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World chess just placed restrictions on both trans women and trans men

Visitors play chess at The World Chess Club Berlin in Germany on May 9. The German Chess Federation described the new international policies for transgender chess players as discriminatory.
Sean Gallup
/
Getty Images
Visitors play chess at The World Chess Club Berlin in Germany on May 9. The German Chess Federation described the new international policies for transgender chess players as discriminatory.

Rugby, swimming, track and field — transgender women have been banned from international women's events in a growing number of sports. The latest to make that list is chess.

The International Chess Federation, known as FIDE, will effectively stop allowing transgender women from participating in women's competitions until "further analysis" can be made — which could take up to two years.

The organization will also remove some titles won by players who won in women's categories and later transitioned to male. It will also remove some titles won by transgender men. The new policies are slated to go into effect on Monday.

"FIDE recognizes that this is an evolving issue for chess and that besides technical regulations on transgender regulations further policy may need to be evolved in the future in line with research evidence," the federation wrote in a statement.

Over the past few days, several chess federations have come out against the new changes, including in the U.S. and Germany.

"If a person is legally recognised as a woman, it is incomprehensible to us what FIDE still wants to check and why it needs two years for this," the German Chess Federation wrote Friday in a statement.

The new regulations around transgender players

Under new guidelines, transgender people will still be allowed to compete in the "open" section of tournaments, where men and women typically compete against one another.

But many elite events that are exclusively for women will be off limits for people who changed their gender from male to female until "further analysis" is made by the FIDE — which the group described could take up two years.

FIDE also ruled that it has the right to make "an appropriate mark" of a gender change in a player's profile, as well as inform tournaments of any transgender competitors.

Transgender men who won in women's events before transitioning will have their titles abolished. The titles could be renewed if a player detransitions and can "prove the ownership of the respective FIDE ID that holds the title," the federation said. Abolished titles may also be transferred into a "general title of the same or lower level."

Meanwhile, transgender women can keep any titles they earned before they transitioned.

FIDE's reasoning behind the changes

FIDE said it needed to make regulations on transgender players after receiving an influx of requests for gender changes. It ultimately ruled that "change of gender is a change that has a significant impact on a player's status."

That argument has been common among international governing bodies that oversee sports with intense physical activity — which chess does not.

The National Center for Transgender Equality said the new guidelines were "insulting" to all women and the game itself.

"It assumes that cis women couldn't be competitive against cis men - and relies on ignorant anti-trans ideas," the center wroteon X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

Similarly, chess stars across the world have spoken out against FIDE's new policies, saying they will bring unnecessary harm to transgender competitors.

"The new regulations will make trans chess players all over the world face a horrible dilemma: transition or quit chess," professional chess player Yosha Iglesias wroteon X.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.
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