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First Ever All-Trans Rugby Match in US Held in Protest Against Trans Athlete Bans

“It's going to be a fantastic opportunity for us, as transgender athletes, to gather, celebrate our talents, and spread trans joy.”

The International Gay Rugby (IGR) association will host an all-trans match in the North American Rugby Cup in a United States-first event. This revolutionary event, taking place on May 27, 2023 in North Carolina, has been put together in an immense effort to challenge anti-transgender narratives both in the media and sports industries. In particular, there’s a focus on tackling the recent trans athlete bans and pushing for equality of all identities in sports. Baltimore Flamingos
President and IGR representative Val Pizzo, and participating athlete Atticus Martin shared their perspectives on why this event is so important. 

Image Credit: Canva

In an unprecedented event in the US, this trans-inclusive match will exist to showcase the incredible abilities of transgender and non-binary athletes and players, with the goal of eradicating the stereotypes surrounding so-called unfair advantages’ that the transgender community regularly face. With 39 players from 17 different rugby teams around the world, this new team play with the ultimate goal of partaking in the Bingham Cup 2024 against the United Kingdom’s all trans team, The Transmanian Devils. Sending an empowering message of resilience in the face of consistent, negative rhetoric and discriminatory legislation, IGR continues their constant fight against unfair exclusion.

We reached out to a few of the people involved in the upcoming event to ask them about the value of representation in sports and what they hope to see happen as a result of this revolutionary match.


Why do you think it's important to see LGBTQ+ representation in sports in general?

Atticus Martin: “Seeing LGBTQ+ athletes, including trans athletes like myself, in sports is incredibly important. It's all about promoting acceptance, breaking down stereotypes, and showing that we belong. Sports have the power to bring people together and transcend societal barriers. In a sport like Rugby, where diverse body shapes, sizes, and athletic abilities can excel, there's room for everyone to participate and thrive. It's about creating a more inclusive and welcoming environment where everyone feels empowered to play sports and be their authentic selves.”

Val Pizzo: “As a trans person who came out in high school, sports often didn't feel welcoming to me, and in many cases, I was explicitly excluded for being trans or had to hide the fact that I was trans to get away with playing at all. Hiding my trans status to be able to play was stressful, and honestly sad. Now, being part of an LGBT+ centered team, I can be very loudly out as trans and not worry that my teammates will have an issue.

"It's a direct result of that visibility that we've been able to create a space where more trans people feel comfortable. One quarter of our team identifies as transgender, and we have over 30 trans alumni. When trans people see that it's safe, supportive, and that there are other trans people on the team, people who never thought they would try a sport like rugby have enthusiastically joined up.” 


What do you hope to see happen as a result of this event?

Atticus Martin: It's going to be a fantastic opportunity for us, as transgender athletes, to gather, celebrate our talents, and spread trans joy. We want to inspire others by showcasing our skills in a supportive and inclusive environment, challenging any outdated ideas about our capabilities. This event will ignite important conversations about inclusivity and push for fair policies that honor and respect all athletes, regardless of their gender identity.”

Val Pizzo: “There is definitely a hope that a match like this could increase visibility in such a way that it will help combat transphobic policies and bills that prevent trans people from playing team sports, but the biggest reason that I organized this match is because I wanted to play rugby with other trans people who have gone through what I have.

"We have likely all gone through a lot, or are still going through a lot, to find a team we are comfortable on, have probably all faced some ignorance or hostility just for walking onto the pitch, have had to fight or hide or compromise to even be allowed to play, and somehow all of us have found a way to keep playing a sport that we love. It's just beautiful that we can all come together to celebrate that, regardless of who watches or who even knows that the match happened. This is for us.”

IGR also expressed hope that this match will help to shift the public perception of the trans community towards a more positive and empathetic outlook. With media invited to attend and report on the unique match, it has the potential to spark and inspire many more events like this in future.

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