Credit: Screen grab from Instagram
Transgender Athletes Completely Banned from Competing in USA Powerlifting Events

Transgender Athletes Completely Banned from Competing in USA Powerlifting Events

“Trans athletes should not be feared but celebrated fiercely.”

USA Powerlifting, one of the leading powerlifting organizations in the country, announced this week a blanket ban that will prohibit transgender athletes from participating in events sanctioned by the group.

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“USA Powerlifting is an inclusive organization for all athletes and members who comply with its rules, policies, procedures, and bylaws,” the organization said in a statement published Wednesday to its website. “USA Powerlifting is not a fit for every athlete and for every medical condition or situation. Simply, not all powerlifters are eligible to compete in USA Powerlifting.”

According to the statement, USA Powerlifting based its new participation policy, which impacts transgender individuals, on “two areas of policy impact.”

The first concerns “the use of testosterone or other androgens, commonly used to assist in transition from female to male,” which are prohibited due to their “anabolic nature.” Nor would USA Powerlifting grant therapeutic use exemptions for transgender athletes, the company explained.

“The second area involves the participation of male to female competitors,” the statement added. “Through analysis the impact of maturation in the presence naturally occurring androgens as the level necessary for male development, significant advantages are had, including but not limited to increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue.  These advantages are not eliminated by reduction of serum androgens such as testosterone yielding a potential advantage in strength sports such as powerlifting.”

USA Powerlifting’s policy sparked blowback from many members of the LGBT community. “The USAPL isn’t exactly working on modern science to base their policies as much as they are on age old opinions, stereotypes and myths,” wrote the Compete Network’s Dirk Smith in an article about the ban.

JayCee Cooper, a transgender woman who competes in women’s powerlifting events, told SB Nation’s Outsports that she is “hopeful that the USAPL membership will stand up for trans inclusion and be on the right side of history.”

View this post on Instagram

One week ago I competed in the @uspaminnesota state champs. So much has happened in one week! I’m incredibly thankful for the support that I’ve seen since speaking out about @usapowerlifting ‘s unwritten trans policy and proud to see the energy/movement after they released their “consensus”/blanket ban transgender policy. What we are doing isn’t just fighting a single policy of exclusion, it’s also shining a light on how organizations like USA Powerlifting operate and are influenced by bias/ignorance. It’s a fight against transphobia, but it is just as much about racism, white supremacy, sexism, transmisogyny, Fatphobia, ableism, ageism, etc. It’s important that we recognize that and understand how our own positionality plays a role in this. That said, here is a meet recap in photos a week later. Stay strong! ? (Also, sign the petition/share, link in bio) ? #transathlete #fathlete #usapl #usaplmn #transgender #wewontbeerased #lgbtfitness #lgbt #queersports #transisbeautiful #trans #gaysports #strengthsports #fatventurers #powerlifting #powerliftingwomen #t4t #strongathleticchallenge

A post shared by JayCee Cooper (@jayceeisalive) on

“Trans athletes should not be feared but celebrated fiercely,” she added.

On the other hand, the new policy is likely to see support among those who believe that allowing trans individuals to compete in such events is inherently unfair. Last year alone was marked with various controversies over transgender athletes, particularly regarding transgender women who are biologically male but competing alongside women.

One figure at the center of such a controversy is Rachel McKinnon, a transgender athlete who won a cycling world championship in October while competing in the women’s 35-39 age bracket. McKinnon, who was born biologically male and is a fierce advocate for the right of trans individuals to compete in athletic events under their self-identified gender, weighed in on USA Powerlifting’s new policy by charging the organization with “doubling down on their discrimination against trans athletes.”

McKinnon’s militant approach could be said to characterize much of the inflamed rhetoric that characterizes the debate around transgender athletes in sports. “I will do damn near anything, drop everything for a queer/trans person in need…” she tweeted over the weekend. “…and I will just about burn your life to the ground if you fuck with me or one of my trans siblings.”

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Cover image: JayCee Cooper, a transgender woman, competes in a powerlifting competition. (Screen grab from Instagram)

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