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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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Scotland Women: My Starting XV vs France

This is the month the Six Nations returns! Scotland women will host France the weekend of October 24th, and I’m too excited to wait until nearer the time to pick my team.

If you haven’t yet read my last Women’s Six Nations post, have a look here for a summary of the tournament so far, and predictions for Scotland’s next three games.

  1. Lisa Cockburn. Leah Bartlett definitely gets a mention here, as one try in only 3 appearances is very impressive for a front row, but a solid scrum is needed against a team like France, so experience wins out.
  2. Lana Skeldon. Find me another hooker that has 28 points from 39 caps and I’ll be a happy woman. Skeldon’s experience, and unexpected kicking ability, gives her an edge over the very exciting Molly Wright, who, like Leah Bartlett, has a try in just 3 caps.
  3. Megan Kennedy. Kennedy has been so unlucky with injuries not to add further to her 15 caps. She’s an absolute warrior. Mairi Forsyth has also been on cracking form, but Megan Kennedy’s unbreakable spirit clinches this one for me.
  4. Emma Wassell. She debuted in the first Six Nations match of 2014 and has played every single game since then. I can’t argue with that, and wouldn’t want to: Wassell is solid in the set piece and a great player in the loose, too.
  5. Nicola Howat. While Howat isn’t as consistent a defender as other players like Sarah Bonar, she’s a leggy, speedy attacker. Against a team like France, it’s worth giving her a run around.
  6. Rachel Malcolm. I’d have Malcolm continuing her captaincy, as she seems to help the team maintain a cool head, which is something Scotland sometimes lacks.
  7. Rachel McLachlan. Such an exciting young player, who makes an absolute nuisance of herself. There’s nobody I’ve hated playing against more. Panashe Muzambe is also great and is unlucky with how great McLachlan’s form has been.
  8. Jade Konkel. At this moment in time, there’s not really a debate. Jade’s the team’s only specialist number 8 listed on the SRU website, and she puts her body and heart on the line for every game.
  9. Jenny Maxwell. Mairi McDonald definitely proved her worth while Maxwell was injured, but for a game that could be as close as the one against Italy, the experience wins out.
  10. Helen Nelson. She proved her leadership ability captaining Scotland 7s, and her skills are undeniable. GB 7s.
  11. Rhona Lloyd. If you’ve ever seen Lloyd get an inch of space on the wing, you’ll know she’s what Scotland needs. Her strength and pace are so exciting. GB 7s. Abi Evans gets a shout here, too.
  12.  Lisa Thomson. More leadership ability in the 10-12 axis from the former captain. Her ability to play 10 gives her a versatile edge.
  13. Hannah Smith. GB 7s. While Smith sometimes attacks solo when a pass is wanted, it’s great to see a Scotland player who wants to get over the try-line, and with a great fringe too.
  14. Megan Gaffney. Gb 7 s. Gaffney is deeply experienced, but also an absolute firecracker. It’s exciting to see what her new club, the National 1 Heriots, will get up to with her on the wing.
  15. Chloe Rollie. Who else? She’s electrifying in attack and fairly solid in defence. Scotland could definitely do with more depth at fullback, but if Rollie continues her great form, anyone else would struggle to get a start here.

Feel free to argue (kindly!) or agree with any of my choices, and keep an eye out for the rest of my match reports and predictions.

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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.