Bowls England changes 'outdated' guidance after transgender player from Hayling Island fights for league entry

Bowls officials are changing its ‘historical and outdated’ guidance on transgender players after a player from Hayling Island was barred entry to a women’s league.

By Richard Lemmer
Saturday, 3rd April 2021, 6:44 pm
Updated Sunday, 30th May 2021, 9:28 am

Stella Moore, 67, hopes to become the first trans female to play in a women's league in Bowls England's 120-year history.

She has lived as a woman for the last three years and joined Hayling Island Bowls Club two years ago.

But, as reported by The News in October, her hopes of competing against fellow female bowlers were dashed by Portsmouth and District Women's Bowling Association.

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Stella Moore is continuing to fight for league participation as Bowls England begins to change its 'outdated' rules around transgender players. Picture: Stella Moore

Stella, who has two children and is separated from her wife of 37 years, has said that the £100 UK gender recognition certificate was too expensive.

And the retired quality engineer has been waiting for surgery for several years.

Bowls England have now said its previous guidelines were ‘historical and outdated’.

Stella Moore outside Hayling Island Bowls Club Picture: Habibur Rahman.

Chief executive Jon Cockroft said the organisation is ‘developing a new trans and gender-diverse policy’.

Speaking to BBC South, he added: ‘Whilst the physical demands of bowls are more modest than most sports, it is still a gender-affected sport.

‘Our new policy is being designed to balance a desire for inclusivity, so everybody can feel welcome in bowls, with the importance of ensuring fair competition.

‘We are at the final stages of consultation on this complex matter and intend to have our new policy in place before the start of the season.’

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Bowls England have contacted Stella about their changing guidelines, but the keen bowls player remains unable to compete in the league.

She said: ‘I took it as a formality that I would be to play in the league.

‘And they said, “not necessarily” – they cannot confirm that.

‘So it’s not changed anything for me at this point in time.

‘I think they are trying to appease the traditionalists and the diverse group of people that want to play. But I don’t think they have started to change the rules in earnest.

‘I’m not holding my breath. Of course, I want to help if I can.

‘I don’t want people to think I’m a trouble maker. I am just a human being and I just want to play bowls – win, lose, or draw.’

The slow pace of change left Stella so disillusioned with the sport that she let her club membership lapse in September, but she has praised Hayling Island Bowls Club for being ‘superb’ and is now playing again at Southbourne Bowls Club.

Stella is on hormone treatment to increase her female characteristics and reduce her strength, meaning she now has ‘the strength of a 40-year-old woman’, which she says can be clinically proven by her GP and a gender clinic.

Previous Bowls England guidelines referred to ‘the transsexual gaining most sympathy by acting reasonably’, and that trans players should ‘present themselves in an understated fashion’ as few lady bowlers ‘vamp up’ on the green. It also said that the opposition should be advised that the member should not ‘embarrass anyone’ involved.

Bowls England have said their previous guidelines were ‘historical and outdated’ and that it would now not recognise or support the language previously used.

Stella hopes to see a more welcoming stance towards trans bowls payers soon, replicating progress made in Scotland.

She said: ‘In Scotland there's not an issue, people from there have been in touch saying they can play no problem.

‘It's about putting pressure on the various bodies.’

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