Chess Federation Bars Biological Men from Competing against Women
The International Chess Federation, the world’s top chess governing body, announced Monday that it would prohibit biological males who identify as women from competing in women’s competitions until a “further … decision is made.” The announcement marks the latest in a series of moves by sports governing bodies to keep men’s and women’s competitions separated by biological sex, regardless of gender identity.
The federation, commonly known by its French acronym FIDE, said that it is receiving increased “recognition requests from players who identify as transgender.” FIDE left the door open for letting players who switch their gender identification to compete against the opposite biological sex, but the process for approving such requests could take up to two years. “Change of gender is a change that has a significant impact on a player’s status and future eligibility to tournaments, therefore it can only be made if there is a relevant proof of the change provided,” the federation said.
As an increasing number of biological male athletes who identify as transgender women seek to compete in professional women’s sporting competitions, sports governing bodies have had to grapple with how to modify their rules in order to address the situation. While some sports bodies, such as USA Powerlifting, have been forced to allow biological men to compete in women’s competitions by court order, most governing bodies have moved to keep men’s and women’s categories separate regardless of gender identity and have so far been unimpeded by legal challenges.
Following the NCAA’s decision to allow biological male Lia Thomas to swim in the women’s championships (and his subsequent win in the 500-yard freestyle in March 2022), the International Swimming Federation (FINA) announced in June 2022 that it would not allow swimmers to compete in the opposite category of their biological sex unless they had medically transitioned their bodies before the age of 12. “[I]f you transition after the start of puberty, you have an advantage, which is unfair,” a FINA spokesperson said. “[FINA is] not saying everyone should transition by age 11, that’s ridiculous. You can’t transition by that age in most countries and hopefully you wouldn’t be encouraged to. Basically, what [FINA is] saying is that it is not feasible for people who have transitioned to compete without having an advantage.”
In March 2023, World Athletics (WA), the international governing body for track and field, also announced that it would not allow biological males who have gone through puberty to compete in women’s competitions. “[T]he overarching principle for me is we will always do what we think is in the best interest of our sport,” said WA President Sebastian Coe regarding the decision.
Last month, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the world governing body for cycling, followed suit, announcing that “female transgender athletes who have transitioned after (male) puberty will be prohibited from participating in women’s events.” UCI President David Lappartient said in a statement, “[UCI] has a duty to guarantee, above all, equal opportunities for all competitors in cycling competitions.”
Studies show that men produce 570% more testosterone than women do, leading to major athletic advantages regarding “muscle complexion, bone thickness, skeletal muscle mass, and red blood cell count,” as well as more fast-twitch muscles that give men increased strength, power, and speed. In addition, a 2019 study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics showed that even when men who identified as transgender women suppressed their testosterone to the level permitted by the International Olympic Committee in women, they “did not lose significant muscle mass (or power).”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.