Canadian female powerlifter April Hutchinson is speaking up about what she describes as the unfair competition that women face when competing against transgender athletes.
Hutchinson, a powerlifter with Team Canada, has begun voicing her concerns with the Canadian Powerlifting Union after allowing male-to-female transgender women to compete in women’s powerlifting competitions.
In an exclusive interview with True North, Hutchinson explained how transgender women entering powerlifting competitions is inherently unfair, as biological men have significant physical advantage over women.
Hutchinson has previously received media attention for how her she fought off alcoholism and devoted her energy to lifting weights.
In September 2019, Hutchison was drinking alcohol daily when her doctor told her that without a change of lifestyle, she would die within a year or two. After recovering in an alcohol dependence treatment facility, Hutchinson began powerlifting the day after. Months later, Hutchison realized that her lifting numbers would qualify her for provincials, putting her on the path to coming fourth place in the World powerlifting championships representing Canada.
“I started lifting to help keep me sober. I’m four years sober. It helped me when I came out of rehab. I got into powerlifting and I excelled at it up until I made Team Canada and going to the Worlds, so its been a blessing for me.”
However, the Canadian Powerlifting Union’s policy for transgender inclusion has Hutchinson and other female powerlifters concerned that women are being crowded out of competitive powerlifting and are having female records being broken by athletes who were born male.
The Union’s trans inclusion policy states that transgender athletes are not required to disclose the fact that they are trans, are not required to undergo hormone therapy, and are not required to undergo surgical intervention.
“This [policy] was put out about five years ago when the whole trans movement kind of came out and it was put out to appease the trans community because they don’t want to get sued. Not even thinking about women,” Hutchinson says.
“If my boyfriend or my coach all of a sudden says “Y’know what? I identify as a female today” and goes to his doctor, the doctor writes a note, his passport is changed within a week. Then he can roll up and compete with the women. No questions asked,” says Hutchinson.
One of these transgender powerlifters, Anne Andres, broke the Alberta women’s powerlifting record for bench press and deadlift in her weightclass.
Hutchinson says that she reached out to women’s organizations like the Independent Council On Women’s Sports (ICONS) and the International Consortium on Female Sport (ICFS) for support and assistance in addressing these issues.
In collaboration with ICONS, a group of women attended the women’s powerlifting Nationals in Richmond, BC, where they engaged in a silent protest by dressing in all black and wearing “XY≠XX” stickers. After complaints from the Union’s president, the protesters were asked to leave the venue by the hotel’s manager.
As for Hutchinson, she decided not compete at the competition in protest of having to compete against a “trans identifying male” in the Febuary contest.
Hutchinson also sought the help of the ICFS’s Linda Blade, the professional sport performance coach and co-author of Unsporting: How Trans Activism and Science Denial Are Destroying Sport.
In collaboration with the ICFS and Blade, letters were sent to the Canadian Powerlifting Union requesting that the organization change their policies to address women’s concerns while creating a system that everyone would enjoy. However, Hutchinson says that the Union has been uncooperative.
While Hutchinson expects that the Union will change their trans inclusion policy, she believes that the Union will adopt the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) standards of monitoring testosterone levels of trans identifying athletes – a measure that Hutchinson believes to be unrealistic and ineffective.
“I do know my federation is talking with the IOC. Their policy currently is monitoring of testosterone levels. They [Canadian Powerlifting Union] don’t have the money to do that testing, there’s no way.”
“Even if they go off of testosterone, there is still men competing against women. Men after puberty still have so much more muscle mass, lung capacity, bone density and fast twitch fibers,” says Hutchinson.
In collaboration with the ICFS, Hutchinson hopes to see a change in the Canadian Powerlifting Union’s policies. If a desirable solution is not found, Hutchinson says that she plans on taking legal action.
Hutchinson says that she is not trying to exclude anyone from powerlifting and says she understands the concerns of transgender people, but emphasizes the unfairness of the current system and suggests an alternative solution of allowing trans athletes to compete in a separate division.
“We’re not trying to exclude and we want everyone to lift. I think creating a separate category would be a safe space and a place where they can enjoy the sport. And it could be very competitive, I think it’s a positive thing.”