Chess Official Urges Research After Decision on Trans Women

US advocate calls new policy 'a case of trans panic'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 18, 2023 4:00 PM CDT
Transgender Research Is Needed, Chess Official Says
Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola arrives for a meeting of European finance ministers in Valletta, Malta, in April.   (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud, File)

A top global chess official Friday called for more research into whether factors such as hormone levels and physical endurance might have an impact on players' abilities at the male-dominated game. Her comments came after the world chess federation was heavily criticized for its decision to block transgender women from official women's events. The Switzerland-based federation FIDE said the decision, set to take place Monday, would stay in effect until the federation does an assessment of the issue, the AP reports. Critics, including advocacy groups and some European players and federations, have derided what they call an unnecessary and discriminatory policy that appears to foster "trans panic," with one former British women's champion calling for the world federation to reverse its decision.

Dana Reizniece-Ozola, deputy chair of the chess federation's management board, insisted the goal of the new regulations was "actually to increase the rights of the transgender persons and allow them being registered under their new gender" in its official directory. Tournaments for women only were created in the 1970s as a way to foster their participation in a sport that has long been dominated by men. Even now only 2% of all players—and 10% of rated players—are women, she said. The new regulations, which could subject transgender women to a waiting period of up to two years as the issue is examined, was aimed at giving FIDE a "grace period" to sort out the matter of transgender players and men's dominance in the sport.

"What is still not clear is if the hormonal levels do influence the competitiveness in chess," Reizniece-Ozola said by video from Latvia's capital, Riga, per the AP. "There is no serious research or scientific analysis that would prove one or the other way." Cathy Renna, communications director for the US National LGBTQ Task Force, said the new rules appeared to be "a case of trans panic with no justification, not grounded in reality and once again marginalizing trans people." Reizniece-Ozola, a former Latvian finance minister, said FIDE, like other sports organizations, needs to balance equality with fair competition. "This is the aspect that really needs more and more research, scientifically based research," she said.

(Read more International Chess Federation stories.)

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