Breaking: ‘They’ve Ignored Us’: Female Powerlifters Sound Alarm on Male Takeover after Trans Court Ruling

First-time competitor Kristine Bayntun had no idea she'd been bested by a man at the 2019 British Columbia Powerlifting Association Fall Classic until she heard the winner accept his first-place trophy.

"It was a man's voice," Bayntun told National Review. "I said, 'Okay, what's going on here?' I had no idea that was even allowed. But I was just happy to be there so I said, 'Whatever.'"

Bayntun, who came in second in the Women's 84+ Open that day, didn't have her suspicions confirmed until this year, when she learned on Instagram that the competitor who bested her is a male who is allowed to compete against women without any restrictions under the Canadian Powerlifting Union's (CPU) trans-competition policy, which doesn't even require male competitors to disclose their sex to their female opponents.

"Someone had posted it on Instagram and I was like, 'Oh, that's crazy, I'm pretty sure that's the same person I competed against. I didn't know for sure and now I'm finding out four years later," she said.

A Minnesota court ruling, announced last week, suggests that the U.S. may be following Canada down the road to unchecked male participation in women's strength sports.

The district court ruled on Tuesday that USA Powerlifting must allow transgender athletes to compete in the women's division, giving the federation just two weeks to reverse the sex-segregated policy it had instituted to protect female lifters.

The decision is the latest development in a legal battle initiated by JayCee Cooper, a transgender-identifying man who sued the organization for discrimination after being prohibited from entering the Minnesota state bench-press championship four years ago. The league's officials cited Cooper's “direct competitive advantage” as reason for disqualification.

USA Powerlifting released a statement last week saying it disagrees with the ruling and announcing an appeal.

"Our position has been aimed at balancing the needs of cis- and transgender women, whose capacities differ significantly in purely strength sports," the organization said. "We respectfully disagree with the Court's conclusions and its basis. We have filed an appeal."

Ontario-based female powerlifter April Hutchinson was supposed to face Anne Andres — the same transgender-identifying man who beat Bayntun back in 2019 — in her weight class at the Vancouver national tournament in February, but refused to compete in an act of protest after watching Andres's behavior on the circuit.

Since taking up women's powerlifting in 2019, Andres has quickly risen through the ranks, scoring a bronze medal at nationals and setting the bench-press record for the Alberta province at 253 lbs. in the 84+ category, Hutchinson said.

Anne Andres atop the podium at the 2019 BCPA Fall Classic in New Westminster, B.C, with Kristine Bayntun (left) and Jenna Mcneil.

Andres isn't humbled by his natural advantage, as one might expect. Instead he has gloated about competing in the women's category and insulted female powerlifters for poor performance in certain upper-body exercises.

"He actually knocked females for having a weak bench press," Hutchinson said. "The audacity this guy has. It's like, 'Oh, I have an advantage, but you women are weak on bench press because you are women.’ He’s admitting to have an advantage."

At the Western Canadian Powerlifting and Bench Press Championships last September, Andres bench pressed 270 lbs., defeating multiple women in the Women's Raw 185+ Open.

“Why is women's bench so bad? I mean, not compared to me, we all know that I'm a tranny freak so that doesn't count. And no, we're not talking about Mackenzie Lee, she's got little T-Rex arms and she's like 400 pounds of chest muscle apparently," Andres said in a November Instagram video.

“I mean, standard bench in powerlifting competition for women, I literally don't know why it's so bad,” Andres crowed in the video. “My son, he weighs 45 pounds. His max bench is like 33. I'm legit seeing some women in competition who are doing something like 50 pounds, and I just don't understand it. I don't understand why so many women are skipping bench and focusing on everything else."

After demeaning Lee’s physique, Andres lost to her at nationals. Lee came in second.

In solidarity with Hutchinson, who boycotted the tournament on the day Andres was scheduled to lift, Bayntun attended a protest at the Sheraton Vancouver Airport Hotel with women from other sports who also felt disenfranchised by transgender inclusion.

Dr. Linda Blade, a Canadian performance coach who works with the International Consortium on Female Sports, led the demonstration. Nineteen ICFS members and supporters peacefully demanded fairness for female lifters. Hutchinson refused to show up to the tournament on the day Andres was competing.

"They've ignored us. We've written them emails trying to get them to understand that the policy is very unfair. They don't reply, they don't even want to discuss it," Bayntun told National Review.

The protest was not intrusive, she assured. Cheering for the female lifters, the women wore shirts that said "XY does not equal XX." A few carried flags and signs.

Eventually, they were met with resistance. The president of the CPU, police, and the hotel manager tried to expel them, but they doubled down, Hutchinson said.

"There were men there trying to kick out women. It was crazy," she said. "They said, 'No, we’re not leaving because we have the right to protest. And we paid admission to come in and we’re here to cheer on the women.'"

The CPU has lost the support of many of its own athletes, according to Hutchinson.

"We are so angry that these predominantly men in the federation making these policies won't ask the athletes, let alone the women, what we want," she said.

To enter the female division, men who identify as women are not required to receive hormone therapy, undergo reconstructive surgery, or disclose their identity or history to the organization, according to the CPU trans-inclusion policy, obtained by National Review.

The CPU's rules, which Hutchinson said haven't been updated in about five years, are stunningly lenient compared with those of national and international governing bodies for other high-performance and niche sports. Many organizations require male participants to maintain testosterone levels within a specified limit and to have identified as trans for multiple years in order to compete against women, but the CPU only requires that lifters present a passport listing the sex they're seeking to compete against. Canadians and Americans can now request a change to the sex listed on their passport by filling out a form.

The Swiss Union Cycliste Internationale, a major governing body in international cycling, in June tightened its hormone requirements for trans-identifying competitors, halving the maximum permitted plasma testosterone level from 5 nanomoles per liter to 2.5 nanomoles per liter and extending the transition period from one to two years.

The CPU did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Even with testosterone caps, there’s many physiological advantages to being male, Hutchinson said.

"It goes right back to grade-ten biology," she said, "It’s such an insult and slap to women’s faces and women’s rights."

Her coalition is trying to restore an equal playing field for powerlifting. She wants trans athletes to compete, but they should do so in the division aligned with their biological sex. Or, the CPU should create a new category, she said.

"I want everyone to lift," Hutchinson said. "Everyone has the right to lift and I would love to see them lift. It’s just that it shouldn’t be men against females."

Hutchinson guessed that the negligence from the CPU policy-makers stems from a fear of litigation from the trans community. But now, Hutchinson, alongside the ICFS coalition, is preparing to sue. Maybe the CPU believes woman are too polite to sue, Hutchinson said.

"Well, guess what? We’re ready," she said.

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'They’ve Ignored Us': Female Powerlifters Sound Alarm on Male Takeover after Trans Court Ruling

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