A transgender powerlifter who won multiple record-breaking world championships in the women’s division while transitioning from male to female has been stripped of her titles after sports authorities ruled she was biologically male while competing.
The RAW Powerlifting Federation announced on May 3 that it had revoked the titles won by Mary Gregory in the women’s squat, bench press and deadlift categories, as well as the “Masters total world record” she had earned for for her overall weightlifting scores at the 100% Raw Competition on April 27, according to the Daily Mail.
Gregory’s landslide victories — which included multiple world records she’d set for her age (she was 43 at the time) and weight categories — prompted automatic drug testing, per Raw Powerlifing Federation’s post-competition protocol, said a statement released by the organization. It was then that authorities within the federation learned for the first time that Gregory was transitioning, they claim.
“The lifter identifies as female,” RAW’s statement reads, confirming that Gregory entered the competition as a woman, and the federation took her at her word, without any prior consultation. However, the organization’s rules state that competitors will be classified according to “physiological classification rather than identification,” which technically disqualifies Gregory from competing against athletes born biologically female.
The day after the competition, Gregory celebrated her victories on Instagram. Her posts prompted a public backlash and — combined with the gender reveal from her drug-testing results — an internal investigation, RAW’s statement explained.
The organization’s president and board of directors met on April 29 to discuss the matter and ultimately came to the agreement that Gregory “was actually a male in the process of becoming a transgender female,” so her wins are not legitimate.
Additionally, they rescinded her world records. “Since the lifter’s gender classification for the purpose of our rules is not consistent with female, no female records will be broken by these lifts,” the statement reads.
Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to Gregory for her reaction to the federation’s decision. On May 7, she told Outsports that prior to the competition, she met with an official who had known Gregory since 2016, before she began transitioning.
She claims that at this time, she disclosed to the official that she had started the taking female hormones estrogen and spironolactone 11 months prior under a doctor’s supervision. The official was initially taken aback, but then “he seemed really supportive of me and so [was] the rest of the staff there,” she said. “They gendered me correctly. They called me ‘ma’am’ or ‘she’ and ‘her;’ they used the correct pronouns.”
Gregory claims the organization drug-tested her before the competition, but “her sample leaked,” so she’d have to be supervised while urinating for the post-competition test. “I said, ‘Well, this is kind of embarrassing for me, because I don’t have the correct anatomy,'” she told Outsports.
“Still, I did my business while somebody watched me sitting on the toilet. And so that’s where that statement comes from, because I’m sure she told them, ‘Hey! This girl’s got a penis!'”
Gregory is technically a pre-op transsexual, as she told the publication that she hasn’t been able to afford to undergo bottom surgery because her job as a construction worker does not provide adequate health insurance benefits.
“Perfect world, under perfect situations, probably, yes, I would have the surgery,” she said, but she claims having a penis does not affect her weightlifting performance.
Others would beg to differ with Gregory’s point of view, including former competitive swimmer and Olympian Sharron Davies, who adamantly argued that allowing transgender women to compete in women’s divisions creates “an unfair playing field.”
This is a trans woman a male body with male physiology setting a world record & winning a woman’s event in America in powerlifting. A woman with female biology cannot compete.. it’s a pointless unfair playing field. https://t.co/sI9i3AFANB
— Sharron Davies MBE (@sharrond62) April 28, 2019
Weightlifting association USA Powerlifting takes a similar stance, and even voted 46-5 last Thursday to uphold a rule banning transgender women competitors. The decision was made after transgender lifter JayCee Cooper and cis queer Latinx lifter Breanna Diaz submitted a proposal to change the rule that had already been in effect to prevent transgender lifters from competing, according to People.
USA Powerlifting said that athletes born biologically male are at a competitive advantage that even female hormones cannot cancel out, as men are born with “increased body and muscle mass, bone density, bone structure and connective tissue,” among other traits. “These advantages are not eliminated by reduction of serum androgens such as testosterone, yielding a potential advantage in strength sports such as powerlifting.”
In response, Pull for Pride, an LGBTQ advocate association working with Cooper and Diaz, accused USA Powerlifting of several instances of discrimination, including “deadnaming” Gregory (addressing her by the male name she was assigned at birth instead of the female name she legally changed it to), and declared, “Our proposed policy may not have passed today, but our fight for trans inclusion is not over.”
Gregory has attempted to discredit the opinions of her critics by claiming that her weightlifting performance has suffered since she began transitioning. She said on Instagram that before she started hormone replacement therapy, she could lift 408 pounds in the squat, 298 in the bench press and 507 in the deadlift.
But since she’s been taking hormones, she says those numbers have dropped to 314, 233 and 424 pounds, respectively.
“I feel like I’m being tarred and feathered as this person who got in there, competing against 50 women, and just stomping all over them, and won by some magnificent total,” Gregory told Outsports. “Not to denigrate my own accomplishments or achievements — I’m so very proud of them — but the numbers that I lifted aren’t class-leading.”
Gregory said she’ll continue to pursue powerlifting despite the bans she encounters and all negative attention she’s receiving, even if it means being a referee instead of a competitor.
“One reason why I decided to continue lifting is because I wanted to give the middle finger to that stigma that you can’t be a strong, muscular female,” she said. “I feel being strong and having muscles actually makes me feel sexy, and makes me feel more comfortable in my own skin.”
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