Transgender women rugby players have a right to play with other women, says Louisa Wall

By Jessica Tyson

Former Black Fern and current Labour list MP Louisa Wall says transgender women rugby players have a right to play with other women.

Her comments come following concerns about World Rugby potentially banning transgender athletes from playing.

Research has confirmed the mass, strength or power of transgender women players could present a clear safety risk to women in contact rugby but Wall says, “We need to allow trans women to be seen as women and then to participate fully in society as women.”

Transgender guidelines

Transgender guidelines were first created in 2003 and were updated in 2015, says Wall. However, she thinks the update went too far.

“The change from 2003 to 2015 was more based on human rights, legal issues, about discrimination and it seems from my perspective they went too far.”

The initial guidelines meant for someone to identify as a woman they had to commit to that identity for more than four years.

“You had to have undergone full gender affirmation surgery and testosterone levels had to be under a certain level for two years," Wall says.

“In 2015 they changed that and said transgender women no longer had to have full gender affirmation surgery and the testosterone levels under 10 nanomoles per litre. They could have that for only a year.”

Wall says the guidelines should go back to the first principles.

“A trans-woman is a woman but now we’ve got caught up in what level of testosterone they are, does testosterone levels through puberty then translate to performance later on?”

But Wall does agree there should be some monitoring of hormones.

“I do agree that there is a difference between male athletes and female athletes. We don’t want male athletes and females athletes competing against each other but what we do want is trans people being able to participate in the highest levels of our society, and I also want to highlight there are no restrictions on trans men competing as men.”

World Rugby

If the ban goes ahead, World Rugby would be the first international sports federation to prohibit transgender women from competing.

A major concern for Wall is that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not provide guidelines for international sports federations.

“I do think it’s problematic if all these international sporting federations wrote their own transgender policies. This really should be led from the top and, if you think about the highest level of competition, it should be led by the IOC.”

Olympic Games

Wall says there have been no transgender women who have participated in an Olympics competition.

But she says the New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was expected to be the first to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Wall says the IOC was to decide on new guidelines about transgender athletes before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games but decided to defer it to not interfere with the games. The games have now been deferred because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“So at some point in the future, the New Zealand Olympic Committee with the IOC will make a decision.”

She says the New Zealand Olympic Committee should keep the public aware of any updates made by the IOC regarding new transgender guidelines.