Brooklyn man wins world transgender bodybuilding competition
Brooklyn native and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Wes Phills took home the Overall Winner award at Saturday evening’s annual world transgender bodybuilding competition.
Phills, who performed his routine to Beyonce’s “Mine” featuring Drake, appeared with seven fellow competitors before the crowd inside an Atlanta theater on Saturday.
The International Association of Trans Bodybuilders competition has attracted bodybuilders from across the country and even Russia since it began in 2014, according to executive director and head judge Bucky Motter. Competitors were judged in the categories of lightweight, middleweight, heavyweight and masters, for age 60 and over, according to five disciplines: mass, definition, proportion, symmetry and stage presence.
For most, this was their first time competing. Sandy Baird, of Oakland, California, saw the event promoted on Facebook and decided to try.
“I’ve always been interested in bodybuilding but then there was never a nongender opportunity to do it,” Baird said.
Charles Bennett, who traveled from San Francisco and competed in the competition’s Masters class, said he was “very proud to compete without a top on.”
“I competed as a woman [in the past]. This wasn’t available to me. We didn’t even have the dream of a transgender bodybuilding competition. It’s unheard of,” Bennett said as he applied fake tan on himself, along with a hint of glimmer.
The evening was also special because Erica Grace, Bennett’s partner of 31 years — and wife of 10 years — watched him compete for the first time since he transitioned and had surgery at 56.
“She’s seeing me compete for the first time as a man. That’s pretty powerful. I had to do it. It means the world to me.”
As music pumped through the small theater, each contestant struck a series of poses required by the judges. Grace sat in the front row and cheered her husband on, alongside other partners and friends who snapped photos and shouted out words of support. The competition took place before a capacity crowd of dozens.
In addition to winning the overall competition, Phills also won the competition in the middleweight class.