When trans women are excluded from participation on teams that align with their gender identity, they are often excluded from participating altogether. Discrimination and exclusion inflicts stigma and causes long-lasting harm to trans people. This exclusion is even more disturbing considering the stigma and violence trans people already face in our society.
In 2019, Gender Justice, along with co-counsel at Nichols Kaster, filed a charge of discrimination with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) on behalf of JayCee Cooper, a transgender woman and member of USA Powerlifting (USAPL). JayCee wanted to participate in a USAPL bench press competition, so she submitted her application, including a Therapeutic Use Exemption, which allows individuals taking prohibited substances to compete while still following their doctor’s recommendations. JayCee provided letters from two health care providers confirming her diagnosis of gender dysphoria and the reasons for her prescribed medications.
When Jaycee submitted her application, USAPL did not have specific guidelines for transgender participation, though they are a member of the International Powerlifting Federation, which generally follows the International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines. JayCee more than met the IOC’s requirements for participation by transgender athletes. USAPL responded by denying JayCee a chance to compete, and then created an exclusionary policy that seeks to prohibit transgender women from competing altogether.
On January 12, 2021, Gender Justice and Nichols Kaster filed a complaint on behalf of Cooper after mediation and negotiations with USAPL failed. Through this lawsuit, we are seeking protection from discrimination for Cooper – and all trans athletes like her – and a clear, fair standard that allows trans athletes the opportunity to compete in the category of their gender identity.
Trans women belong in women’s sports, and their right to compete is supported by the International Olympic Committee, the International Powerlifting Federation’s Executive Committee, federal and Minnesota state law.
USA Powerlifting’s ban on transgender athletes is not only illegal, it’s also rooted in outdated gender stereotypes that harm all women athletes.
Gender Justice will always work to make sure sports teams and federations live up to their values of equity and inclusion by fighting for trans athletes’ right to compete. Women’s sports are stronger when we value inclusion and equity over division and hate. Everyone in women’s sports wins when we have the most talented athletes on the court, who are not only skilled and trained, but supported on their teams.
“As a powerlifter and a transgender person, I’m no stranger to a challenge. I’ve jumped through all the hoops, trying to meet USA Powerlifting’s arbitrary and subjective standards, just to have them respond with an outright ban on transgender women in competitions. At some point you have to say enough is enough. USA Powerlifting’s blanket ban violates not just the law, but the very spirit of sports.”
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Get the Facts
Trans athletes have been competing in sports for decades without issue. Organizations like the International Olympic Committee, International Powerlifting Federation, the International Weightlifting Federation, the NCAA, the Olympics, and the Minnesota State High School League, all have policies allowing trans athletes to compete.
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