The Football Association is being urged by trans players to dismiss safety fears expressed by rugby over women’s contact sports when it updates its own guidance on gender allowances in the coming months.
Gendered Intelligence, an LGBT organisation, has confirmed it is working on a “refresh” around rules it helped devise with the FA five years ago, but sources close to talks say concerns raised by World Rugby over muscle mass will not apply in the same way to football.
Rugby appears closest to tightening its own rules after a peer-reviewed review of its transgender policies concluded they were “not fit for purpose” because a reduction of testosterone “does not lead to a proportionate reduction in mass, muscle mass, strength or power”.
Currently, rugby allows trans women to play in the women’s game if they lower their testosterone levels for at least 12 months in line with International Olympic Committee guidelines.
The FA has a similar approach in its “case-by-case” policy for trans women who have undergone hormone therapy or a gonadectomy and want to play in the women’s competitive game. Most players are allowed to take part if their results in blood testosterone tests fall within natal female ranges.
However, Natalie Washington, a trans woman who plays for Rushmoor Ladies in Farnborough, Hampshire, is among a host of figures in the game who say the rules in football are already strict enough, explaining how she was already forced to dramatically reduce her testosterone to get the green light to compete.
“The extremely low level I went to is the kind of level that a lot of people would say is too low, is dangerously low,” she told The Daily Telegraph. “It’s not ideal, but to me playing football is more important.”
Following gender reassignment, she first applied to the FA to start playing women’s football in July 2015. “I was on testosterone suppressants at that point, but obviously their decision was it wasn’t suppressed enough.”
After changing her treatment of drugs, her testosterone level plunged to “super low” levels. The FA told her she had to remain at that level for a year. She was eventually allowed to compete in January 2017.
“I do feel problems from that low level,” she added. “I feel more tired.”
The FA confirmed it has been again working with Gendered Intelligence “to supplement the trans people in football guidance and review the policy as part of good governance”. The Daily Telegraph disclosed earlier this month how football is among a host of sports considering its policies.