirely non-surgical. Basically, childhood transition just delays usual puberty until trans kids are older.

Often those who are opposed to kids transitioning at a young age are the same people who, despite how many hormones a trans woman may be taking, despite how far through her physical transition she may be, believe she cannot play women’s rugby because she has gone through ‘male’ puberty. The double standard is absurd and shows what transphobic people really want: trans people to be unable to participate in communities. Trans women, like everyone else, deserve to be a part of teams, and part of the sport we all love, and which so often claims to be inclusive to all.

It’s not just puberty that is the issue for anti-trans activists. I saw a woman state that newborn baby boys are stronger than newborn baby girls, which is simply untrue. Babies — all babies — are just adorable floppy idiots. ‘There is more variation amongst girls and boys than there is between them.’

There also seems to be a fear that trans women are going to overtake women’s rugby, that men will ‘pretend to be women’ to get to a high level, that the top of the game will be dominated by trans women, that there will be 23 in England’s match day squad. This is so unfounded it’s almost not worth mentioning.

Firstly, even the highest level of women’s rugby is poorly rewarded, and the contracts are not long. Why would a man pretend to be a woman, go through hormone treatments, work extremely hard, pretend to be someone they aren’t, and face the abuse that trans women so often do, just to get paid a wage they could earn elsewhere without all the hassle? It’s just absurd if you think about it in any depth whatsoever.

Moving on from that, it is just statistically untrue that trans women will dominate rugby. The government equalities office estimates that there are only 200,000-500,000 trans people (people, not just women) in the UK. Assuming the highest end of these numbers, that means 0.73% of the population is trans, a tiny figure.

The concerns are fearful, many of them ignorant, sexist, transphobic. Allow trans women to play without condition, then come back in 1 year, 3 years, 5, and reassess.

As pride month approaches, and as a bisexual woman myself, it is also important to note that the LGBT+ community are not welcome until we are ALL welcome. Most women’s rugby teams have lesbians and bisexual women, but without trans women, we wouldn’t have the rights we do today. Trans women are a vital part of the community and should be welcomed everywhere that other queer women are.

You may have played with or against a trans woman. You may know one who is terrified to come out. There is no way to know, and she may be a vulnerable woman who needs a community, a team of girls or women who support her like a family. That’s what rugby purports to be all about, and we can all do our bit to make it kinder and more inclusive for the trans women among us.


Pride month is coming! Donate to Stonewall UK, Mermaids, or the Albert Kennedy Trust.

Read about what’s happening in Palestine, and donate to Palestinians in need.

On 6th of May, refugees got to vote for the first time in Scotland. Weep with me about following days: the evilness of the attempted eviction in Glasgow, and the response that defines community. Read, too, about the No Evictions Network.

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In Defence of Mediocrity

I’m not a great – or even good – rugby player.

Dear friends, you can keep lying to me about this, but I’ve accepted it. At times, I’ve trained really hard, and (shockingly!) improved, but often it’s not a top priority in my life and I get worse again. Sometimes work or university feels more important than training; sometimes it’s grabbing a pint with my pals. It can be frustrating knowing that I could be better, but I will never be great, and that doesn’t mean I love the sport any less.

As I like to remind everyone, I also did Muay Thai for a couple of years. What I mention less is that I burst into tears the first time I was punched in the face, and I never actually did a fight. However, I got a bit fitter, had some utterly ridiculous nights out, and met my lovely boyfriend. Being a bit crap at the actual sport didn’t prevent any of these joyful things!

(As a side note, I’d like to share the first lesson I was taught at training: if someone tries to fight you in the street, turn and run away as fast as you can.)

I’m definitely not a natural athlete, but something I’m pretty sure I am good at is writing poems. That said, if I don’t give myself permission to write shitty poems too, then what on earth is the point? Some of my favourite things to write are scrawled acrostic poems in my friends’ birthday cards. These will never be published, or lead to an intellectual breakthough, but it’s a simple, silly act of love, regardless of poetry skills or experience.

During lockdown, struggling with a slightly different world, I’ve enjoyed more everyday mediocrity than ever. My dad and I cried with laughter at the banana bread I made (how did it look like the bottom of a shoe?), I belt out the Hamilton soundtrack with vocals that would bring Broadway fans to tears, and I make up cheesy love songs on the fly. Very, very slowly, I’m realising I don’t have to be good at things to enjoy them.

The ugliest banana bread in history?

If there’s something you want to try, now or when the world is calmer, then what do you have to lose? Maybe you’ll end up the next Emily Scarratt, Ronda Rousey or Carol Ann Duffy. Perhaps, like me, you’ll meet the love of your life, or maybe you’ll warm the bench, make friends, and have some fucking fun.

I am enough rugby scotland Scotland Women sport Uncategorized women in sport


In case you haven’t seen the latest women’s rugby controversy, let me catch you up. Canterbury and Ireland released the men’s and women’s strips: the male models were Conor Murray, Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw; the female models were… models. Beautiful women, yes, but the implication (sometimes outright stated) was that female rugby players are not beautiful enough, strong enough, inspirational enough.

The message from female rugby players has been strong and conclusive: we are enough, and we have had enough.

Lots of women’s rugby players are incredibly beautiful, in many different ways. But do you know what? Some of us don’t fit standards of beauty, and that shouldn’t matter either. A cauliflower ear, broken nose, or some lumps and bumps would never stop men modelling the kit that’s made for them, and it should never stop women either.

In only a few days, the movement has inspired a big change: Canterbury has committed to using rugby players for all their female kit launches from now on. In these dark times, small progress should be celebrated.

There are so many female rugby players I look up to, regardless of how good looking they are. My friends, my idols, women who dedicate their lives to rugby and might never see a penny from it, no matter how high a level they attain. If you feel like being inspired, too, here are five wonderful women who are every bit as impressive as Stuart Hogg.

Florence Williams. This is the lady that started the movement, so naturally she had to be on my list. She plays for Wasps, and is the founder of Perception Agency, which aims to change the way we see women’s sports.

Rhona Lloyd. The Scotland winger seems to get bigger biceps and even more badass every time she posts on Instagram. A great example of a beautiful woman whose talent and heart are far more important than the way she looks. Check out her ‘Women Who Sport’ podcast.

Jade Konkel. You should have heard of Jade, Scotland’s first female full-time rugby player. Her Instagram is packed with training pictures and inspirational quotes, and if you’re a soppy romantic like me, you’ll love her engagement story.

Heather Fisher. An England and GB7s player (a World Cup winner and an Olympian!) who has been vocal about her past struggles with anorexia, and her ongoing alopecia. Her values are ‘work hard, be brave, believe in yourself,’ which I think we can agree are the words of a role model.

Panashe Muzambe. Panashe is still young, only 24, and is in the early stages of her career. However, being the first Black woman to play for Scotland is already incredible, and I’m sure there’s a lot more to come. She has a podcast which talks about ‘life experiences, black/minority culture, relationships, TV, music and so much more.’

Two teams posts about the #IAmEnough movement also caught my eye. Saracens are using their big name to show other teams how kit launches should be done, and have a look at Hamilton Ladies for a local team who always have something to say for women.

Let me know which women inspire you, and always remember: women are enough, we’ve had enough, and we will come for you.

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Game Day

Game day

Thanks to friends and teammates for your ideas!

When you get your hair pleated, eye-burstingly tight,

your pulse pounding to changing room tunes.


When your shorn nails pant through the warm up,

and you realise the whole game is still to play.


When you nerve and breathe and need to pee the moments

before kick-off, praying the ball won’t come to you,


too scared you’ll drop it. When the first tackle splats

you in the icy mud, and you’re shocked and nearly


too lazy to get up, but your fly-half ships

the ball out, and the winger makes a break,


punts it to the try-line, opposition falling

at her ankles as she scores.


When there’s a knock-on and your pack

prowls to the scrum, growling we’ve got this.  


When your hair tie’s slowly coming loose,

fringe creeping over eyes, until


halftime: orange slices, breathing hard,

told off and encouraged and it all begins again.


In the lineout, when codes are shouted to confuse

but the hands holding you up are strong


and certain. Everything goes right. When the ball

smacks your palm, then off to your scrumhalf.


When a girl runs at you, ball in hand, and

you slo-mo see that she’s stepped you a belter –


you land face first in the dirt, mortified,

until your teammate halves them:


you thank fuck for which team you’re on.

When, knackered, you think it must be close


to done, but the ref says that’s us ten minutes in

When, determined to make up for a missed tackle,


you hit hard, in sync with your teammate,

who shoots you a gumshieldy grin.


When suddenly the game is almost over.

When your team is ruler straight on your own

ten metre line, having slugged a scrappy match –

every single one of you defends your tits off.


The hugs and handshakes, team photos.

When you clack clods of dirt from your boots

before the changing rooms. When your waning

adrenaline brings you to tears on the toilet.


When you peel off a damp bra, listening to Lizzo,

scrubbing at your muddy icy skin in a beautiful


hot shower. When, win or lose, you sing and booze.

When your team’s so close they help you write a poem.

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Scotland Women: Six Nations Predictions

Rugby is coming back!

The women’s Six Nations was disrupted by combinations of coronavirus, Storm Ciara, and more coronavirus. While the men’s tournament was almost completed, Scotland’s women could only play two games: an 18-14 heartbreak against Ireland, and a 53-0 thrashing by England.

Two losses from two might not seem encouraging, but let’s look at the facts: Scotland seems to have improved their defence from last year’s 80-0 clobbering from England, and the team have already equalled their one losing bonus point from 2019’s tournament, with three games yet to play. Things are looking up!

This year, Wales are below Scotland on points difference, with two fewer games left in play, having beaten Scotland by only two excruciating points in their meeting last year. It seems hopeful, then, that our women will avoid the wooden spoon in 2020. Scotland’s close run loss to Ireland, who beat Wales 31-12, also suggests that Wales are definitely beatable this winter.

However, they’ve got France to contend with first, a professional team who mirror the talent and wildness of their male counterparts. In the Women’s Six Nations, only England can currently measure up, having recorded a 19-13 win in February. The Scottish ladies are definitely improving, but against France all they can hope for this year is some points on the board. Doyle might think it’s worth testing some exciting new players against this colossus of a French team. Prediction: Scotland 10-40 France.

After their agonising loss last year, Scotland will have a point to prove against Wales, and will have the bonus of more match-fitness after their outing against France, while the Welsh team might be fresher. It could be a brutal match, but I think it’s one that Scotland will edge out, with the team sheet depending on form from the previous game, but definitely edging towards experience. Prediction: Wales 14-19 Scotland.

Italy, another team formed mostly of amateur players, is a win to aim for: Scotland, at their best, could overpower them, but until we’ve seen their form against France and Wales, it’s hard to know how they’ll measure up. Against Italy, especially away from home, I’d suggest Head Coach Philip Doyle will go for experienced players who can keep a cool head, but will it be enough? Prediction: Italy 12-12 Scotland.

Let me know your predictions in the comments, and keep an eye out for my next Scotland women’s rugby post, where I’ll give my suggested Scotland starting XV against France.