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Giving the transgender game away

LGBTQ activists are of two minds about male and female brains


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Giving the transgender game away
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A kerfuffle in the chess world is giving the transgender game away. As the Daily Mail reports, “The world's top chess federation has sparked a furious sexism row after banning trans women from competing in all-female contests while it decides whether they have an unfair advantage.”

The cerebral, sedentary sport of chess may seem an odd place for a fight over men in women’s sports. Such conflicts have previously erupted in physical contests in which males have obvious advantages such as swimming and weightlifting. But the chess world has clearly been thinking several moves ahead, because sex matters in chess. Men dominate the top echelons of the game. Only one woman, Hungarian prodigy Judit Polgár, has ever been ranked in the world top ten.

The sources of this disparity are debated. Many top male players have attributed the gap to intrinsic ability, while Polgár seems to believe that women just need to apply themselves to compete with men. Regardless, there is an obvious rational basis for holding women-only tournaments, and for keeping them that way, given the disruption highly rated male players could cause by transitioning in.

The inevitable, hysterical response by trans-identified activists and their allies reveals the manipulative and incoherent nature of their movement. Amid the general hullabaloo, there were immediate threats of suicide. According to the BBC, professional chess player Yosha Iglesias, a man who identifies as a woman, said, “This appalling situation will lead to depression and suicide attempts.”

In other contexts, taking oneself hostage by threatening suicide is recognized as manipulative and abusive. Yet as this episode illustrates, people who identify as transgender routinely deploy a suicide script when facing opposition to their agenda, whether at the personal or political level. But this messaging is more than just manipulation. It is at the core of the case for transgender medical interventions, especially for children.

There is no physical risk from not transitioning. The natural development of a child’s body is healthy. Puberty is not a disease, whereas interrupting and altering sexual development is risky and harmful. Chemically and surgically “transitioning” kids is so obviously extreme and dangerous that nothing but the prospect of a dead child could possibly justify it.

The idea that people can be born into the wrong body is a superstition based on nonsensical metaphysics.

This is why trans advocates routinely pressure parents with the specter of suicidal children, and why there is so much effort to concoct studies showing that so-called transgender medical intervention reduces suicides, regardless of what the data actually show. The failure to provide good evidence for the efficacy of transitioning children is why many European nations are restricting pediatric transition, with Denmark being the latest example.

Yet it is not necessary to dig through stacks of shoddy studies to see how shaky the trans narrative is. We can just consider the curious case of the missing suicides. If, as trans activists claim, suicide is the natural result of not transitioning, where were all the suicides before we started mass transitioning children in the last decade?

Asking this question reveals the obvious truth that this is a social contagion, not a natural phenomenon. And the focus on transition interferes with getting gender dysphoric kids the psychological help they need.

The chess controversy also demonstrates the incoherence of claims to transgender identity. The idea that people can be born into the wrong body is a superstition based on nonsensical metaphysics. The need to establish a physiological basis for transgenderism has induced trans activists such as Jazz Jennings to claim to have “a girl’s brain in a boy’s body” or vice versa. Of course, there is no good evidence for this as a basis for transgender identities, which is why doctors don’t diagnose transgenderism via MRI—indeed, there are no objective criteria by which to identify someone as transgender—it is purely a subjective self-identification.

However, brains are sexed, especially after the hormonal onslaught of puberty. Thus, though the reality that human brains are sexually differentiated does not explain the sources of transgender identities, it does provide a possible explanation for the overwhelming preponderance of men at the top of the chess world. Perhaps the capacity to be superlatively good at chess is more common, or can be more highly developed, in men. If so, then allowing men into women’s chess tournaments is indeed unfair, and may be so even if these men are taking cross-sex hormones and living as facsimiles of women, which might feminize their brains to some degree.

The attempt to establish a biological basis for transgenderism relies upon the very thing—sex differences between male and female brains—that transgender advocates are now angrily denouncing because it provides a reason for why some chess tournaments should be reserved for women. Despite the hysterical claims of transgender activists, keeping men out of women’s tournaments is good. The governing body of world chess has revealed the courage to say so.


Nathanael Blake

Nathanael Blake is a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.


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