22 August 2019

Transgender rugby player blazing a trail as she prepares for Welsh league debut

Kelly Morgan hopes to become the first transgender woman to compete in the Welsh women's rugby league in September.

Born Nicholas Gareth Morgan, Kelly played representative rugby for East Wales as a teenage boy, a career that was cut short by injury. Kelly then went through a decade coping with gender identity and the transition to female. 

At nearly six feet tall, Morgan, 33 has been branded "beast" by her team-mates at Porth Harlequins Ladies rugby team. Both players and coaches alike have felt the impact of her presence with captain Jessica Minty-Madley saying: "She's folded a girl like a deckchair during a game, which was quite funny, but they're still friends." 

"She's put me in hospital, I won't lie about that," added coach Wayne Mansell. "She's given me a fracture in my ankle during a game of touch," but at the same time he claims she does not have a physical advantage over her opponents. 

"I've seen Kelly struggling more than a lot of the girls with the demands of our training," he said, adding: "Some days are good, some days are bad, but at the end of the day can you really exclude people?"

Minty-Madley echoed this saying: "Any advantage Kelly gets comes from how hard she trains.

"She's one of us. She comes in, trains hard, plays hard and parties hard with us afterwards." 

Kelly has been taking a daily dose of the female hormone oestrogen for the last 18 months and has been documenting her journey on social media.

"I'm always optmistic and I think being open breaks the ice with people, I have no shame in who I am," she said. 

Kelly's story has now ignited a new dabate within Welsh rugby over the eligibility of transgender players to compete in the women's tournament. Kelly accepts that rugby is a physical sport and that there could be an argument that she has a size and strength advantage.

"I do feel guilty, but what can you do?" she said, adding: "I don't go out to hurt anybody. I just want to play rugby at the end of the day."

Under Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) Guidelines, Kelly is entitled to play providing her blood testosterone levels are within a certain range. The transsexual policy states: "WRU Group believes that gender identity and gender reassignment should not be a barrier to participation in rugby union in Wales."

Kelly is just excited to start the season and hopes that her story will inspire others saying "Times are changing. I'm the first one in Wales at the moment and hopefully I'll inspire more people to come and play rugby or any sort of sport."

She has set up a Facebook page called "my transgender rugby experiences" in the hope of sharing her joys of being part of a women's rugby team but also to show the struggles she has faced and helped others to face.

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