Why I Will Never Be a Powerlifter as a Trans Woman

I’ve recently gotten back into weightlifting and I love it! Before I transitioned I was into lifting and loved how it made me feel. But after transition, I stopped completely for almost two years because I was dysphoric about my muscularity and wanted to lose muscle mass. Now that I’ve been on HRT for almost 21 months and I have lost a little mass I am comfortable going back to the gym and lifting heavy, albeit with different aesthetic and training goals because I know that my current hormone levels will prevent me from gaining too much mass too quickly.

One thing that has inspired me is other women who lift weights, specifically powerlifting women. These are strong af women lifting heavy ass weight. They aren’t scared of their muscularity. They are proud of it. They love being strong and physically capable. It seems like such a great, supportive community.

I’m a very competitive person. I love challenging myself and striving to be the “best”. But I will never be a competitive powerlifter. I will never go to meets and compete in my weight class. Why? Because I’m trans. Because I would be accused of having an “unfair advantage” because of my past. Because people still describe me as “biologically male”.

There was recently a trans woman who won a women’s weight lifting competition¬†¬†and, omg, don’t read the comments. Pretty much all cis people thought it was “unfair” for her to compete against cis women. And that’s exactly why I will never compete. Even though the medication I take keeps my testosterone levels incredibly low, lower than your average cis woman, which would prevent me from having good recovery or being able to grow muscle quickly. The problem is I have retained a lot of the muscle I put on before I transitioned when my body was pumped with testosterone. And although male and female muscle is equally strong pound for pound and there are cis women out there who are just as tall as me with the same bone structure I would always be afraid of cis people taking away my hard work and claiming unfairness even though theoretically I would not have any clear advantage that could not also be had by a cis woman who was a genetic outlier.

For every physical trait that trans women have that may be considered an “advantage” – be sure that there are cis women who, through natural variation, also have that same trait. Cis women who compete athletically don’t all have to have the same exact genetics or physical traits to compete or for it to be “fair”. Some cis women have naturally high T levels. Some cis women have a lot of type II (fast twitch) muscle fibers. Some cis women have long arms and legs. It’s all within the distribution for traits that occurs naturally within a varied population. And that wouldn’t prevent them from competing. But lord forbid that I ever want to compete in a sport.

So in reality now that I have transitioned I am faced with a catch-22. It would be grossly unfair for me to compete against cis males because of their higher testosterone levels. It’d be like a natural male competing against males who all used high levels of steroids. But most would also think it’s unfair for me to compete against cis women. So I can’t have it either way. I am left with no options except competing against other trans women. But that’s not a thing.

And that’s why I will never be a powerlifter.