USA PowerLifting Summarily Bans All Transgender Athletes

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USA Powerlifting

JayCee Cooper

Last month USA PowerLifting’ banned JayCee Cooper, a transgender woman from competing at a Minnesota event. Cooper’s application was denied in December by USAPL Therapeutic Use Exemptions Committee Chair Kristopher Hunt in an email to Cooper.

“Male-to-female transgenders are not allowed to compete as females in our static strength sports as it is a direct competitive advantage.”

In January Hunt followed up in an email to Cooper saying:

“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 ban came to the attention of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, (D-Minn.), who wrote to Priscilla Ribie, executive director of USA Powerlifting, and the group’s president, Larry Maile,

I am writing to express my concern over a recent decision by USA powerlifting to bar participation by my constituent, Ms. JayCee Cooper because she is transgender.

Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, discrimination against anyone based on their gender identity is illegal. This includes in public accommodations, and in Minnesota, organizations such as USA Powerlifting. In fact, just last month a Minnesota jury awarded Ms. Christina Ginther $20,000 after the Independent Women’s Football League refused to allow her to participate because she is transgender.

I urge you to reconsider this discriminatory, unscientific policy and follow the example of the International Olympic Committee. The myth that trans women have a “direct competitive advantage” is not supported by medical science, and it continues to stoke fear and violence against one of the most at-risk communities in the world.

While I do not have direct jurisdiction over this matter as a U.S. congresswoman, I’m sending this letter to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison with a recommendation that he investigate this discriminatory behavior.

USA PowerLifting defended the transgender policy in a statement linking to highlighted IOC Guidelines cherrypicking the guidelines to use against transgender women and male athletes in the name of “Fair Play”.

The new rules do not apply simply to transgender women as Fox News would have you believe. USA PowerLifting also bans transgender men citing the organizations blanket probation of testosterone or other androgens performance enhancing supplements. The new rules state,

“The first has to do with the use of testosterone or other androgens, commonly used to assist in transition from female to male.  By virtue of the anabolic nature of these compounds, they are not allowed, nor is a Therapeutic Use Exemption granted for such use for anyone.  This applies to any and all medical conditions which might be treated through use of androgens.”

“The second area involves the participation of male to female competitors.  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 follow-up explanation of the ban is a textbook perfect example of gaslighting,

 “No, you are not discriminated against because you are a 40-year-old college student that is not allowed to compete at Collegiate Nationals. No, we are not discriminating against your 7-year-old daughter by not letting her compete. It is simply the rules of this sport that all must be follow if we are to be fair playing field.”

Dropping hyperbole and going to science.

Joanna Harper, a transgender runner, and scientist did a study of her performance before and after receiving HRT as she raced to discover how gender transitions alter athletic performance—including her own. As a result, Harper’s revelations brought the sporting world to the 21st century as reported by Science Magazine,

Some people [], insist that transgender women and many intersex athletes competing in women’s events will always have an unfair edge. (Little controversy exists over transgender men in sports, as many expect them to be at a disadvantage.) Others believe athletes should be able to compete in their self-identified gender without regulations. Harper wants to address the question with data. “You have to go to science.”

Before her own transition in 2004, Harper expected that her 10,000-meter race time might increase by “a minute or two” as her testosterone level dropped and she slowed. But in less than a year, Harper was running a full 5 minutes slower than her personal best. “It just blew me away, and it very much piqued my interest as a scientist.”

In 2005, Harper realized her experience wasn’t unique after reading an article in Runner’s Worldabout another transgender female runner who had also become significantly slower. But when Harper searched for studies about the physiology of transitioning, she found none. So on nights and weekends, she began to moonlight on a research project.

Her study of transgender women found their race times slowed after transitioning, but their age grades, which compare people to the best runners of the same sex and age, hardly changed, suggesting they have no advantage over cisgender women.

In 2015, IOC invited Harper to attend its Consensus Meeting on Sex Reassignment and Hyperandrogenism held in Lausanne, Switzerland. After 3 days, the panel of scientists and physicians converged on revised rules for transgender competitors, including at least 1 year of hormone replacement therapy for female competitors, rather than the 2 years previously required. That change was a nod to Harper’s personal transition experience and to research published in 2004 in the European Journal of Endocrinology showing that the testosterone levels—and therefore performance—of 19 transgender women stabilized after 12 months of hormone therapy. The revised IOC policy also lifted the requirement for sex reassignment surgery. That decision was a long time coming, Harper says. “What your genitals are doesn’t make a difference.”

Less settled, however, is the debate about the appropriate upper limit of women’s testosterone levels in elite athletic competition. The current IOC policy dictates that transgender women must have a testosterone level less than 10 nanomoles per liter, roughly the low end of typical male values. But because more than 99% of women have testosterone levels less than 3 nanomoles per liter, some researchers have suggested that limit is too high. Harper is among them. “If you’re competing in the women’s division, you should do so with women’s hormone levels,” she says. “I understand just how much difference they make.”

The summary of the European Journal of Endocrinology 2004 study cited by the IOC of“Transsexuals and competitive sports”.

  1. Testosterone exposure has profound effects on muscle mass and strength, justifying the practice that men and women compete in sports in separate categories.
  2. The response to testosterone exposure in men is idiosyncratic; similar plasma levels of testosterone do not
    produce similar effects on muscle mass and strength.
  3. The effects of cross-sex hormones in the dosages commonly used have reached their maximum effects
    after 1 year of administration.
  4. In spite of a large difference in testosterone exposure between men and women, there is a large overlap of
    muscle area between them.
  5. Androgen deprivation of men induces a loss of muscle area, further increasing this overlap with women.
  6. Therefore, depending on the levels of arbitrariness one wants to accept, it is justifiable that reassigned
    M –F compete with other women.

I fully agree with fair play.

USA PowerLIfting

USA Powerlifting and others would find fault for my 2016 half marathon finishes, I call them a victories like no other,

As a runner myself, I didn’t have the benefit of before and after comparisons. I do know that I have only won a single 10k despite my best efforts at longer races.

Facing gentrification, I changed jobs to one that is almost exclusively done by men but I was unable to do it due to my female physique. Out of this need, I modified my HRT intake and fully concentrated increasing muscle mass at the gym. In six months I have substantially increased my body’s physical ability to weight lift and am still employed.

That being said, I would also point out that a cisgender female could also get like results by increasing her androgyne intake and undertaking a simular physical regime.

However, In the interest of fair play, I will not run competitively registered as female until such a time that I complete one year of HRT as prescribed by the IOC guidelines.

The Take-Away.

USA PowerLifting’s ban on trans women and especially that of trans men is arbitrary and capricious. USA PowerLifting’s transgender probation ignores science, the context of IOC rules and only serves to fan the flames of transphobia. In a word, it is transphobic.

This video does not support Planet Trans views but does offer an educated opinion.

Editor in Chief at

Kelli Busey an outspoken gonzo style journalist has been writing since 2007. In 2008, she brought the Dallas Advocate on-line and has articles published by the Reconciling Ministries Network, The Transsexual Menace, The Daily Kos, Frock Magazine the TransAdvocate, the Dallas Voice and The Advocate. Kelli, an avid runner is editor in chief at Planet Transgender which she founded in 2007.

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