Stuck on the sidelines: A transgender powerlifter fights for the right to compete

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    Stuck on the sidelines: A transgender powerlifter fights for the right to compete

    Stuck on the sidelines: A transgender powerlifter fights for the right to compete

    "It?s not fair to genetically eliminate an entire group of people," said JayCee Cooper, who was barred from USA Powerlifting competitions.

    The first time JayCee Cooper walked out onto the platform at a women?s powerlifting competition, everything else fell away: her years-long internal struggle over her gender identity, her decision to leave men?s sports when she began transitioning, her doubts that she would ever feel safe if she returned to competitions.

    When she stepped out in front of a hundred people in the gym in Fort Collins, Colorado, last September, all she focused on was the barbell, which she hoisted off the ground. And then she heard the cheers of the crowd: "Come on JayCee!" She had found not only a sport, but also a home.

    ?In a world that wants to take away our power and strength,? Cooper, 31, said recently by phone from her home in Minneapolis, ?powerlifting is a way to gain that strength back and feel powerful and feel ownership of our own lives. It helps us find strength within ourselves and helps us find strength within our bodies.?

    Cooper signed up for more competitions, but, to her astonishment, USA Powerlifting, the sport?s biggest federation, told her that she could not compete in the women?s division because of her gender identity.

    In an email, USA Powerlifting said she was denied because she had a ?direct competitive advantage? over the other women who were competing.

    "It took me aback,? Cooper said. ?I didn?t want to put myself into a situation where I obviously wasn?t welcome.?

    Cooper?s story received national attention after she posted about it on Instagram in January. She drew support from fellow powerlifters and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who slammed the ban on transgender women competitors as ?discriminatory? and ?unscientific.?
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