When asked about his role at the International Association of Trans Bodybuilders (IATB), Bucky Motter describes himself as the “chief cook and bottle washer”. With only one other person on the board, he finds himself in the position many Southern organizers do: Juggling a variety of roles and carrying a huge project with little funding and a lot of passion.
Bucky has been involved with IATB since the group held their first bodybuilding competition in 2017, which developed as an offshoot of the TransFitCon conference founded by Neo Sandja in 2014. After collaborating on TransFitCon and beginning to hold competitions, Bucky says Sandja sold him IATB for a computer and a guitar, and now the organization is heading into its third year and already expanding. Since our talk in June, Bucky says they’ve grown to a board of three along with two advisory board members. This year they’re adding powerlifting to the competition lineup and looking to obtain 501(c)3 status, after which they will officially become IATBP.
Bodybuilding may not be the first thing that springs to mind for many people when thinking about LGBTQ equality, but Bucky says IATBP serves the trans community because trans people interested in bodybuilding don’t have anywhere else to compete.
Right now in most major athletic competitions, transgender men undergoing hormone replacement therapy are unable to compete, disqualified due to the prohibition of testosterone use and its consideration as a “performance-enhancing drug.”
Bucky knows the ins and outs of the sport from experience. A former competitive bodybuilder himself, he began powerlifting at age 19 and did his first bodybuilding at age 45, at the time competing in women’s divisions. He explained that powerlifting is really thought of as a strength sport and bodybuilding is more of an aesthetic sport.
“Southerners have always been scrappy. People think ‘Why would you live in the South?’, but it’s our home and it’s important to represent. I think Southern queers are pretty damn brave.” – Bucky Motter, IATB
It has been a challenge to fundraise without having 501(c)3 status, but with a recent Southern Equality Fund grant, along with seed money from the Trans Justice Funding Project and the help of the law firm Alston and Bird, IATBP is expanding its reach and solidifying its processes. After receiving an SEF grant, Sandja was able to build a judge’s certification program on the group’s website. Now, they hope to carry IATBP to other states – and they at last have the infrastructure to do so, including formalized guidelines and handbooks to structure their competitions. Bucky says anyone who knows a bit about the sport can be a judge, and they hope to get the word out so that anyone who would be interested in competing knows that IATBP is out there.
Bucky is a first-generation Southerner and says Southern trans people have their own stories to tell. Though he lives in Atlanta, which is often considered a queer haven of the South, a major city with one of the largest Pride parades in the country, he knows that the area is not without major problems. For example, Bucky remembers protesters in Marietta marching against LGBTQ athletes ahead of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and knows that a high-ranking member of the White Nationalist movement lives just a few miles away in Decatur. “Southerners have always been scrappy,” he said. “People think ‘Why would you live in the South?’, but it’s our home and it’s important to represent. I think Southern queers are pretty damn brave.”
That bravery is more than evident in the work Bucky does with IATBP. And it definitely has an impact even beyond the bodybuilding community. “Our mission ultimately is to create safe space for transgender people around the world,” Bucky said. “By giving people a safe space to compete, it ripples out in concentric circles.”
IATB’s next Bodybuilding and Powerlifting competitions will take place on Saturday, October 5 in Atlanta, GA.