I officially started strength training on a regular basis my sophomore year of high school thanks to a trainer who pushed me to work hard. Since then, I can no longer put a bar. It has to be in my hands every day or I go a little crazy.
I also played sports throughout my childhood. I played every sport under the sun and was a bigger little boy. I couldn’t run, move, or do the things that were generally expected of me. But it wasn’t until high school that I realized that this body could be used in different ways.
Playing football around huge, muscular dudes, I was able to be the smallest and the fastest, and it really taught me to rationalize that everything is trainable.
I spent almost two hours in the weight room every morning.
After moving to Austin for college, I didn’t have much else to do. So I trained. I signed up for an advanced bodybuilding class. I thought I was going to learn how to squat, bench press, and heavier deadlift. It was so much more.
Within a month I was addicted. I just wanted to keep training. I ended up asking the coach if I could join the powerlifting team. I ended up officially joining in May 2019 and trained with them until December 2020.
I needed it more than I thought. Going in and being in a close space with already experienced athletes, who were already in a state of mind that I was not yet in. I needed exposure to other athletes. It is truly incomparable.
There’s a popular term in weightlifting called “garage spirit,” and it’s really just this idea of staying brave, getting in there, and getting the job done. We don’t need sophisticated technology. We don’t need fancy moves. We just need a bar and our program and we’ll do it. That’s what we did.
I realized I was trans in August 2019 and started hormone replacement a year later. When I started, I struggled with elevators.
Even my coach was blown away. I skipped the first day of training on hormones so I wouldn’t mess with my body a million different ways that very first day. On the second day, I returned to the gym. However, I couldn’t lift what I was lifting two days before.
From there, I saw a 20-30% drop in my lifting numbers. I had spent almost two years fostering this growth of Olympic weightlifting. Now everything was melting inside me, it was really shocking. As the hormones progressed, I became weaker. I got a little smaller, I got a little less athletic. But, I started to really feel like it was something I needed.
I focused on technique for the first six months as I struggled to gain strength. I told myself that my technique had to be perfect.
If I couldn’t lift the bar off the floor with perfect technique, I wasn’t going to be the best I could be. It was new for me to focus on form, not worrying about numbers anymore, but worrying about how I move those numbers.
My testosterone was extremely low. It’s still extremely low. So it’s incredibly hard for me to make gains, period, and especially in powerlifting. Over the course of a year I put 20 pounds on my deadlift and put 10 pounds on my bench, a small increase for me.
To experience this total decline in how I gained muscle, how I gained strength, how I move through the world, was very shocking. I wouldn’t say I was defeated at the end of my powerlifting stint, but it was brutal and it really humbles you.
My goal now is always to move every day. Sometimes it’s just about feeling good.
It’s a new thing for me too. I returned to Olympic weightlifting in the spring of 2022. Now I spend three to four days a week lifting a barbell. Plus I do cardio. I make additional accessories.
I do extra work on the glutes to make my butt bigger. I didn’t want to think about my boy glutes all my life. Now, as a girl, I realize, Oh, there’s real muscle dysfunction there. The stepper actually helps me work on this dysfunction, associated with the group work and dumbbell work that I do.
I can go out there and train really hard and express my athleticism throughout the week. Then these other sessions allow me to clear my head and feel quiet.
It wasn’t until I found an inclusive club and visited other gay-oriented gyms that I really felt comfortable.
I discovered Liberation Barbell Club in Austin, which aims to be a healthy and safe space for athletes and *all* people. The more I train there, the more amazing people I meet who don’t see me for who I am on the outside.
I was worried for the first few weeks because I felt like all the men were looking at me. But it turns out they were actually so impressed with me because no matter what, no matter how much my numbers dropped, I was still there training hard and being myself.
I started lifting there a week after I started hormones. Having a community and a space that allowed me to step into tiny shorts and a sports bra early in my transition—when I didn’t pass as a woman at all—was a big step for me.
No one will excel in their sport if they are alone. You need people around you. Especially as a queer person and as a trans person, having people who think the same way, who ask the same questions, who question the world in the same way, it’s unparalleled on arrival .
If I didn’t have the ability to wear the clothes I want and feel assertive in my space, I probably wouldn’t have stuck with the facelift.
I had a lot of trouble with gender dysphoria. As an athlete, I spent years idolizing other strength athletes who always trained in tiny shorts and sports bras. These women are absolutely muscular and muscular. I idolized them and wanted to wear that too.
At the beginning of my transition, I bought the booty shorts online at a specialty store for strength athletes. It really empowered me. Being a trans woman and bringing home the clothes I’ve seen in cis women all my life was a big moment for me.
I consider my 440 pound deadlift a proud moment that showed how well I put in the work.
In January, I ended up pulling 440 pounds at the very end of a competition. It’s a number I’ve been looking for for a very long time. I was technically sound. I was so strong. My muscles were all engaged as I should be.
I was so anxious, though. It was a time when I had to look in the mirror and say you’re here because you love doing it. You are here because you love everything about it. Right before that last deadlift, I went to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and thought, “Go have fun. Go finish.”
It was a moment that really showed me that no matter what happens in my transition, no matter what happens in the world around me, I will always look to weight training and work hard.
But most of all, I’m proud of having inspired others to pick up a barbell for the first time.
I could talk about PR or accomplishments or big moments, but inspiring others ultimately stands out for me. I went to an event earlier this summer in Seattle, Pull for Pride, an all-inclusive deadlift competition where anyone can come and lift. There were so many people in that room that I know for a fact they would never have picked up a bar if they hadn’t had that opportunity.
These lifters said to me, “You helped me, you inspired me to do this.”
Sport is my anchor and the thing I come back to no matter what. If everything else in my life falls apart, I can still go to the gym.
If everything else in my life falls apart, I can still compete. When I was in trouble in my childhood and teenage years and couldn’t understand what was wrong with me and wondered, “Why am I depressed all the time? Why don’t I don’t feel good about myself?” Sport got me going. Honestly, if I weren’t doing sports and bodybuilding, I don’t know if I would be here right now.