A transgender rugby player had blood spat into his mouth as part of the abuse he’s received on the playing field.
Verity Smith, who was assigned the gender female at birth, said he’s also been ridiculed, assaulted and prevented from playing the sport he loves.
He said his changing appearance made him a target for abuse, which he said sometimes made playing rugby ‘a nightmare’.
‘Because I’ve got a full beard on the ladies team but I’m still physically female, it makes things a bit more complicated’, he told CNN. ‘We’ve played a few small-minded teams.
Marched off the pitch, outed, assaulted and attacked
‘I’ve been escorted off the pitch, outed on the internet, assaulted and pinned down and had blood spat in my mouth and the police wouldn’t do anything about it’, Smith said.
He said he has even played games where match officials have ‘taken the mickey and it’s damn right rude’.
However, despite all the abuse, the rugby player said he could never stop playing the game he loves so much. He is currently one of three transgender players who turn out for Rotherham Ladies.
The manager of the south Yorkshire team explains the situation to opposition teams before kick-off in a match. Some players will occasionally refuse to play, although Smith said his own teammates have ‘always been great’.
Rugby became player’s life when parents died
Smith turned to rugby when both his parents died. Before transitioning, he ended up playing in the top division of women’s rugby in England.
‘My dad died when I was 17 and my mum was sick most of her life and she died when I was in my 20s and so rugby was my family.’
He told CNN he felt he was born the wrong sex and struggled to cope living as a woman. But the thought of being kicked out of the sport he loved was worse. The torment, Smith said, led to suicidal thoughts.
‘The thought of losing that used to make me think it was better I wasn’t there, then nobody would have to deal with it and nothing could be taken away from me.’
The 37-year-old currently plays both rugby union and league for Rotherham Ladies and Dewsbury Moore respectively.
He said that changing attitudes towards transgender people generally and particularly in his sport, eventually convinced him to start his transition process.
Smith said he took the opportunity to ‘be who I want to be’ when the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the sport’s governing body in England, made it clear anyone wanting to play the game could do so ‘without prejudice’.