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USA Powerlifters put trans inclusion to a vote

As the USAPL national board of governors meets, women members were asked to accept or reject a proposal to end the ban on trans athletes

Ashley is a cisgender woman who took part in a protest of the USAPL ban on transgender athletes during a meet in Rockford, MN on February 17, 2019.
Screengrab: Instagram/@ashleyvse Photo by @riahgoeshamm of Hamm Media.

The head honchos of USA Powerlifting gather today in Lombard, IL, for the Open Nationals, and for a meeting that will include discussion of the ban on transgender competitors like JayCee Cooper of Minneapolis.

Insiders tell Outsports that topic isn’t on the formal agenda for the afternoon, but is listed as “sensitive issues” to be addressed.

One item of special interest is the result of an online survey, which Cooper described to Outsports as an “interesting move:’ Basically, the USAPL put the decision on whether Cooper and other trans athletes could take part in meets, in the hands of the organization’s women members.

There are 5,499 of them, according to an email from the chair of USAPL’s Women’s Committee, Priscilla Ribic. Cooper is considered one of those female members, in spite of the ban.

The survey asks women lifters for their input on a proposal to rewrite USAPL rules in favor of trans inclusion. It was crafted by Cooper and Brianna Diaz, the queer Latinix co-director of Pull for Pride, a powerlifting group that raises money for endangered LGBTQ youth. Cooper is the other co-director. In February, Diaz joined more than a dozen other lifters in a “time out” protest of the ban during a meet in Cooper’s home state of Minnesota. They took the platform but then let time expire without lifting a finger.

Diaz proposes USAPL should allow trans men to compete without any restriction, and in line with the IOC and many other agencies governing sports, creates four conditions for trans women to be eligible:

“The athlete has declared that her gender identity is female. The declaration cannot be changed, for sporting purposes, for a minimum of four years.

“The athlete must demonstrate that her total testosterone level in serum has been below 10 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to her first competition (with the requirement for any longer period to be based on a confidential case-by-case evaluation, considering whether or not 12 months is a sufficient length of time to minimize any advantage in women’s competition).

“The athlete’s total testosterone level in serum must remain below 10 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category.

That level of below 10 nmol/L matches the current rules of both the International Olympic Committee as well as the International Powerlifting Federation. In issuing its ban on trans competitors in January — shortly after Cooper applied to compete — USAPL defied the IPF.

It may be of interest to note that 10 nmol/L is twice the new level set for intersex track athletes by the International Association of Athletic Federations. Diaz proposes allowing intersex athletes compete according to their gender identity, but they will be subject to drug testing.

“Compliance with these conditions may be monitored by testing. In the event of non-compliance, the athlete’s eligibility for female competition will be suspended for 12 months.”

And because drug testing could be skewed to exclude trans lifters, Diaz proposes an examination panel be assembled, consisting of one member of the transgender community, one medical expert “culturally competent on transgender issues”, and two representatives from USAPL.

The survey, which allows members to share their thoughts on each point, was emailed on Friday and has since closed. There’s no indication yet of the results but Cooper tweeted Thursday that the proposed policy is definitely on the governors’ agenda.

Cooper intends to live tweet from the conference. Follow her by clicking here.

USAPL president Larry Maile, Ph.D., shed some light on how today’s meeting of the national governing board might look at those survey responses, and the ban itself. Maile, a clinical and forensic psychologist, declined an invitation to be interviewed for a TV segment about Cooper and the ban, which debuted Wednesday night on HBO. You can watch a clip below, or click here. Scroll down to the bottom for the link to the full episode.

USA Powerlifting: VICE News Tonight

JayCee Cooper is a powerlifter. She’s also trans. But in late January, USA Powerlifting banned some transmasculine athletes and all transfeminine athletes from competing. We met up with Cooper to find out how she’s fighting the ban on VICE News Tonight at 7:30PM EDT on HBO.

Posted by VICE News on Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Cooper was asked by VICE News correspondent Arielle Duhaime-Ross if she thinks it’s fair for her to compete in the same category with cisgender [meaning, “not transgender”] women. “Absolutely,” said Cooper. And when asked, “Why?” she replied, “Why not?”

Although USAPL never responded to multiple emails from Outsports, over three months, Maile did issue a statement to VICE News after declining to be interviewed, complaining about he and other USAPL leaders, members and their families have been treated:

“I have participated in multiple interviews that proceeded from an advocacy standpoint for transgender inclusion and have been misquoted, given several seconds to produce sound bites and set up as a straw man. I have been called transphobic, bigoted, racist, my family contacted directly. Our executive members have been harassed and family members threatened, and our elite level female athletes contacted and harassed as well. There is no point in trying to convince a partisan crowd. For our part, we will discuss this among our members, review all sides of the issue and come to what we feel is the best decision for our organization and in our sport...”

Earlier this week, Outsports profiled Mary Gregory, a raw powerlifter from Virginia who broke several records in her weight class at the 100% Raw Weightlifting Federation meet last month, then had her trophies taken away, and the records stripped. Right wing news sites and those who oppose trans inclusion had orchestrated a successful social media backlash.

In an ironic twist, although Gregory cannot compete in USAPL meets because of the ban, she did qualify to be a referee.

Outsports will keep readers updated on the outcome of today’s meetings in Lombard.