Transgender athlete wins two-year discrimination court battle

USA Powerlifting lost a two-year court battle this week after a judge ruled that it had discriminated against transgender athlete JayCee Cooper by banning her from competing in women’s competitions. The ruling also mandated that the sports organisation “cease and desist from all unfair discriminatory practices” because of sexual orientation and gender identity and that it revise its policy related to sexual orientation and gender identity within two weeks.

“I feel mostly relief,” Cooper told KARE-TV after Monday’s ruling, before adding: “I think we needed a win here, and it feels good to get that.”

USA Powerlifting President Larry Maile said his organisation disagrees with Monday’s court decision and will be exploring options, including a possible appeal.

Maile said in a statement: “Our position has been aimed at balancing the needs of cis- and transgender women, whose capacities differ significantly in purely strength sports.”

Cooper’s claims against USA Powerlifting date to 2019, when she filed a discrimination claim with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

In it, she alleged the sports organization had violated the state’s Human Rights Act by banning her and other transgender athletes from competing in women’s competitions.

Then, in January 2021, Cooper, through the Minnesota-based advocacy group Gender Justice, filed a lawsuit against USA Powerlifting in state court.

Cooper added: “I was fed up with the way that I was being treated. I was fed up with the way that my community was being treated, and enough was enough.”

Following her court win, Cooper thanked the trans women who came before her.

She concluded: “Marsha Johnson and the Stonewall riots and the plethora of Black trans advocates and activists throughout history – and the way they’ve led this fight – I am just one small piece that is built off of that.”

Over the last two years, a number of athletic organising bodies have announced updated policies regarding the participation of transgender athletes.

In November 2021, for example, the International Olympic Committee announced a new framework for transgender and intersex athletes that would drop policies that required competing athletes to undergo “medically unnecessary” procedures or treatment.

And last year, after a record-breaking season by Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania, the NCAA adopted a sport-by-sport approach for transgender athletes.

In 2021, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard also became the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics in a different gender category to which they were born.

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