Powerlifting and Fitness Outside the Binary by Val Schull



"Do you compete?" Though I did not know it at the time, that question would be a difficult and important one to answer.


As a nonbinary and trans Latinx person, I was not sure if competing in powerlifting would even be a possibility. At the start of my transition, I worried about the potential of being misgendered or not being allowed to compete. I felt alone. My training partner encouraged me to continue powerlifting. Afterall, my goal was to be a strong person, and being strong has no gender.


It turned out, there were inclusive events, programs, and powerlifting federations where I was able to be my genuine self. In particular, I was able to participate in Pull for Pride, a fundraising and advocacy program dedicated to supporting the LGBTQIA+ athletic community. Through this amazing organization and the power of social media, I was able to meet other trans and nonbinary strength athletes from around the world. I no longer felt alone, but found an amazing community.



Though I was happy to be able to compete on the powerlifting platform, as I continued my journey, it became more clear that inclusiveness in fitness spaces starts where the training happens, not just on the competition platform. Trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people, particularly QTPOC and those with disabilities, need access to a safe and accepting fitness space, and a community that is supportive and welcoming.


Rather than working within the structures of the gender binary and ableism present in many fitness spaces, it is important to engage with people as individuals and work to make fitness spaces accessible to everyone from the start. Ideally, fitness professionals would work with communities to better gauge resources and services to allow individuals to move in a way that is empowering.


Powerlifting will continue to be a sport I participate in, and will continue to do my part in making it welcoming to other trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming athletes. I hope to continue to develop skills to contribute not only to the sport of powerlifting, but also to provide coaching and personal training for trans, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people. As an ACE certified personal trainer, I am excited to continue to serve my LGBTQIA+ community. My long-term goal is open up an inclusive and accessible fitness space with my spouse to better serve our community.

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