The Premiere Rugby Sevens, an American rugby league, is holding their Eastern Conference kickoff next Saturday and is allowing Emma Farnan, a transgender woman, to compete on the women’s team, despite the World Rugby official guidelines barring transgender women from competing in the sport.
Playing for the “Southern Headliners,” Farnan is listed on the 2023 women’s roster playing the “prop” position, a position that is typically assigned to, “the biggest two players on the team” per Wayne State College. I spoke to a current rugby coach with 20 years of past experience who also shared that, “the props are usually the angriest runners on the field.”
Photo: PR Sevens Women's Roster
This is the second year in a row that Farnan has been allowed to play in the women’s league and during the 2022 season, the PRSevens official Twitter account highlighted Farnan as “the first transgender professional rugby player.”
Farnan made news back in January of this year, after stating in a Good Morning America interview that trans women have no advantages over biological women, saying, “we are women and we compete equally as a woman”.
“I feel like a shell of the athlete I used to be,” Farnan explained, “after taking hormones for a year, two years, I can’t even come close to the level of athleticism that I used to compete with.”
Farnan competed in the 2022 season and the Southern Headliners currently hold the championship title in the women’s league with the PRSevens official website naming them, “The first and reigning United Champions” and their official Instagram bio reading, “2022 Women’s Champions”.
Despite Farnan being allowed to compete in the American league, the World Rugby organization, the official governing body of the sport, has banned trans women from competing in international women’s rugby.
Per the World Rugby guidelines, trans-identified males are not allowed to participate in women’s rugby due to the “size, force- and power-producing advantages conferred by testosterone during puberty and adolescence, and the resultant player welfare risks this creates”.
Despite sharing during the Good Morning America interview that Farnan feels he can’t “come close to the level of athleticism that I used to compete with”, Farnan shares that he didn’t start transitioning until college, well past the age of puberty.
The World Rugby guidelines also list the various biological advantages testosterone can have on transgender female athletes, such as “significant increase in body mass”, “increased height, “greater bone density” and “increased heart and lung size”, amongst others. Their official guidelines go on to explain how these biological advantages can result in significant strength, speed and power advantages for transgender women.
Photo: World Rugby guidelines
The guidelines also debunk the proposition that, “the suppression of testosterone for a period of 12 months is sufficient to remove the biological differences,” in transgender women, with the organization listing research, “consistently showing that total mass, muscle mass and/or strength are reduced by at most 5% to 10% when testosterone is suppressed to levels in the female range, for a period of 12 months”.
The World Rugby body ultimately highlights that biological males are not allowed to compete due to the risk of injury posed to female competitors.
It is also noted that transgender men may play in men’s rugby, however, they have to provide, “provide confirmation of physical ability to ensure that they are not putting themselves at an unacceptable level of risk when playing against men”. They are also not allowed to play in women’s rugby after sex reassignment surgery, if testosterone is included.
In 2019, Welsh trans-identified rugby player Kelly Morgan made headlines after injuring a female player. Club Captain Jessica Minty-Madley said "she folded a girl like a deckchair during a game," but added, "Any advantage Kelly gets comes from how hard she trains."
The Eastern Conference Kickoff marks the second year that Farnan is being allowed to compete in the women’s league being held in Austin, Texas on June 17th, a conference that is supposed to be nationally televised by CBS Sports News.
Women’s Rugby Comp was the first to highlight this story on Twitter and have been at the forefront of calling out PRSevens CEO, Owen Scannell, for allowing a biological male to compete in the women’s league sharing that, “PRSevens is much like the NCAA in allowing trans-identified males to compete against women. They ignore World governing bodies bans on these men. World Rugby spent a year researching the ban on trans-identified men playing”.
To give viewers more insight into Emma Farnan’s previous athletic abilities, he was previously known as Emmett Farnan and ran track and field in high school and was featured in Barstool Sports and Runner’s World for running a half-marathon in under two hours while shotgunning 13 beers along the way.
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