USA Powerlifting bans transgender women from competing as women

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USA Powerlifting has banned all transgender women from competing as women, even as a trans powerlifter in Minnesota recently won a state championship with another association, setting a state record.

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JayCee Cooper, a trans woman, had applied last year to compete in a recent USA Powerlifting event in Minnesota. In December her application was denied.

“Male-to-female transgenders are not allowed to compete as females in our static strength sports as it is a direct competitive advantage,” wrote USAPL Therapeutic Use Exemptions Committee Chair Kristopher Hunt in an email to Cooper.

Hunt followed up with Cooper in January with this explanation:

“Transgender male to female individuals having gone through male puberty confer an unfair competitive advantage over non-transgender females due to increased bone density and muscle mass from pubertal exposure to testosterone.”

The “bone density” red herring has been thrown out there for years, at least since MMA fighter Fallon Fox appeared on the scene. The bone density of black women is, on average, significantly higher than that of white women. In fact, some studies have shown the bone strength of black women to be higher than that of white men.

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Yet we don’t see any great rush to divide lifting categories by race (which of course would be ridiculous), proving this bone-density argument to be nothing but a canard designed to specifically target trans athletes.

Hunt did not respond to an email requesting clarification.

Still, USA Powerlifting’s ban on transgender women competing as women is in place.

“USA Powerlifting is not a fit for every athlete and for every medical condition or situation,” the organization said in a statement. “Simply, not all powerlifters are eligible to compete in USA Powerlifting.”

USA Powerlifting did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

The organization’s ban has forced Cooper to look for other opportunities to compete, landing her at events hosted by the U.S. Powerlifting Association. The USPA is smaller and holds fewer events in Cooper’s home state. But she’s happy to be able to compete.

“They allow trans people to compete in their untested division,” Cooper said. “I won their Minnesota State Championship and it was amazing, but it still felt off knowing that I was denied eligibility for USA Powerlifting.”

In the meantime, Cooper has not let go of her dream of competing in USA Powerlifting events.

“I am hopeful that the USAPL membership will stand up for trans inclusion and be on the right side of history. Trans athletes should not be feared but celebrated fiercely.”

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