Scottish Rugby Union bans transgender women from competing in contact rugby

Scottish Rugby claims that they are imposing restrictions on trans athletes based on guidance provided but are facing widespread backlash.

Photo of rugby field after Scottish Rugby Union bans transgender women from competing in contact rugby.
Image: Twitter @brianfenn92

The Scottish Rugby Union announced that they are banning trans athletes from participating in women’s contact rugby competitions beginning on February 1, 2023.

The updated gender participation policy impacts trans women athletes, as it states that women’s contact rugby players must have been assigned female at birth.


The new policy does not impact trans men athletes who can still play in the men’s category after completing a “risk assessment,” and the rule does not apply to non-contact forms of the game.

In their statement, Scottish Rugby claims that they wish “to be as inclusive as possible and is only imposing such eligibility restrictions based on the guidance provided”.

According to the organisation, the decision was made “based on current research” in line with World Rugby’s transgender policy and that they intend to review the policy annually, but they are facing widespread blacklash.



In December 2022, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) shared an update about its policies on trans athletes which advises that there should be no presumption that trans women have an automatic advantage in sports when competing against cisgender women.

Unfortunately, many elite women’s sports teams have continued to ban transgender athletes from participating on their teams this year. World Rugby was one of the first sports to ban trans women from competing in June of 2022, with English, Irish, and Welsh teams following.

Many athletes have spoken out against these bans, including Olympic champion Kelly Holmes who said, “As a former international athlete, a gay woman and now openly a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I want to firstly say I totally support my trans siblings…

“I have been ignorant in the past about the fight of the trans community and I now want to see a fair and conclusive outcome for those whose gender differs from that assigned at birth, in all walks of life, including sport.”

When it comes to women’s elite track and field events, many anticipated that they would implement a ban as well, but World Athletics has said that its preferred course of action is to tighten the sport’s eligibility requirements and still allow trans women to compete. 

Under the current criteria, women’s track and field athletes must maintain blood testosterone levels of 5 nanomoles per litre for one year before they are eligible to compete. The new policy, which is expected to be finalised in March, is expected to require trans athletes to maintain levels below 2.5 nanomoles per litre for two years.

A spokesperson said World Athletics would like to, “…allow significant…reduction of anaerobic, aerobic performances, and body composition changes, while still providing a path for eligibility of trans women to compete in the female category.”

Hopefully, as more athletes and organisations speak up in support of trans rights, more sports will engage in inclusive policies that allow trans women to compete.

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