Last week, a state court in Minnesota ruled that USA Powerlifting must allow Jaycee Cooper, a biological male who identifies as a transgender woman, to compete in the female division in USAPL competitions. Readers of this site can probably guess my general opinions on this ruling – transgenderism and trans-identifying athletes are just one of the issues that I and my talented colleagues at The Daily Wire report on every day. But this case is deeply personal to me because I’m a competitive powerlifter myself.
The story behind Jaycee Cooper’s case is familiar. According to openpowerlifting.com, Cooper competed as a female in the 2019 USPA National Championships. USPA is a different federation with different rules, which allow trans-identifying lifters. Cooper competed in the 198+ weight class, essentially the women’s super heavyweight, weighing 289 pounds; he placed 4th, with a squat/bench/deadlift total of 936.9 pounds. If Cooper had competed as a man, he would have been in the men’s 308 weight class, and would have placed 6th; but he would have lifted 600 pounds less than the 5th place lifter. He likely wouldn’t have even qualified: to qualify for USPA National competition, you need a Class II total; a Class II total for the men’s 308 is 1322.8, 400 pounds above Cooper’s recorded best. It’s the same old song and dance: an athlete who can’t hack it with biological men identifies as a trans woman, then dominates the competition.
The legal outcome was to be expected too. Cooper lives in Minnesota, which has a comprehensive “Human Rights” law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. The judge, Patrick C. Diamond, is liberal. Predictably, he determined that “[p]erformance advantage is not a reason recognized under the [Minnesota Human Rights Act] to discriminate because of sexual orientation or sex.”
But he went further. While he stated that the court would rule on it later, he seemed inclined to throw out evidence from USAPL that trans-identifying competitors have a performance advantage, because it might mean excluding them. “[T]he USAPL’s evidence of competitive advantage does not take into account any competitive disadvantage a transgender athlete might face from, for example, increased risk of depression and suicide, lack of access to coaching and practice facilities, or other performance suppression common to transgender persons,” Diamond opined.
“The USAPL also did not consider any unique advantages their sport might convey to transgender athletes including increased fitness, combating the side effects of medication and treatment, and increasing feelings of acceptance and well-being.” The competitive advantages that male-to-female trans-identifying athletes have is indisputable fact, but biology gets thrown out the window to mitigate depression and increase “feelings of acceptance and well-being,” two things which have absolutely no bearing on physical athletic performance. In the eyes of the Minnesota courts, everything must be subservient to trans acceptance.
What’s worse than the circumstances of this case are the consequences. Allow me to illustrate my point with an anecdote. I was in a competition my senior year of high school. The guy I was competing against had already smoked me in the bench press, and I needed to pull a 575 deadlift to win overall – 50 pounds more than my personal best. I stepped onto the platform for my final attempt. I heaved with all my might. I pulled the bar to my knees, and dropped it. No lift. I put everything I had into that final attempt, but I came up short. It was absolutely heartbreaking, and what made it worse was the fact that my opponent made his final lift look easy. But still, I lost fair and square.
That pain and heartbreak that I felt that day will be felt by countless other female lifters if this ruling is allowed to stand. Forced to compete against men, a woman would have to push herself far and above her known limits to win or be competitive, putting her at greater risk of injury or failure – only for a biological male to step up to the platform and beat her without a struggle. I lost fair and square. But these women will lose effectively by default. A 1,000-pound S/B/D total is an elite feat among heavyweight female lifters; an average middleweight male lifter would make it look easy. It takes years of intense training for women to total 1,000 pounds; I joined the 1,000-pound club as a sophomore in high school, two years after I started lifting.
If biological men are allowed to compete with women, they will break records and capture championships in the women’s division, while women will be disincentivized from competing at a high level. It’s already happened in swimming, track and field, and MMA, among other sports. Powerlifting is no exception, but it would also lose something unique.
Powerlifting is one of the least hostile sports. The sense of admiration and respect is infectious. You root for the guy who’s beating you; you scream “UP! UP!” at the top of your lungs for him, even if he’s going to beat you for first place, because he’s also pushing himself to his absolute maximum. But no one wants to root for someone who’s going to win by default. There’s no sense of accomplishment for someone putting in the bare minimum. Allowing subpar biological men like Jaycee Cooper to push out elite women wouldn’t just destroy the integrity of women’s powerlifting, it would suck the soul out of it.
The Minnesota court’s ruling is an injustice. If upheld, it could very well cripple women’s powerlifting, but this doesn’t seem to matter, because powerlifting, like all things, must be subservient to the all-consuming demands of radical gender theory. USAPL is of course considering an appeal, and they should take whatever steps are necessary to protect the integrity of their federation and sport. And conservatives should take a stand alongside USAPL.
Women’s sports belong to women. We must be assertive and uncompromising in claiming and maintaining spaces like these. We must be bold in halting transgenderism when it encroaches on reality, and pushing back. This case is an opportunity for conservatives to be strong. For the sake of women in my sport and all others, we should seize it.