‘Gaslit into silence’: Swimmer Riley Gaines explains why she spoke out against Lia Thomas and trans athletes


Amy DeLaura, Field Producer – for the Washington Examiner

February 14, 2023 08:29 AM

Transgender people in sports have begun to populate the high school and collegiate sports arena. The Washington Examiner spoke to one college athlete who went up against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas and tied in a race. She was too scared to speak out about her experience — until now.

“Honestly, I’m speaking out now because I was that person who was looking for someone else to look up to for hope and encouragement when I was on the verge of speaking out,” said Riley Gaines, a 12-time NCAA All-American swimmer for the University of Kentucky. “When we weren’t seeing that, it kind of hit me. If we, as women, were not willing to stick up for ourselves, how can we expect someone else to?”

Gaines swam against Lia Thomas , a biological man who spent the first three years as a college swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania men’s swim team. Thomas came back for the final year as a female swimmer and began breaking records in the pool . During the year Thomas was swimming, no one heard from the other female swimmers about how they felt about a man joining their competition, locker rooms, and award podiums.

“I thought surely there would be someone, whether that be a coach, or another swimmer, or someone within the NCAA, I thought surely someone would stick up for us,” said Gaines, who is now using her voice as a spokeswoman for the Independent Women’s Forum . “That’s when I realized it’s my duty as a female athlete who experienced this injustice to really use my voice and my platform to advocate for those female athletes who are emotionally blackmailed and gaslit into silence.”

But the most traumatic part was Thomas joining the female swimmers in the women’s locker room. The women didn’t want Thomas there but were too scared to speak out. Gaines said it took all the women by storm and was a complete distraction from the meet. Having a naked man in the locker room felt like a violation and destroyed the women’s mental focus before the competition.

“You have someone with male genitalia pulling his pants down, watching you as you undress. It throws you off,” said Gaines.

President Joe Biden has come out publicly in support of allowing transgender people the right to choose to use the bathroom they identify with. Biden is also actively trying to rewrite Title IX in order to include the rights of transgender youth in sports. Gaines said this is dangerous.

NCAA Convention
Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines speaks at a rally on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, outside of the NCAA Convention in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)Darren Abate/AP

“This is not just sports. This is happening with the education system, prisons, locker rooms, and changing spaces for women,” Gaines said, claiming Biden’s inability to acknowledge the feelings of biological women in order to appease the transgender community is misogynistic.

Gaines actually tied with Thomas in a 200 freestyle race. However, there was only one trophy. The NCAA official informed Gaines the trophy is going to be given to Thomas simply because they want Thomas to be holding the trophy in all the photos.

“In that moment, I felt like we, as women, were being mocked. We were being reduced to a photo op to validate the feelings and the identity of a man,” said Gaines.

When the University of Kentucky announced Gaines would be their nominee for NCAA Woman of the Year, she was thrilled for this recognition of all her hard work.

“But then, when the NCAA released the full list, I see Lia Thomas was nominated also for Woman of the Year , which totally devalued the award for me,” Gaines said, adding that the fact Thomas was even nominated over all the other female UPenn swimmers is a “slap in face.”

“This is looking at them and telling them they don’t matter. They are simply there to make sure this biological man gets their awards, gets their respect, and gets validation from them,” said Gaines.

Gaines said she feels the glamorization of transgenderism and pushing gender ideology in schools and media happened so quickly over subliminal messaging.

“How did our elected leaders let this happen? Regardless of where they fall in the political spectrum, what mother, what father wants their little daughter, their little son to be in a school where they’re being confused at the age of 6 years old, in kindergarten, about their identity? They’re being taught their sexuality. They don’t even know their ABCs,” said Gaines.

She added, “I feel like we’re living in a godless society.”

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