Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

A Minnesota state court has ruled that USA Powerlifting must permit transgender athletes to compete.

Transgender powerlifter JayCee Cooper, a male who identifies as female, sued in state court in 2021 after USA Powerlifting’s sex-segregation policy barred him from competing against women. The court found that the organization’s policy violated state anti-discrimination law.

“The harm is in making a person pretend to be something different, the implicit message being that who they are is less than. That is the very essence of separation and segregation, and it is what the MHRA [Minnesota Human Rights Act] prohibits,” the court argued in its ruling published last week.

The district court’s ruling compels USA Powerlifting to “cease and desist from all unfair discriminatory practices,” and permits the body two weeks to comply. The order paves the way for individuals to compete in divisions based on their gender identity, not biological sex.

“After years of experiencing discrimination from USA Powerlifting, and the backlash that has occurred due to that, of course I have complex feelings about the sport,” Cooper told a local news outlet in response to the decision. “But I think that this win–is a representation of where we can move forward.”

Two years before suing in state court, Cooper filed a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in 2019 alleging discrimination on grounds of gender identity and sexual orientation. Gender Justice–an organization aimed at “dismantling legal, structural, and cultural barriers that contribute to gender inequity”– joined Cooper in filing the complaint.

USA Powerlifting president Larry Maile denounced the court’s decision, pointing out that males have a particular advantage over females in powerlifting.

“Our position has been aimed at balancing the needs of cis- and transgender women, whose capacities differ significantly in purely strength sports,” Maile said in a statement.

“We have received a summary judgment decision from the Court finding us liable for discrimination. We respectfully disagree with the Court’s conclusions. We are considering all of our options, including appeal.”

However, Cooper was unmoved by such arguments, seeing her legal challenge as part of a broader movement enshrining protections for the LGBT community.

“Marsha P. Johnson and the Stonewall riots and the plethora of Black trans advocates and activists throughout history—and the way they’ve led this fight—I am just one small piece that is built off of that,” Cooper told the local outlet.

In late January, World Athletics, the governing body of international track and field, released a proposal to permit transgender individuals to compete based on their gender identity so long as they artificially reduce their testosterone levels prior to competition.

“The fact that World Athletics, one of the biggest, has not (put) its foot down, I think it is really, really upsetting,” British shot putter Amelia Strickler told the Telegraph. “I am genuinely worried. This is my career.”

Some sporting bodies have opted to make alternative divisions entirely.

This year, the Miami Marathon created a “non-binary” division for runners in a bid to accommodate those who do not identify as either male or female.

“There’s a lot of things in my life where I need to register, and the options are male or female. I do it every day, and it’s annoying and frustrating. So, it’s nice when I have an option that actually matches my gender identity,” Calla Hummel, a professor at the University of Miami told the Miami Herald.

There are now over 200 major race organizers including the New York, Boston, and Berlin marathons that offer dedicated non-binary divisions.

Cooper has reportedly placed third in the 2022 AMP Classic Open Nationals, twice won the “women’s raw 198+ open,” and finished fourth in the USPA National Championships.

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