The inclusion of trans women in the female category of BC’s powerlifting championship has been questioned by protesters
The 2023 Canadian Powerlifting Championships in Richmond, BC on Thursday became ground zero in the debate over the inclusion of transgender women in female sports categories as members and supporters of the International Consortium on Female Sport made clear their stance on the matter.
The group, which is campaigning for a “special category for female-born athletes,” held up signs and stickers that read “XY ≠ XX” to protest the policy allowing a transgender Calgary woman to compete in the Attend an event where she won a bronze medal in her weight class.
“We were there because there has been a political conquest across Canada that is allowing … people who were born male to self-identify with women’s sports,” said ICFS founder Linda Blade.
The Canadian Powerlifting Union Trans Inclusion Policy states that athletes may self-categorize in the category of their choice.
“Both at the recreational and competitive levels, an individual may participate in their expressed and identified gender category,” the policy reads.
Anne Andres, the transgender powerlifter who won the bronze medal during the event, said that all but one competitor supported her participation and that the presence of the ICFS group had little impact.
“Nobody Tolerated Her Malarkey”
“I noticed there were a bunch of signs, but every time I approached the platform, the rest of the powerlifting community held up bigger signs to block out everything,” Andres said.
“Nobody tolerated their malarkey.”
According to Blade, the ICFS action should draw attention to policies that she believes prioritize the inclusion of transgender women over other considerations.
She said the signs were not a personal attack.
Organizations wrestle with how to balance inclusion, fairness and safety in sports categories.
Critics opposed to the inclusion of transgender women in the female categories cite fairness, arguing that the remaining benefits of male puberty — increased height, muscle mass, and cardiovascular capacity, for example — cannot be mitigated by surgery and testosterone inhibitors .
They argue that including transgender women would deny opportunities to people assigned a female at birth in a category created to exclude male bodies.
Those who support transgender women’s participation in female categories say inclusion is paramount and people should be able to compete in the gender category of their choice.
Last year, World Aquatics (formerly FINA), which regulates the sport of swimming internationally, announced that it will only allow transgender women who started the transition before the age of 12 to compete in international, high-level swimming competitions. It has also proposed a new “open” category.
The policy differs from Swimming Canada’s, which allows domestic athletes to self-identify into a gender category.
Inclusion policies are complex: Swimming Canada CEO
Ahmed El-Awadi, CEO of Swimming Canada, said the considerations for including transgender women in female categories are complex and the science is evolving.
“It’s a really challenging subject,” he said. “Both sides of this issue are equally passionate and it will be difficult to find common ground.”
Andres says she’s aware that transgender women likely have an advantage over athletes who were assigned a female at birth.
“While the science seems pretty clear that transgender female athletes seem to have a sustained advantage after going through male puberty, even after undergoing testosterone blocking surgery, that’s not the conversation we’re having here,” she said .
“Down in the [United] States said the difference was too big and they banned trans women athletes. While they’ve said yes in Canada, there’s one maybe significant difference, but they’d much rather be inclusive than say people just can’t lift,” Andres said.
CBC contacted the organizers of the event but declined an interview.