By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
The French Rugby Federation board unanimously voted on a referendum to adopt a trans-inclusive participation policy for all athletes to participate in domestic rugby competitions. The vote comes in defiance of the guidelines of World Rugby that, last fall, voted on new guidelines which “does not recommend” that transgender women play contact rugby.
The French Rugby guidelines for transgender women to play rugby are in line with that of the IOC’s 2015 Stockholm Consensus and require transgender athletes to certify they have been on hormone replacement therapy for 12 consecutive months and that their serum testosterone is under five nanomoles per liter during that time. Once those requirements are fulfilled, athletes who have undergone the transition process regarding their legal documents are permitted to participate in the gender division that aligns with their identity.
“Rugby is an inclusive, sharing sport, without distinction of sex, gender, origin or religion,” FFR vice president Serge Simon said. “The FFR is against all forms of discrimination and works daily to ensure that everyone can exercise their free will in rugby without constraint.”
While World Rugby had previously been more trans inclusive, originally adopting a policy in accordance with the IOC 2015 Stockholm Consensus. In October 2020 they became the first international sports federations to discourage the acceptance of transgender women from participating in elite and international levels of the sport in the women’s division. Coming up just short of adopting an anti-transgender blanket ban, they allowed the national governing bodies such as French Rugby Federation and others to determine how they apply the guidelines and recommendations.
In March of 2021, England’s Rugby Football Union announced that while transgender women would be permitted to participate under the similar guidelines that the French Rugby Federation adopted, but would also “risk assess” athletes based on height and weight before deciding whether the individual athlete would be permitted to play.
Both USA Rugby and Rugby Canada stood up against the World Rugby anti-trans recommendations by publicly announcing their opposition. When World Rugby first floated their proposal in July, USA Rugby solicited feedback from its member clubs, athletes, and officials to determine their stance on the contentious issue. The feedback was overwhelmingly in favor of inclusion and USA Rugby has reaffirmed their trans-inclusive participation policy which is also in line with the IOC’s Stockholm Consensus.