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A Trans Woman's Breakthrough in Bodybuilding

A Trans Woman's Breakthrough in Bodybuilding


Bodybuilding competitions are nothing new for personal trainer Chris Tina Bruce. Years ago, Bruce had been through the process of bulking up, training hard, and the tiring day-long competitions awarding bodies in peak condition. But for the first time Bruce will be competing as a woman.

Bruce started bodybuilding as a teenager in the early 1980s, and even trained her peers in a local gym. Bruce also played football semi-professionally, got married, raised family, and became a successful business owner in Texas. Still, Bruce knew her feelings did not match her outward male appearance, so in 1998, she secretly began seeing a therapist who encouraged her to think about transitioning.

At first, Bruce said, "I put myself in a box. My therapist finally said, 'Who says you can't body build? Women body build,' and 'Who says you can't drive muscle cars? Women drive cars.'"

Eventually, in 2006, she left her wife, and began to transition in 2008.

From there, Bruce carved out a new life for herself, leaving Texas for San Diego, and launching Hillcrest Fitness, a health and personal training company where she could follow her passion. Now Bruce, 42, is entering the Border States Classic Bodybuilding contest as a woman, the first time this particular competition has let transgender women compete.

Bruce said she contacted event promoter Jon Lindsay with her situation, asking whether she could join up. Lindsay immediately returned her message, encouraging her to enter, since Bruce is legally a female, and the competition does not engage in drug or gender testing.

Some of her opponents have been voicing their opposition to Bruce's involvement in the contest in the media, and behind the scenes. Bruce said she heard from one of the bodybuilding circuit's outfit designers that the other female competitors were unhappy with her entering. Former bodybuilder Laurie Delaney told a San Diego Fox affiliate that the bodybuilding world observe the International Olympic Committee's Stockholm Consensus, requiring a two-year hiatus from competition for athletes who have undergone anatomical changes.

While Bruce has been training for this competition for months, if not her whole life, she said she doesn't have exceptionally high expectations in her first time back on stage in nearly 20 years.

"My expectation is that I'm not going to win, and I'm fine with that," she said. "I just want to go out there and look respectable. It's to show that it can be done. If I place or win, that would be great, but right now, it's all about getting through the competition."

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