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Powerlifting federation doubles down on policy excluding trans women

JayCee Cooper, a trans powerlifter, has been barred from participating in USA Powerlifting meets.

JayCee Cooper, a trans powerlifter, has been barred from participating in USA Powerlifting meets. JayCee Cooper

JayCee Cooper, a Minneapolis powerlifter, was told she couldn’t compete in USA Powerlifting’s federation because she’s trans.

She thinks that’s unfair, and so do plenty of powerlifters in the state -- including Team Green, a well-established powerlifting team based out of The Movement Minneapolis gym. The group sent a statement demanding USA change its stance earlier this week. After all, the members of Team Green reasoned, there’s no written policy saying people like Cooper can’t compete.

Except now there is.

Sometime between Tuesday and Wednesday, the powerlifting communities on Facebook and Instagram began passing around a “transgender participation policy” that has recently appeared on USA’s website.

“USA Powerlifting is an inclusive organization for all athletes and members who comply with its rules, policies, procedures, and bylaws,” it says.

But: “USA Powerlifting is not a fit for every athlete and for every medical condition or situation.”

According to the policy, transgender women are officially banned from competition. The reason: supposed advantages found in the athletes’ “muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue.”

The policy acknowledges that its parent organization, the International Powerlifting Federation, has accepted the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines on the subject -- that trans women are welcome to compete if they undergo hormone therapy.

“However, the IOC Guidelines also allows [sic] sports to determine the impact on fair play through such inclusion,” the policy reads. The International Powerlifting Federation’s medical committee, “while respecting the rights of those who choose to transition,” believes, among other things, that allowing trans women to compete “compromises fair play.”

USA didn’t respond to interview requests -- nor did it get in touch with Cooper or Team Green. Cooper heard about the policy through a friend’s Instagram post on Wednesday morning and went straight to USA’s website to confirm it.

“It looks like they made a decision to double down on the exclusion,” she says. The last she heard from USA was last week, when she was sending a member of its executive committee a few suggestions for making the federation more inclusive.

The Movement owner David Dellanave’s initial reaction, he says, was “confusion.” He says the Canadian Powerlifting Union, which is also a part of the International Powerlifting Federation, has a “very inclusive policy” with regard to trans athletes. USA could, too, he says, but they’re choosing not to.

Cooper is “saddened and discouraged,” she says, but she remains hopeful circumstances will change. She’s going to continue to speak out about including trans athletes, and maybe take out a little frustration on some weights.

“I’m still resolute,” she says.