As a transgender teenager, former elite British rugby player Verity Smith was told he would be kicked off the girls’ rugby team if he began living as a boy – even if he did not start hormone therapy to transition gender.
Forced to choose between a love of the sport and a wish to live openly as a trans man, for years Smith chose rugby – delaying his gender transition for more than two decades.
Now, he fears many other trans youths may face similar dilemmas, as lawmakers and a growing number of sports bodies worldwide restrict trans participation in grassroots games. “I don’t ever want another child to go through my life of worrying … (that) they’re going to lose their sport,” said Smith, 41, who had a lengthy career in women’s rugby before finally beginning his transition about four years ago. “The question shouldn’t be where they are allowed to play, it should be, ‘How do we get them involved?'” A growing number of sporting bodies are moving to restrict trans athletes from competing in elite women’s events, amid heated debate about how to balance inclusion and fairness.