English Chess Federation ‘will not exclude trans women’ despite international ban

Chessboard with trans colours

The English Chess Federation (ECF) has said it won’t be a pawn in the International Chess Federation’s anti-trans game and will continue to welcome all players. 

Chess skyrocketed into the media spotlight this week after the world’s top chess federation, known as FIDE, said it will ban trans women from participating in women’s competitions until “further analysis” can be done – which could take up to two years. 

The policy would also see players who held women’s titles and later transitioned to male removed. But FIDE said it would possibly reinstate them if a person later changed “the gender back to a woman”.

But the ECF, the governing chess organisation in England, announced on social media that it will not exclude trans women and “this position will not change” despite FIDE’s policy. 

“Trans women have worked on behalf of the ECF and played in ECF events, as have trans women in various other chess federations,” the body wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. 

“The ECF notes that similar positions have been adopted by the German Chess Federation (DSB), the French Chess Federation (FFE) and the United States Chess Federation (USCF).

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“The new FIDE rules are incompatible with English law, particularly with regard to the release of personal data. 

“We cannot see the point of the two-year suspension of the right to participate in women-only competitions, which we view as discriminatory.

“The ECF restates its commitment to being an inclusive organisation that is welcoming to all.”

Similarly, the Finnish Chess Federation wrote on social media that FIDE’s anti-trans policy is “incomprehensible” and assured trans women that they’re still welcome in their competitions. 

FIDE’s policy sparked backlash from LGBTQ+ groups, trans rights advocates and people within the chess world. 

Yosha Iglesias, a trans player with the FIDE rank of chess master, said the “appalling” policy will cause “unnecessary harm” for trans players, especially women, and will “bring no good whatsoever” for cis players.

“The new regulations will make trans chess players all over the world face a horrible dilemma: transition or quit chess,” Iglesias wrote on social media.

“This appalling situation will lead to depression and suicide attempts.

“Believe me, I know. Been there, and well, done that.”

Cathy Renna, communications director for the National LGBTQ Task Force, called FIDE’s policy “a case of ‘trans panic’ with no justification, not grounded in reality and once again marginalising trans people.”

“The new ‘guidelines’ on trans competitors in chess are infuriating, confusing, contradictory and a sign that the anti-trans movement, particularly those who are promoting exclusion in sports, is spreading into other areas of competitive sport and is a very disturbing development,” Renna told the Associated Press.

Others called out FIDE’s anti-trans policy for being “sexist” and bigoted.

The anti-trans policy comes at a time when chess is under pressure to tackle the abuse and harassment women players, managers, arbiters and more have faced in the game. 

Over 120 figures in chess worldwide have signed an open letter saying that they are fed up with sexist behaviour and sexual violence in the male-dominated world of chess. The signatories said this abusive treatment and behaviour is “still one of the main reasons why women and young girls, especially in their teens, stop playing chess”

In response to the letter, FIDE said it stands firmly against sexism and sexist behaviour in chess, and it would continue to “work on a safeguarding policy for women in chess”.

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