Britain’s ‘strongest lesbian couple’ on fighting bigotry and ‘breaking down barriers’ for women
Britain’s “strongest lesbian couple” may have pulled a 48-tonne plane together, but say one of their biggest battles is against “keyboard warriors” as they work to make space for LGBTQ+ people in weightlifting.
Sam Taylor and Sue Taylor-Franklin hope their presence in weightlifting will change people’s perceptions of women doing strength sports.
But they’re subjected to online abuse for simply being strong. Sam and Sue tell PinkNews that while succeeding in weightlifting they are often subjected to nasty comments from people online, with some people “often misgendering” them.
“I think there is a stigma that goes with being a strong woman. We look different, you know, we’re muscular and that’s our choice,” says Sue, who holds a world silver dollar record for deadlifting 300kgs from an 18 inch height.
“You don’t have to take it to the extreme, but we have because we’re not small people anyway.”
‘Sadly we’re used to it’
Their impressive strength has seen Sam and Sue featured in the BBC’s Our Lives series, where viewers get insight into their world of weightlifting.
Following the airing of Our Lives, the couple said they received some “nasty comments comparing them to men”.
“Even the most feminine people in the sport will get comments… they say horrendous things,” says Sam, who holds the title of the third Strongest Woman in the world for her age category.
“Sadly we’re used to it, but that isn’t right. We’re continually trying to break down those barriers to say you can look how you want and someone else’s opinion of how you look or present yourself is not their business.”
The couple agreed comments tend to come from “keyboard warriors” and thankfully they have never received any abuse in real life.
The couple, who live in Aberdare, South Wales, with their 12-year-old son Ollie, met in 2006 through mutual friends. They initially bonded over their devotion to the gym and in September 2019 tied the knot at Cardiff City Hall.
But the couple haven’t always been into weightlifting, with Sue, now 54, confessing she didn’t lift a weight until she was 50, in April 2018.
She tells PinkNews her sport is great for mental health benefits, getting “endorphins going” and “to challenge yourself”.
Sam started going to the gym in 2016 after a “mental health breakdown” following an abusive relationship.
Both have experienced domestic abuse in previous relationships.
“Abuse can take place in every relationship and there needs to be more awareness on the subject, and it’s not just an issue of heterosexual couples,” says Sam.
Sue adds: “It does need to be recognised and from my experience I’ve never had a heterosexual relationship that ended in violence, but I have with same-sex coupling.”
Sam tells PinkNews the gym was her “coping mechanism” after her experience and something she could do on her own.
“Initially I started going to the gym for my mental health. As time has gone on and we’ve become more in the public eye it’s become definitely an opportunity to break down barriers for people, so different communities are coming into the gym and lifting.
“We hope that people under the LGBTQ+ umbrella look at us and think if they can go lift weights so can I.”
Sometimes, while competing, the couple go head to head, which has seen them become the first married couple to do so in a world competition.
They train together three to four times a week and are now preparing to win new titles.
Next year they will take on a double Guinness World Record attempt – on which they’re staying tight-lipped – and they’ll also compete again in the World’s Strongest Woman competition in Florida.
They already hold the Guinness World Record for pulling a 48-tonne AirBus A320.
The couple describe being featured in BBC documentary, We Are Strong Women, “the chance of a lifetime” – even if it was hard work.
“They want to film you do one lift, and you do it wrong, you have to do it again and again until it’s right,” says Sue.
“But it was great fun and we got to do it together so it was a laugh.”
“We wanted to promote positivity and try to inspire others to show you can really hit rock bottom but then get on. Also to show it’s OK to be yourself.”
Sam said the BBC documentary provided them with the chance to help others in the LGBTQ+ community, who might be struggling to be themselves.
“If they can see us and it changes their life in any sort of way then we’re happy and that’s what we set out to do,” she said.
Sam and Sue began filming their own feature length documentary last year, and edit should be complete by next February, with the pair promising it will provide some “hard-hitting” viewing.
They also hope to open up their home gym to transgender people who would like a safe place to learn weightlifting.
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