Last month, Kinnon MacKinnon became the first out transgender man to take home a gold in powerlifting at the Gay Games.
This was the first time that MacKinnon, a 28-year-old athlete based in Toronto, attended the Games, which is an international gathering of multi-sport events for LGBT athletes. The Gay Games have been held every four years since 1982; this year marked the ninth gathering, held in Cleveland, Ohio.
The 2014 Games’ cultural events and 37 athletic competitions attracted 20,000-25,000 athletes from 51 countries, including two other out transgender athletes: Caradee Tajalle of Guam, who competed in mixed volleyball, and Mason Caminiti of the U.S., who competed in bodybuilding.
"I’m looking forward to representing trans people because I think within the LGBT community, trans people are often left out of the conversation, and remain a vulnerable population within the [already] vulnerable population," MacKinnon told Mississigua News before the competition.
Now that he’s returned home triumphant, The Advocate caught up with an ecstatic MacKinnon via email. Read the interview below and check out photos of MacKinnon in the following pages.
The Advocate: Congratulations on your recent win at the Gay Games! Can you tell us about the competition?
Kinnon MacKinnon: Thank you so much! I want to express big gratitude for all the contest organizers and volunteers, as well as The McClean Clinic for sponsoring me. Dr. Hugh McClean and patient-care coordinator Liz Dezan are huge supporters of trans folks.
It was an incredible experience winning a gold medal for the men’s 75 kilogram weight class. I had been dreaming of competing at the Gay Games since I began entering local powerlifting competitions about two years ago.
What was most memorable about this year’s Gay Games?
It would have to be pulling a 450-pound deadlift — which was, based on my own 158 pounds, 2.85 times my own bodyweight.
It was a very long competition. We arrived at 8:30am and lifted all day. I was deadlifting until 9 p.m. that night. I was physically and mentally exhausted and very much doubted I could pull 450 pounds off the ground. With the support of my fellow athletes and the crowd, I got the personal record I was aiming for!
In your experience, have athletic spaces been accepting of you as a trans man?
I would say that overwhelmingly, yes, I have felt a lot of acceptance. I am on a powerlifting team here in Toronto and I feel a lot of support from my teammates, and from other powerlifters as well. [My trans identity] is not something I announce when I compete, because I am there to focus and do my best, but I am sure that news travels within the powerlifting community.
How did you get into powerlifting?
Well, I had a lot of experience competing in amateur sports up until the age of 19. Not coincidentally, that was also around the time I had come out [as a transgender man]. I became quite inactive for four years, but started getting back into shape and developed a real passion for lifting weights and getting stronger. My competitive itch returned, and so my friend and I decided to give powerlifting a shot. It was such a fun time; I was hooked!
So you’ve been an athlete since you were young?
Growing up, my competitive sports were soccer, highland dancing, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding. My parents were very supportive of my athleticism and I was naturally pretty good at most sports I tried. I have always derived a lot of satisfaction from pushing myself and improving my performance.