Transgender rugby player crowdfunds legal fight against male ban

Julie-Anne Curtis (circled) pictured with Seaford Ladies rugby team

A transgender rugby player is crowdfunding a legal challenge against a policy that bans biological males from women's teams.

Julie-Anne Curtis, who identifies as a woman, said the Rugby Football Union (RFU) ruling in July 2022 means: "I am unable to play the game I have loved all my life."

The RFU concluded after reviewing the physical differences between men and women: "There are retained advantages in strength, stamina and physique between the average transgender person assigned male at birth (who has passed through puberty and adolescence), and the average female.

"Current research indicates that testosterone suppression does not negate this physical advantageover females and so cannot guarantee competitive fairness and/or safety.

Julie-Ann Curtis 'transitioned' in 2016 and now identifies as a woman

"More specifically, due to developmental changes brought about by male puberty, it is appropriate and necessary to maintain a female only category of contact rugby as well as certain eligibility requirements for male categories from the Under-12 age grade upwards and continuing into the adult game."

Curtis is one of seven registered transgender players affected by the rule, which is in line with similar policies issued by World Rugby and The Irish Rugby Union.

Curtis 'transitioned' in 2016 and claims to have been accepted as female in all aspects of life, including by female rugby players.

Curtis's crowdfunding page has at the time of writing raised £6,520 out of the £20,000 needed to pay legal fees and to gather evidence from experts.

Curtis writes on the page: "This challenge is for every trans woman and girl who wants to play contact rugby. This decision essentially bans one population of people from playing a game. The Equality Act starts at inclusion, not exclusion.

"Trans women come in all shapes, sizes and ability levels, just like cisgender women. The new RFU policy has no nuance and instead has decided all trans women to be excluded. It is difficult to see how this broad-brush approach can be ‘necessary’.

"The decision by the RFU to ban players on the basis of a protected characteristic – without exception - deprives everyone the opportunity to enjoy this game in the culture and spirit of women’s rugby."

Not all donors support Curtis's campaign. One wrote: "Excellent! We need clarification in law that women have a right to female only sports and changing rooms.

"Looking forward to Tribunal Tweets and hearing why you think male feelings are more important than female safety. If/when this doesn't go ahead please donate my £5 to the RSPCA."

Another contributor wrote: "Here is £5 to fund a support squirrel that can comfort you in court when your ridiculous case is being ripped apart KEEP MEN OUT OF FEMALE SPORT."