Before we get much further into the discussion on transgender participation in sport, it’s worth highlighting one of the main threads of the last few years. Namely, the matter of transgender women (which is to say, biological men) in the women’s division of USA Powerlifting. It seems odd to consider the adage “men are physically stronger than men” being controversial in a sport with decades of meet results showing the clear differences, but such is the case here.
What follows is a timeline stretching back to 2019, when the USAL initially posted their “Transgender Participation Policy” and the firestorm that kicked up.
Feb 19, 2019
https://barbend.com/usapl-transgender-participation-policy/?fbclid=IwAR3Zuq_I85a_9RWjQLNan7PkoXh29jNlFZHFztUgq9z24iUuDi3j8C2bn0w — USAPL Transgender Participation Policy hits Barbend. Barbend is a news service dedicated to covering the strength sports. Namely weightlifting, powerlifting, crossfit, strongman, and bodybuilding.
https://www.usapowerlifting.com/transgender-participation-policy/?fbclid=IwAR33NtbNRjotTyqWaGwqDjlhNGPbafNoifamYX3bPdmfWeIGVckVEMRRieE — In addition to the policy, USAPL released an FAQ, targeting criticisms of the policy, and specifically the loaded use of the term “discrimination” in Outsports and other outlets who, to put it charitably, disagreed with the policy.
Feb 21, 2019
https://barbend.com/usapl-transgender-ban-protest/?fbclid=IwAR3o49WMFZcg170B2Jh9MzOcRFR4XuUwjW9nTaQ8BpCQf3Cw8D4cHoFX6j4 — At a meet in Minnesota (which is practically the flashpoint of our study tonight), competitors protested the policy by “timing out” their attempts, and occasionally holding flags reading “share the platform.” People such as JayCee Cooper spun it as a brave protest.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW8b4ql7gmE&t=52s ….video from the meet itself, however, paints a more aggressive picture. One that, frankly, is humiliating to athletes who weren’t interested in the protest.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6765965/Rapper-beats-female-weightlifting-records-identifying-woman.html — UK-based rapper “identifies as female” to smash female weightlifting records. Not much to say tghere.
May 9, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9diqAwNKXzI — VICE News piece on transgender powerlifter JayCee Cooper. The highlight of this piece is when the reporter asks “why should you be allowed to compete,” to which Cooper responds, “why not.” (Why not, of course, being the fact that men would sail to victory in the women’s division.)
May 9, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=370OHWNTsqs&t=239s — This is something we are going to come back to again, and again. For almost an hour, the chairman of USAPL’s Therapeutic Use Exemption committee, Dr. Kristopher Hunt, laid out a ton of evidence on why the USAPL’s policy was quite fair, and how men participating in the women’s division would leave women pretty much without any hope of competing. Cooper and another transgender lifter, Rebecca Fox, were present to speak for a proposal to essentially force the issue. Their opening argument was complete with barely veiled legal threats that we’ll get to later.
https://www.outsports.com/2019/5/9/18537742/usa-powerlifters-trans-ban-inclusion-vote-survey-transgender-policy-rules — Proposal went nowhere, but Maile and others DID get a ton of blowback from transgender activists/media nets.
July 1, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dc7g6I7JuAo – Interview with Dr. Hunt
https://www.outsports.com/trans/2019/7/8/18761612/trans-athlete-compete-sports-transgender-rachel-mckinnon-jaycee-cooper-andraya-yearwood-cece-telfer?fbclid=IwAR1VzetuETyarP_56VT1ibKSu9qEFtxge1_oCQWdNzxS6mic5s6G4QaRc3s — Human interest story on why the fairness argument isn’t relevant. This is a true piece of work, if we’re honest.
October 30, 2019
https://www.outsports.com/2019/10/30/20886863/usa-powerlifting-trans-ban-gender-justice-jaycee-cooper-larry-maile-joanna-harper?fbclid=IwAR0qFQfdiS6PfEteCclWRZhgbILy6Uv9PxcZTYoElwm9UusZrjjK6jvzKwM — USAPL, Gender Justice “agree to talks.”
October 31, 2019
https://www.outsports.com/2019/10/31/20939582/usa-powerlifting-transgender-ban-minnesota-jaycee-cooper-larry-maile-joanna-harper?fbclid=IwAR0EzoV-ez6UB-qDR69eIfOzfczgDRMPF7MqCHHWcUsm2i5FrzGLHOSfyGU — Outsports interviews Maile.
December 21, 2020
https://www.usapowerlifting.com/usa-powerlifting-launches-four-new-lifting-categories-in-2021/?fbclid=IwAR1rxY5aWOg2sg8Lgj8gwD_2mGZWWvGoZebHa51z6bKXTE99hdIz4CvP3hI — USAPL announces new competitive categories, including the gender-neutral MX division. The MX division is essentially a free-for-all where people can compete according to their “gender identity.” The USAPL’s anti-doping rules still very much apply.
January 5, 2021
https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/trans-women-retain-athletic-edge-after-year-hormone-therapy-study-n1252764?fbclid=IwAR0Mhu5JqCypVMJmVMxeVYjTxINxQDxPznXBjP6hTVI2mwRQP3PGNdv0oTc — Study suggests “transgender women maintain an athletic advantage” years after therapy.
January 13, 2021
https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/transgender-athlete-sues-usa-powerlifting-over-competition-ban-n1253960?fbclid=IwAR0PdzMJjGN5U5t52SggcmKiKsGP3CeS9MTWHI8-P5vxlo-ae1u-Nq5fXD0 — Cooper sues USA Powerlifting in MN Civil Court.
January 18, 2021
https://montanafreepress.org/2021/01/18/house-committee-hears-emotional-arguments-on-transgender-bills/?fbclid=IwAR0oK1HuiZ_QlRn9XRPXenOVeUgfR2sV9eS6HTiWf9OkCTYKaMQPAvJvefo — Montana bill. (This stuff will be taken care of in a future update.)
January 19, 2021
https://thepostmillennial.com/usa-powerlifting-sued-for-not-allowing-gender-nonconforming-biological-males-to-compete-against-women — Save Women’s Sports response to USAPL/Cooper lawsuit.
January 21, 2021
https://thefederalist.com/2021/01/21/on-day-one-biden-destroys-womens-sports-with-anti-science-executive-order/?fbclid=IwAR2Nu9WFh0G12EvQb7wCNWYF1vdKRnIomiY5euVR38JzkLo3i2AlJtjvxOU — “On Day One, Biden Destroys Women’s Sports With Anti-Science Executive Order.” The EO expanded Title IX to include gender identity. This links directly to athletics at the high school/collegiate level.
January 22, 2021
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2021/jan/22/transgender-athletes-joe-biden-executive-order?fbclid=IwAR23xRfJlcIsuj8ByHR5Ei5CoRu4FQSfWfaLtv2xyyaLc4I_HUOY3fVJDVk — “Joe Biden’s gender discrimination order offers hope for young trans athletes.” This is an….interesting article out of the Guardian, which pays next-to-no mind to biological females who are convinced (and rightfully so), that their ability to compete is greatly hindered by the EO.
January 26, 2021:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLMhp227HZM — Save Women’s Sports’ Beth Stelzer appears on FOX News’ America Reports to discuss Biden’s Executive Order.
If this timeline feels completely unfinished, that’s largely because it is. This is just the start of the issue of transgender participation in women’s sport being played out in the courts, and in the legislatures (both State-level and in Congress).
If nothing else, this at least lays out the foundation, and frankly the rather tenuous state of women’s sport at present. While I reject the idea that the Biden EO is the one-shot death of women’s sport (this series would have no reason to exist, otherwise), I am not so naive as to believe it will not damage women’s sport for several years if fully implemented.
But, again, we have multiple bills in various states, we have (to my count) three separate bills in Congress which are bi-partisan. While there are vastly more Republicans than Democrats that support the idea of barring men from women’s sport, the issue has some fairly big names on both sides of the aisle; namely Democrat Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and former SC governor Nikii Haley.
The executive order from President Biden is a problem, but it is not the end of the fight. There is far too much evidence to the contrary, and there are far too many reasons to continue the fight to Defend Their Platform.