U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, (D-Minn.), is calling on USA Powerlifting to lift its ban on transgender women competing in its events.
In a letter to Priscilla Ribie, executive director of USA Powerlifting, and the group’s president, Larry Maile, Omar wrote:
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.
Cooper, a transgender woman who has won competitions competing for another powerlifting organization, was denied entry into a USA Powerlifting event in Minnesota, with the group saying: “Male-to-female transgenders are not allowed to compete as females in our static strength sports as it is a direct competitive advantage.”
This decision flies in the face of a growing awareness by science about trans athletes and ignores the ruling by the IOC, which says trans athletes can compete if they follow certain conditions.
Cooper told City Pages in Minneapolis she had met all the criteria the IOC has set for trans female athletes:
Cooper says she followed the committee’s rules. She’s declared her gender for sporting purposes. She submitted five test results from 2016 to the present day, all of them showing her testosterone levels are well under the guidelines for competition. There’s nothing in USA Powerlifting’s bylaws that says she can’t compete — except an email from its leadership.
“It kind of takes you aback -- it takes your breath away,” she says.
Cooper thanked Omar for her letter, saying, “No one deserves to be excluded because of who they are. [USA Powerlifting’s] policy, and how I’m being treated IS NOT OKAY. The time for trans inclusion is NOW.”
It is unclear whether Ellison will investigate the case, but it seems as if USA Powerlifting made an arbitrary and capricious decision Cooper sees as clearly discriminatory and is something the organization might now have to defend.