Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines was chased, threatened, and held hostage in a room for three hours while a mob of leftist students raged outside, but it’s trans-identifying “children” who are “in danger,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told her. That was just one of the staggering statements made by Democrats in a Wednesday hearing full of phony victimhood. And judging by the Left’s desperation, they won’t be the last.
While Americans continue to put the hurt on pro-trans companies, Joe Biden’s party is right to worry that the script may have permanently flipped. In a nod to the defense the Left is now playing, the Senate Judiciary Committee hosted “Protecting Pride: Defending the Civil Rights of LGBTQ+ Americans” to sound the alarm on the shifting opinions of the country.
Some of the most dramatic moments centered around girls’ sports, where the Republicans’ witness, Gaines, expertly gutted the Left’s arguments. In an exchange with Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), she recounted the nightmare at San Francisco University earlier this year where students surrounded her and demanded a ransom “if I ever wanted to make it home to see my family again.” “I’m totally fine with people protesting,” she explained. “It’s their right to protest. But what I’m not fine with is when it does turn violent in the way that it did, because protesters afterwards, they rushed into the room, they turned off the lights, they rushed to the front. [We] were assaulted.”
Hawley acknowledged that the former NCAA All-American has been the target of “unbelievable amounts of abuse … intimidation, threats of violence.” He asked her to explain why. She said she believes it’s because she’s refused to take the erasure of women and girls lying down. “If we do speak up… they will call you everything under the sun — whether it’s transphobic, homophobic, racist, white supremacist, domestic terrorists. They will throw them all at you in hopes to deter you and hopes to silence you.”
For Gaines, who competed against male swimmer Lia Thomas, there was no other option. Apart from the injustice of competing — and losing — to a biological male, the things she and others were forced to endure in the locker room were demeaning and cruel.
“You were talking about just the incredible surprise, shall I say to put it gently, of finding a biological man, a 6-foot-4 biological man, in your locker room and having to accept that without being asked about it, without being told about it even,” Hawley said. “What was that like for you?”
Gaines explained that the girls “only became aware we would be undressing next to a man when we had to see a man undressing while we were simultaneously undressing.” An NCAA official told the women that Thomas was allowed because of a rule change that made the spaces “unisex.”
“And so I’m thinking to myself in these brief moments … you acknowledged that we do not share the same sex, first and foremost,” Gaines continued. “Secondly, unisex [means] any man could’ve walked into our locker room, any coach, any official, any man who wanted to would have had full reigns to and bare minimum we weren’t forewarned about it — and that’s the traumatizing part. Of course the experience in and of the locker room itself is traumatizing, but I think for me, it was so easy for them to dismiss our rights to privacy.”
Worse, she shared, Thomas’s teammates at the University of Pennsylvania “were forced every single week to go to mandatory LGBTQ education meetings to learn about how — just by being cisgender — they were oppressing Lia Thomas. They were told that they’re not allowed to take a stance because their school has already taken their stance for them. They were told, ‘You will never get a job,’ ‘You will never get into grad school,’ ‘You will lose your friends,’ ‘You will lose your scholarship and playing time if you speak out.’”
And yet, Durbin’s concern is not for America’s daughters, but for the trans-identifying children who might be listening. “When these young people, who are already struggling, hear … hateful rhetoric that denies their very existence, what message does it send?” he demanded to know.
Gaines took the senator head on. “… [M]y comeback to that is, what message does this send to women, to young girls, who are denied these opportunities? So easily, their rights to privacy and safety [are] thrown out the window to protect a small population, protect one group as long as they’re happy,” she said. “What about us? That is the overall general consensus of how we all felt in that locker room.”
Durbin didn’t answer her questions, instead firing back, “Since reference was made to my earlier statement, I would just like to add something for the record: There is no evidence that transgender athletes are an issue in certain levels of sports.”
Trans activist Kelley Robinson of the Human Rights Campaign tried — but failed — to give Durbin cover. When Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) asked the Democrats’ witness for an example of a woman playing in the NBA, Robinson replied with an incoherent answer about Serena Williams.
“There’s been this news article about men that think they can beat Serena Williams in tennis — that they think they can actually score a point on her,” Robinson said. “And it’s just not the case. She is stronger than them.”
Gaines immediately interjected, “Both Serena and Venus lost to the 203rd-ranked male tennis player.” As Breitbart pointed out, the swimmer was right. The famous sisters were both crushed by Karsten Braasch in 1998, who, at 31, was older than either of them.
More than a decade later, the world’s number one women’s player was open about the fact that women couldn’t measure up to men on the court. “So, if I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose, 6-0, 6-0, in 5 to 6 minutes, maybe 10 minutes,” Serena told David Letterman. When he disagreed, she shook her head. “No, it’s true. It’s a completely different sport. Men are a lot faster, and they serve harder and hit harder, it’s just a different game, and I only want to play girls, I don’t want to be embarrassed …”
And yet, four times Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked Robinson, “Do you believe there’s a difference between men and women?” Four times, the HRC chief refused to answer. “… [L]et me ask you this question then, why do women’s sports exist?” After all, Cruz said, “If you can’t find a difference between women and men, why not abolish women’s sports and just tell little girls to swim with little boys and see who wins?” Robinson replied that there were “many positive benefits to sports.”
Benefits, Gaines insists, that will vanish if the Democrats’ agenda succeeds. “Feminism is not a fluid term,” the swimmer insisted. And an overwhelming number of Americans agree. In an NPR, PBS NewsHour, and Marist poll released the same day as the hearing, 61% of the country — up 10% from May 2022 — agree “defining gender as the sex listed on a person’s original birth certificate is the only way to define male and female in society.”
“The original and the meaning of what it means to be a feminist is to uphold, respect, honor, embrace and celebrate women on our own physical ceilings, our own uniqueness.” No matter what the Left says, Gaines stressed. “That term has not changed.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.
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