On Jan. 12, 2021, lawyers for powerlifter JayCee Cooper officially filed charges against USA Powerlifting (USAPL) and USAPL Minnesota in Ramsey County Court. According to Outsports, the lawsuit alleges violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). In a news conference the morning of the court filing, Cooper said:
I don’t want anyone to experience what I and other trans athletes have and continue to experience. Having our basic human dignity and our opportunities denied because we are trans.
Per the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR), the MHRA is “a state law that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, public services, education, credit, and business based on a protected class, such as race, religion, disability, national origin, sex, marital status, familial status, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”
The lawsuit comes after two years of contention between trans athletes and policies set by USAPL, including an initial complaint to the MDHR in June 2019 and a protest at the 2019 USAPL Minnesota State Championships. The protesters — members of the powerlifting gym The Movement Minneapolis — went 0 for 9, standing on the platform without attempting their squats, bench presses, or deadlifts.
The entire news conference, which was held via Zoom, can be view below courtesy of the video from Gender Justice‘s Facebook page:
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In January 2019, the USAPL updated their “Transgender Participation Policy” (TPP), which states that, “Simply, not all powerlifters are eligible to compete in USA Powerlifting” and went to specify further that that meant trans powerlifters. The TPP cites the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) Medical Committee’s “consistent” position that “participation of male to female transgender athletes in our sport compromises fair play.”
The USAPL’s TPP states, “testosterone or other androgens, commonly used to assist in [the] transition from female to male. By virtue of the anabolic nature of these compounds, they are not allowed.” Their reason being that “…significant advantages are had, including but not limited to increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure, and connective tissue.”
Cooper announced the news of the lawsuit in a post on their Instagram page with the following caption:
“Excluding trans people from sports is the latest strategy that anti-LGBTQ+ organizations are using to further discriminate against transgender people. Refusing to recognize their identities is the first tactic employed by those who want to erase trans people from all facets of public life, not just sports. Enough.”
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[Related: Watch VICE’s Documentary About The Struggles Of Transgender Powerlifters]
In response to an inquiry by Outsports, the USAPL said they had not yet received a formal filing — although Outsports provided them with a link to a PDF of the court filing — and disputed the allegations.
In their statement, Cooper said, “Sports belongs to all people. Sport is a human right. In this case, we need to lift up trans rights.”
Feature image via JayCee Cooper’s Instagram page: @jayceeisalive