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A symbol of strength: Transgender Austin weightlifter speaks out against new Texas law

Angel Flores knows what it's like to carry the weight of the world. She says without access to sports, she wouldn't have been able to stay strong.

AUSTIN, Texas — Take one step inside Liberation Barbell Club (LBC) and you'll see strength everywhere you look.

For some, the weights represent more than a workout. For some, they represent the weight of the world.

Angel Flores, 22, has been carrying that burden for most of her life.

"This thought hovering of, 'I'm not like these other people. I'm different. I need to switch something. Something needs to change,'" Flores said.

But a few years ago, that burden turned to beauty.

"I was driving down home to San Antonio, listening to a podcast, and one of the hosts actually comes out as trans on the podcast. And as she's talking, I'm listening and things just start to resonate," Flores said. "I was raised a boy up until about 20 years old. It's almost like there's a fog in your brain and the wires were crossed and now they're uncrossed, and it's like the world is just amazing."

The transition, however, wasn't easy.

"'What if I go to the grocery store and get hate crimed?' These are all things trans people think on a daily basis," she said.

Flores relied on sports and the power she felt while powerlifting.

"This is a safe space," said Laurie Porsch, the owner of LBC.

Porsch met Flores in the summer of 2020.

"She was a little uncomfortable in her own skin. Understandably so, given that she was beginning a hormonal transition," Porsch said.

"Really, my only outlet was athletics," Flores said. "Being able to come in and play sports and really fall in love with my body all over again."

"Throughout the last year-and-a-half, I have just truly seen her blossom. She is so much more confident. She's confident in her own skin. She's confident in her stances on things. She's really taken on the role of being an activist," Porsch said.

Flores is both an activist and an advocate, which means speaking out against a new Texas law, House Bill 25. The law requires transgender student-athletes to play on sports teams based on their sex assigned at their birth.

"It's harmful to everybody. Not just to us," Flores said. "To introduce legislation that takes away those benefits, that community, those resources from a whole population of kids – and especially kids that are already struggling with their identity issues, are already struggling trying to figure out who they are – it's very upsetting."

Flores said she's one of the lucky ones, having had access to sports in high school, college and now at her home gym.

Her message to the trans kids now affected by the law is to stay strong – a message that now has a bigger platform and a louder microphone thanks to her appearance on the hit Netflix series, "Queer Eye."

"I truly believe that now that I've found my true self and now that I've found my true place in the world and I know who I am and what I want to do, that I can tackle anything that comes my way," Flores said.

Her goal is to be a symbol of strength, not just by lifting weights but by lifting others.

"I want to be able to spread that to everybody around me and everybody around the world," she said.

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