English Chess Federation won’t restrict trans people, in defiance of international rules

Chess king and queen pieces
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The English Chess Federation (ECF) has said that it won’t impose restrictions on trans people’s participation in the game. This news comes after chess’s international body announced it would change the way trans men and women participated for at least the next two years.

All trans people facing restrictions

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) said on 14 August that it was updating its policy on how trans people participate. Among a number of new regulations was a restriction on trans women participating in FIDE’s women’s events until “further decisions are made”. This investigation could take up to two years. As a result, it effectively bans trans women from taking part in women’s events.

Meanwhile, trans men faced other restrictions. FIDE’s new regulations said trans men would lose any titles they held from women’s events. FIDE also said it would reinstate the titles “if the person changes the gender back”. However, the reverse didn’t apply. FIDE will permit trans women to retain their open-play titles post-transition. There are also no restrictions on players that want to take part in the open category.

FIDE reasoned its decision by saying it has received an influx of gender change requests.

Transphobia and sexism

Both chess players and trans activists criticised FIDE’s move. Chess coach Yosha Iglesias described it simply as “anti-trans”:

The US-based National Center for Transgender Equality pointed out that it attacked not just trans people but cis women too:

Meanwhile, trans athlete Kirsti Miller mocked the decision:

And sociologist Richard Pringle also called out FIDE’s sexism in a Washing Post article, saying:

It suggests that males are somehow strategically better. … It’s not just transphobic, it’s anti-feminist too

Not all chess bodies agree

Despite FIDE’s decision, though, the chess world isn’t following suit. The ECF said on 20 August that it will “not exclude trans women and this position will not change”:

The ECF went on to describe FIDE’s policy as “discriminatory”, and said that it “cannot see the point” in imposing a two-year suspension on trans players.

Other national chess federations have also taken a similar line:

Two problems, one source

While FIDE is busy creating regressive and unnecessarily divisive policies regarding trans people, it appears to have taken little action on actual material threats against women.

On 8 August, more than 100 women signed a public letter denouncing the chess world’s “sexist and sexual violence” against women. It said that such actions are “still one of the main reasons” that there are far fewer women than men playing the game. Iglesias shared her own experiences of sexual harassment:

FIDE responded to the letter saying it was still working on a safeguarding policy for women.

Both these issues point to the same problems, of course: patriarchy and social conservatism. The barring of participation and stripping of titles are cruel forms of public humiliation wielded against trans people, and stem from the same mindset that apparently hasn’t seen fit to create a safeguarding policy for all women, even in 2023. FIDE’s ban also comes at a time when other sporting bodies are manufacturing hostility against trans people under the guise of ‘fairness’.

Fortunately, though, the EDF and its counterparts aren’t bowing to FIDE’s pressure.

Featured image via pxfuel

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