March 6, 2023 - 3:45pm

Powerlifting is surely one sport where sex matters. Male bodies tend to lift heavier weights than female bodies. To ensure fair competition, therefore, the sport needs separate categories for men and women. Once upon a time, everyone knew this and accepted it.

To its credit USA Powerlifting has maintained a transgender policy that respects the differences between the sexes. Crucially the organisation insists that male advantages “are not eliminated by reduction of serum androgens such as testosterone yielding a potential advantage in strength sports such as powerlifting.” Male transsexuals (like me) are not banned from the sport, but we are expected to compete within our own sex class.

I would argue for records to be kept for the best performance by a male transsexual with hormone levels in the normal female range. Maybe — if numbers permitted — there could be specific competitions restricted to that group. Neither development would impact on anyone else’s rights.

But that was not good enough for JayCee Cooper, a transgender competitor. Two years ago, Cooper filed a lawsuit against USA Powerlifting for discrimination. “I was fed up with the way that I was being treated; I was fed up with the way that my community was being treated, and enough was enough,” Cooper told US TV.

Now it has emerged that the court has sided with Cooper. The ruling also mandated that USA Powerlifting must “cease and desist from all unfair discriminatory practices” because of sexual orientation and gender identity and that it revises its policy within two weeks.

This is an outrage. In such a physical sport as powerlifting, females are at a disadvantage to males as the erstwhile policy made clear. For a court to overrule that indicates to me that feelings are being put over facts.  The oft-cited analogy of age comes to mind. If someone feels like they are seventy years old they should not have the right to enter and potentially win an event for seniors. So why should  “sexual orientation and gender identity” be seen any differently?

Firstly, I wonder why sexual orientation was tagged in at all. Homosexual men compete against heterosexual men — they are all equally male. But secondly, what is this thing called gender identity, and why does it trump biological sex? It can neither be proven nor falsified.

Cooper’s response? “I feel mostly relief 
 I think we needed a win here, and it feels good to get that”. I disagree completely. Yet again, the male sex has trampled over the rights of the female sex. Whatever the law might say, it is no victory to steal the property of others, nor is it a win to take the medals of another group.


Debbie Hayton is a teacher and a transgender campaigner.

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