Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines delivered a passionate opening statement at the Senate hearing on “Protecting Pride: Defending the Civil Rights of LGBTQ+ Americans.” Gaines, known for her accomplishments in college swimming, confronted Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin, a Democrat, for accusing Republicans of promoting “hateful rhetoric” when discussing the rights of transgender youth. Gaines, appearing as a witness, challenged Durbin’s assertion and highlighted the concerns of biological women and girls who face disadvantages when competing against transgender athletes.
Gaines expressed her disagreement with Durbin’s characterization, emphasizing the impact on women and young girls who are denied opportunities in sports. She questioned the prioritization of one group’s happiness at the expense of others’ rights to privacy and safety. Her remarks reflected the sentiments shared by many female athletes who feel their concerns are disregarded and their rights compromised.
In response, Durbin argued that there is no evidence to suggest that transgender women outperform those assigned female at birth. He pointed out that, despite allowing transgender athletes to compete since 2004, no transgender female athlete has won an Olympic medal in women’s sports. Durbin also mentioned that a non-binary athlete assigned female at birth won a medal in women’s soccer in 2021.
Gaines attended the hearing as an advocate for biological female athletes, drawing from her own experience competing against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas during her time at the University of Kentucky. Her presence and testimony brought attention to the concerns of female athletes who believe that allowing transgender students to participate in sports based on their self-identified gender creates an uneven playing field.
Gaines’ participation in the hearing highlighted the conservative perspective on transgender inclusion in sports, emphasizing the importance of fairness and equal opportunities for biological females. Her remarks served as a reminder that the debate on transgender rights encompasses a range of perspectives, including those who believe that protecting the integrity of women’s sports should be a priority.