Feb. 1 marks the 37th annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which celebrates the achievements and progression in women’s athletics since the implementation of Title IX. In the past few years, however, women’s sports have been threatened, as male-bodied “transgender” athletes have made their way onto women’s sports teams, and in some cases, even into their locker rooms.
One athlete, Riley Gaines, competed against Will “Lia” Thomas, a biological male athlete who began identifying as a transgender woman during college. Thomas competed on the men’s swim team for three years at the University of Pennsylvania. But, senior year, Thomas began competing on the women’s swim team and crushed women in races. At the NCAA championships, Thomas and Gaines, who attended the University of Kentucky, tied in a race, but Thomas was permitted to take home the trophy. Gaines left empty handed.
On this year’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Gaines spoke with Townhall about her experience competing against a male-bodied athlete and what’s at stake now that the Biden administration wants to rewrite Title IX to allow “sex” to include the concept of “gender identity.”
“Within the past year, in terms of progress, there has not been a clear solution to the problem [of transgender athletes] at hand. There has still been an influx of biological men competing in women’s sports,” Gaines said. Now, she is the Stand with Women spokeswoman at the Independent Women’s Forum.
"I think the Lia Thomas situation, bringing this to the national stage, opened a door. People see an opportunity when they see this, and they’re willing to take advantage of it. At the expense of, of course, female athletes,” she said.
In June, I spoke with Gaines at a rally hosted by IWF to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX. On this day, the Biden administration unveiled proposed changes to Title IX to allow “sex” to encompass the concept of “gender identity.” This change, Gaines and several other athletes told me, would erase women, which the legislation was designed to protect.
In her remarks to Townhall, Gaines noted that allowing male-bodied athletes in women’s sports could rob women of even more opportunities in the future, such as spots on highly competitive sports teams, as well as scholarships.
“If this continues, it’s a slippery slope. It’s truly only a matter of time before one transgender athlete winning a national title in the women’s category becomes three and five and 10 and so on,” Gaines explained. “I think truthfully it will become…the integrity of women’s sports will be lost.”
Gaines pointed out that National Girls and Women in Sports Day has always “acknowledged women, on the basis of sex, for their hard work, their triumphs, and their success, everything they’ve endured to be female athletes.” This year, she said, the holiday feels different, given what she experienced in swimming last year.
“This year, it doesn’t feel the same,” she acknowledged. “It feels grim, it feels like we’re not actually honoring women, we’re honoring anyone who says they’re a woman, which at this rate, anyone can do.”
“I feel like we’ve lost the plot of what this day was actually supposed to be celebrating,” Gaines continued. “All 50 states need to pass some sort of fairness in women’s sports act, ensuring the safety, ensuring the fairness, ensuring the privacy for women's sports…this would include keeping Title IX as its intended purpose, which is, of course, not to discriminate on the basis of sex.”
Later that day, Gaines spoke on a panel moderated by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) with other female athletes who’ve competed against male-bodied athletes. During the panel, Gaines became emotional explaining how Thomas’ female teammates were told to share a locker room with him, which Townhall covered. At the time, one of Thomas’ teammates told a reporter that Thomas still had male genitalia and was still attracted to women.
This video speaks for itself.‼️When female athletes questioned having to share a locker room with a biological male, they were gaslit into thinking they should seek counseling.@Riley_Gaines_ shares an emotional testimony on Capitol Hill on National Girls & Women in Sports Day. pic.twitter.com/Rhs97Fu8qy— Independent Women's Forum (@IWF) February 1, 2023
Margo Knorr runs the North Dakota facet of the Independent Women’s Network. In an interview, Knorr told Townhall that she is working to get ahead of the issue of transgender athletes in women’s sports before it impacts her state. And, in 2021, Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed a bill that would have protected women’s sports.
“These women are faced with an issue of privacy, safety, where anybody can claim they’re a female, that’s a male, and they [women] feel bullied into letting them in,” Knorr explained. Knorr was recruited out of high school to play sports in college.
“We are in situation where we don’t face the issue necessarily in North Dakota, but preemptively, seeing what’s happening to Riley and others…I think if I had competed against a male I wouldn’t have been able to do all of the things that I was able to do,” Knorr added.
Megan Burke, a two-time NCAA track champion, runs the Independent Women’s Network in Colorado. In an interview with Townhall, Burke said she recently started her chapter and put the issue of protecting women’s sports at the forefront.
“Our chapter is pushing to meet with congressmen and people in Colorado to push a bill forward [to protect women’s sports]...making sure that Title IX is held up and that biological women are who is competing in women’s sports, to make it fair, safe, and to not rob women or girls of an opportunity to compete,” she said. “We’re stripping that from young girls and women. And, in the name of inclusivity, they’re excluding women, females, and girls, in our own sports.”
Burke pointed out that sports are also about winning, and the “slippery slope” could continue to the point where biological males who identify as transgender could be recruited for women’s sports teams, because they have “bigger muscles, bigger lung capacity, higher bone density and no amount of hormone suppressant is going to change that.”
“And guess what? They’re going to get all the female records and we’re never going to be able to get them back,” she explained. “We need to step up and we need to advocate.”
To commemorate National Girls and Women in Sports Day, Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) reintroduced the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act,” a bill which amends Title IX to strengthen protections for women in sports. The legislation makes clear that allowing biological males to rob women of accolades, scholarships, spots at a school, etc. is discriminatory and illegal, according to the IWF Law Center.
“The Steube bill was filed this morning, which was phenomenal,” Gaines said of the legislation. “It upholds title IX the way it was supposed to be upheld.”
“I think it’s great that we now have a majority in the House,” she concluded, adding that it should “provide people with hope on this issue.”