9. GRACE, GRIT & GLORY – TRANSLIVING MAGAZINE MARCH 2018

Grace, Grit & Glory …

The “LGBT International Powerlifting Championships” are the first sports event in the world to offer an Inclusive Mx Category For Transgender, Non Binary and Intersex Athletes …

Chris Morgan who is Male Co-President of The LGBT Powerlifting Union, a World Champion Powerlifter and a Gay Games Ambassador introduces Trans Living readers to the Sport of Powerlifting and some of the trailblazing champions from within the Trans Community …

On the 1st January 2018 I opened registration for the second annual LGBT International Powerlifting Championships 2018 (LGBT IPC), but this time this was with some degree of apprehension. This was because fact we were also introducing our new third gender “Mx Category” welcoming Non Binary, Transgender and Intersex participants to compete …..

Only a few months before the world media had been full of negative stories about the New Zealand, Weightlifter, Laurel Hubbard who had qualified for the Commonwealth Games as a male to female athlete, within the current IOC rules and guidance. (Incidentally Weightlifting and Powerlifting are different but related strength sports). Tran’s rights in Strength sports had been thrust into the spotlight, like never before …

Powerlifting is a three discipline sport consisting of Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift, with participants competing in weight classes, age groups and now across three genders at the LGBT IPC. The winner is the athlete who lifts the most, but also there are prizes for best lifters in proportion to bodyweight and in relation to age.

The main principal of LGBT sports is inclusion, so we have designed our championships be open to all regardless of their sexuality, health status, hiv status, gender or ability. At last year’s event the Union of athletes that organises the LGBT IPC Championships agreed unanimously at congress to equalise weight classes for all participants and to introduce the Mx Category as an option for Transgender, Non Binary and Intersex Participants.

The LGBT International Powerlifting Championships are an annual event, with an aim of developing LGBT Powerlifting worldwide and increasing participation between now and the Gay Games in Hong Kong in 2022, where Powerlifting will be re-introduced to the Quadrennial event. Last year’s LGBT IPC attracted participants representing nine nations from all corners of the globe.

This year the weekend programme will include a Coaching Clinic, Technical Briefing, Competition Day, Athletes Meal, Congress and Closing Party, offering the chance for participants not only to participate, but also to socialise and interact with other LGBT Powerlifters. Something they may rarely get the opportunity to do in mainstream competitions in their own countries.

I’d like to introduce you to the LGBT Powerlifting Union female Co-president Charlotte Wareing who is a seven time World Champion in the Sport …

“Issues effecting Transgender, Non Binary and Intersex participants were discussed in detail at our congress in 2017 and we decided as a group to make our event as inclusive and as a safe as possible by offering an optional MX category. Athletes from within the Trans, Non Binary and Intersex communities are very welcome to participate within LGBT IPC without any fear of discrimination”.

Charlotte’s Story …My Sporting Life and being Male to Female Trans

I’ve always been a little sporty, a swimmer, a runner, a martial artist; but I gave all that up. I thought I did sport to fit in to try and be macho, so when I finally gave up trying to fit in and became myself I thought sport was something I had to leave behind. However sport wasn’t done with me and as things progressed in my self-identity journey and was referred for Male to Female Surgery (GRS) I was told lose some weight or no surgery. I became an avid runner again with a cross trainer at home, for those days it was too wet to run.

After my surgery I returned to running and studying, but not so much running as I started to put on a lot of weight, something which happens easily following male –female GRS. So I tried a little swimming but had some problems with the opening times of the local swimming pools so I decided to join a commercial gym with a pool.

Following some treadmill training, the odd run and few spin classes, I decided I would like to fulfil a long held ambition to try a triathlon. And I did, then disaster struck a nagging pain in my hip turned out to be arthritis and got a lot worse, no more running and jumping about for me.

A friend recommended I try some weight training instead, the lower impact was kind to my aching joints. Weightlifting is also good because it raises the bodies bone density. I loved it. I tried lots of different lifts and programmes and really enjoyed myself and then another friend commented that I lifted a lot of weight so why did I not give powerlifting a go. Powerlifting is a sport in which has three competitive lifts; squat, bench press and deadlift.

I entered my first competition and it focused my training fantastically. I wanted to do this well and to do well I had to train hard and I did. It paid off and much to my surprise I won my first competition breaking British records in every lift. I am proud that in every competition I have done since I have lifted a little more in at least one of the lifts.

Powerlifting gave me the opportunity to compete for my country, I’ve won 7 world powerlifting titles and hold 41 world records. Powerlifting has also accepted me, as me I have been involved in writing trans-inclusive rules and in refereeing at national and international level. One of my proudest moments occurred last year when at the LGBT International Powerlifting Championships, I was awarded the “LGBT IPC Spirit Award” for courage and commitment to LGBT Sports.

I’d also like to introduce you to the LGBT Powerlifting Union

Non Binary Representative, Professor Ardel Thomas who is a three times Gay Games medal winner …….

“We have seen a great deal of adverse reaction recently to media reports of Transgender athletes competing in strength sports, particularly towards athletes who meet the new IOC Guidance and have qualified for multi sports events like the Commonwealth Games. We are aware of new and novice Trans, Non Binary and Intersex lifters are concerned about participating in sports because of lack of understanding and therefore we have decided to offer an optional Mx Category at LGBT IPC 2018”.

Ardel’s Story – Powerlifting, the Gay Games, and Being Non-Binary Trans

When I was as young as four years old, I remember feeling very different from the rest of my family. I grew up in Oklahoma in the United States, which was a very conservative place socially and culturally. My relatives who lived in Oklahoma and Arkansas were very conservative Christians. I was always stuffed into dresses, taken to church, and told again and again as I was growing up that I was not okay because I was so different.

My maternal grandfather was the one person who seemed to take me for who I was. He encouraged me to wear overalls and boots and to work with him on his dairy farm when I would visit in rural Arkansas. To this day, my grandfather’s influence is what has continued to inform me about gentleness and masculinity and ways of working with the earth – truly always being in touch with the basics. To this day, when I am working in the garden, cutting down trees, or working with animals, I always feel my grandfather there with me.

When I was growing up in the 1960’s – early 1980’s, there was no term such as non-binary trans. I was not even aware that there was anything such as a transgender man. If I had known, in my early 20’s, I probably would have transitioned since I never once in my life felt like a girl. That being said, I am not sure I really felt like a boy, either.

I always felt like a mix of the two – and maybe something beyond. I did, though, know that I was attracted to women – transgender women and cisgender women – that is something I was very clear about even in my 20’s when I was in college in Boulder, Colorado.

So, at the time, being “female bodied,” my option was to come out as a lesbian – although I never really felt at home with other lesbians or within the lesbian community. I was always more comfortable around men – gay, bisexual, and straight. I was also always more comfortable around transgender women – I felt an affinity there.

I have always loved weightlifting. I have always loved defying what my family and our culture says a woman “should” be and do. Powerlifting has always given me such a positive outlet. I have been powerlifting for over twenty years now, but I have never been more proud than I was in 1998. The same year I received my doctorate from Stanford University, as I was in Amsterdam, Netherlands at my first Gay Games when I won the gold medal in my weight class. For those moments up on the stage, my gender did not matter. What mattered was the chalk, the weights, and the sheer joy of being able to participate in the Games.

The LGBT International Powerlifting Championships weekend has a full programme of activities happening from Friday 27th July to Sunday 29th in London. Visit www.lgbtpowerlifing.org for more details or find us on Facebook “LGBT International Powerlifting Championships”.