Rep. Omar calls for USA Powerlifting to allow biological males to compete in women’s events

by WorldTribune Staff, February 7, 2019

Rep. Ilhan Omar is calling for an investigation into USA Powerlifting (USAPL) after its announcement last month that men who identify as transgender women are banned from competing at women’s events.

The Minnesota Democrat sent a letter to the powerlifting organization on behalf of one of her constituents, JayCee Cooper, a biological male who identifies as a transgender woman.

Rep. Ilhan Omar and JayCee Cooper

Cooper had recently set a state record in winning a Minnesota women’s championship with another association, but was denied entry into a USAPL event.

“Male-to-female transgenders are not allowed to compete as females in our static strength sports as it is a direct competitive advantage,” USAPL Therapeutic Use Exemptions Committee Chair Kristopher Hunt wrote in an email to Cooper.

Omar has asked Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to investigate what she called USAPL’s “discriminatory behavior.”

“Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, discrimination against anyone based on their gender identity is illegal,” Omar said. “This includes in public accommodations, and in Minnesota, organizations such as USA Powerlifting. In fact, just last month a Minnesota jury awarded Ms. Christina Ginther $20,000 after the Independent Women’s Football League refused to allow her to participate because she is transgender.”

The USAPL announced last month that men who identify as transgender women aren’t allowed to compete as women. Female athletes who identify as men are allowed to compete, but are required to abide by the same bans on external androgens as other athletes.

“Men naturally have a larger bone structure, higher bone density, stronger connective tissue and higher muscle density than women,” the USAPL said. “These traits, even with reduced levels of testosterone do not go away. While [male-to-female athletes] may be weaker and less muscle than they once were, the biological benefits given them at birth still remain over that of a female.”

In her letter to the USAPL, Omar wrote: “I urge you to reconsider this discriminatory, unscientific policy and follow the example of the International Olympic Committee. The myth that trans women have a ‘direct competitive advantage’ is not supported by medical science, and it continues to stoke fear and violence against one of the most at-risk communities in the world.”

The USAPL said that it is in compliance with the guidelines, under which “each sport is given the latitude to determine how the guidelines are applied.”

Under International Olympics Committee (IOC) guidelines, athletes who transition from male to female must have testosterone levels below a certain point. For the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, the IOC is expected to cut in half the acceptable levels of testosterone, making it more difficult for biological males who identify as women to compete in women’s events.

The revised guidelines were announced in 2018 just days after transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, formerly Gavin Hubbard, competed at the Commonwealth Games. The New Zealander was favored to dominate the competition until she was sidelined by injury.

Trans male athletes face no restrictions. “Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction,” the IOC said.

In 2016, the IOC ruled that transgender athletes would no longer need to undergo sex reassignment surgery in order to be eligible for competition in the Olympics.

Joanna Harper, a transgender athlete and IOC advisory committee member, said that, even after hormone treatment, transgender women could have an advantage.

“Transgender women after hormone therapy are taller, bigger and stronger on average than cisgender [those whose gender identity matches their birth gender] women,” Harper said.

“But that does not [necessarily] make it unfair. Let’s say we are talking about a boxer. Boxing is divided by weight classes, and in a given weight class a trans woman boxer is not going to be bigger than the women she is fighting in the ring. In high levels of sport, transgender women are substantially underrepresented. That indicates that whatever physical advantages transgender women have – and they certainly exist – they are not nearly as large as the sociological disadvantages.”

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