Transgender athlete wins discrimination case against USA Powerlifting

By Jay Valle

On March 2, 2023

“I think we needed a win here, and it feels good to get that,” JayCee Cooper said after the ruling.

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 organization “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, an NBC affiliate in Minneapolis, after Monday’s ruling. “I think we needed a win here, and it feels good to get that.”

USA Powerlifting told JayCee Cooper that she couldn’t compete in the women’s division because she had a “competitive advantage” as a transgender person. Caroline Yang for NBC News

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

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

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.

“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,” Cooper told KARE-TV.

Cooper said she hopes her lawsuit will open doors for other transgender athletes.Caroline Yang for NBC News

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

“Marsha P. 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,” Cooper told KARE-TV.

Over the last two years, a number of athletic organizing 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.

This piece was republished from NBC News.

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