Last September Yosha Iglésias came out as a woman on social media. In November her name change from Joachim to Yosha was registered by the French state. In the end of May she played her first tournament after her coming-out. The French blitz championship went well, she performed above her rating expectation and didn’t hear any nasty comments. But the French Chess Federation didn’t award her the second price among women. Nor does she count as woman for her club 608 Paris at the French league Top 16, that is starting today in Chartres.
Jean-Baptiste Mullon, Vice President of the federation, clarifies: “Yosha has asked us to change her gender without justifying it with the gender on her ID. We have yet to work out how we are authorised to deal with her request. We have neither refused nor accepted it.” The federation wants to talk to other sport organisations, the Ministry of Sport, and FIDE before taking a decision.
The transitions of Annemarie Meier and Natalia Pares Vires were completed before they started to compete as women. Iglésias doesn’t want to wait.
Iglésias thinks that the federation is not entitled to see her ID to decide upon her gender. She hints to US Chess, where a player can choose his or her gender and will be asked for a birth certificate only after a second change. In earlier cases like that of Annemarie Meier, who won four German woman championships, or Natalia Pares Vires who played first board for Spain in the 2008 Chess Olympiad, the transition was completed before they started to compete as women. Iglésias doesn’t want to wait. She says that she has been waiting all her life to be accepted as a woman.
When she became a chess coach after graduating from school, she heard homophobic and sexist comments and decided that transsexuality wasn’t compatible with her dream job. 15 years later and after moving from the French periphery to the capital she felt ready to start her transition. Nonetheless, she gave up her teaching jobs at a club and schools instead of making them decide to keep or fire her. She started a Youtube channel to find more private students. She feels supported by her employer chess24, where she is part-timing as community manager and sometimes content creator. Iglésias reveals that during a recent banter blitz session together with Laurent Fressinet, a moderator had to erase plenty of transphobic comments on the Twitch and Youtube streams.
She stresses that she is striving for acceptance as a woman out of responsibility for younger transsexual players and that she is not driven by winning prizes or competing in women-only events. Seven years ago she co-founded Échecs & Mixte, a French organisation that is fighting sexism and gender segregation in chess. Today Iglésias thinks that separated events have their place, too, because so many female players have been harassed in gender-mixed events.
FIDE has more than doubled the prizes at female-only competitions. Is it only a matter of time until a struggling male player claims to be a woman in hope of sharing the bonanza?
During the last four years, female-only competitions paid better than ever. FIDE has more than doubled the prize money at the Women’s World Championship and Women’s World Cup, and is working hard on finding Women’s Grand Prix sponsors. A recent ACP round table on women’s chess concluded that affirmative action must stay in place for at least another 25 years. Is it only a matter of time until a struggling male player claims to be a woman in hope of sharing the bonanza?
Iglésias often hears or reads comments from young male players that they should change their gender so that they can live from chess. “They don’t understand that if they had been girls, they probably wouldn’t have played chess at all. Or they would have quit after a few years because of the misogyny and extra difficulties that all women, transgender or not, face.”