An international powerlifting organization this month disqualified a transgender lifter who broke several world records at a competition in April. The 100% Raw Powerlifting Federation released a statement earlier this month saying it was not aware that competitor Mary Gregory was a biological male when it allowed him to compete in the female category at the USA Master Nationals on April 27.
“Our rules, and the basis of separating genders for competition, are based on physiological classification rather than identification,” federation President Paul Bossi said in a statement. “On the basis of all information presented to the board of directors for this particular case, the conclusion made is that the correct physiological classification is male.”
Event organizers confirmed Gregory’s biological sex after the competition when they administered a drug test, a standard procedure for event winners. Bossi noted that since Gregory’s gender classification under federation rules is not consistent with female, no female records were broken.
Gregory, who started taking estrogen and identifying as a female a year ago, told The Washington Post that taking estrogen and a medication that suppresses testosterone resulted in an immediate loss of strength. “It was like a switch flipped,” he said. “But I was inspired by other women and thought, ‘Well, they don’t have testosterone, and they still lift a lot of weight, so why can’t I?’”
But testosterone levels are only part of the story, according to some experts who argue going through puberty as a biological male results in physiological changes—like a larger heart and a greater lean body mass—that don’t reverse just because you take drugs to suppress testosterone.
The federation said it soon plans to introduce a transgender division for competitions, but Gregory decried the idea, calling it discriminatory.
Another powerlifting organization, USA Powerlifting, banned transgender competitors, both those who identify as male and as female, earlier this year. The organization argued males who identify as female have an “unfair competitive advantage” and that females who identify as male take testosterone, a banned performance enhancing drug.
“[Powerlifting] is really unique, because we’re a high strength and low technique sport,” USA Powerlifting President Larry Maile told NBC News. He said his organization reached its decision about transgender athletes after considering the physical differences between men and women in terms of muscle density, connective tissue, and frame shape.
Transgender powerlifter JayCee Cooper went public with an Instagram post condemning the policy in January after USA Powerlifting said Cooper could not compete as a woman. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Cooper’s representative in Congress, called on USA Powerlifting to reconsider “this discriminatory, unscientific policy” and said she was sending a letter to the Minnesota attorney general with a recommendation for investigation.
Even commenting on the story can get you in trouble. Heritage Foundation media director Greg Scott is in a battle to get his Twitter account back after he was locked out last week for a tweet about Cooper’s case. Responding to an April NBC News story on Cooper titled “Stuck on the sidelines,” Scott wrote, “He is not ‘stuck on the sidelines.’ He is free to compete against other men. The whole ‘I was astonished’ act is tired and dishonest. If any competitive sport highlights the differences btw men & women that EVERYONE KNOWS ARE REAL, it is powerlifting.”
Twitter locked Scott’s account on May 16 for violating its rules against hateful conduct, which includes “misgendering.” Scott appealed the ruling and is awaiting a decision. For now, his only option is to cancel his appeal and delete the tweet, or wait for a ruling.