Transgender rugby player playing with 'a smile on my face'

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Video caption Kelly Morgan: Trans rugby player blazing a trail in Wales

Kelly Morgan is a trailblazer.

Born Nicholas Gareth Morgan, she played representative rugby for east Wales as a teenager.

Injury ended that initial involvement with the sport but, after a decade wrestling with gender identity and transitioning to female, Kelly is back playing - and loving it.

Having impressed in friendly fixtures for Porth Harlequins Ladies, she now hopes to compete in the Welsh women's leagues from September.

Transgender women participating in female sport is a divisive subject, and one not confined to Welsh rugby.

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) guidelines - which are "fully committed to the principles of equality" - state Kelly can play providing her blood-measured testosterone levels are within a certain range.

And she has taken a daily dose of the female hormone oestrogen for the past 18 months.

"They don't half make you cry," she says. "My body shape, my size... it's scary the massive difference it makes. I don't think I'll ever get used to hormones."

At nearly 6ft she stands out among her team-mates, and club captain Jessica Minty-Madley recounts a time she folded an opponent "like a deckchair".

But coach Wayne Mansell notes: "I've seen Kelly struggling more than a lot of the girls with the demands our of training."

That said, Kelly, 33, accepts transgender women may have an advantage in terms of size and strength.

"I do feel guilty, but what can you do?" she says. "I don't go out to hurt anybody. I just want to play rugby."

And she is proud of her journey, humorously documenting her highs and lows on social media.

"I'm always optimistic and I think being open breaks the ice with people," she says.

"I'm like, 'this is me, this is what I'm going through'.

"Times are changing. Hopefully I'll inspire more people to come and play rugby, or any sort of sport."

Image copyright Kelly Morgan
Image caption 'If you can't take the mick out of yourself, then what's the point?'

'She's one of us'

The affection all at Porth have for Kelly, who has been nicknamed 'Beast' by her team-mates, is clear.

Brian Minty, who founded the team four years ago, says: "I've always taken rugby as a totally inclusive sport and we're happy to welcome Kelly to the club.

"One of the main things Kelly does is give confidence to the other people around her. We've got a number of people who've only just started playing."

He can't resist a joke, though, adding: "She's going to be a good, good player for the next few years, as long as we can stop her injuring players in training."

Minty-Madley says Kelly is not treated differently to other members of the squad.

"Kelly has become completely and utterly absorbed into the team," she says.

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

"She folded a girl like a deckchair during a game, which was quite funny, but they're still friends."

Mansell sees Kelly as a great addition to his squad.

"Straight away we just saw there was a load of ability there," he says.

"Some days are good, some days are bad, but at the end of the day can you really exclude people?

"Kelly has made a brave decision to do what she's done and if the WRU says she can play, she can play."

And Kelly, who works as a lorry driver, has a simple message.

"I have no shame in who I am," she says.

"I'm itching to go out on the rugby pitch, have a good laugh with the girls and be part of a massive community. It brings a smile to my face."

Image copyright Kelly Morgan
Image caption Kelly has played in two friendlies for Porth, including this one against Pembroke