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Riley Gaines: Female Swimmers Were ‘Forced’ to Share a Locker Room With a Biological Man

On Wednesday, former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines spoke at a Senate Judiciary hearing where she shared alarming details about competing against Will “Lia” Thomas and sharing a locker room with him.


The hearing, called “Protecting Pride: Defending the Civil Rights of LGBTQ+ Americans,” Gaines explained in her opening testimony that she, along with the other female swimmers, were forced by the NCAA to share a locker room with Thomas, a biological male. Thomas competed on the men’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania for three years before joining the women’s team. When he began competing against women, he robbed them of awards and opportunities. 

“The NCAA forced me and my female swimmers to share a locker room with Thomas,” Gaines said, her voice shaking. “A 6’4’ 22-year-old male equipped with and exposing male genitalia. Let me be clear about this. We were not forewarned we would be sharing a locker room. No one asked for our consent and we did not give our consent…you’re undressing, you’re fully exposed, and we were forced to take off our swimsuits in front of a man who was doing the exact same thing,” Gaines said, adding that some have been “traumatized” by this experience.

In an exchange with GOP Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Gaines said “for me, it was so easy for them [NCAA, coaches] to dismiss our [female swimmers’] rights to privacy.” 

“Sen. Durbin, in your opening statement, you had mentioned this rhetoric…you had mentioned that ‘what message does it send to trans individuals?’ And comeback to that is ‘what message does this send to women? To young girls who are denied of these opportunities, so easily, their rights to privacy and safety thrown out of the window to protect a small population, protect one group as long as they’re happy? What about us? That was the overall general consensus of how we all felt in that locker room,” Gaines said.


Gaines also recounted how she was surrounded by a mob at San Francisco State University who threatened her and held her for ransom. 

“They demanded that I had to pay them money if I wanted to make it home to see my family safe again,” she explained. 

Hawley later asked, "you're told as a woman to shut up. Don't say anything. What's that like?"

"They will call you everything under the sun, whether it's transphobic, homophobic, racist, white supremacist, domestic terrorist,” Gaines said. “They [transgender advocates] will throw them all at you in hopes to deter you!"

In the hearing, Gaines also pointed out that Serena Williams and Venus Williams, two of the greatest female tennis players, lost to a male athlete. This came after Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, said that Serena Williams is “stronger than them [male athletes].”

“There’s been this news article about men that think that they could beat Serena Williams in tennis, right? That they think they could actually score a point on her. And it’s just not the case. She’s stronger than them,” Robinson boasted. 


“Both Serena and Venus lost to the 203rd ranked male tennis player,” Gaines responded.

“Science and common sense confirm that males have a physical advantage over females — that’s why they compete separately in sports,” Nicki Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, wrote. “Sex-segregated sports gives female athletes opportunities and protects their safety while competing.”

Last week, Gaines called out White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre over remarks she made about transgender athletes competing in women’s sports. At a press briefing, Jean-Pierre claimed that it’s “dangerous” for people to think that male athletes should not be competing against women. 

“What would the administration say to parents out there, who have daughters, in high school for example, who are worried that their daughter may have to compete against a male, or a person born male, and there could be directly, physical athletic competition, and worry about their daughters safety?” a reporter in the White House briefing room asked. 

“What you’re alluding to is basically saying that transgender kids are dangerous. It sounds like that’s what you’re saying…you’re saying that their [female athletes] safety is at risk…you’re laying out a broad example of explanation of what could potentially happen…that is dangerous. That is a dangerous thing to thing, that essentially, transgender kids, we’re talking about, are dangerous,” Jean-Pierre said, not answering the question at hand.


Gaines responded to Jean-Pierre’s claims on Twitter. 

“When they say ‘inclusion’, just know they really mean ‘exclusion’,” she wrote. “The message this sends to ALL women is that our safety doesn’t matter. Nor does our privacy, our fairness, our equal opportunities, or our dignity.” 

In February, during a Q&A at the U.S. Capitol, Gaines got emotional while explaining that female athletes were forced to share a locker room with Thomas last year.

“No one has asked us how we felt. We exist to validate a male’s identity,” Gaines said. “It is just so wild that you can turn around and see a 6’4" biological man pull his pants down, watching you undress and no one is willing to stick up for you?”

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