This trans woman served her country. Now she may be banned from rugby – Outsports

Posted: August 25, 2020 at 8:51 pm


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This article is part of a series highlighting the lives and perspectives of trans people in rugby, in partnership with International Gay Rugby.

Captain Shoshauna Gauvin has served her country in the Canadian Armed Forces since she was 16. Next week she officially becomes a veteran, having served nearly half her life in the military, as she is leaving her post as an engineering officer and looking forward to life as a full-time civilian again.

Shes been playing rugby for about as long. And if the rumblings coming from World Rugby are any indication, her rugby career could be headed in the same direction. Gauvin is a trans woman, and as many policy makers in the sports world find ways to build trans inclusion, her sports international governing body may ban her and other trans women from playing the sport she loves.

Gauvins experience through the sport before, during and after transition speaks to the very heart of why banning trans women from sports does not make sense on issues of safety, fairness, science and so many other arguments people use to attack trans women.

Gauvin entered the military and rugby before she ever imagined transitioning. She made her way onto the mens rugby team at St. Marys Univ. in Nova Scotia, where she said she played in every match and started in most of them.

As her need to transition grew, it was in rugby that she realized she was playing the right sport, wrong team. She just shouldnt be on the mens team. She was a woman.

As she transitioned, she wasnt sure she had a future on any pitch. Yet after several years away from the sport, rugby called to her again, and playing on a womens team post-transition became a dream. When she landed at Queens Univ. in Ontario, she charted a course back into the game.

She called the teams coach and got a tryout. A conversation with the director of athletics explained why the St. Marys mens rugby team was on her athletic records. While policies werent clear, Gauvin knew she met the International Olympic Committees trans policies to compete. With some hard work she earned a roster spot and was finally in the right sport and on the right team. When inclusive policies from Rugby Canada and U Sports followed, she began competing again.

Yet her transition had effected her game. One of the hallmarks of her pre-transition reputation both in the military and in sports had been her strength. Now post-transition, this was a whole different ballgame.

I was very strong as a soldier, Gauvin told Outsports. During my deployment I was routinely bench pressing upward of 315 pounds. Very few could match what I lifted. Now as a woman athlete, I have had to rebuild a ton of strength. I came into tryouts after transition underpowered. Even now after two years of training I am not the strongest woman on my team, I struggle to lift half the weight I used to. Ive been benched this past year for several games, simply because there are more skilled, fitter, stronger women than me.

Half the weight. Its an anecdotal observation weve heard from many trans women, that their loss of strength isnt just measurable, its impactful.

While she played in every match and started most of them on her mens team, she now has to fight to earn playing time on the womens team. Shes been benched for several matches.

If I had some distinct advantage, I would have at minimum retained my positional equivalent and not gone down. And in many ways, Ive been spending the last two years working to fill the gaps.

Gauvin looks at the proposed trans-women-ban policy currently being considered at World Rugby as misguided and destructive.

There are plenty of trans women who are 145 pounds and can only lift 85 pounds. By being trans, it doesnt make you automatically stronger.

Gauvin also points to measurable differences within mens sports that are heralded, while differences in womens sports are looked at with suspicion.

In mens sports nobody questions when a linebacker lines up a wide receiver, despite there being a huge difference in height, weight and strength, she said. We put those hits on a highlight reel. To now claim that these differences when involving a trans athlete are somehow unique is disingenuous.

Gauvin said she has never been the cause of any serious injury in womens rugby.

Still, she acknowledges that a transition period for trans women is justified before participating in womens sports.

Given the social landscape, I am in favor of reasonable restrictions for competition, particularly around contact sports, she said. I have relied on these guidelines to help dispel myths about the safety and fairness around trans inclusion. Trans women should be able to train without restriction and compete, without the need for disclosure, in competitive contact womens sports after a reasonable period of taking hormone replacement therapy.

On the verge of retirement from the Armed Forces, Gauvin now hopes to lean on the sport of rugby to continue to build community and a sense of place. These avenues can be difficult for LGBTQ people to identify, and in particular trans women in the midst a worldwide cultural battle over their belonging.

What is the point of sport? To me, its not just to win a championship. Self-improvement, community building and other purposes are all important. For me, mental health is significant particularly as a soon-to-be veteran. Its problematic to remove those benefits from someone based on faulty evidence.

You can follow Shoshauna Gauvin on Instagram @shoshigauvin.

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This trans woman served her country. Now she may be banned from rugby - Outsports

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August 25th, 2020 at 8:51 pm

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