Hayling Island transgender woman says Portsmouth league is in the 'dark ages' with rules

A TRANSGENDER woman has said a bowls league is ‘in the dark ages’ after they refused to allow her to play competitively until after surgery.

Friday, 23rd October 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 23rd October 2020, 9:45 am

Stella Moore, from Hayling Island, has been a member of Hayling Island Bowls Club for nine months after building up the courage to take part in the sport she had always wanted to play.

But the 67-year-old, who has lived as a woman for three years, has been left deeply upset by Portsmouth & District Women’s Bowling Association as they refuse to let her play competitively.

The organisation told her she wouldn’t be able to play for the women’s league team until three years after gender reassignment surgery, or until she had a UK Gender Recognition Certificate – something Stella, who has been waiting three years for surgery, said is too expensive.

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Stella Moore outside Hayling Island Bowls Club on October 21, 2020. Picture: Habibur Rahman.

Stella has been left upset as the trans policy on the association’s website includes rules saying ‘the transsexual will do best by presenting herself in an understated fashion, including not wearing too much make-up’.

It adds ‘the transexual should show goodwill by freely involving in aspects of social activities... (to) allow other members... to become used to her being around en femme’.

Opposition teams in friendlies should be sent a ‘very carefully and sensitively written letter’ explaining the trans person is a ‘pleasant and likeable person who will not embarrass anyone involved,’ the policy said.

It added ‘the transsexual might do well to come to games already changed’ to avoid using changing rooms or toilets.

A screenshot of the rules from the website of Portsmouth & District Women’s Bowling Association.

Stella, who has two children, said: ‘It is so frustrating that we have to prove ourselves time and again.

‘My club and my team wants me to play because they think that I am good enough and I only want to be on the team if I am.

‘I think the league is in the dark ages and the rules are archaic. I understand if it was a sport like boxing then there would need to more considerations but this is bowls.

‘It is a sport that has brought me happiness at a time when I have been very sad and depressed.

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The current rules laid out by Bowls England on its website say only people who have had gender reassignment surgery before puberty or have a UK Gender Recognition Certificate will be allowed to play at league level.

The organisation told The News that it is reviewing its transgender policy.

Jon Cockcroft, Bowls England chief executive, said: ‘We are proud of the intrinsically inclusive nature of our sport and our aim is to create an environment which is accessible and fair to all.

‘We will be reviewing and updating our transgender policy ahead of the 2021 season.

‘This more detailed work will provide greater clarity for all stakeholders within our sport to help avoid situations such as this.’

The News questioned Cyndy Goldacre, president of the Portsmouth & District Women’s Bowling Association, about the rules relating to behaviour.

These were not answered but the policy has been removed from the website.

In a statement Mrs Goldacre said: ‘This is a very emotive subject, one that obviously needs to be revisited by those who make the rulings.

‘I am advised that Bowls England and Sport England are in discussions on this very subject but these discussions are in their early stages and nothing new has been published at this present time.’

Sports England has been working with sports councils across the UK to commission a review around the separate challenge of trans peoples’ inclusion in domestic sport competition.

Maria Munir, head of community engagement at LGBT charity Stonewall said: ‘Many trans people feel excluded from taking part in the sports they love and it’s deeply upsetting to hear that this is happening to Stella Moore.

‘Bowls England’s trans inclusion policy is clearly in need of a thorough, research-led review and update.

‘We’d welcome a conversation with Bowls England to talk about how they can make their policy as inclusive as possible, and what advice and guidance they’re giving to ensure all people, including trans people, can participate.’

Stella, a retired quality engineer, added: ‘I have had so much support from so many transgender people who want to play their sports and I feel like I am doing this for everyone.

‘I left a 37-year marriage to the woman I loved to be who I am and it has been really difficult but I have felt this way for a long time.

‘When I was 10-years-old my father found me in the bathroom trying on mother’s clothes and he was angry. It was the 60s and it was against the law back then. I tried to hide my femininity throughout my life and now I am being who I am.

‘I hope that telling my story helps others.’

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