Transphobia in chess is anti-feminist

New FIDE regulations punish trans chess players for existing
Image by: Herbert Wang

The International Chess Federation is perpetuating transphobia thanks to its new regulations regarding trans chess players.

For years now, trans people—especially trans women—have struggled to participate in sports and be recognized for their athletic accomplishments. This stems from the transphobic idea that trans women aren’t actually women but are simply men attempting to take advantage of women’s sports because its “easier.”

There’s been a new wave of transphobic regulations implemented for sporting events. Internationally, sports organizations like World Athletics and World Swimming’s governing bodies have restricted or banned transwomen from participating in sports, directly creating oppressive rules that discriminate.

One of the latest cases of a transphobic sports policy comes from the International Chess Federation (FIDE), which is trying to ensure trans women can’t participate in women’s chess events.

In August, FIDE released a series of new rules and regulations prohibiting trans chess players from participating in gendered tournaments. While trans players aren’t restricted from participating in open events, FIDE’s new rules and regulations restrict trans players from playing alongside cisgender counterparts.

The new regulations specify players who transition from male to female are prohibited from participating in international women’s chess events, unless their cases are reviewed by FIDE. Though it’s unclear how this review process works, reviews can take up to two years and still result in the player being prohibited from participating in women’s events.

FIDE claims a review process will be done expeditiously, despite a nearly two-year wait forcing trans women to choose between the sport of chess or transitioning legally, as these rules only apply to trans players who make a legal gender change.

On top of this, the ban removes trans players’ previous titles. Trans women can maintain their previous titles and awards if they played in male-centred chess tournaments, however, transgender men will lose any titles they gained in tournaments prior to their transition.

FIDE’s new regulations are bold in their transphobia and emulate hatred for trans players and a continuation of anti-trans rhetoric in sports competition.

Because chess is an intellectual rather than physical sport, FIDE can’t hide behind common transphobic rhetoric like “biological advantage.” Doing so would suggest that those assigned male at birth were smarter than those who were assigned female.

Shifting focus from the violence female athletes and players face in patriarchy to the presence of trans women in sports simply makes transgender athletes and competitors a scapegoat, while the people in power who perpetuate real harm and misogyny fly under the radar and aren’t held accountable.

FIDE’s restrictions reveal the insidious nature of all these bans. Organizations like FIDE want to push trans people out of sports no matter what—doing it under the guise of so-called feminism and protecting cis competitors has become the norm.

Whether trans women have any advantage in sports is a small issue compared to the rampant sexism, pay inequality, and sexual harassment that are prominent issues in women’s sports—chess in particular. This is particularly concerning when considering how unequal FIDE’s opportunities are for women generally.

These regulations come right on the heels of another chess scandal where a prominent chess coach was accused of sexually assaulting multiple trainees.

With chess organizations around the world ignoring the accusations, and instead focusing their energy on restricting trans women from participating in chess, these regulations distract from other issues women face in chess and other sports.

Trans women are being scapegoated because of arbitrary and false narratives about their so-called biological advantage. In chess this narrative shouldn’t be used as an excuse to discriminate against trans players.

Excluding trans players and trans athletes from sports and competitions continues to perpetuate their marginalization. It makes it difficult for them to participate in things they’re passionate about and pushes them to the margins of society.

This change in procedure by FIDE is transphobic, plain and simple. It’s just another mark of a dangerous trend in trying to limit trans people’s access to competitive events and sets another dangerous precedent, that might encourage similar organizations to ban trans players for no reason at all.


Chess, LGBTQ+, sexism, transphobia

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  • Thank you for publishing possibly the most ridiculous article on transwomen in chess ever written. At the top levels in chess cis-women are non-existent, for very well understood reasons you cannot accept on ideological grounds – spatial awareness, IQ, work ethic…

    The only thing that could stop transwomen winning every major women’s chess tournament would be a shortage of transwomen.

    Mike Buchanan


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