Trans Athlete Sues After Being Denied Right to Compete

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday January 13, 2021

Trans Athlete Sues After Being Denied Right to Compete
  (Source:JayCee Cooper/Instagram)

A transgender athlete who says that she was denied the chance to pursue her Olympic ambitions is now suing USA Powerlifting because the organization refused to allow her to compete, NBC News reports.

"Powerlifting is a sport of empowerment pushing through adversity and seeing what our bodies can do," declared power lifted JayCee Cooper, who was denied the chance to compete in 2019. "As a trans person this took on additional meaning because our bodies are so politicized and demonized regularly."

The suit, filed Jan. 12 on Cooper's behalf by the advocacy group Gender Justice, contends, "in banning Cooper and other trans athletes, USA Powerlifting, or USAPL, is in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act," NBC News said.

Gender Justice legal director, Jess Braverman said in a statement that "Trans women belong in women's sports," before asserting that "USA Powerlifting's ban on transgender athletes is not only illegal, it's also rooted in outdated gender stereotypes that harm all women athletes."

The suit alleges that the "USAPL denied Ms. Cooper's eligibility to compete because she is a transgender woman, withdrew her competition card because she is a transgender woman, and then went on to adopt a categorical ban on participation by transgender women athletes at USAPL competitions."

One of the central issues is the guidelines that the International Olympic Committee adopted in 2015, which "trans women to compete if their testosterone remains below a certain level for at least 12 months," NBC noted.

But the "Transgender Participation Policy" adopted by USA Powerlifting in 2019 holds that "Men naturally have a larger bone structure, higher bone density, stronger connective tissue and higher muscle density than women," and says that those advantages "do not go away" when athletes born with male bodies transition.

"While MTF may be weaker and less muscle than they once were, the biological benefits given them at birth still remain over than of a female," the policy states.

In 2019, after being denied, Cooper took to Instagram, posting, "I followed the @olympics committee rules that were adopted into @theipf constitution," and adding that she had "submitted 5 test results spanning 2016 to present showing that my testosterone levels have been and continue to be significantly under the guidelines."

"I watched as friends competed," Cooper's post went on to say. "I saw them celebrating their triumphs and bonding with their teams all while knowing that I wasn't competing with them because I am trans, and that is a cause for concern for some folks."

In a conference about the suit's filing, Cooper argued that, "We all benefit when sports are as inclusive as possible, when we organize around our shared humanity and collective empowerment," reported political news outlet The Hill.

Added Cooper: "Women should be able to participate and succeed at every level — including trans women."

The Minnesota Human Rights Act "expressly bans discrimination against transgender people," The Hill noted, "the first state-level anti-discrimination law in the country to include 'sexual orientation' as a protected class, which is broadly interpreted to include transgender Americans."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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