Powerlifting championship faces backlash after awarding trans woman bronze medal in female category

The issue of whether transgender women should be allowed to compete in female sport categories was brought to the forefront during the 2023 Canadian Powerlifting Championships in Richmond, B.C.

Members and supporters of the International Consortium on Female Sport (ICFS) held signs and wore stickers reading “XY ≠ XX” to protest the Canadian Powerlifting Union’s trans inclusion policy that allows athletes to self-identify into the category of their choosing.

The ICFS advocates for a “dedicated category for athletes born female.”

Anne Andres, a transgender powerlifter from Calgary, won the bronze medal in her weight category and said that all but one fellow competitor was supportive of her participation, and the ICFS group had little impact.

Critics of including transgender women in female categories argue that the advantages of going through male puberty, such as increased size, muscle mass, and cardiovascular capacity, cannot be mitigated through surgery and testosterone inhibitors, which denies opportunities for people assigned female at birth.

Supporters argue that inclusion is paramount, and people should be able to compete in the gender category of their choosing.

Sports organizations worldwide are grappling with how to balance inclusion, fairness, and safety in sporting categories.

Last year, World Aquatics (formerly FINA) announced that it will only allow transgender women who began transitioning before the age of 12 to compete in high-level international swimming competitions and proposed a new “open” category. Swimming Canada domestically allows athletes to self-identify into a gender category.