Hayling Island trans woman set to become first trans bowls player in league's 120-year history
A TRANS woman from Hayling Island is set to make sporting history as the first trans woman to compete in a Bowls England league following her efforts to modernise the sport’s policies.
Stella Moore, 67, has been playing friendly matches at Hayling Island and Southbourne bowls club for two years – but faced ‘ridiculous’ policies in order for her to compete even in mixed leagues.
Bowls England rules meant she would need to provide a £100 UK gender recognition certificate or undergone sex change surgery, which Stella has been waiting to undergo since she began living as a woman three years ago.
Now the avid bowls fan is celebrating an overturning of the rules, with a new policy that simply requires trans players to provide an annual hormone reading that can be obtained from a blood test.
Stella said she was ‘very chuffed’ that her fight has made the sport she loves more inclusive, with hormone therapy more accessible than surgery.
The Hayling Island resident and retired engineer said: ‘I feel very good and very proud.
‘I’m very pleased not only for me, but for other people – I’ve had messages from other trans players and they are contesting rules in sports they play, like darts and golf.
‘I have been told I will be the first trans player to play bowls competitively in 120 years. I’m very chuffed.
‘You’re going to get doors slammed in your face – but you have to keep kicking until the door opens.
‘But everyone I have played against in friendlies has been very friendly.’
And she believes her efforts to reform the sport should be a ‘wake up’ call for further change, with Stella saying that stringent uniform policies and a lack of diversity discourages new players.
She said: ‘It’s not just about trans players – I want all sorts of people to be able to play. I don’t want the sport to die. But it’s like a dinosaur walking towards a cliff. We have to do everything we can to change its direction.’
Stella has submitted a testosterone reading after undergoing a blood test at a gender identity clinic in London, and will be meeting with the chairwoman of Southbourne Bowls Club to discuss playing in this season’s league, which has already begun.
Bowls England will review the change of policy at the end of the season, according to a spokesman from the organisation.
He said: ‘Someone would be required to submit testosterone levels before they play in a national and local competition in that season. Evidence would not be required again for 12 months or until the following season, whichever is sooner.
‘Bowls England believes in being open and adaptable, welcoming feedback across all we do. We believe this new policy provides a framework for fair competition, whilst also ensuring there is an opportunity for everyone to take part.
‘It will be trialled during the 2021 season and will be reviewed in the off-season taking on board any future research findings or changes in guidance from the Sports Council Equality Group.’
Last year, Stella’s efforts helped shine a light on previous - and archaic – guidelines from the Portsmouth & District Women’s Bowling Association, which referred to ‘the transsexual gaining...sympathy by acting reasonably’, advising trans players to ‘present themselves in an understated fashion’ as few lady bowlers ‘vamp up’ on the green and to avoid situations that could ‘embarrass anyone’ involved.
Bowls England said that previous guidelines were ‘historical and outdated’ and it would not recognise or support the language used, with new guidelines focusing on ‘respecting’ individual members’ gender identities.