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Trans women allowed to play women’s rugby as France rejects World Rugby ban

Patrick Kelleher May 18, 2021
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People playing rugby

People playing rugby. (Envato Elements)

Trans women will be allowed to play on women’s rugby teams in France starting next season under a newly-adopted policy.

The French Rugby Federation (FFR) announced its new policy on trans participation in the sport on Monday (17 May), sending a clear message of inclusion to the country’s LGBT+ community.

In its announcement, the French Rugby Federation acknowledged that World Rugby – the global governing body for the sport – implemented a ban on trans women last year.

However, the World Rugby ban was only advisory, meaning individual countries’ governing bodies can put in place their own policies around transgender participation in sport.

In a statement, the French Rugby Federation said it is committed to the inclusion of trans people in rugby.

The group said its steering committee had voted unanimously in favour of allowing trans women to participate on women’s rugby teams following a recommendation from an equality commission.

France’s trans-inclusive rugby policy comes with some caveats

Under new rules, trans women who have had gender-affirming surgeries and those who have received hormone treatment for at least 12 consecutive months will be allowed to play on women’s teams.

However, the rule will come with a number of conditions. Trans women must also have been legally recognised in their correct gender, and their testosterone levels must not exceed five nanomole/litre.

“Rugby is an inclusive, sharing sport, without distinction of sex, gender, origin or religion,” said FFR vice president Serge Simon.

“The FFR is against all forms of discrimination and works daily to ensure that everyone can exercise their free will in rugby without constraint.”

The news comes months after World Rugby announced a ban on trans women playing at an elite level following a months-long review process.

World Rugby ultimately concluded that allowing trans women to play rugby would pose a threat to the safety of cisgender women.

The ruling was heavily criticised by LGBT+ sporting organisations and advocacy groups, while trans rugby player Grace McKenzie described it as “transphobic” and said its as “rooted in poor science”.

More than 80 leading academics condemned World Rugby plans to ban trans women from the game in September 2020 after the governing body’s plans leaked.

In an open letter, the academics said there was “no evidence” to support the ban, adding: “There is no peer-reviewed, scientific evidence to justify a ban which would only be harmful to trans and gender diverse people.”

Related topics: France, Rugby, trans athletes

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