Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Podcast: Episode 117 – Social Pisstancing


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On this week’s podcast we take a look at plans for a new Autumn International tournament, the health of the pro team squads and the leaked proposal from World Rugby to ban trans women from playing women’s rugby. This was a very nuanced and well thought through discussion of a complex and sensitive issue. We’d ask for this to extend to any comments on this post otherwise comments will be disabled.

Elsewhere in the podcast we take a look at South African fans response to Black Lives Matters, Scottish Rugby’s lack of diversity and World Rugby’s poor response to concerns raised by Pacific Players Welfare Association.

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The Scottish Rugby Podcast brings you the best in informal chat and discussion about Scottish Rugby. Each week during the season we put out a 40 minute podcast suitable for all listeners, covering all the latest news and key analysis of the big matches. 

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20 Responses

  1. Please don’t bring up transgender stuff if we are not allowed to have a discussion about it in the chat.

    Personally i disagree with the viewpoint that those of orginal Male Sex should be allowed to play contact sports with females.

    Perhaps we should do a trial where male and female rugby is not seperated and can play with one another for a season.. i would predict we will see far more female injuries both minor and serious.

    Another thing which has not been spoken about is the pressure for the young women who will be forced to play with these trans-females. I think a lot of people nowadays are afraid to speak out on this issue incase they become demonised (This won’t be all females obviously but there will undoubtedly be a good proportion.)

    I am open to hearing other opinions on this, i hope this post is not removed and i hope for a positive discussion and not just flame war.

    1. Hi Eli. We aren’t stopping anyone from making comments we’re merely asking that any comments are made in the spirit in which this discussion on the pod was held which acknowledged it was a sensitive and complex issue.

      I’m not clear if you’ve listened to the podcast but we discuss the process trans women have to go through in order to participate in rugby at the moment and so it’s in no way comparable to men playing women at rugby. We also discussed variations in body shapes and sizes in both the men’s and women’s games which we didn’t feel were addressed in the research presented to World Rugby.
      Clearly World Rugby feel he need to develop a proper protocol on this but hopefully that won’t result in a group of people being excluded from the sport.

      1. If also ask that you choose your language carefully. I am sure you meant no harm on referring to “these trans females” but it comes over as dismissive.

      2. Cammy I really don’t agree with your statement that a trans athlete competing against a female athlete is in no way comparable to a male competing against a female. I think that even having gone through the medical procedures and hormone therapy a trans athlete is still closer to a male athlete than a female athlete. The athletic benefits of higher doses of testosterone earlier in life will continue to benefit her even once her levels of testosterone have been reduced not to mention her bone density and skeletal structure. I firmly believe that even after treatment a trans athlete physique is closer to that of their original gender assignment than their desired one. SO it is more comparable to a male vs female than female vs female.

      3. I still think that’s very broad. As we said on the pod Darcy Graham and Duhan van der Merwe play wing and are both different body shapes and sizes. The science presented to World Rugby talks in very broad terms about general differences in body sizes. There are women who are taller and heavier than a lot of men and men who are shorter and lighter than most women.

      4. I guess the distinction should be in power, speed and strength with weight. I dont think height is a factor really.

        Yes Graham and Duhan are broadly different but there combined power/speed makes them alot closer to equal despite appearance.

        I could be wrong on this but i would guess that if a man and woman are of equal height and weight then on average the man would be alot more powerful.

        I have no evidence to back this up but i would guess there is alot out there. I would guess Darcy Graham will be more powerful than Jade Konkle for example (i dont know this but if anyone knows there gym numbers etc?)

      5. I’m not really buying the argument that the difference in size between athletes in the mens game proves that we should disregard the physical differences between trans athletes and female athletes. If you follow that line of logic to it’s natural conclusion you are basically saying that differences in physical ability are not grounds for segregation so why not do away with male/female segregation all together and have the competition as a pure meritocracy, a single open competition for all. of course if you do that you probably wipe out Womens sport at the elite level overnight which no one wants.

        In sports that don’t have any direct physical contest, snooker, darts, bowls, curling etc. I really don’t see any reason to segregate men and women however and the sport become more of a physical contest there does become a clear need. Rugby is one of the most physical sports there is. Only combat sports, MMA and boxing are more directly physical but they segregate much further by age, gender and weight where as rugby only segregates by Age and gender. Maybe there is an argument that Rugby should segregate more or bring in weight limits or something which would reduce the huge variations is size we see in the mens game. But as it stands since rugby is probably the most physical sport which doesn’t segregate by weight then that only make the strict adherence to the existing segregation boundaries that much more important.

      6. Perhaps in the future the whole idea of segregation by gender will go out of the window and players will need to pass some kind of fitness test in order to be a registered player and segregation will be made purely on ability but if that were to happen today and without wanting to be mean it would probably once again mean the end of almost all women in the most elite levels of the game.

      7. This is one of the positions I have to fundamentally disagree with. Trans men and women make up 0.3% – 0.5% of the population so we’re talking a tiny minority. That’s hardly a threat to all women in sport. As discussed on the pod, in order to compete in rugby a trans woman has to undergo treatment that will have long term impacts on their bodies so it’s not something someone is going to enter into willingly just to be able to play women’s rugby. There’s no trans women players playing at elite level either so again I would suggest no man is going to willingly undergo treatment just so they can play in the women’s team at their local club. It’s scaremongering from a section of the debate with an anti tran agenda.

  2. I would be for inclusivity of trans-athletes with their original sex. Not for their new gender. I don’t think that level of inclusivity is safe and i don’t believe the science around this has proven otherwise to my belief that the differences are not significant. If there is peer reviewed papers that prove otherwise i’m happy to go back on this, if not then i think we need to accept that a transperson should not be able to do everything that original females can do in regards to competitive contact. sports. Safety comes before inclusiveness i guess is where i stand at a fundamental level.

    1. Setting aside the safety issue, requiring trans women to compete alongside men can in no way be considered inclusive. It doesn’t respect their gender identity and actively excludes them – would you honestly expect trans women to play in men’s teams? No, it pretty firmly establishes them as unwelcome in our rugby community.

      It would also be deeply problematic in practice, as presumably masculine-looking women may be required to prove their sex to be able to compete in women’s teams. I can’t see how this will create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere at all, nor do I see it as doing much to protect women’s rights.

      I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t think World Rugby has handled this challenging issue with the sensitivity it requires.

  3. Thanks both for your comments. From reading the research presented to World Rugby there was nothing that specifically related to rugby or similar team sports. I understand the science put forward re testosterone levels etc but it all seems very generalised. I keep coming back to the fact there are variations between individuals (and that includes testosterone levels between different men) and lots of the research is talking in broad generalisations. It’s also the case that only one person from the trans community was invited to speak and no counter scientific research considered (and there is plenty out there). I agree safety is important and hopefully we get a protocol that comes out which manages to address this and concerns raised whilst also keeping the sport inclusive for all.

  4. I can’t understand why this is even a point of discussion. On the podcast it seemed that the argument was being conflated with the Castor Semenya situation. There’s a clear difference here, Semenya is naturally built that way which means it is a fair competition with other female athletes.

    If trans athletes were allowed to compete in female rugby, we may as well also allow any athletes using performing enhancing drugs to compete as normal in all levels of the sport. I don’t really see a distinction there as both are chemically altering their physiques on purpose before entering into competition. We might lose some sporting value in doing so, but at least we’ll be inclusive.

    1. Umm. No to your second point.

      A deliberate attempt to cheat to win is not the same as trying to live your best life also playing a sport.

      Point being that the drugs are/were not taken to enhance performance.

    2. I’m in agreement on both your points and with regards to your second point while the intentions behind a trans athlete and a drugs cheat are vastly different the net effect is pretty close. Or at least all my opinions are predicated on that assumption. If that assumptions is completely wrong then I’ll happily admit that it would invalidate all my opinions.

      1. I’d go a step further and say that we can’t just assume the intentions of a drugs cheat. There could be many reasons why they take drugs that aren’t directly related to trying to alter results.

        – They may have taken it by accident
        -They may have psychological issues that leads them to think that bulking up their body with steroids is the only way to personal fulfilment, or something.
        – They may be taking drugs for recreational purposes because that’s how they see themselves “living their best life”
        -They may be taking drugs to counteract a physical issue they perceive, and to bring them up to a level playing field with other competitors. If weedy little 15 year olds love rugby but can’t play because they’ll get beaten up, maybe they should be allowed a helping hand so that they’re not excluded?
        -etc. etc

        I’m being facetious here,but I don’t see any outcry for players with drug bans, regardless of the circumstance, to be able to play rugby. Why then is this discussion a thing?

      2. I appreciate you were being facetious but I did ask that we discuss the issue sensitively as you never know who’s reading. The issue is not comparable with people who take performance enhancing drugs. Those people choose to take drugs but trans women would point out that it’s not a choice being a trans woman.

        As I’ve said above and on the podcast the fears about men transitioning for the sole reason of playing rugby are entirely unfounded. It’s highly unlikely a man would choose to voluntarily take steps to lower their testosterone levels purely to play women’s rugby at amateur level (and that’s where this is an issue). There would be long term irreversible impacts on their bodies even if they stopped taking medication.

  5. On a different note, just listened to SRU pod with Kyle Steyn – said his preferred position is 13 and that’s his goal for Scotland, thoughts on his potential there compared to Jones and Harris ? could he be an outside bet for that lions squad due to his versatility. Personally i would love to see him get more time at Centre he seemed very good there for Glasgow.

  6. Nobody has the answers, least of all the qualified anatomists and biologists here who contribute regularly to an online regional rugby forum. It’s like listening to a religious or political discussion, with people taking up entrenched positions on what they want to believe, rather than on what is likely to be true or practical. In other words, despite generating reaction and debate (and well done if that was the aim of the podcast) it’s a right snoozefest.

    A clear demonstration that we need rugby to talk about soon! Feck off Covid.

  7. I think we’ve covered all the areas of debate around trans women in rugby. I’m going to close comments on the post now. This not to a way of stifling debate but I’m conscious there will be people reading who might be affected by these issues and I don’t want them to feel like the blog isn’t a safe space to visit. There are plenty of places to go if you want to continue the debate. The spirit of debate has been broadly sensitive to the issue so thank you all for participating.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion