Trans powerlifter JayCee Cooper is suing US Powerlifting (USAPL), the sport’s biggest organization in the US, after she was banned from competing in future events.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Cooper’s behalf by Minnesota-advocacy group Gender Justice, states that her banning — and those of other trans athletes — is in direct violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
“It came as a surprise to me that, when I applied to compete at my first competition, I was told that I couldn’t compete specifically because I’m a trans woman,” Cooper said during a press conference. “I was gutted. I had been training for months, and up until that point, had experienced so much love and community around the sport.”
In 2015, the International Powerlifting Federation, which acts as the parent organization of USAPL, adopted the guidelines laid out by the International Olympic Committee. The IOC’s rules did allow trans women to compete, but only if their testosterone stayed below a certain level for at least a year. Unfortunately, the International Powerlifting Federation does not currently require its national affiliates to follow their rules. While USAPL didn’t have a particular stance on trans competitors, the organization eventually released an overtly transphobic policy in January 2019 — around the same time that Cooper was told she could no longer compete.
“USA Powerlifting is not a fit for every athlete and for every medical condition or situation,” reads the USAPL’s Transgender Participation Policy. “Simply, not all powerlifters are eligible to compete in USA Powerlifting.”
The lawsuit claims that Cooper’s ban from competition was due to her gender identity, and that she was rejected from competing even though she provided documentation that her testosterone levels had remained under the IOC’s accepted limit for two years.
In a complaint filed in a Minnesota District Court, Cooper’s legal team argues that “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.”