USA Powerlifting Bans Trans Women From Competing as Women – Fair or Not Fair?

In late 2018, USA Powerlifting clarified their policy on trans women (male transitioning to female) competing against women. The following statement was released: “Male-to-female transgenders are not allowed to compete as females in our static strength sport as it is a direct competitive advantage. Pressed for clarification, Dr. Kristopher Hunt, the chair of USA Powerlifting’s committee wrote a follow-up. “The fact that transgender male to female individuals having gone through male puberty confer an unfair competitive advantage over non-transgender females.”

This decision has been criticized by some as transphobic and unfair to trans people. In response, USA Powerlifting president, Larry Maile, said, “We’ve been referred to as bigoted and transphobic and a whole lot of less kind things, but it’s not an issue of that for us. It’s an issue that we have to consider dispassionately and make our best judgment collectively about what the impact on fair play is for us, and that’s the basis on which we’ve proceeded.”

This decision is at odds with other sports-governing bodies (International Olympic Committee, NCAA, National Federation of State High School Associations, etc.) For example, the NCAA allows trans women to participate as a women after they complete at least one year of hormone treatments. Specifically:

A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.

Joe’s Perspective: I believe this will be the defining issue in sports for the next 20 or so years. Society is going to have to come to terms with what is fair in sports.  It can be reasonably argued that if trans women compete as women that this will be unfair to women. Women will have to compete against people who were born as male. Women’s records will be rewritten by this group of individuals. NCAA female scholarships will be allocated to trans women.

On the other hand, it can also be reasonably argued that if trans women are not allowed to compete as women that this is unfair to trans individuals. They will not be allowed to compete in the category that they identify as. Is this a violation of a person’s civil rights? Is this exclusive Is it dehumanizing? I can see this case being decided by the US Supreme Court someday in the not-so-distant future.

Your Turn: Until the US Supreme Court rules on this issue, there is not a unified standard. If you were in a position to make such decisions, would you allow trans women to compete on female teams and against other women? Being as respectful as possible, explain your answer.

Comments 27

  1. This is an issue with a lot of gray area. Personally, until a lot more research is done and we perfect the procedure, I would keep it how it is.(not allow them) These sports are extremely competitive and any advantage is huge. I worry that some athletes might undergo these procedures when they otherwise wouldn’t have, possibly putting their safety and well-being in jeopardy.

  2. This is a struggle that I am also on the fence. Most trans women would have a physical advantage over non trans women. However, they are women and deserve to be treated as one.

  3. This can be a sensitive topic, but until more research is done I think that transgender women should not be in women’s competitions (how it is right now). I think that when trans gender women go under that procedure and more research is done they should be able to compete in women sports.

  4. I would let them compete because they are classified as woman to them self’s and i think it’s just as fair bc not all men are as strong as woman

  5. I understand the possible advantages but I would like for all transgender people to participate in the sport they feel most comfortable in.

  6. Despite this being a sensitive and hard topic to discuss, I do believe it would be cheating because they would have the advantage of having a man’s build and genetics compared to that of a woman. By no means am I saying women can’t do what men do, just in this particular case, men have a background coming from hunting in their ancestry and having naturally more strength than females.

  7. I think they should be allowed to. If that’s what they classify themselves as then that’s where they should be put. Guys aren’t always as strong as girls, we can’t just make that assumption.

  8. i think that this is a problem we have. I think that trans women do have an advantage physically because they were born men but i also believe that they deserve to be treated as a women because that’s who they are

  9. No I would not allow that because if it’s male to female, the women still has male ability and strength making it more hard for actual women to compete against them.

  10. I think this will always be a sensitive topic with lots of not knowing. I think as of now with the amount of grey area there is between the two sides they should keep it as it is for now. Maybe in the future they will find more research and tests to make it so they can participate.

  11. These people were born as males. They went through their child and teen development as males. Women who have worked to overcome female limits should not have to compete against males who don’t have the same limits. It’s not fair.

  12. I agree, I think trans women should not be allowed to compete with other women. It’s just a fact that men are stronger than women. If trans women were allowed to compete than they would have and unfair advantage.

  13. I feel like the law is fair because it’s just genetics that males are built differently than females and a female with more male build will have a significant advantage over all females. But I do like the Olympic rule where a transgender female can compete with females after a year of hormones. That levels the playing field a little bit.

  14. Trans women are women. Forcing women to compete in a men’s league is classifying those women as men, which is not fair for them. If we’re worried about trans women beating cis women, then should we also be worried about trans women being beaten by cis men, especially if the trans woman is on hormone pills?

  15. Personally I feel like we need to do more research and wait longer to see what would happen. I understand why right at this moment they don’t want trans people competing. I feel like this could change though in the next coming years.

  16. I think it is both fair and unfair at the same time. It isn’t necessarily fair to the woman they are competing against however it also isn’t fair to the transgender women competing to place them on a different team.

  17. I can understand the possible advantages of the situation, but I would like that all transgenders to feel comfortable and to participate in the sport that they feel the most comfortable in.

  18. I agree with the NCAAs approach, insuring that trans women will not be purposely trying to gain an advantage by decreasing the level of advantage they have by birth. Until the Supreme Coirt makes a ruling, each organization has the right to make a decision even if it disagrees with other organizations.

  19. I think that it should stay the way it is until more research is done. I think that trans gender women have more of a physical advantage than non transgender women so if a transgender women were to go against a female they would have a huge advantage vs if they went against a male

  20. By allowing trans gender women to compete with females you eliminate the whole point of separation between male and female divisions. Biologically speaking a male will run faster, throw father, and lift more than a female due to the natural growth difference between the two genders.

  21. Then everybody should go trans… physically and genetically there is too much of a gap. This is simply not fair and trans women would win everytime.

  22. I think that they should not be allowed to compete for now but if they get enough research and reasoning to let the compete then they can

  23. I think that they should not be able to compete because genetically they are stronger than other women and them being trans doesn’t change how strong they are

  24. Right now, I don’t think there will be a direct solution because of the ”if”s and ”but”s but I understand the stance of the USA Powerlifting board because from a biological view, trans women have that advantage especially depending on where they are in their transitioning stage. But I also understand the trans athlete’s side because it obviously feels like discrimination to some extent and since they identify as women they would want to compete with their gender. There’s too much gray area right now to make a decision.

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