Disabled Girls Who Lift

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E13: Fighting for Inclusion w/JayCee Cooper

January 27th 2020
JayCee Cooper (@jayceeisalive) is a powerlifter, fathlete, librarian, DJ, and Co-Director of Pull for Pride fighting for inclusion in sports and society. She is trans, gender nonconforming, queer as h... More
this is disabled girls who lift? We are reclaiming what's rightfully ours one podcast at a time. It's mary Beth Chloe and Marcia bringing you the thoughts and unpopular topics to get you out of that. A bliss comfort zone. Mm hmm. Welcome Yet again, folks, Thank you for joining us. Another episode of disabled girls who lift. We have two of our hosts and a lovely guests joining us today. We're talking a little bit about inclusion a lot, a bit about fighting a few organizations. As usual. My name is Marcy. I'm from florida. Hey, it's mary beth from California. Um, and our guest, I have the absolute pleasure of speaking with today. Her name is J. C. Cooper. She's a powerlifter, Aff athlete, librarian and DJ for some of you guys that don't know. Um, also a co director for pull for pride and a four time Minnesota state record holder for power lifting. Um, what I didn't know was that you're a former junior national curling championship badass.

J. C. Is transgender non conforming queer as hell and Dakota. I am so excited to have you JC. Thank you. Oh, it's a pleasure to be on. I'm so excited to talk with you all. Perfect. Perfect. And we're super excited to have you on here and I'm just curious, did you find us? How did you find disabled girls who lift? Did you marry Beth and you know each other beforehand at all or no, no, I found mary Beth through you. You're posting about um, and through pull for pride and the work that we've done together. So that was kind of, yeah, that was my foray into the podcast. I've been listening since it um started and I'm pretty, I'm stoked to be able to have conversation with y'all. That's awesome. Yeah. I mean we're kind of on the same wavelength and I think that sometimes people don't remember what intersectional is um really means. You know, they want to like fight for the people or fight for the others and then they're just like, I just mean like my other actually hashtag fake feminism.

So I really feel like we're on the same wavelength. Like we're here and we deserve to be here. I'm not trans. I don't understand what that process means. I don't know what you're going through, but I know what it's like to be other and like from that baseline, that's okay. We could find were good, you know, right? And it's so important that we listen to each other's stories and we figure out ways that we can work together because in so many ways, you know, this is the same struggle and um it's essential that we are talking and listening and fighting together Exactly. So before we get into specific to, you know, your, your current drama that most people probably know your name for. I'm curious if you could tell us how you went from curling champion to powerlifting record holder. Oh my gosh, what a process. So growing up I curled so I curl the first like half of my life I was a competitive curler from a very young age And that's the reason why I ended up moving to Minnesota where I am now.

I'm actually from the Detroit area but it was for curling competition. So anyways, I went up and went to Minnesota for college um curled all the way through, you know, my earlier adulthood um and then decided that um I needed to come out and be the person that I knew I was, which was a woman. And uh that's not how I was living my life at that time. So ah from there, I really took a break from sports for a few years and then um well actually, sorry, I skipped the whole whole section of my history that I really wanted to because before I, before I stepped away from curling, I started rowing too. So I wrote um at the end of college and a little bit after college and was competitive. I was a competitive rower too. So um after a few years of doing rowing, that's when I decided at the same time to stop curling, stop growing and address my gender identity in a more real tangible way.

Um and took a step away from sports entirely because I just didn't feel like there was space for me at that point in time, You know, we don't back then, we didn't have some of the role models that we have now um that are out there fighting like Fallon Fox, like that was just on the early end when this was going on and her fighting and mm mm A and um, Jenna Croc and all these other people that are coming coming out and being in media in larger ways. Like we really didn't have that as much back then. Um so I didn't feel like there was any room for me. So for a few years I just stepped away from sport entirely. But then I saw an article in ESPN about Roller derby and Roller derby is very intentional. Well, has been very intentional in the last like five years or so, particularly about being inclusive for trans athletes and all gender identities in the sport.

So I saw an ESPN article about that And of course it piqued my interest because you know, once you have that drive as an athlete, it doesn't really go away. It just kind of sits there and it's so a part of your innate identity. Yeah. Um yeah, I don't know if y'all if y'all feel this way to definitely agree with that. It felt Being an athlete. I said this in another interview one time. Being an athlete feels so congruent for me, you know, and so like an innate part of myself. So I like to I like to I did that right. I did a article about athletes and for athlete Ally when they announced the thing and the whole thing is about as like, in my younger years, I knew that I was an athlete? Because you see, you see a lot of articles about trans people and they're like from a young age, I knew that I was trans and a young athlete, like that's like part of my identity, a part of my core identity, just as much as my gender identity, you know?

Um Anyways, going back to the story, I so I ended up joining a roller derby league here in Minneapolis, um and that was kind of my foray back into sports entirely. Um and that was my first sport um being out as a trans person and I'm thankful that it was that sport because, you know, had I joined power lifting first and had this experience and then I feel like um my outlook on being an out athlete would be much different and for those that don't know, um I ended up being empowered. I ended up competing in power lifting a few years after Roller derby recently was denied eligibility with USa powerlifting. So that's had I had that experience. Um coming back in the sports um who knows like what these last few years would have looked like, You don't know if you would have been ready for that and in that time that you took away from sports, did you kind of take away from everything else you were involved with?

Like, did you kind of fold into yourself and just say, okay, who am I, what am I doing? Or was that a process that you had support around you? How did that part work out for you? That in between it was a very interesting time of identity development and figuring out what I like, what I was all about in general, I think part of it coincided with an and an end of my, my collegiate career um too, so it's like all these, like, big things happening at the same time, um and just also exploring my sexuality and like, in relationships and um what things are working and what things weren't working. Um I was married at one point and um you know, before coming out and that didn't work out as I found out more about who I was gender identity wise and um yeah, so it was like, it was a massive time of change and shifting and uh really just figuring out who I was outside of just being an athlete, wow, that's a lot, you're going through it.

Yeah, exactly, wow. And in that time, so you're figuring out yourself, you're ending relationships, you're ending, you know, like, a saga of your life as a college athlete. So how do you find this the part where you're like, okay, I'm ready to bloom now, like, how do you find that moment? Gosh, I think for me, the real catalyst, um I was watching former teammates compete in the olympics? Um that for me, like it was like simultaneously put this like longing in me, you know, where it's like there's no reason that I shouldn't also be able to have these experiences as a more authentic me um and like yes, and feeling so removed from that and knowing that I want and need that to, you know, not necessarily going to the olympics, but having the chance to have a dream, you know, like having the ability to have a dream is right, you know, for me, so just to say I could have been there to is it means a lot.

Yeah, exactly. Um I just, I needed to be on my terms in a more authentic way than what I was when I was competing, that's awesome. And do you feel like, well, I don't know your powerlifting career is because a little bit convoluted with some drama, so I don't even know how to how to get into that, but I can say that um I can relate to how you felt like you were always knew you were an athlete and you always had that drive and I kind of went from like in high school, I played soccer flag and then apologized, intramurals and whatever and then after that I was just like okay now and then I and then I found powerlifting, but it wasn't the same, you know, lifting heavy ship is not the same as it is now as it was for me then, because then I still wasn't being like my full self, I was still, you know, drive drive drive, I want to compete, I want to win and you know, not really spending time thinking about myself, so it's kind of nice that you did have a break in between that to kind of settle that part because just jumping into something else and just kind of keep on rolling with that same thunder and you spent no time thinking about like who am I, what am I doing?

What's this for? Like, I don't know if that power lifting is really going to change anything for you, can you relate to that at all mary beth you know what I mean? Yeah, I mean, I feel the exact same way and I I completely appreciate that you took that time to step away from being an athlete because all of that all combined would have been an overlay. Yeah, but I am curious to know like the types of support systems you did have during that transitionary period between curling and roller derby to power lifting, because right now to have, you know, that identity of athletes stripped from you, like is heartbreaking, but to move forward with that drive, you know, where where did that some from, I don't know, it kind of, it kind of always is shifting, but one piece that has always remained the same since I started to address um my gender identity and my sexuality is that therapy is such a huge part of my life.

Um and it's so essential in so many ways to making sure that, you know, I'm moving forward in healthy ways and not like, containing all these things that are being thrown at me and then having it destroyed me from the inside and being able to deal with it in healthy ways. Um and really, that's that's what the appeal for power lifting was for me, and so many people as I'm sure you've heard people talking about lifting as a form of therapy or therapeutic because of the way that you exert energy and um yes, really, that was the initial appeal for power lifting for me was I had just broken my ankle playing roller derby and started to get into it through physical therapy, and that became just as much a part of my of my support is, like, actually training, like, the training is training itself is the thing that that drives me.

It's not even necessarily the meeting, you know? Um I love training um and I'm like, thankful that I'm able to do it as much as that as I can, because I have a set up in my basement and I'm like going at it, but um as far as, like, other supports, um you know, reaching out into the trans community locally, here was huge for me during that time of tumultuous changing, you know, like going through a divorce or you know um moving there was one year that I moved like it was like six times and you know four months or something like that. It was it was pretty ridiculous but just being connected with others in the community and talking about our experiences like our shared experiences are different experiences like where each other are at, it was huge for me um that's one of the reasons why I am so excited to get involved with, pull for pride and the things that we're dealing with, pull for pride and raising money for local organizations because it was those local organizations that provided me with that community or that structure of community um when I was going through so much um as a young trans person, you know heck yeah and totally finding that community that reminds you constantly that you're not alone, that although your story is unique, your divorce is unique.

Your relationships with the world are very unique. Like we're all going through very similar experiences. Exactly, yeah, that's truly amazing. So how did how did you find pride? Um I just found it through social media, you know, I I was starting to lift through physical therapy, I saw women's strength coalition on instagram and went to the event that that summer and I was just taken back by it like kind of overwhelmed by oh look at this queer ass sporting events in my town and um like I have to get involved, you know, and that was, that was basically when I was like, I want a power lift, you know, I want to do this, like this looks so much fun. Yeah, and then I connected with Shannon at women's strength coalition and you know, off we go. There really was the catalyst for um getting into power lifting was, you know, physical therapy and connecting with my brother who lives, who does strength sport as well.

Um and then yeah, seeing pull for pride for the first time was just changed my life, wow, that's amazing. And so this whole time I thought you were in it from the beginning. No, no. Oh man, that's amazing. So you literally just showed up and you were like, all right, I'm in. Yeah, no, that's literally exactly what exactly what happened. Um yeah, and I'm so I'm so grateful for it because it's given me it's given me so much and I've seen seen the impact that it has given. Um it's just amazing. It is amazing. And I think that's kind of how I got into, you know, when you guys have the applications for other cities, it's literally kind of the same thing. I wasn't fortunate enough to go to an actual event, but you know, I had a few friends that posted, you know, rainbow tutu's and like weird unicorns, What is this? What is going on? Right? Oh my gosh, some of the costumes that people wear are just out of this world.

And that's so me. It's so extra. And that's so me. I love it. Yeah, I loved it. And then that's pretty much how I got into wanting to even host a competition or trying to get involved also. So it's kind of funny that I just assumed that she must have maybe, you know, Shannon and maybe they're into this together to do hair. Like that's kind of funny. But that's a big sport. It's so fun and so inclusive and not intimidating. Right? Getting so much of the general community involved with such a underground sport, Like that's the way to do it. Yeah, it was awesome. It was when I tell you it was awesome, it was all caps awesome. Like when we hosted it in june, there were families that came out and they were like, yeah, this is my little girls first meet. She just came out and they had like matching shirts and they were all there for them. I'm like, fuck! Yeah, so adorable! So when I tell you it's so amazing.

It's so amazing! And this, like, I've never really hosted anything like that in my gym. You know, my gym is like owned by one of my best friends. So, you know, I literally just went up to him, like I want to do this thing and he's like, yeah, okay. And you know, everything else is me. So I have no idea how this would turn out. You know, obviously pull for Pride has like a support system and you have people you can talk to and I had someone helping me remotely but I had no idea it would turn out what people care would anyone give a ship because I'm not really like in the circles, you know, I don't know the local groups, I'm not in the community per se, I'm just a person. I thought this was cool, but they showed up, they were out there. What are what are the organizations that this benefits so many? Uh they're almost all of them are local organizations that we're supporting or statewide organizations that are supporting. So like Ali Forney Center. Um and I mean just one of the ones that we're doing this year is trans plus in Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.

So many fantastic organizations doing great work um on behalf of LGBT People and for LGBT people. Um and just to start Poulter pride. Um our focus was LGBT youth homelessness. Um so we worked a lot with like um avenues for homeless youth and um other organizations like that project fierce in Chicago. Um and you could see the direct impact that was being made because these organizations need that money um to be able to provide services like direct services for um the community. So I don't know it's been such a blessing to be involved with it all um in general. Um, yeah, I'm just really grateful. Yeah, that's pretty awesome. So my pull for pride supported equality florida, which is like a advocacy group. So they do a bunch of different things. Um, like for example, they're, they're fighting for some bills to get past and they're also fighting against some bills in the upcoming legislative session.

And they're also like in the schools trying to get, you know, policies that are open and inclusive. Like they're kind of a little bit like their hands all over in all the little areas that matter to us. So I mean we raised $2500 and to me, I would think like this organization is huge like this, this must be nothing to them. Like they probably think I'm like trash right fundraising. But now they were excited. They were like, you know, they wrote me a handwritten letters and they're calling me and I still talk to this lady like once a month like, you know, every every little bit of coin, they get helps, especially working on this landscape. Yeah, absolutely. Especially for like advocacy organizations like that, you know, with the election coming up, it's just so important that we're supporting them as you know, some lawmakers are plat forming fearmongering against trans people. Um, and particularly youth trans athletes. Um, these are kids that are just like wanting to play and they're trying to prevent, they're trying to prevent kids from being able to play.

Like how sad is that? You know, the kids alone, you know, it's important to say it is and none of those things are separate, you know, if if they're gonna go after trans, they're gonna go after disabilities, if they're gonna go after disabilities, they're gonna go after poor women of color, like you know, there's no they're not going to cherry pick like oh we're just going to mess with these and not those, like no we're all always at risk. So we all have to support each other right and belonging in each other, or we all also are in each other's communities, like intersecting factors so Exactly, you know um Yeah, it's it's huge to be talking and strategizing and working on this stuff together. Absolutely, that's awesome. So was pull for pride, your first powerlifting experience. Then pull for private. Yeah, it was my first powerlifting experience. I did a couple other unsanctioned meets um another one that I did through women's strength coalition, They did one out in colorado.

It's like unite for strength or something like that. Um and that was a lot of fun too. But yeah, no my my start with powerlifting is largely owed to pull for pride and that experience and um Yeah and then just building off of that and going you know trying to compete in usa powerlifting and having that not work out and then competing in U. S. Powerlifting association after that. So so you didn't actually get to I'm just going to make sure because I was reading somebody else's story and now I might be mixing your story up. You didn't even actually get to the competition correct? You were planning for it for us. A power lifting. I signed up for two state meets um the state bench press only meet uh and the uh state women's meet uh here in Minnesota. And as a part of that I had to file for a tv because one of my hormone replacement therapy medications, spironolactone uh is a is a substance on the world anti doping agency list.

Um So I knew that I needed to get it approved and I didn't think much of it because it's such a standard lee approved medication. Um And it's used for more than just for trans people. People with acne issues use spironolactone for acne you know and yes it is it is a diuretic. Um But that's why the Tv system exists is to give therapeutic use exemptions because you're not using it to improve anything. It's not it's not a performance enhancing drug, you know. So anyways I filed for a tv, my tv ended up not even being considered because uh trans people are not eligible at all. So I was told that my tv application was denied secondary to male to female quote unquote transgenders. Uh not being allowed to compete in the sport because they have a supposed um competitive advantage.

So that's when everything started. Uh I decided after that that I was still going to compete because you know, I was, I fell in love with this sport and I have been doing it for a little bit now doing unsanctioned events and I wanted to compete with people, you know, and friends, you know, just be a part of things like being an athlete is an essential part of who I am. Um so I ended up competing in the U. S. Powerlifting Association. So yeah, U. S. P. A. And the U. S. A. P. L. I know the acronyms are so close but uh competed in their state championships in Minnesota. Uh and then I ended up winning and that's when I decided to speak out publicly about it. Um and I gained all this traction and news media and became a pretty big story, especially for power lifting, being, you know, a relatively small sport in the grand scheme of things.

Um But yeah, so, so what was your process like just signing up for us P. A. Did they allowed the tv or did they not even ask for that? Um, So they, they asked for some documentation to see that my testosterone was suppressed, but um it wasn't as formal as usa pl um and in US pa I compete in their untested division. The one difference is that USPS tested division, There are no therapeutic use exemptions. Um So many trans people are still banned from being able to compete in the tested division of U. S. P. A. As well even though the percentages are so low. Right? Exactly. Yeah. But that would exclude a lot of people. There's no T. U. Is for anyone that's what you're saying. Exactly. Yeah that'll exclude tons of people that looks, you know, can you imagine if you just happen to have a chronic illness and you need a couple of things to stay alive?

No like right. Um So right now there there really isn't a federation that has it all, you know nailed down and is uh is completely inclusive. But I am glad that the conversations are starting. Um And you know we're starting to see the error in the way that we're operating in strength sports. Um It's becoming blatantly obvious and more than one arena, right? So we're seeing it, you know with trans people, we're seeing it with people with disabilities were seeing it, you know? Uh muslim people who wear the hijab be like you know, it's like uh not being able to wear knee sleeves over the over their dress, you know what I mean? Um These errors are becoming blatantly obvious and there's more and more of us that like really want to see that accountability um and for sport to be truly fair.

So when we're talking about fair play we're talking about fair play for all people and not just people who think it's unfair for trans women to compete more or less and, and that doesn't even make any sense is the part that I don't, I just can't understand. I mean, there's different ways to transition, right? Like there's levels to it. But when we're talking about competing in these sports for the most part, you have to give, you have to show them something. It's, you know, like you're taking whatever it is for a certain amount of time or they have some sort of guideline. So where is the right? It can be so so much that a lot of these guidelines ask so much of trans individuals to prove they are who they are and they don't have an advantage, right? So like even the olympic committee standards, we have to suppress our testosterone for 12 months straight, which is something that's like, I'm way beyond that. Like my testosterone level has been under one animal per leader for, you know, five years or something more than that.

Um That's never been an issue for me anyways, but for some people, they don't they don't even necessarily want to take tests or like take uh estrogen or to suppress their testosterone to that level. And for them it makes sense it could be a health reason, you know? Um And as we're, as we're finding out more and more testosterone levels don't necessarily equate um to performance level. So, so it's important to take a closer look and to see um the full context of transportation transporting patient in sport because it's very important. But yeah, so you have to suppress your testosterone for 12 months. Um you have to declare your gender for sporting purposes. That cannot be changed for four years. So um there was there was like a meme on or not a meme, but like someone posted a video of some like rapper in the U.

K. That did a dead lift and was like I broke the women's record and while I was doing it, I identified as a woman, you know, it's like you know funny about it and it's like well okay you did that. But if you were to follow the guidelines one you would have failed for your levels to you are now for sporting purposes can only be a woman. So yeah, You know I which the four years, you know the IOC had meetings back and I think it's like 2015. Um and it was a panel of uh scientists, health professionals, sporting professionals. And they were the ones that came up with the IOC consensus document for quote unquote sex reassignment and um and whatnot. So um they're the ones that came up with that guideline that many sports have adopted.

And at least this gives a pathway for people to be able to compete. Um as opposed to like us a power lifting who says under no circumstances can transform compete with women. So it's it's a it's a hard thing to navigate for sure. That's pretty ridiculous. And they're so that policies specific to trans women do they don't care about trans men or is it no transit all what's interesting how it's worded so trans women cannot compete in the women's category um transmitted or people, people who are taking testosterone in the Federation cannot compete entirely. So if you were a transplant didn't take HRT you could compete in the men's category. But if you were taking testosterone you could not compete. So if that makes sense. So that technically isn't uh isn't a complete band but it's a band, you know? Yeah.

It's pretty ah frustrating to say the least it is. And did you see, so when she mentioned the Fair play mary Beth do you know like what um group and what kind of posts she's talking about? I don't know if you saw I want all of that. What was happening. Which posts, Which one are you talking about? Um They're called like Fair play something and they often post just really transphobic. Like just absolute bullshit. Oh yeah. Way too many. I don't even want some more give them that type of um media coverage here. But yeah so there's people are out there just like just going with their, I don't even know where they get this information or where they get these ideas from and they're just sharing it and sharing it and just like drowning out the actual truth of what's happening here. Like what are they even mad about? Really? Well, I think it's it's way too common right now and not just in the sports industry, but also in politics where um you know, it's it's amazing that some of us can um you know, information can be traveled very quickly um in good ways, but then bad information can also travel very quickly through social media.

Um And so I think it's just it's honestly time for people in power um to start getting phased out of organizations like Usa pl or the government, but it's just such it's such an old old old way of thinking and a not like open minded way of thinking at all because it's not just trans athletes, like you said, it's disabled athletes, it's it's people who are wanting to wear the hijab on the platform. They're not even starting that conversation with us. Exactly. And it's like this immediate block because of the way things used have always been right, you know? Um Yeah, it's frustrating. Um especially when there are so many examples of other organizations that are at least making an effort um or moving closer um to having conversations that have real action, right?

And that's that's just not happening in powerlifting really right now. No, not quite. I mean I think mary beth probably hit the nail on the head as it starts with who's in power, who has, you know, the actual control over what direction they can choose to take things. And if they choose to take the transphobic able ist direction, that's where it'll go. And unless they just keep getting checked and challenged by the people paying them money, they're not going to change for what a lot of that that power thrives off of fear because when you see, you know, a black man and president as the president, they're like, oh ship, um, let's just put, you know, any Republican on the platform that's a white male and and solve all our problems or, you know, like not even going above and beyond to look at the difference between fact and opinion for trans athletes and that fear that trans athletes will take over.

Like that website that I saw was um called Save Women's Sports. Its its entire no xenophobic. And so misinformed. Yeah, one second. She's got the default ringtone with your default ringtone over there. I drive my bad So often you'll see too is that um, people will poach things out of context. Um, so one of the things that I've been really working on lately is to like frame the achievements of trans athletes um with a larger context and it just doesn't, it happened very often, especially when you're seeing it from anti trans um like activists quote unquote. Uh, so for instance, you'll see posts about me that say, oh, she walked into her first competition and won the state championship, set a record and you know, um all these things and it's like, well let's look at this through the full context.

There was two people in my weight class, I was one of them, I set a record that was 100 and 50 plus pounds less than the american record in my Uh, in my weight class, that was set by a 15 year old in their first season and it wasn't my first meet, it was my first sanctioned meet. Um so it's like there's missing so much context that like really gives you a bigger picture and it's so necessary. Same thing with like, you know, cc Telfer, like I love her to death. Um she's a trans runner, collegiate runner that one, a national championship, she won a national championship and it was in division two, you know, um it's often lacking that little piece where it's like that is a huge accomplishment, don't get me wrong, it is a massive accomplishment. It's not, it's not Division one, you know?

Yeah, it's not a full sweep of everything. Yes, exactly. Or Rachel Mckinnon who is a trans cyclist, like she won a world championship, but nobody talks about the fact that it was a masters world championship, you know, things, things like that. The reality is, is that, you know, no trans people are dominating sports. It's literally not occurring and there's no track record of it, you know, trans people have been able to participate in many sports over over the span of two decades now. Yeah, it's not new. Um and we continue to not dominate like that, that's just what it is, and it's still just okay, yeah, feel silly that I have to even have this conversation, it's like, you know, we're still not dominant, like I would love to, but you know, it's just not there yet, you know, it's so funny. But yeah, that's that's the reality is that it's just not occurring.

So you see that you see things taken out of context for the purpose of fearmongering and getting people stirred up to get people involved in their agenda, you know, and you see it very often, you see it in the political landscape right now, they're taking it on because it is easy to platform fear in order to move people to do something and then putting a young girl, young, innocent girls who don't understand, you know what it what it means to have, you know, trans in politics of sports as the forefront of fear. It's it's almost hilarious, but it's it's very similar to my experience with the same federation and that, you know, I and I'm lucky enough to have been allowed before they even knew I had a disability or found, you know, a reason to look at it. Um but I competed single handed, you know, single handed, dead lifts um and the only, the only reason I started having that conversation with them was because I was, I didn't see that as benefiting me in the sport at all, like if I can, if I can add 100 £200 by um just using a device that allows me to equally pull it with two arms like why not?

That doesn't show an unfair advantage, you know um in the sport, but it's it's just it's ridiculous that when they do find that equality or equity or when we find that equality or equity that would be, you know created an even playing field, they immediately shut it down. They they looked at my lifting hook and we're like no um that would cause well what were the words that they used that would um that would be a liability um and for the, that would be a liability for the judges and the handlers on the platform and they look, they look at a hook from afar not even willing to you know have me mail it to them or whatever inspect it, whatever the hell they want to do with it um and think of what the pirates hook from peter pan and they see it as this crazy um you know crazy weapon that's been used in the gym and on the platform for years um and again it's that fear that like will come out on top and we have never come out on top in that way.

Um but when suggestion, one suggestion that I've been hearing a lot lately was how do you feel about a separate division? Like people are talking about adaptive divisions in sports and um a lot of us want to compete in the open junior masters division, whatever with everybody else. Um what are your feelings on that? Well, I mean, what it boils down to is this trans women are women. So there's already a category for trans women. Trans men are men. There is already a category for men. You know, non binary people are non binary. And you know, if if the non binary community came together and was like, this is what I desire to have a third category, then maybe that's something that should be considered if someone is non binary and they feel like the way that they are most aligned is competing with women or competing with men. We should be listening and having those conversations, you know, so creating, creating a third category as like a separate but equal.

Okay, segregation. Yeah. It just doesn't work. And that's not what's being asked for. No trans people are asking for that. Um and there's no there's no information to substantiate the worries that people are placing on people, you know, there is no evidence to substantiate the claims that trans people have and advantage in any in any way exceeding the circumstances of say like someone with bigger lungs doing a marathon, you know, or someone with longer arms or Michael and his weird, whatever they found out about him, Right? Exactly. It's like what in sports, there's always going to be advantages. That's the that's the premise of sport is to figure out how to build those advantages and to win, right? Um so who gets to decide what advantages are acceptable and non acceptable and what are those thresholds and why are those thresholds being defined?

You know, It's like who gets to do that? And it's like, well, in this, in this scenario, it's the people who reap the most privileges in our society. You know? Often times you see people who are able bodied cis white and many times it's like making making these decisions right? Um and from perspectives where they really just don't they can't, it's almost like they can't comprehend the situation at all. They can't they don't want to write exactly. You know, because it doesn't it doesn't work for them. It's not benefiting for them. Yeah, this is different than what I'm used to and I like making my money the way I make my money. So who are you moving on? And it doesn't even make sense in a sport like powerlifting. I mean, adaptive divisions in crossfit are definitely a thing. Well what exists? Um there are some strongman events, but power lifting is like, okay, you have an empty bar then you add some weights on like what's the difference for anybody?

That makes no sense. Why would that have to be separate for anyone? Yeah. So I don't see that as a I don't see the separate category as a useful solution. I don't see it as a as a even temporary solution. It's just simply not a solution. It is purely discriminatory. You know, it's to it's to comfort. It's to comfort people that are in a place of privilege and um, that's not, you know what we're here for. So they want to pat on the back because they feel like they're doing something right? Yeah, exactly. I'm not putting any backs. No, thank you. And are you still are you still actively fighting? Because I know um the last thing you posted was something about like the meeting and the motion and it was so there's a lot of words. Okay, my my lawyers submitted charge of discrimination on my behalf to the Minnesota department of Human rights.

Um, and the first um, the first step of that, or one of the first steps that is mediation. So one of the first steps of that as mediation. And so we went and did that. It was not successful. We were not able to come to an agreement. And so the next step of that process is the Minnesota department of human rights assigns an investigator. Um and they investigate um the claims of the the charge of discrimination. So that's where we're at currently. Um, So this is still actively in process. And at any time during the process, myself and my lawyers, we could pull the charge from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and litigate in court. So, um, there's more, there's multiple options going on. Um, So we're just trying for being patient were, you know, going through the process and um, hopefully it'll be a positive ending.

So there's, so that would mean for your state, at least there's some sort of law about discrimination specific to sport. Or is it just like a general law that you're applying here? Sure. So gender gender identity is a protected status in Minnesota. So, because I don't believe it is in my state at all, that's what one of the things they're fighting for. I think it's, I don't know the exact number, but it's close to 20 states have some um, some sort of protection in either public accommodations or um or an employment of some sort. I'm not sure what exactly the number is. But Minnesota is one of those states, um, in public accommodations does extend um to sports. Um There has been a case. Um There's precedence in the state of Minnesota. Um, for trans people to be able to participate, there was a football player that was denied um denied eligibility to compete on a women's football team.

And they litigated and won. So it's set precedents for it. Yeah. So, uh, in my, in my state of the state of Minnesota, like I'm protected gender identity. My trans identity is protected um under public accommodations and that includes um sporting organizations and events. That's awesome. Is California in the state route, you know? Sure mary beth. Yeah, I think so. Um Looking at a map now, it says there are only a few states with full LGBT nondiscrimination protections, hawaii California, Nevada, Oregon Washington, Minnesota Iowa. But florida get your ship together. No no no florida. You don't have to look at that map. You didn't have to look at them at. Okay. one of these days. Yeah. No um it's gonna be a while. My stay is read as fuck say. Yeah that's kind of where things are are sitting right now.

Um You know, in the meantime I'm just gonna I'm trying to tell my story as much as possible and um get back to competing again actually um suffered an injury after nationals last year. So I've been rehabbing and trying to get back under the bar as much as possible. Yeah. And just fight this as much as I can. Was it your ankle? What happened actually injured my back? Um Yeah, after nationals. So it's been like a long rehab process. Um He's getting cyanotic nerve pain and all the good stuff um Yeah all the fun stuff. Got a little bit, so if anybody wanted to, I guess, you know, specific to you be an ally to you or just in general to the trans athlete or to the disabled athlete or you know, to anyone that's trying to be involved in the sport and is kind of getting some pushback like how can someone that has the privilege of totally being in the sport help them from like a bystander per uh perspective.

Okay. Um I think like letting people know that you're there to support them um is huge, especially if they're an athlete. Um there's been many times throughout this entire process where, you know, locally people, people would show up to an event and whatever, but I feel so isolated in siloed. So when people do reach out like it means a lot um you know, staying in the, staying in the loop, let us seeing what's going on, seeing what causes there. Um they're promoting and what their um you know, putting out there and really supporting it full force. I think the that's probably the biggest key and to generally make it known that like you support trans athletes, there are so many, especially early on while I've been fighting this, there's so many people that would message me and be like, you know, I support you, but they have this like unwillingness to support exactly loudly.

And it's like if we're going to move, if we're going to move forward um and have inclusion in sport, it needs to be a part of the norm, it needs to be a part of our vocabulary, it needs to be a part of our lives, you can't do that in DM you know, it has to be something that is part of life because you know, we're part of the community and we're a part of um we're a part of this sport, like whether or not you think we should be there like where you were here, you know, we exist. So yes, I think normalizing normalizing these conversations as much as possible and this bridge is so nicely with the fight for accessibility and disability is the same thing. It's like we have to have these conversations and normalize these discussions because otherwise it's like that blinded privileges just gonna sit there and like, you know, nothing is ever going to get done. So Yeah, exactly.

If you are if or if you see yourself as someone who is in power or has that privilege, if you're a gym owner or someone who has a shot ton of followers like now is not the time to not be political on your terms, Like just because the advance, you know, like it's now tidy for you to just not say anything, but we're out here living this every day. Exactly. The okay, you could just make a post, You can put a story, you could be public about it, like it's all right. Exactly. And it's like, so often you see you see people trying to reduce people that are in marginalized positions to like being activists or like being, you know, oh they're they're just like some advocates and activists. It's like it's like this is my life like this is my life. Like I have to speak out about this in order to be able to navigate like period and to navigate life period. You know, if nobody we're to speak up about trans issues, you know, we would all be unemployed and we would all, you know, like these fights are so they're so essential to just being able to access basic human rights.

So it's like it's not just I'm not doing this for fun. Like that's like the last thing you want to do. List of fun things, you know? Yeah, I can't I can't just put on a pussy power hat and then take it off and forget about all that. Yeah. Well I'm not a trans woman anymore. I'm just gonna go do regular things. I won't get discriminated against at the grocery store right now. This is everyday everywhere. What do you precisely? Well, so have you have you really only seen that in sports or what about your other um workplaces like you as a librarian or you as a DJ? Yeah, it's definitely not limited to sports. Um I mean I I live my life as out as possible. Um Because I do have that privilege. Not everyone has that privilege. Um But uh with that does come some discrimination. Uh it's I've experienced discrimination in the workplace.

I've been laid off. I have, you know, been denied denied service at a health provider. Um, I, you know, there are these things, these things are real and they occur and they're not just statistics that you see, you know, um, in a survey result, you know, um, There's very real discrimination that occurs against trans people. And you know, the more ways in which you are marginalized, the more times this is occurring, you know, so like you see the epidemic of black trans women being killed. It's like 25 plus In 2019 alone, you know, and that's, you know, not including, you know, miss reports and mis gendered reports and um, it's not including other kinds of violence that end and the death we're talking strictly about murder. And in the states that don't have these protections against gender identity, they're not going to record that extra bit of information either.

Every every number that we do see like in perspective was it's really more so um, yeah, no, it is not. It is not limited to sports, not to say that like I don't thrive and I don't like live my life as loud as I can and enjoy as much as I can, but you know, it does occur, you know fairly frequently. It's a real thing, you know? Yeah, but it really highlights that point and that no one transitions for athlete glorification. Like you're putting yourself in danger every single day as being an out trans athlete literally danger. So this whole like oh they're just doing it for attention or for the media or whatever. That bullshit that I keep hearing out there. It's it's not fun and games, y'all know? It's really not. Um it's really, really not.

And is there anything related to, you know how you transition and how you actually move and exercise that you've had trouble navigating because because you're we have issues that you wish that you could have. You know, I mean you got therapy and that's great. But it was that kind of hard to get through like okay, I need a physical therapist. But oh here I am in a transition or you know, if you had, you know, all these other issues that might have popped up. Yeah, that's why I like Oh absolutely. Like that's why community is so is so crucial. Um finding like finding who your people are that way, you can collectively support each other through that process. Like without the people that have supported me here locally like Minnesota trans health coalition and uh Southside cafe and the work that you know Rox Anderson I guess we'll do a little shout out uh and uh what they did um in South Minneapolis, those first those first few years being an out trans person or just being a trans person would have been so difficult.

I mean they were difficult but I mean I don't know if I would have made it like difficult um because it's it's those connections that really help you to figure out. Um You know who are the providers that you're able to see and not have to worry about whether or not they're going to like try to like sexually exploit you or like you know whatever or uh you know give bad service or you know discriminate against you deny service. Like those are those are situations that we typically like to avoid. Um and I had to do list either. Exactly and things have gotten a little bit better since I first came out. But um these issues still exist in communities especially not especially important now more than ever um with the political landscape and um the plat forming of fear mongering against the trans community going into this next election.

I can only imagine because for me it's an absolute headache. An absolute headache. It's like a 50 50 toss up. You know it could be something as simple as like I got a weird rash. Let me see a dermatologist and then they look at your medication list and I'm like oh well you're kind of young for this aren't you know? Are you sure about? Okay great. Why did I come here and you walk out like disappointed piste off waited how many hours in the office just hoping that you could have gotten something done. So I can't even imagine adding another layer to that by the way. I'm also transport you don't understand and maybe have some feelings about that aren't great fun. It's so funny too because like you go see a provider and it will be for, you know, like a cough or something and I'd be like, oh you know, I wonder if it has something to do with your estrogen or like it would be something like completely unrelated but it's so often they rely upon this like drastic change. Like everybody right? They'll blame it on that too, right?

And that's a whole. Yeah. And that's like a whole other piece of you know, being a fat trans athletes. Um and fat is a term that I endearingly like take on because I am a fat person. Um that adds like a whole nother dynamic of how people view me as an athlete and how opportunities come my way or not come my way. Especially in the strength and fitness space where fatness is so stigmatized. Yeah, it's a it's a weird intersection to live at. Um for sure, definitely not not the tiniest intersection that you could pick but you're here now. Yeah, no, I'm here. I'm queer get used to it. I mean I could man, I could probably talk for you like for hours about doctors and our assholes so seriously. Absolutely. I feel I feel like we didn't even get to like so much that we could talk about.

I know you have me on again. Yeah yeah we'll do this again. I think we should do this again and you know what I mean? There's a certain level where people are like, oh it's just angry people talking like yes. But also it's people telling their stories and we have a lot of ship to say it for this episode. Part one with J. C. Cooper. Is there anything else like to share with our listeners before we conclude? Um just thanks for listening and supporting disabled girls who lift and uh follow me on instagram my hashtag or hashtag my hashtag. Yes. I just dated myself. My handle is JC is old. JC is alive definitely and pull for bar 2020. Absolutely registrations opening next month. So hey you two are going to have to come over to the pull for Pride in Oakland so I can show you some roller derbies around here.

There's so many. Well when the dates come out, when all the dates come out, let's see, sorry, disabled girls out. Thanks for listening to disabled girls who left. We appreciate all of your support and everyone who's taken the time to show us some love. Don't forget to subscribe rate already. Review of our channel. We're on apple podcasts. Spotify player FM, google podcasts and more. You can also find us on instagram at disabled girls who left

E13: Fighting for Inclusion w/JayCee Cooper
E13: Fighting for Inclusion w/JayCee Cooper
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