Sports shelter: Germany’s first FLINTA* rugby team founded in Berlin

When Rachel Schneider talks about rugby, she sounds euphoric and gets enthusiastic quickly. “It’s an incredibly empowering space for all body types.” That’s what the 27-year-old American loves about the sport. “You can be the shortest, tallest, fastest or slowest person – there’s a place for everyone on the team.” Not only doesn’t it matter what qualifications someone brings with them, it’s even important that the team represents as wide a spectrum as possible. possible.

To make rugby a place for even more people, Schneider founded Germany’s first FLINTA* rugby team with the Berlin Bruisers. FLINTA* is an acronym that stands for women, lesbians, intersex, non-binary, trans and agender people, i.e. all people who are patriarchally discriminated against because of their gender identity. “It’s very important that not only is a space created for the people of FLINTA, but that their own spaces are explicitly created for them,” Schneider says.

The association wishes to create a space of protection against exclusion and violence so that the diversity of society is also reflected in sport. This manifested itself, for example, in the sensitive language used during training or in the fact that players introduce themselves not only with their names but also with their pronouns.

Schneider does not believe that cis men, that is, men who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, are thus excluded. “With this statement, it is often overlooked that almost all spaces are made for cis men. And in every room they enter, they feel welcome and safe. It’s different with FLINTA* people, they can’t automatically feel safe and have to be afraid of discrimination. “It’s not even about creating a space that excludes certain people. Rather, a space should be created for a specific group of people.

Support is paramount

Since the team’s inception, Schneider has received a lot of positive feedback, especially from other rugby teams in Berlin. The first training took place last Wednesday, in Treptow-Köpenick, on the Neue Krugallee sports ground. It included people who had played rugby before and others who were trying the sport for the first time. “It was a great mix. We even ended up playing a touch rugby game and it was really cool to see everyone laughing and having a good time.

Mutual support and the involvement of all actors must remain at the forefront in the future. It’s not about going beyond your own physical limits and possibly hurting yourself because you don’t dare take a break. “Nobody should feel guilty or bad about their level of fitness. Above all, it has to be fun.

The involvement of all stakeholders is essential.Photo: Berlin Bruisers

The founding of the team comes at a time when trans women in particular are increasingly fighting for their place in the sport. Just a few years ago, the world rugby body tried to completely ban trans women from women’s teams on the grounds that they posed a safety risk and had physical advantages. New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who was the first trans athlete to compete in the Olympics, was also accused of unfair advantages ahead of the start of the Tokyo Games.

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The current public debate centers on trans swimmer Lia Thomas, who was accused of cheating by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis after enjoying some success in US college competitions. DeSantis even recently signed a statement robbing her of a major win.

Scientific studies have long shown that athletes with higher testosterone levels do not automatically have an advantage. “A lot of things are driven by ignorance and lack of knowledge,” Schneider acknowledges. “A lot of people don’t know trans women or don’t know they know a trans woman.”

We need more education and awareness of social prejudices. Schneider would like to take a step in this direction with the creation of the rugby team – so that in the future there will be more room for players and less room for prejudice in sport.

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