Four current and former female athletes spoke in favor of a House Republican-led bill that would amend Title IX to prohibit male athletes from participating in women’s sports.
Republican Florida Rep. Greg Steube introduced the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act on Wednesday. The legislation counters a Biden administration legal interpretation and defines biological sex as “based solely on a person’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth.” He proposed a similar bill in the 117th Congress.
Former University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, Lee University volleyball player Macy Petty, former North Dakota State University high jumper Margo Knorr, and former high school tennis player Chloe Satterfield argued at a round-table event that the legislation would protect educational and athletic opportunities for female athletes and keep them physically safe.
Gaines, a six-time All-American, told reporters and Republican lawmakers that “no one has asked us how we felt” about having to compete against Lia Thomas, a biological male swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania. Gaines and Thomas tied for fifth place in the 2022 NCAA championship’s 200-meter freestyle race.
Gaines testified that Thomas then received a trophy “for photo purposes” while she received her own trophy in the mail later. (RELATED: Female Athletes Demand NCAA Protect Women’s Sports Outside Annual Convention)
Thomas competed for three years on the Penn men’s swimming team, never ranking higher than 462nd in the country. In the women’s division, Thomas won the 500 meter freestyle at the NCAA championship, defeating three Olympians.
“Your fastest sprinter is also your fastest miler in the country? That’s not normal,” Gaines said. “You saw how average Will was,” she added, using Thomas’ birth name.
Petty explained that female athletes are more likely to be injured when competing against biological males, citing an incident in which a biological male volleyball player spiked a ball so hard off of a female opponent that she suffered severe head and neck injuries.
“They said it’s not a real issue, just something to be upset at,” Petty said of her detractors. “This is not just about educational opportunities, this is a safety concern.” (RELATED: Lia Thomas’ Opponent Says Women Were Told To ‘Seek Counseling’ If Uncomfortable With Changing In Front Of A Male)
Although red states are gradually passing legislation to prohibit biological male athletes from participating in women’s sports, Knorr said that many legislators were caught off guard by the phenomenon. Thomas’ status as the first high-profile transgender athlete has lawmakers to take the issue seriously, she argued. Republican
“They were waiting for Lia Thomas to come along” before acting, Knorr said. “Hopefully North Dakota can make a difference for girls in our state.” North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum vetoed a ban on men participating in women’s sports in 2021, and the state legislature is taking up the issue again.
Transgender athletes were already beginning to compete at the high school level and younger even before Thomas, Satterfield added. She testified that she had played tennis against a biological male competitor her senior year of high school, and the match was not close.
“I had trained in a private academy my whole life, so I knew what it looked like when a male stepped onto the court. Those differences are immensely obvious when you start competing,” she said. “We show a little sympathy for them. At the end of the day this is not about hatred … but about protecting our rights as biological women so we can pursue our passions.”
Five congressional Republicans also appeared at the roundtable, including Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.
“It’s a sad day in America when we have to introduce a bill saying that men will play on men’s teams and women will play on women’s teams,” McCarthy said, reading a statement from Steube. Steube recently fell off a ladder while doing household chores, and has been recuperating at home in Florida.
“When we can’t be honest about the real issue, and use the right words to say what it is, we can’t stop it,” Greene added.