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#RealPeopleOfClariant: David Garandeau on inclusive rugby: “Our battle on the ground allows us to fight prejudices.”

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Pride Month is a call to action to celebrate and honor love, diversity, equity, inclusion, and self-acceptance! Whether or not you identify as LGBTQIA+, anyone can be an ALLY! One shining example of this role is our dedicated biology researcher from Toulouse, David Garandeau, who exemplifies these values through his support and advocacy.

David and his girlfriend have a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son. Outside of work, he is very involved with the Tou’win inclusive rugby team, which was founded by gay rugby enthusiasts and is sponsored by Clariant. In the following interview, he tells us about his team's recent participation in the World Cup, his engagement for inclusive sports, and how joining Tou’win made him an ally in the fight against discrimination.

Hello, David. Tell us about your involvement with the inclusive rugby team: How has it influenced your perspective on diversity and inclusion, both in your personal life and at work?

David: I joined the Tou’win inclusive rugby team almost 10 years ago. Founded in April 2006 by a handful of gay rugby enthusiasts from Toulouse, the Tou'Win association now has around eighty members, including some sixty players. Our battle on the ground allows us to fight prejudices, gain respect, tackle homophobia, and value diversity.

Originally, I just wanted to find a club in Toulouse to continue playing the sport. The fact that the team was gay-friendly didn't in any way influence my intention to join, but honestly, I wasn't particularly interested at this moment in fighting homophobia. But I immediately appreciated the team's atmosphere and state of mind. The open-mindedness and the values conveyed corresponded exactly with my own and I immediately felt integrated in a way that you might not find in a more ‘traditional’ club. It doesn't take long to see that regardless of sexual orientation a rugby player is a rugby player. Since joining the team, I've often spoken about this wonderful message of inclusion to my friends, family, and colleagues. I'm very proud to be an ally in the fight against homophobia.

What challenges and successes have you and the team experienced in promoting inclusion and acceptance within the sport?

The team's challenges and successes are twofold. At a sporting level, we've been lucky to take part in several national tournaments (Paris and Lyon) but also international gay-friendly rugby tournaments. The European cup for gay-friendly rugby teams is called the Union Cup and our first participation dates back to 2017 in Madrid where we won the tournament in the B category. We then took part in Dublin in 2019 and Birmingham in 2023, where the team finished 2nd in the main tournament.

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And for the first time, in May 2024, we took part in the world cup for gay-friendly rugby teams, the Bingham Cup, which took place this year in Rome from 23 to 26 May. The Bingham Cup is a global event that brings together all the inclusive rugby teams from around the world to compete for the coveted championship trophy. Since 2002, the Bingham Cup has gathered 74 different teams from 20 countries. My team finished in 7th place in the world.

The objective is to continue to participate in this type of international events, including a Union Cup 2025 in Oslo and a Bingham Cup 2026 perhaps in Australia.

Concerning associative commitment, we regularly intervene with professional clubs of Toulouse on the inclusion in sport, notably through the signing of a chart to combat homophobia. Each season was an opportunity to intervene (more than 25 actions) with professional sport (Stade Toulousain rugby, Toulouse Football Club etc.), amateur sport, associative environment, media, and public institutions.

In strong connection with the town hall of Toulouse as well as the department of Haute-Garonne, Tou’Win regularly speak at public events: receptions, presentations, festivals, and meetings.

How did the Clariant sponsorship in 2018 help advance the team’s goals for inclusion and support within the LGBTQIA+ community?

Clariant's sponsorship in 2018 was a really big help for us. This allowed us to have a second set of jerseys for the team and therefore be able to bring two teams to the Union Cup in Dublin in 2019. We were therefore able to represent inclusive French rugby even more. This strong participation in the tournament also allowed us to promote our actions in favor of the LGBTQIA+ community on the field and off the field, notably with the sports clubs of Toulouse, the town hall of Toulouse, the Occitanie region and even the Ministry of Health & Sports.


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Can you share a meaningful moment or story from your recent championship in Italy that highlights the importance of inclusivity in sports?

Participating in this tournament is truly something unique, an unforgettable experience. 100 teams and more than 2,500 participants from all over the world come together to play rugby and celebrate inclusion through sport. All these values around inclusion allowed me to play and exchange with players from the United States or Australia. Even after matches that are sometimes very competitive and physical, I especially note these values of sharing and mutual aid.

We had several injuries during the competition, but some members of the opposing teams offered their medical services several times. An unforgettable moment was also the communion between the gay-friendly teams from France. In addition to Toulouse, other teams exist in particular in Paris or Montpellier.

As someone who actively supports a gay rugby team, how do you celebrate Pride Month, and what does it mean to you and the team?

Every year, my team is a major player in Pride in Toulouse. We participate in the festive parade in the streets of Toulouse. An information stand is also set up on this occasion and every year allows many gay and straight people to discover the Tou’Win association. And we participate in many activities organized in the city throughout Pride Month in Toulouse.


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What does being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community mean to you, and how do you embody this role both on and off the rugby field?

I am proud to be an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community and I never miss an opportunity to promote my team and its values of inclusion. I also look forward to being able to pass on these values of inclusion to my children, whether they play rugby or not.

How have your teammates responded to your support, and what impact do you think your allyship has had on the team?

The team accepts everyone, that’s its strength. Being straight in a gay friendly team is absolutely not an obstacle to becoming an ally of the LGBTQIA+ cause. Women and men, gay and straight, beginners and experienced players of different origins and nationalities proudly display their experience, their history, and their identity. The aim of the association is to encourage the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people in sport and to promote team sports, and rugby in particular, to them. Our aim is to demonstrate to amateur, professional, and institutional rugby players that a person's sexual orientation or gender identity should not limit their access to sport or force them to hide their difference. Beyond rugby, and through our festive, sporting, and charitable activities, it is above all a wonderful adventure that brings together people from all social backgrounds, of all ages, and regardless of sexual orientation.

What advice would you give to others who want to be allies to the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly in the world of sports?

I would advise everyone to go towards inclusive clubs and associations. Open-mindedness is something very important, especially in sport. This really allows you to break all stereotypes and experience incredible moments. If I take the example of my team, I would say to all LGBTQIA+ people who are hesitant to join these teams or to all people who have difficulty accepting their sexualities that the Tou’win have helped many people to fully live their homosexuality. Many men arrived with difficult stories or discomfort because they were unable to fully be who they are. This team really helped these people beyond their expectations.

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Thank you very much, David, for showing how open-mindedness enriches everyone's lives. You are an amazing ambassador on and off the field.

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