In the fall of 2017, Shawn Gatewood faced transphobic violence and hate speech simply for playing rugby as a transgender athlete on the Raleigh Venom D1 Women’s Rugby team. Earlier in the season, a rival team complained to USA Rugby, questioning his eligibility as a player because of his appearance, but when the complaint didn’t result in Shawn being barred from competition, the team asked other rival teams to sign a petition to have Shawn removed from rugby. Throughout this ordeal, Shawn has remained in compliance with all USA Rugby rules and regulations. He’s continuing to speak out about the need for equality and acceptance in rugby and the greater athletics community.
“After publicly coming out, one thing became blatantly clear: while gender is a wide spectrum of identities and expressions, sport remains very binary and sex-segregated, in its policies and its cultures,” Shawn wrote. “This issue is much bigger than me and my story – it’s one of global significance. We must commit to providing the resources needed to help our trans youth who are being degraded and discriminated against daily.”