Ulster Rugby barred from marching at Belfast Pride over ban on trans players

The decision not to allow Ulster Rugby to participate in the Belfast Pride Parade is due to a IRFU policy that bans trans women from playing on women's teams.

Belfast Pride 2022
Image: Twitter @brendanjharkin

Ulster Rugby will not be allowed to participate in Belfast Pride this year following the ban on trans players introduced by its governing body in 2022. 

Organisers of Belfast Pride, which will culminate with the Parade on July 29, stated that the Festival is “unapologetically trans-inclusive”. They chose the theme “Stand by your trans,” and a spokesperson for the event said: “Any organisation or group engaging in trans-exclusionary practices or policies will not be permitted to participate.”

“Trans, non-binary and gender-diverse people have helped lead and shape not only the Pride movement, but the wider LGBTQIA+ civil rights movement, and are an integral part of our community and wider society,” they added.

“We believe trans, non-binary and gender-diverse people should be supported, accepted, and celebrated within families, communities and across wider society.”

Ulster Rugby’s rejection follows the introduction of a 2022 policy by the Irish Football Union (IRFU), which governs all rugby in the island of Ireland, that excludes trans women from playing on women’s teams in contact games.

At the time, the IRFU claimed the new rule was based on “medical and scientific evidence”. They also reiterated that their policy is in line with the World Rugby guidance, which is subject to ongoing review.

The controversial decision faced widespread criticism, with prominent Irish rugby figures condemning the IRFU policy change.

Since then, other sporting bodies have adopted similar policies, despite a report earlier this year finding that trans athletes do not have advantages over cisgender women when competing in elite sporting competitions. 

In a statement to the BBC’s Talkback, the union maintained their position pointing out, that while trans women are prohibited from playing contact rugby, trans men will be able to play for men’s teams “if they provide written consent and a risk assessment is carried out.”

However, they also stated that they recognised how their policy impacts the way trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people can participate in rugby and added: 

“We recognise that this is a sensitive and challenging area for those involved, and the wider LGBTQIA+ community and our collective aim is that trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people who support and play our game will remain within the rugby family.”

Ulster Rugby attended Belfast Pride last year, before the ban on trans athletes was imposed. A representative of the Festival told Belfast Telegraph: “Belfast Pride are committed to supporting all organisations in their journey towards true LGBTQIA+ inclusion and will continue to consider each application on a case-by-case basis.”

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