FIDE's Transgender Policy

FIDE, the official worldwide governing body of chess, posted a new policy (pdf) that bans transgender women from women's chess tournaments pending "further analysis".

If you're wondering why there is such a thing as women's chess tournaments, Charlotte Clymer gives an explanation in her blistering critique of the new regulations. Charlotte is a trans woman and competitive chess player. Her perspective carries a lot more weight than mine.

That said, I wanted to point out some parts of FIDE's policy that are disturbing not just because of the rules it lays out, but also the language it uses to do so. I won't be quoting the whole thing, just excerpts.

It doesn't start out badly:

FIDE in their Directory will recognize an individual’s gender identity that is consistent with the identity they maintain in their non chess life AND that has been confirmed by national authorities based on a due legal and formal process of change.


As a rule, change of the gender is not the reason for a person to get a new FIN [FIDE ID number], unless there is a special, strictly exceptional reason for the person not to reveal publicly their previous identity.

I don't see why the person's reason needs to be "strictly exceptional". Is FIDE not aware that many trans people have very good reasons not to reveal their previous identity? It seems to me that once notification of gender change has been received, the option of a new FIN should be offered routinely, for precisely those reasons. Some players may want the new FIN, some may not.

the player’s National Rating’s Officer

Note the apostrophe. I point this out not to be pedantic, but because it's just one example of slightly odd grammar throughout the document, as if it was sloppily translated from a language other than English. Considering the sensitive subject matter, I don't think this was a good document to be sloppy with.

Upon change of the gender in FIDE system, the National Rating Officer should require from the player sufficient proof of a gender change that complies with their national laws and regulations.

Seems reasonable to me. If it isn't, I'm willing to be educated. I know there are already bureaucratic hoops trans people have to go through outside of chess.

Prohibition of the players to participate in the respective country’s chess events in case the player’s request was rejected by a Member Federation and then accepted by FIDE is to be considered and sanctioned as a discriminatory behavior.

So if FIDE says a trans player can play, and a Member Federation doesn't let them, the Member Federation is wrong. This sounded good to me at first, but hang on — a few paragraphs down will be some language that makes this less good.

The National Ratings Officer is responsible for entering justified gender change in FIN

Yes, they really said "justified gender change". I assume they meant "verified" or "confirmed". Again, maybe a translation thing.

The following restrictions shall be applied to a player after the change of the gender in FIDE ID:

In the event that the gender was changed from a male to a female the player has no right to participate in official FIDE events for women until further FIDE’s decision is made. Such decision should be based on further analysis and shall be taken by the FIDE Council at the earliest possible time, but not longer than within 2 (two) years period.

Confession: at first I didn't think this rule was a formal ban on trans women. I assumed the "further analysis" was on a case-by-case basis, like maybe sometimes there would be reasons to double-check a person's documentation, but most of the time people would breeze through the process.

But looking again, I see I was wrong. It's an actual ban on trans women that could last as long as two years while FIDE makes a decision. And that decision could be to continue the ban for all we know. As noted above, FIDE condemns as "discriminatory" any Member Federation that excludes trans women — but it turns out this applies only to open tournaments, which do not have gender restrictions. FIDE not only doesn't condemn, it requires the exclusion of trans women from women's tournaments.

Why would "further analysis" be needed? It sounds like some sort of abundance of caution, as if FIDE felt the need to be sure women's tournaments continue to be a fair playing field for cis women. This only makes sense if you assume people assigned male at birth have an innate advantage over people assigned female at birth when it comes to chess. There is no evidence for this belief, but there is plenty of sexism behind it.

Also, yes, they really said "the gender was changed from a male to a female". And yes, they really said "the player has no right", which (on my charitable bad-translation hypothesis) I took to mean "you aren't permitted yet". But it sounds an awful lot like "you lack human rights".

If a player holds any of the women titles, but the gender has been changed to a man, the women titles are to be abolished.

Why? While we're at it, why not require prize money to be returned as well?

Also, yes, FIDE really said "the gender has been changed to a man".

If a player has changed the gender from a man into a woman, all the previous titles remain eligible.

Why the double standard?

FIDE does not publicly discuss the player’s gender change.

Good. They shouldn't.

However, FIDE has the right to inform the organizers and other relevant parties on the gender change (and the relevant name and/or FIN change) in order to be able to track the record of the player as far as it is necessary for efficient operations of FIDE (e.g. applying titles, recognizing the set temporary restrictions etc.).

Also FIDE has the right to make an appropriate mark in the Players’ database and/or use other measures to inform organizers on a player being a transgender, so that to prevent them from possible illegitimate enrollments in tournaments.

Charlotte Clymer addresses this in the article I mentioned earlier:

There’s another issue here to point out: in these new regulations, FIDE reserves the right to inform tournament organizers that a player is transgender (outing them) and to intentionally mark a transgender player in the FIDE database (again, outing them).

So, for no good reason, if a player is transgender and doesn’t wish to be out, FIDE is essentially banning them from competitive chess. Transgender players, particularly girls and women, are being forced to decide between transgender and being a chess player.

Also, yes, FIDE really said "being a transgender".

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