Who would have ever thought, even 10 years ago, that one of the most contentious battles in American culture would be over whether biological men can compete in women’s sporting events? It sounds like a scene out of Mike Judge’s 2006 film “Idiocracy,” but this is where we are today as a society.
The issue peaked at the height of the news cycle in 2022 when college swimmer William “Lia” Thomas made national headlines by sprinting away from his female competitors and winning the NCAA national championship. This win, of course, came not long after he decided to “identify” as a female. Thomas ranked 462nd in the men’s swimming division prior to his “transition” to the female division, where he quickly claimed the No. 1 spot. Mainstream American media flaunted Thomas and his championship as a major win for equality, while the women who lost their chances to shine and suffered from the unjust arrangement were ignored.
From this cultural crime scene in women’s sports came a voice of reason. Riley Gaines, a University of Kentucky swimmer who was both an Olympic qualifier and an All-American, became one of the very first to speak up. In a different event, Gaines actually tied for first with Thomas but was relegated to second-place honors during the podium ceremony.
Gaines felt the call to speak up about the injustices that were being done to the women she swam with, telling Liberty University’s Vice President of Communications Ryan Helfenbein on the “Give Me Liberty” podcast that she “was done waiting for someone to speak up about it.”
“Whether it had been a coach or someone within the NCAA or someone with political power, I thought, ‘surely someone;’ but once this instance happened, I realized, if we as female athletes aren’t willing to stick up for ourselves, why should we expect other people to?”
Her message made frontline news as she quickly became a hero for women in sports who also found themselves at an unfair disadvantage. In very short order, Gaines grew in popularity — not because of her righteous anger but because of her logical defense of what is right. In interviews and during congressional hearings, her voice was calm and coherent — a sharp contrast to the progressives whose defense of men in women’s sports is marked by vitriol and autocratic silencing.
“I think these people think, ‘This is progressive,’ you know, ‘we’re moving forward,’ but what this is doing is taking us back 50-plus years before Title IX,” she relayed to Helfenbein. “Title IX was created to ensure equal opportunities for women. So this isn’t something that’s taking us forward; this is taking us half a century back. We’re taking away the rights of females. It’s truly insanity. That’s really the only word I can use to describe it.”
Gaines wasn’t just concerned about the injustice taking place in the pool and on the field. There was also the issue of the locker room, where she and other female athletes were expected to change clothes, shower, and use the bathroom in the presence of Thomas, a fully intact male who unashamedly walked around in a state of undress.
According to Gaines, as reported by “Liberty Champion,” an NCAA official told her that the facility established unisex locker rooms to avoid regulations and allow a man in the women’s space. No one warned Gaines or any of her teammates about the arrangement, but any man was now free to walk into their locker room without consequence.
“It felt like belittlement, and it felt like betrayal,” Gaines said.
As her profile grew, Gaines put off her plan to attend dental school and instead began traveling across the U.S. to champion the rights of women in sports. But on April 6, 2023, at a speaking event at San Francisco State University, Gaines was attacked and held hostage for hours by violent LGBTQ activists, who demanded that she pay them in order to secure her safety. By the grace of God, Gaines escaped with minor injuries after taking shelter for multiple hours.
Despite the adversity she’s faced in a very short time, Riley Gaines is a beacon of light for young girls who desire to become career athletes, compete at the collegiate level, or simply play sports on a level field. Despite threats and physical violence and outright oppression by the NCAA and LGBTQ activists, she has remained firm in her quest to relay the truth. As many Southerners like to say, her best offense is a good defense. The defense of her position is rooted in logical, biblical verity, and it is through this that she has been able to continue championing the rights of women in sports.
And Gaines would be correct. When it comes to the biggest cultural issues of the day, we can rest in the fact that the Lord is on His throne and He will one day return to make all things new — even as we all follow Gaines’ example by refusing to be afraid, standing up for the vulnerable and against injustice, and speaking the truth.
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