Last week, USA Powerlifting issued a ban on transgender women competing against cis women in the sport, citing that their competitive circuit was "not a fit for every athlete and for every medical condition or situation."
It's a decision that's been widely condemned in the transgender community as it means they either can't compete or must compete in a category incompatible with their gender identity.
In a bid to create a more inclusive competitive space, on February 17 Canberra gym Burley Strength will host the first Australian powerlifting competition with a third gender category.
The category, called "Mx" - which is the chosen honorific for people who prefer not to be identified as male or female - is for transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex athletes who can choose to compete.
Australian powerlifting isn't affiliated with USA Powerlifting, and doesn't have one governing body, but rather several regulatory groups.
Burley Strength owner John Sheridan, who has been running competitions at the Canberra venue since 2014, believes novice powerlifting competitions are the foundation of their sporting calendar.
"These competitions allow us to be more flexible as they operate without sanctions. I've always wanted to lower the barrier for entry for competitors. Because that's how I originally got into it," said Sheridan.
"The competition side of things isn't as important as the inclusivity side, and the experience of it all. It's about getting people into the sport."
He was first introduced to the concept of a third gender category by a transgender powerlifter who regularly competes at Burley Strength, and announced his decision to add the category in November 2018.
The category is optional and transgender athletes may still compete in their respective gender divisions.
Sheridan has had a warm response for the category thus far, with one person coming forward - who has never tried powerlifting before - simply because the non-binary element of the competition is what they've been waiting for.
"It was something I felt was worth doing. The novice competition was the best opportunity to open up a sport to people who don't feel they have a home in Australian sport as they feel marginalised and ostracised in some cases."
Sydney-based Dr Andy Kaladelfos is one transgender powerlifter gearing up to compete in the upcoming competition.
Kaladelfos has been involved with the sport for five years now. They regularly travel for work, and have trained at Burley Strength in Canberra. It's the community aspect of the gym that they enjoy.
They previously had to suspend their non-binary gender identity when competing and was referred to using female pronouns.
"This is one of the reasons why the Mx division is important, it's a place where you can feel comfortable," said Kaladelfos.
It's a development that Kaladelfos hopes will pave the way for more inclusion in competitive sport.
Burley Strength's upcoming novice powerlifting competition is open to any lifter, no federation membership, special equipment or uniform is required needed. Burley Strength, Fyshwick. Sunday, February 17, 2019. 9am-4pm. Register at Burley Strength. Entry fee $70.
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