“It doesn’t matter what you’re given, it’s what you do with it,” Iron Culture Podcast Ep. 155–Alex Tilinca: Self Made Man

I’m having grandiose thoughts. I’m imagining a future sporting world in which the full variety of human experiences are welcomed and included. In which maybe we have men’s, women’s, and open categories for sport, in which anyone can participate who feels called and can do the work. Where we’re defined and divided by our abilities more than our external attributes. What if we defined sport in ways that acknowledged the messy, complicated realities of sex and gender and understood that division by sex is an as arbitrary as division by weight class? Could we create sport that was both fair and inclusive?

This week’s Iron Culture interview with trans athlete Alex Tilinca has inspired these grandiose visions of a future that could be. Alex is a wonderful ambassador for his sport and for the inclusion of trans athletes in sport. Over the course of the interview, we are all given the opportunity to understand some of the unique challenges and physiologies of a trans man in physique sport. We also get to hear what he gains from inclusion in the sport of bodybuilding, the sense of control and purpose that bodybuilding imparts on his life, motivations I suspect are near-universal for those of us drawn to it.

Something I learned from this interview, and still have work to do to fully integrate into my thinking, is how the existence of untested divisions of bodybuilding actually acted as a more inclusive space for a trans man. I have written previously that for me, the existence of drug-free bodybuilding made it more appealing. I had not considered how the act of testing could act as a gatekeeper for trans athletes, or I presume other athletes with unusual hormonal makeups. It has me wondering if there’s more of a place for untested sport in general than I have generally been inclined to favor. Maybe having two divisions of Olympic events would help create a more inclusive Olympics?

I’m grateful for Eric and Omar’s willingness to invite Alex onto their platform and to begin this conversation. I hope it is that–a beginning to the conversation. I want to hear references to the differing needs of athletes in their future episodes. I want this information to become integrated into their definitions of lifters and athletes. This is a good place to start.

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