Transgender athlete Hannah Mouncey has said that she is planning to initiate legal action against the Australian Football League (AFL) over its new Gender Diversity Policy for elite footballers. 

Mouncey slammed the policy that was introduced in October 2020 to allow participation of trans and gender diverse athletes in elite football competitions as “discriminatory”. The handballer and footballer said that while she does not intend to participate in the women’s league (AFLW), the new policy would shut her out of first grade competition level and relegate her to second grade competition.

“This is not a step I take lightly and not one, which I have had any desire to take, if it could be avoided. However, I believe, at this point, I have no other option if I want to play football in the NFL Canberra first grade competition in 2021,” Mouncey said in a statement posted on Twitter on Friday night. 

‘Policy Excludes Transgender Footballers’

Mouncey said that she had made the AFL authorities aware of her concerns with regard to the policy. 

“Throughout the development of these policies in 2018, it was made abundantly clear on numerous occasions to the AFL by the LGBTQI+ community members who were involved, that the first draft policies were discriminatory and were more about exclusion than inclusion, were not fit for purpose, and in many ways offensive, that they would drive potential trans and gender diverse players away from the game. Despite this, the final version of the AFL policies were nearly identical to the draft form.”

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 Mouncey said in her statement that the legal action was not just about being allowed to play football but was also about standing up against the exclusion of trans and gender diverse athletes. 

“For too long the trans community has been on the fringes of society and marginalised trans people deserve to be treated with the same amount of respect and dignity as the rest of society, to be made to feel a valued part of the community,” said Mouncey. 

“I and many others have sat back and watched as racism is shouted down, sexism is shouted down; as society and the wider sporting community makes it clear that neither are acceptable in 2021. In the age where all manner of abuse is called out the moment it is seen or heard, transphobia it seems largely goes unchecked. This is not okay, the message it sends to trans adults and kids all around the world is not okay. And to not take action when it is so obviously neither is not okay, either.”

Gender Diversity Policy Introduced in 2020

According to the AFL’s 2020 Gender Diversity Policy, trans and non binary footballers who wanted to play in AFLW had to meet three conditions. 

  • Maintenance of testosterone at or below 5 nmol/L for for at least two years prior to playing in the AFLW competition. 
  • If the first threshold requirement is met, trans women and non-binary people can nominate themselves for the AFLW draft or for other elite competitions by furnishing information regarding their height, weight, bench press, 20m sprint, vertical jump, GPS data and 2km run.
  • Once the application is approved, the player has to maintain their total testosterone levels below 5 nmol/L. They may have to undergo periodic testing.
  • Transmen or non-binary athletes who want to participate in men’s elite football competitions can participate without the same requirements. 

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 Mouncey has said that unless the issue was resolved, she would proceed to take legal action. 

Fight For Acceptance

Mouncey, a national squad handball and Australian rules football player, had begun her transition in 2015. In 2017, Mouncey’s AFL women’s draft nomination was declined on the basis of her ‘strength, stamina and physique’. She said that the decision left her homeless. The next year she refused to be nominated in the AFLW draft. In 2019, Mouncey was not selected to play in the International Handball Federation World Women’s Handball Championship in Japan despite the fact that she had helped the women’s team to qualify for the competition. In 2018, she was named the Victorian LGBT Sportsperson of the year. 

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