The Australian Football League Allows Trans Player in State Leagues

In an unprecedented decision, the Australian Football League has cleared trans athlete Hannah Mouncey, 28, to play women’s football at the state level.

AFL social policy manager Tanya Hosch stated:

We are committed to inclusion and want all Australians to be able to play or participate in our game. These are complex issues and we are considering expert opinion, international frameworks and feedback from the communities that are impacted by our decisions,.

Mouncey, who previously played in the ACT women’s league, applied to be part of the AFLW draft in 2017. However, in October of 2017 the AFL refused her, citing “transgender strength, stamina, physique, along with the specific nature of the AFLW.”

This response provoked condemnation, and the AFL Players Association argued that the league lacked “clear guidelines” to inform trans sportspeople of the application process and the criteria they must fulfill to become eligible to play.

Now, the AFL has released an official statement, in which the league appears to advocate for full trans inclusion even before officially announcing its gender policy:

Eligibility decisions are generally made by state and local leagues in accordance with the rules and policies of the relevant football body. However, the AFL strongly encourages all Australian football competitions to adopt the AFL’s recommendation to facilitate the inclusion of trans players at the community level until the AFL’s gender diversity policy is finalised.

This latest decision does not immediately allow Mouncey to apply for the AFLW, but it does mean she can apply to any of the associated leagues to play in the 2018 season. In addition, the decision barring her from entering the AFLW only applies to the 2018 games, so Mouncey can reapply after the season is over.

After the announcement, Mouncey took to Twitter to thank her supporters — but not the AFL:

I think it would be highly inappropriate for me to thank the AFL for allowing me to do something open to every other Australian, which the science and research has supported all along.

Mouncey goes on to explain that her attempts to overturn the ban extended beyond her love for the sport:

So while yes, it’s good to be able to play and is a great outlet and I love it, I and other trans people have much bigger things to worry about. Which is why even though initially this was about my playing football, as soon as I was denied knowledge of the process involved, communication with those making the decision, or just plain ignored when trying to get the most basic information back in November, it became for me something much bigger.

Trans inclusion in sports is backed by science

Those who oppose trans inclusion in sports — particularly trans women playing on women-only teams — say they are concerned about the competitive edge that a formerly male-assigned player could have. This viewpoint is often used as a guise for transphobia, but it has little basis in reality.

Research has shown that with just one full year of hormone therapy, trans women’s hormone profiles change enough to diminish many of the male-associated characteristics that might have allowed them to out compete cisgender female athletes. Put simply, trans women who regularly take hormones and have done so for a year or more have no competitive advantage over their cisgender counterparts.

Curiously, many people fail to question trans male performance in sports, perhaps thinking that they will naturally be weaker than their cis competitors. But this isn’t a correct assumption. In fact, one clinical review pointed out that trans men may have elevated testosterone levels as a result of their hormone therapy, which could enhance muscle development.

I point this out not to suggest that trans men shouldn’t be allowed to compete — far from it — but to demonstrate that the so-called problem of trans women competing is actually more of an ideological problem, not one based in science. It’s possible to create stable testosterone levels that can allow trans men to play without the risk of unfair advantage, again demonstrating that when we look at these issues in scientific terms, the barriers are frequently just perceived social issues.

These facts have already led several sporting bodies, like the International Olympic Committee, to allow trans athletes. And, while all have different thresholds for inclusion, these allowances have come with little to no upheaval or disagreement among fellow athletes.

While the Australian Football League has taken a significant step in announcing its intent to broaden its gender policy, it owes Moucey no small debt of gratitude for daring to put herself through the nomination and rejection process — and for provoking a discussion to drive change.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


John B
John B11 days ago

Thanks Steve for sharing the awesome Aussie news.

Angela K
Angela K19 days ago

Thank you for sharing

Maria R
Maria R23 days ago

That's good. Thanks.

Past Member
Cruel Justice24 days ago

If someone has the skill, who cares about anything else? Oh yeah, that would be the religious crazies. Let's get rid of those, shall we?

Elaine W
Elaine W24 days ago

Encouraging news. thanks.

Alanna R
Alanna R25 days ago

I'm super happy about this!

Cate S
Cate S26 days ago

i'm proud of the AFL

Angela J
Angela J27 days ago


Leo C
Leo Custer28 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

Christine Stewart

thank you