Swimmer who competed against Lia Thomas recounts ‘discomfort in the locker room’

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Mary Katherine Ham speaks at a June 23, 2022 rally opposing transgender biological males from competing in women’s sports categories Credit: Jeremiah Poff / Washington Examiner

Swimmer who competed against Lia Thomas recounts ‘discomfort in the locker room’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Riley Gaines, a swimmer at the University of Kentucky who swam against transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, described seeing “tears” and “discomfort” in the locker room at a Thursday rally commemorating Title IX.

The “Our Bodies Our Sports” rally was organized by the Independent Women’s Forum, in conjunction with numerous conservative organizations, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Title IX and featured speeches from numerous female athletes who had been forced to compete in collegiate sports against biological males who identified as women.

The issue has gained significant national attention in recent months after Thomas, a biological male who identifies as a woman, finished first in several NCAA swimming events while competing in the women’s division.


In an interview with the Washington Examiner, Gaines said her experience swimming against Thomas motivated her to speak out.

“Being at that meet, seeing firsthand, not just in terms of height, but just jumping off the starting block, Thomas is [already] about half a length ahead, feeling how it affected everyone else, including myself, seeing the tears and seeing the discomfort in the locker room, the talk of anger and frustration was just majorly eye-opening,” Gaines said. “That’s when I kind of realized this is something I’m passionate about, and this is something I feel I should speak out about.”


Gaines told the Washington Examiner that allowing biological men to compete against women is “unfair and wrong” to transgender individuals because they are going through “an identity crisis” and criticized the Biden administration’s newly proposed regulation expanding Title IX protections to include gender identity and sexual orientation.

“I think this completely undoes all the work that has been done the past 50 years in terms of developing Title IX and getting women equal opportunities,” Gaines said. “This is just a complete 180, and so my message to [the Biden administration] is to open their eyes and realize what this actually is.”

The rally also featured remarks by former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who first introduced the Protect Women’s Sports Act in Congress, which would have required athletes to compete based on their biological sex rather than gender identity.

“It’s the height of hypocrisy that, as we stand here on that 50th anniversary [of Title IX], we hear different loud voices proclaiming they are feminist and they are champions of women, and yet, they’re the very ones who are simultaneously trying to erase the fact that women even exist,” Gabbard told the Washington Examiner. “I think it is important for us as a country to stand with these young athletes, who are courageously speaking the truth about their biological differences between men and women. Title IX’s intent was to create that fair and level playing field for women and girls across the board, and it’s critical for us to stand up and protect that.”

Gabbard, a member of the Democratic Party, didn’t shy away from criticizing the Biden administration’s approach to the issue, calling it “disturbing” that the administration “has chosen to reject the objective reality of the biological differences between men and women.”


“What I see are a lot of folks, both in Washington and on television, who are fearful and who refuse to recognize biology and the truth,” Gabbard said. “It would be laughable if there were no consequences, but there are very real consequences that we are already seeing play out across the country, which is why it’s so critical that Congress take action to stop this insanity now.”

At one point during the rally, a small cohort of counterprotesters attempted to drown out the event with noisemakers, including a siren, but they eventually left after minimal success.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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