Before transitioning both hormonally (testosterone) and physically (top surgery) from female to male, I’ve competed on the powerlifting platform through one of the most widely known powerlifting federations, which is the ‘United States of America Powerlifting’ or USAPL for short. I trained my ass off without the help of the male hormone testosterone and managed to grab the gold medal at a bodyweight of 63 kg (138 lbs) while competing in the female collegiate division. It was a good day that made me feel validated in my strength and all the hard work I put in to get there. It made me feel grateful to have a functioning body that I can use to challenge my mental, physical, and emotional capacities.
There’s competing against yourself in the mirror and fellow gym goers, but there’s nothing like competing on a platform against all other equals (in body weight, sex, and age brackets) in your division. I imagine other competitors feel the same way. It’s a special kind of feeling only competitors have. Before I get to talking more, let me just say I talk a big game about competing on the platform but make no mistake I truly believe that in the grand scheme of things that the most important competition is between you and the person in the mirror.
Now, onward with my solution to competitive bodybuilding and powerlifting as a transgender person. Since 2014 an organization called Trans Fitness Conference or Trans Fit Con has been holding events for bodybuilding competitions, and more recently this year they held their first annual powerlifting competition. For the first two years Trans Fit Con held an event open to the transgender community where they can participate in bodybuilding competitions. This is a great way of letting transgender individuals compete not only among other transgender individuals, but in a safe and welcoming environment as well. As a transgender individual who would still like to compete in the sport of powerlifting, finding out about this conference was such great news.
However, after skimming their site and looking for information on how they group bodybuilding competitors against each other I came up with nothing; maybe I missed it? This can also be said for the powerlifting event held this year which just happened earlier this October of 2016. I found no literature on how they were setting up powerlifters against each other which leaves me in such a state of wonderment. I think that maybe since the event has passed then maybe Trans Fit Con has taken down the section of the website where it states the grouping protocol. Now I don’t understand why that would happen, but that’s the only slightly reasonable logic I can think of. But as far as I know there isn’t a way of determining who competes against who, which makes the competitions widely unfair.
Categories in bodybuilding competitions like the International Federation of Bodybuilding or IFBB, are determined by age brackets and weight classes. Categories in powerlifting federations like the USAPL, determine categories using similar protocols in respects to age and weight classes. Having these classifications are important in conducting a fair game. It seems sound and plausible to challenge competitors of the same weight class against each other instead of some 160 lb guy against a 225 lb guy. I mean, ask a 200+ pound guy to lift the most weight as he can and then ask a 160 pound guy to lift more weight.. Right off the bat I bet your first thought was, “Yeah right. That’s so unfair.” This is why it is good to have classifications embedded in the rulebook. Same goes for bodybuilding, place a 160 lb competitor on the stage next to a 220 lb guy. There would be no fair contest for the judges to evaluate. Competitors would need to be of similar body weights in order to place judgement on muscle size.
It’s worth mentioning that USAPL also has subdivisions like ‘collegiate’ and ‘military’ and I think this is great as it adds an extra sense of community pride among brothers. Whether training through the endless hours of studying, or getting your reps in while serving in the military, lifting among a like company inspires respect and pride within each unique subdivision.
To give them due credit, having a trans based competition to begin with is a step in the right direction. I look forward to the future events held by Trans Fit Con and hope to see that they start implementing a way of grouping competitors into ranges that make them a fair fight in competing against each other. There is such a huge difference between bodybuilders and powerlifters and it’s best practice to set boundaries for their fair respective events.
Trans Fit Con has huge potential in starting a wonderful and rewarding annual event to watch and/or compete in. I know that I am already in training after having been cleared by my surgeon that I have no movement restrictions, this event is going to be the one I am aiming at to compete in for 2017. Shout out to Trans Fit Con for putting together an organization that allows fellow transgender individuals to be in a safe and welcoming environment where they can duke it out with other trans individuals on the stage or platform.
By Connor Ocampo