A transgender powerlifter is speaking out against USA Powerlifting’s ban on transgender athletes, alleging it isn’t fair to ban an entire class of people from an elite sport.
JayCee Cooper, 31, is a biological male who identifies as a transgender woman. Cooper first competed as a female in September 2018. The athlete’s Twitter describes Cooper as a “Queer and Trans Fathlete, Powerlifter, DJ, and Librarian.”
After competing as a woman in numerous high level competitions, Cooper registered to compete in a USA Powerlifting event and was rejected. “It took me aback,” Cooper said, NBC News reported. “I didn’t want to put myself into a situation where I obviously wasn’t welcome.”
USA Powerlifting denied Cooper’s application in December, barring Cooper from competing against women in the sport because Cooper is biologically male, according to OutSports. “Male-to-female transgenders are not allowed to compete as females in our static strength sports as it is a direct competitive advantage,” USAPL Therapeutic Use Exemptions Committee Chair Kristopher Hunt told Cooper in an email explaining the rejection.
“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,” Hunt also told Cooper in January, OutSports reported.
Rules set by the World Anti-Doping Agency require Cooper to apply for an exemption to compete. Cooper takes the drug spironolactone to lower testosterone levels. Similarly, transgender athletes who wish to compete at the Olympic level must have testosterone levels within the International Olympic Committee’s accepted range for two years prior to competition. Cooper’s testosterone levels adhere to those limits, NBC reported.
Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar in January sent a letter on Cooper’s behalf to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, urging him to investigate USA Powerlifting over its “discriminatory behavior.” Omar also said the assertion that transgender women have a “direct competitive advantage” over their biologically female peers is a “myth.”
“I really do love this sport, and it’s not fair to genetically eliminate an entire group of people,” Cooper told NBC, pushing back against regulatory bodies that ban transgender athletes from competition.
Males have significant advantages “including but not limited to increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue,” according to USA Powerlifting’s guidelines. “These advantages are not eliminated by reduction of serum androgens such as testosterone yielding a potential advantage in strength sports such as powerlifting.”
— Caroline Yang (@yangfoto) April 28, 2019
“We’ve been referred to as bigoted and transphobic and a whole lot of less kind things, but it’s not an issue of that for us,” USA Powerlifting president Larry Maile told NBC. “It’s an issue that we have to consider dispassionately and make our best judgment collectively about what the impact on fair play is for us, and that’s the basis on which we’ve proceeded,” Maile said. (RELATED: Biological Male Is Top-Ranked NCAA Women’s Track Star)
A number of decorated female athletes, including Olympic runner Paula Radcliffe and tennis legend Martina Navratilova, have spoken out against biologically male transgender athletes competing in female sports.
USA Powerlifting authorities will meet May 9 to discuss transgender individuals competing in the sport.
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