Former collegiate swimmer Riley Gaines is set to testify before Congress on Dec. 5 in her efforts to bar men who identify as women from competing in women’s sports.
Meanwhile, rumors have been circulating on social media that she won a $1.2 million settlement in a lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“That’s fake,” she told The Epoch Times in an interview preceding her appearance in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Nov. 30 for a speaking engagement at a California Family Council event. “There’s a bunch of fake articles that have been going around. I’m in some active litigation right now around some other issues, but no I haven’t filed a lawsuit against the NCAA.”
Nor has she filed a lawsuit against Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer formerly named William Thomas who has competed as a man and was awarded the first place trophy in the women’s 500 yard (457 meter) freestyle race in the NCAA championship in May 2022.
Ms. Gaines has stated that amending Title IX would allow politicians and radical gender idealogues to undermine the statute’s intent by allowing females to be displaced by males who identify as women, sending a message to women and girls that they don’t matter.
The proposed amendments are vague and don’t define fairness, transgender, gender identity, or women, she said.
Moment of TruthMs. Gaines, a six-time record setter at the University of Kentucky and three-time NCAA championship and U.S. Olympic qualifier, was slighted in an NCAA Women’s Championship competition in 2022 when she competed against Lia Thomas in the 200-meter freestyle. Even though the two tied for fifth place, Ms. Gaines claims an NCAA official told her he had been advised that when photos were being taken, it was crucial that the transgender swimmer hold the trophy, not her. Ms. Gaines claims she was allowed to pose with the trophy, but that it would be given to her competitor.
“That was everything I needed to hear,” she said.
It wasn’t about the trophy but the principle behind it, she said.
While she was on stage, she realized she couldn’t go along with the celebration of males competing in women’s sports.
“We were smiling; we were clapping,” she said. “We were applauding our own erasure, our own demolition. And it hit me in that moment, how in the world can we expect someone else to jump in and save us if we weren’t even willing to save ourselves?”
It was then that she realized the fight to save women’s sports had to come from women athletes.
“We have to be willing to take a stand and make sacrifices. And, so that’s when I decided it would be me,” she said. “I felt compelled. I felt responsible. I felt ashamed for going along with this farce.”
Ms. Gaines said in the interview she won’t use the terms “biological man” or “trans woman,” and prefers to stick to words “that are rooted in science,” like male and female.
Courage and CommitmentAfter a year-and-half-long battle, Ms. Gaines, now 23, said the pushback from transgender activists was intimidating when she began to speak publicly.
“The backlash, at least at first, was a big deterrent for me, and I think that’s what continues to keep a lot of people silent because we do live in this cancel culture where you’re deemed an oppressor or a bigot, or transphobic. I get called a white supremacist, a racist, a domestic terrorist, a fascist,” she said. “At first, that was scary, until I realized that it was merely name calling. It wasn’t ever rooted in substance.”
“The “incredible support” she’s received from family and friends, teammates, coaches, and her husband has helped her remain strong.
“That’s been a big help, but I think the most important component to keeping me grounded is my faith,” she said. “We already know who wins because the Bible tells us that, and so having that in mind keeps me able to do this with a smile on my face. I don’t feel weighed down. I don’t feel heavy when I know the outcome.”
Ms. Gaines sees her battle as “spiritual warfare,” she said.
“It’s about moral versus evil, and this isn’t me saying that trans individuals are evil,” she said. “But, I am saying deceit is evil and I am saying manipulation is evil.”
Ms. Gaines said she thinks about her sister and the next generation, as well as the women who came before her who fought relentlessly for Title IX.
“That’s why I fight,” she said.
Ms. Gaines said she plans to move “full steam ahead” in her fight for policies to protect women’s sports and women’s spaces at the federal level and in all 50 states, and will go wherever she’s needed to win that battle.
“Why I feel so passionately and defend this so fiercely is because I understand it’s a lot bigger than just women’s sports,” she said. “We’re denying objective truth, and that’s a pretty chilling thought. You can look through history and know what that means for other civilizations who start to do that, like China, Cuba, Russia, North Korea, Germany or Venezuela, [and] the list goes on.”
She even put a secure career path in dentistry on hold to answer what she believes is a spiritual calling.
“Ultimately, God had different plans which has been very evident, and I’m only trying to follow His path,” she said. “I’ve had my eyes opened in a lot of ways ... but certainly, it’s been a spiritual awakening for me as well.”
Ballot InitiativeMs. Gaines said she fully backs a California ballot initiative launched by a coalition of parental rights and child advocacy groups called Protect Kids California that would prohibit males identifying as females from competing in girls’ sports, require schools to notify parents if their child changes his or her gender identity, and prevent child sterilization and genital mutilation by banning the use of puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgery on minors.
Freedom of SpeechSophia Lorey, a California Family Council outreach director, told attendees about her recent experience at a public library in Davis, Calif., where she was censored for speaking out about protecting women’s and girls’ sports and their privacy.
She says her right to free speech was violated when at the beginning of her speech a librarian accused her of “misgendering” transgender athletes for saying men don’t belong in women’s sports and shut down the event.
Ms. Lorey told council supporters that children, biblical values, truth, and basic biology are under attack in California and said she is honored to stand with Ms. Gaines and other women who are standing up to protect women’s and girls’ sports as well as keep men out of women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.
Jonathan Keller, California Family Council president, recognized about 20 individuals for standing up for traditional family and Christian values that include opposing gender ideology in schools and so-called “gender-affirming care” at the Christian fellowship group’s 20th anniversary celebration on Nov. 30.
The council is one of 40 family policy councils—limited to one per state—in the nation.
“Our vision,” he said, “is God’s people living as principled citizens of both heaven and earth” with a mission that means “being biblically faithful, civically responsible and culturally impactful.”
Those recognized were Gina Gleason, executive director of Real Impact Ministry at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, California Assemblyman Bill Essayli (R-Corona), Orange County Board of Education President Mari Barke, Chino Valley Unified School Board President Sonja Shaw, Erin Friday of Our Duty, Brenda Lebsack of Brenda4Kids, Nicole Pearson of Facts Law Truth Justice, Karen Roseberry of Care Net Women’s Resource Center, and Greg Burt, the organization’s vice president, among others.