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Chess Governing Body Bars Trans Women From Women's Competitions

Chess Governing Body Bars Trans Women From Women's Competitions

Chess board

This is an insult to both transgender and cisgender women, activists say.

Transgender women have been barred from playing against cisgender women in competitive chess.

The game’s governing body, the International Chess Federation, a.k.a. FIDE, released guidelines Monday saying trans women have “no right to participate in official FIDE events for women” until the federation completes further study. The group also said trans men will be stripped of titles they won as women before they transitioned, again pending further review. Titles “can be renewed if the person changes the gender back to a woman,” the guidelines said. They came out a week before their effective date.

“Meanwhile, the transgender players are allowed to participate in the open section of the official FIDE chess tournaments,” a spokesperson for the federation told NBC News.

Most of the FIDE tournaments are open, but a few, such as the Women’s World Chess Championship, are women-only, CNN notes.

LGBTQ+ activists and others were astonished by the announcement, which implies that cis women are not as intelligent as trans women (who were assigned male at birth) or as cis men.

“Really? Chess?” the National Center for Transgender Equality posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “This is so insulting to cis women, to trans women, and to the game itself. It assumes that cis women couldn’t be competitive against cis men — and relies on ignorant anti-trans ideas.”

Yosha Iglesias, a trans woman who has FIDE master status, also posted objections to the new guidelines, wondering if the association considers trans women “the biggest threat [to] women in chess.”

Some international sports governing bodies have barred trans women from competing against cis women, as have more than 20 U.S. states (regarding school sports), based on the perception that trans women have an inherent and unfair physical advantage in athletics — something that activists and scientists say is not so. But the implication that trans women have an advantage on something that depends on intellect has amazed many.

“The unveiling of these regulations drew widespread ridicule, with numerous individuals challenging the notion that transgender women possess a ‘natural advantage’ in chess,” journalist Erin Reed, a trans woman, wrote in her Erin in the Morning column. “According to the chess news site Chessbase, the women’s category in chess exists to encourage increased participation among women, not because women inherently perform at a lower level in the game. Thus, the typical arguments against transgender women competing don't hold water, as it's implausible to claim that transgender women have an unfair advantage.”

She noted that trans women have already been criticized for their participation in nonphysical competitions. In 2022, when trans woman Amy Schneider became the top-winning woman ever on Jeopardy!, “several anti-trans voices online claimed she unfairly took the title from ‘real women,’ suggesting that transgender women possess an inherent advantage in trivia over cisgender women,” Reed pointed out.

Some right-wingers defended the guidelines. “There are more male geniuses than female geniuses,” Jon Schweppe, policy director for the conservative American Principles Project, posted on X. “There are also more males with low IQs than females with low IQs. This is known. It’s biology.”

But “there is no recent research that proves men have significantly different IQs or are smarter than women, and older studies — one from 2005 and another from 2006 — that do make that claim have been debunked,” NBC News reports.

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