Her life, mental health and self-esteem have skyrocketed since.
“I felt so welcomed and I felt confident,” she says. “I was very worried about the other teams ledging or making transphobic comments, but it didn’t happen.”
James’ story, along with the experiences of other transgender and gender diverse players, and feedback from human rights bodies, medical experts and cricket clubs, has shaped Cricket Australia’s first transgender policy for elite competitions and guidelines for community clubs.
The policies will be launched at the MCG on Thursday morning after being passed by the Cricket Australia board two weeks ago.
Elite female cricketers will be required to have blood testosterone levels maintained below 10 nano-moles per litre (nmol/L) for a year, in line with the International Cricket Council’s gender recognition policy.
These parameters are different to the AFL’s gender diversity policy, released last year, that requires testing of strength, stamina and technique, as well as maintaining testosterone levels of below 5nmol/L for 24 months, before it allows transgender athletes to compete in the AFLW competition.
The National Rugby League does not yet have its own policy for transgender athletes but a spokesman said it was in the “advanced stages” of finalising one.
In cricket, the grassroots guidelines stipulate that clubs must allow players to take part in community cricket competitions in line with their gender identity, irrespective of the sex they were assigned at birth.
Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts said while the organisation was committed to including transgender and gender diverse players, it needed to provide a “a fair and meaningful [elite] competition” and that this could only be achieved by setting a benchmark for testosterone levels.
“There’s an overarching spirit of inclusion,” Roberts said. “But on a more detailed level, we need to make sure the ability of different players is consistent to maintain a safe competition that is fair.”
Transgender and gender diverse players will be referred to an expert panel if a “relevant disparity” has been established between them and cisgender players during an elite competition, according to the policy.
Cricket Australia will pay for the testing process, but if the player seeks further support and guidance they will need to bear the costs of that. And the expert panel could also dismiss a referral on the basis that it is “frivolous or vexatious”.
We’re trying to fit the gender spectrum, which is anything but a binary system, into a binary system.
Erica James, transgender cricket player
Sean Carroll, the head of integrity and security at Cricket Australia, said developing the policy and guidelines was unlike any other he’s previously worked on.
“When you deal with codes and policies, it’s black and white,” Carroll said. “What I quickly realised through working on this was it’s not black and white.
“I have come out on the other side with a great deal of empathy … and a greater understanding of the issues [transgender and gender diverse people] face.”
He hopes the community cricket guidelines will help clubs understand the needs of transgender and gender diverse players, and that players be comfortable in joining grassroots cricket.
The policy will be revisited and evaluated every 12 months, particularly to ensure the nmol/L levels are consistent with the latest medical findings.
James described the launch of the policy as a “huge step forward” but said there were flaws with using testosterone levels as a benchmark and that transgender women could feel discriminated against.
“We’re trying to fit the gender spectrum, which is anything but a binary system, into a binary system,” James said.
“It’s been so challenging, and there has to be compromises on every side just to get it up and running.”
Sumeyya is a reporter for The Age.