Trans athletes in rugby? Comedian tackles thorny issue
Australian stand-up comedian Isaac Butterfield has a habit of taking on subjects others tend to avoid and he has now waded into the contentious topic of trans athletes competing in women’s rugby.
Known for his unfiltered and often polarizing takes on current affairs, the former 6’8, 134kg rugby league player has charged head first into the discussion, reflecting on a recent drama from North American rugby.
A recent video from the Aussie Larakin centres around an incident involving a Canadian trans player who allegedly left three female opponents injured during a women’s rugby competition in June just past.
This player who is transitioning from male to female, is a member of the Fergus Highlanders Senior women’s Rugby team and was given the green light to compete in the women’s league. The 5’10, 100kg player certainly sports a physique that wouldn’t be out of place in men’s rugby and in fact is said to have been a standout player in men’s league before starting their transition.
World Rugby currently does not allow trans athletes to compete in women’s rugby “because of the size, force- and power-producing advantages conferred by testosterone during puberty and adolescence, and the resultant player welfare risks this creates.”Although it’s not exactly clear, it seems Canadian Rugby will not be enforcing World Rugby’s ban in this case.
The controversy surrounding the Canadian case is the latest in a long line of scenarios in which the question of trans’ athlete in women’s sports has been raised, a topic that has been at the centre of the culture war for… well, several years at this stage. Butterfield’s outspoken views, while rooted in humour, do raise valid concerns held by many sports fans, and not just in rugby union.
The issue here is that, unlike sports like swimming, running or cycling, rugby is a contact sport and directly pits human bodies against human bodies.
Butterfield, a comedian known for his unapologetic delivery, has carved a niche for himself by fearlessly addressing subjects that often stir controversy. While his approach might ruffle feathers, his involvement in the discussion shines a spotlight on an issue that doesn’t look like going away any time soon.
World Rugby is currently exploring the possibility of an “open category” of rugby in which any player could play, regardless of gender. World Rugby has committed to exploring this option with its Unions, Associations, International Rugby Players, and trans-advocate groups including Gendered Intelligence and International Gay Rugby.