This is a big week for Mary Gregory.
This week, the transgender powerlifter and referee turns 44, just as another benchmark in this new age of transgender exclusion is expected to be set.
More on that, later. First, let’s backup, to the last weekend of April, the biggest weekend in Gregory’s life since she came out to her wife as trans in April of 2017, and since their divorce last December. It’s the weekend she set several powerlifting records, took home trophies, and shared her success on Instagram.
In a video she posted, people are heard cheering her on: “Come on, Mary!”
As promised here is the full meet recap- what a day yesterday! One my best meets ever, not because of the records but because I was prepared, had a plan and flawlessly executed it! The records were just icing on the cake! – Friday night weighed in super light at 179.3lbs, 81.3kg! Over a kg under the class limit. – Squats, opener 130kg good lift. Opened a bit lighter than planned, was having issues with depth. Wanted to make sure I buried this one. 2nd attempt 138kg good lift. Chipped the VA State masters record here. Based on feels I knew I didn’t have much left for thirds. 3rd attempt 142.5kg/ 314.2lbs good lift. Chipped the world masters record here. It felt much harder than it looked, I really don’t think much more was there. – Bench, opener 100kg good lift. This was a world masters record. Couldn’t get set up right and the pins we’re a bit low. This was alot harder than I expected. 2nd attempt 102.5kg good lift. Broke my own record, took a hand off. This one felt the best out all three bench attempts. 3rd 105.5kg/ 232.6lbs good lift. Chipped the world open bench record. Got a fast press command luckily, this one again felt harder than it looked. Was struggling with tightness here, really don’t think I had much left here as well. – DL opener 177.5kg good lift and world masters total record. This felt harder than I expected so I took a smaller jump for my 2nd. 2nd attempt 185kg good lift, world masters dl record. This felt really good. Starting to get in the groove. 3rd attempt 192.5kg/ 424.4lbs good lift and a 2.5kg PR! This didn’t feel much different than 185kg but I didn’t want to get greedy- the plan was 9 for 9 and I had a conservative PR. Felt great to end the strong! – Again, awesome day! Totaled 440.5kg/ 971.1lbs with a 399.5wilks. Thanks again to the all people who supported me, helped me, and cheered me on! 27 white lights, excited to get back too training and prepping for the next meet! – @savvysavit #transisbeautiful#sharetheplatform#powerliftingwomen#upliftandliftheavy#richmondbalance#morefemalestrength#exodusstrength#lgbtqsports#sumoischeating#deadlifts#benching#squats#bemoreawesome
A post shared by Mary Gregory (@75marylifts) on Apr 28, 2019 at 2:06am PDT
But four days later, she learned that powerlifting officials had stripped her of everything.
“That day was incredible,” Gregory told Outsports in a phone interview, about the 100% Raw Powerlifting Federation Masters National Championships meet at a Best Western Hotel in Zion Crossroads, Virginia. It was Saturday, April 27.
Gregory had weighed-in the day before, 179 pounds and 5’8”. She spoke with a meet official who’s known her since she began lifting weights in 2016, before beginning her transition. She explained that since the last time they met, she had legally changed her name, that she was taking hormones under a doctor’s supervision, and had what’s called a therapeutic use exemption form from that doctor. And to her surprise, although the official was at first taken aback, the Virginia native said she was received warmly.
“He seemed really supportive of me and so the rest of the staff there,” said Gregory. “They gendered me correctly. They called me ‘ma’am’ or ‘she’ and ‘her;’ they used the correct pronouns.”
And it wasn’t just the officials.
“The other lifters were fine,” Gregory said. “You know, I was a little surprised at first, but once I started talking to them, I was congratulating them, I was helping them, I was getting high fives. They started doing the same thing to me.
Gregory competed uncontested and broke the federation’s masters world squat record, open world bench record, masters world deadlift record, and masters world total record. “World record” is a misnomer, she said, in that it only applies to that federation. But still, it was a big deal, and she said everyone let her know it.
“They started cheering me on, everybody seemed really happy when I broke the records,” she said. “People in the audience were coming up and slapping me on the back and congratulating me and shaking my hand.”
What a day, 9 for 9! Masters world squat record, open world bench record, masters world dl record, and masters world total record! Still processing, full meet recap to come a bit later but I do want to thank a few people! – From our initial consultation I told @savvysavit that I wanted to cut to the 82.5kg class, go 9 for 9, and set some records- we did it!!! I don’t think she was happy with me cutting but she was there offering her support. When I needed a pick me up or advice she was there! Thank you coach! – A huge thank you to @raw_powerlifting_federation_ , from the bottom of my heart! As a transgender lifter I was unsure what to expect going into this meet and everyone- all the spotters, loaders, referees, staff, meet director, all made me welcome and treated me as just another female lifter- thank you! And thanks to all the fans in the audience who cheered me on and congratulated me! – Thank @rrrrachele for making the trip out to support me today, video my lifts, and cheer me on! – And thank you to all the peeps on Instagram who reached out to offer your support! – Now for and !!! – #transgenderwoman#sharetheplatform#transrightsarehumanrights#lgbtq#bemoreawesome#upliftandliftheavy#morefemalestrength#richmondbalance#liftlunchlearnrva#squat#bench#deadlift
A post shared by Mary Gregory (@75marylifts) on Apr 27, 2019 at 2:09pm PDT
Gregory posted her achievement on Instagram, and that did not go unnoticed. Multiple conservative websites blew her achievement out of proportion, she said.
“There were plenty of other lifters that day that broke multiple world records,” said Gregory. “Male and female.”
But most surprising, she said, was the in-person reaction she received from the meet director, compared to what happened after.
“I shook the director’s hand and I told him, ‘I want to thank you, because as a transgender lifter, I was unsure of the reaction I was going to get here, and you and your staff have gone above and beyond to make me feel welcome. And I really appreciate that from the bottom of my heart. It means the world to me.’ And I told him that to his face.”
On May 1, following days of negative press, the federation president Paul Bossi issued a statement calling Gregory “male,” announcing plans to revise its policies to create a “transgender category,” and erasing her record lifts.
Bossi and the federation declined to comment beyond the statement.
One line in that statement was particularly grating to Gregory: “It was revealed that this female lifter was actually a male in the process of becoming a transgender female.”
“It infuriated me,” she told Outsports. Gregory has changed her name, her ID, has been on estrogen and spironolactone for 11 months and already seen significant results, including breast development.
So, how did they determine she had been assigned male at birth?
During the meet, following her bench press, Gregory said an official told her they needed to drug test her again, claiming her sample leaked, she said. But this time, the official told her she needed to observe her providing a urine sample.
“I said, ‘Well, this is kind of embarrassing for me, because I don’t have the correct anatomy.’ 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 a construction worker, and said she lacks the insurance coverage for bottom surgery. Although she is a lesbian, she said she isn’t in any hurry to get it.
“Perfect world, under perfect situations, probably, yes, I would have the surgery,” she said, “because I’m not that attached to that part of my anatomy. It doesn’t define who I am, but I don’t hate it. I don’t need it to be gone to be able to live my life and be whole. It’s more of a case that it’s inconvenient that it’s there.”
Besides, she said, having a penis or not plays no part in lifting.
“It’s very hard to tuck and lift in a singlet, but I figured it out!” Gregory laughed, revealing that instead of tape, she wears up to three pairs of underwear.
Since beginning powerlifting, she’s significantly lost weight, from 270 pounds almost four years ago to 179 now. But Gregory notes that while lifting has helped her transition, it’s actually hurt her athletic performance.
She posted on her Instagram profile that prior to starting on hormones, she could lift 408 pounds in the squat, 298 in the bench press and 507 in the deadlift. Now, since starting HRT, those numbers are drastically lower: 314, 233, and 424 pounds.
She says that as far as appearance goes, she’s like any other woman: “100 percent female. I get my hair styled female. Ears pierced, nails painted. But I don’t wear makeup.”
“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 said, “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.”
With the 100% Raw Federation pulling her records and confiscating her trophies, Gregory has found another path, in spite of the USAPL ban on transgender powerlifters: “I love the sport and I couldn’t compete,” she said. “So I became a referee. And I did that winter last year and through the winter spring of this year. I think I’ve ref’d four or five meets with the USAPL.”
Executives with the USA Powerlifting Federation will meet in Illinois on Thursday of this week to discuss transgender policies. Also, ahead of that meeting, Women’s Committee Chair Priscilla Ribic has emailed a survey to the federation’s nearly 5,500 female members, asking them to vote on transgender participation.
No matter the outcome, Gregory will continue to pursue her dream.
“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. I feel being strong and having muscles actually makes me feel sexy, and makes me feel more comfortable in my own skin.”