Guidelines for non-binary people
"Non-binary" is a term used by people whose gender is identified by them as neither male nor female, or both male and female, or whose gender is not identified as male and/or female.
For non-binary people, the factor that determines which of the categories of rugby they may play (i.e. men's or women's rugby) is whether or not the player has experienced the biological effects of testosterone during puberty and adolescence.
- Non-binary people who have experienced the biological effects of testosterone during puberty and adolescence can play men's rugby without any restrictions.
- Non-binary people who have experienced the biological effects of testosterone during puberty and adolescence cannot currently play women's rugby.
- Non-binary people who were identified as female at birth and have not experienced the biological effects of testosterone during puberty and adolescence can play women's rugby (subject to confirmation of medical treatment and the timing thereof). See here for details of how this review would be carried out.
- Non-binary people who were identified as female at birth and have not experienced the biological effects of testosterone during puberty and adolescence can play men's rugby subject to certain conditions (currently: certification of physical ability and a TUE where necessary).
- Non-binary people who are pre-puberty can play either boys or girls or mixed-gender rugby up to age 12 (in line with World Rugby's mixed-gender guideline) and thereafter, shall participate in rugby in accordance with the above criteria for non-binary people depending on whether they are experiencing the biological effects of testosterone during puberty and adolescence or not.
Player who have experienced or are experiencing the biological effects of testosterone during puberty or adolescence:
Why can't they play women's rugby?
Concerns have emerged following the publication of new research that suggests that the suppression of testosterone does not reduce the strength of transgender women to the extent previously thought to be the case.
For a detailed explanation of the effects of testosterone on performance and injury risk in rugby, please visit the relevant section here.
Having considered all of the currently available information, the working group determined that the best evidence currently available means that those who experienced the biological effects of testosterone during puberty cannot safely or fairly compete in women's rugby.
World Rugby is committed to encouraging transgender people to remain involved with rugby and is currently funding research to review any new evidence that may emerge to enable the participation of those who had experienced the biological effects of testosterone during puberty in women's rugby if they so wish. Details of the research currently underway, along with details of how to apply for research funding for those who may be interested, is available here.
Non-binary players who were identified at birth as female and have not experienced the biological effects of testosterone during puberty:
Why is a confirmation of physical ability required?
Individuals who have undergone the androgenizing effects of testosterone during puberty are typically heavier, stronger, and faster than those who have not. Hence, it is prudent for safety reasons to ensure that large mismatches, which may increase the risk of injury, are avoided. The male-female differences relevant to these risks are described here.
Why might a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) be required?
Some non-binary people may be undergoing medical treatment that includes the prescription of testosterone, spironolactone or GnRH agonists which are "Prohibited Substances" on the WADA Prohibited List (i.e. they are considered to be performance enhancing substances) and they are not permitted without a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE). A TUE provides a player with authorisation to use a Prohibited Substance whilst continuing to play rugby. Players who medically require the use of a Prohibited Substance are required to obtain a TUE.
Without a TUE, Players risk committing an Anti-Doping Rule Violation, an offence that may result in a sanction regardless of the medical circumstances. That could result in a four year suspension from sport and therefore it is very important that players understand their obligations to obtain a TUE.
How do I stay involved in rugby if I can no longer play in the category that I want to?
World Rugby acknowledges that the introduction of this Guideline will mean that some players can no longer play in the category that they want to. It is possible that will change in the future and World Rugby is funding research to try to find out if there are ways to allow that safely and fairly (see here for details). In the meantime, there are many other ways to stay involved with rugby:
- Other forms of the game: Many forms of non-contact Rugby exist such as: Tag; Touch; Flag etc all have open
- Coaching: Coaching can be hugely rewarding and can provide players with life lessons, engender a love for the sport and provide an enjoyable vehicle for World Rugby and its member Unions offer several courses for coaches of children, adolescents, and adults. All courses are open to any participant.
- Refereeing: For many people who may not be able to play, refereeing is a viable alternative to stay close to the game. World Rugby and its member Unions offer several introductory courses and a pathway exists in all Unions for fast-tracking talented
- Administration: All clubs rely on volunteer administrators. As individuals enter the latter stages of the long-term participant model, then administration becomes a realistic outlet for many. A number of Unions have dedicated support resources for individuals who wish to pursue this path of staying involved.
World Rugby is currently exploring the possibility of an "open category" of rugby in which any player could play, regardless of gender identity. 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.
What if I have concerns about safety or fairness relating to someone I am playing with or against?
It is important to note that many people do not meet cultural or local norms or stereotypes related to the expression of gender identity. All players and Unions ought to take care to consider this when raising any concerns about another player. In the event that a player or Union has a genuine concern about safety or fairness in relation to another player, the concern should be dealt with as follows:
- The concerned person should raise their concerns with their Union's Chief Medical Officer (CMO).
- The Union's CMO should carefully consider the concerns raised, in the context of all of the known facts and if having done so, the CMO determines that the concerns are not frivolous or vexatious, the CMO should contact the World Rugby CMO setting out the basis for the
- The World Rugby CMO will engage with the CMO of the Union of the player about whom the concerns have been raised, ensuring confidentiality for the player and involved team-mates and opponents throughout the
- The World Rugby CMO and the relevant player's CMO will discuss the situation and agree on the most appropriate actions, based on the specific circumstances
- In some circumstances, such appropriate actions may include a recommendation that a standardised endocrinological assessment be performed [Appendix].
- For the avoidance of doubt, no player should or would be forced to undergo any medical or other assessment. It is a player's responsibility to decide on whether he or she wishes to proceed with any assessment. However, it should be noted that deciding not to participate in an assessment, having been requested to do so, may have consequences in terms of the player's eligibility to participate in the category of competition that is consistent with his/her/their gender identity, since it may not be possible to determine whether issues of safety or fairness arise without such assessment.