Meet Jean Kim. She’s a senior and a business administration major at Fordham University.
Soon after she started transitioning, Jean joined Fordham University’s women’s rugby team, where she found friends and a community.
However, when her team began competing at tournaments, she was told that she wouldn’t be allowed to play.
To understand Jean’s situation, it’s important to know that World Rugby is the sports governing body that ultimately decides whether or not Jean is allowed to play at the college level. World Rugby follows guidelines set by the International Olympic Committee.
World Rugby currently follows a 2003 policy called the Stockholm Consensus, which requires trans athletes to undergo gender-affirming surgery in order to compete.
On Nov. 1, 2017, Jean and Athlete Ally published an open letter calling for trans-inclusive policies at World Rugby.
According to Hudson Taylor, director of Athlete Ally, many sports governing bodies are hesitant to adopt trans-inclusive policies for two major reasons: Hormone levels and the contact nature of the sport.
However, other sports governing bodies, such as the NCAA, allow athletes like Jean who have maintained certain hormone levels to compete. World Rugby is one of the few that still requires surgery.
In 2016, the IOC temporarily updated its guidelines before the Rio Olympics and no longer required trans athletes to undergo surgery. However, these guidelines are still under review, and haven’t been updated by World Rugby.
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This means that World Rugby does not have clear guidelines that determine the eligibility of trans athletes to play on the team that corresponds with their gender identity, which ultimately makes it difficult for players like Jean to participate in college sports.
BuzzFeed News reached out to World Rugby to ask whether they would update their policy for trans athletes, and they responded with the following statement:
Fordham University declined to comment.
Jean told BuzzFeed News that that despite World Rugby’s inaction, she would continue to fight for trans athletes.
Jean will be assistant coaching the Fordham women's rugby team next season.