A transgender athlete has reportedly lodged an application to play in the women’s National Rugby League in Australia.

The Daily Mail reported that the application is being considered by the NRL. Even if approved, the trans player may be able to play only in the next season which starts in August 2022.

In recent years, the participation of transgender athletes have led to vitriolic debates and a transphobic backlash. Recently, trans swimmer Lia Thomas won the NCAA 500m freestyle title in Atlanta, becoming the first transgender athlete to win a US college swimming championship.

Transgender Participation Inevitable

Melbourne Storm player Christian Welch recently said that it was “inevitable” that trans athletes would play in the NRL.

Welch was responding to a Twitter user, who had asked him whether, “on the back of the NCAA swimming in the US this week, has the RLPA (Rugby League Players Association) had any discussions on transgender athletes being integrated into the NRL/NRLW … grassroots or professional levels?”

Welch replied: “It’s inevitable to happen but no I don’t think much discussion has been had on the topic.”

NRL’s Policy For Transgender Athletes

According to the National Rugby League Member Protection Policy, it was “committed to supporting participation in our sport on the basis of the gender with which a person identifies.”

“If issues of performance advantage arise, we will consider whether the established discrimination exceptions for participation in sport are relevant in the circumstances. Discrimination is unlawful unless an exception applies,” the policy said. 

NRL, in its policy, said that it was aware of the debate over whether male-to-female- trans athletes have any physical advantages.

“If issues of performance advantage arise, we will seek advice on the application of those laws in the particular circumstances,” the policy explained.

“The NRL is aware that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has established criteria for selection and participation in the Olympic Games. Where a transgender person intends to compete at an elite level, we will encourage them to obtain advice about the IOC’s criteria, which may differ from the position we have taken.”

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