The independent student newspaper of Iowa State and Ames since 1890

Iowa State Daily

Iowa State Daily

Iowa State Daily

Riley Gaines shares pro-single-sex spaces message at university lecture series

Riley+Gaines%2C+April+17%2C+2024%2C+Iowa+State+Howe+Hall.
Abigail Wamhoff
Riley Gaines, April 17, 2024, Iowa State Howe Hall.

Former University of Kentucky swimmer and 12-time All-American athlete Riley Gaines spoke in opposition to transgender athletes and about how she felt it is important to have single-sex spaces for female athletes Wednesday. The lecture was co-sponsored by Turning Point USA, the Leadership Institute and the Committee on Lectures.

Gaines, director of the Riley Gaines Center at the Leadership Institute, spoke to audience members about her experience competing against Lia Thomas, a transgender woman and athlete, during the NCAA Division I National Championships in 2022.

Gaines and Thomas tied for fifth in the 200-yard freestyle final, and Thomas was given the fifth-place trophy over Gaines. During her speech, Gaines expressed her frustration with the NCAA’s handling of the trophy ceremony.

“The first thought that I had was, ‘Isn’t this everything that Title IX was passed to prevent from happening?’” Gaines said. “‘What do you mean you’re going to give the trophy to the man in the women’s 200 [freestyle]?’”

Thomas was the first openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I National Championship in the 500 freestyle, an event Gaines did not compete in.

Gaines has been vocal in speaking out against transgender athletes competing in women’s sports since her experience during the 2022 national championships. Gaines and other collegiate athletes have filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, accusing the organization of violating Title IX by allowing Thomas to compete at the national championship. The lawsuit details the athletes’ discomfort with sharing a locker room with Thomas and documents the number of races in which they swam with her.

“[The NCAA] saw absolutely nothing wrong with this,” Gaines said. “About three weeks before our national championships in March of 2022, they announced that Thomas’ participation in the women’s category was a nonnegotiable …We were told we had to accept this with a smile on our face.”

Gaines said she felt uncomfortable sharing a locker room with Thomas.

“You turn around and there’s a 6-foot-4-inch man, [a] 22-year-old man, who is fully intact, fully exposing himself inches away from where you’re simultaneously fully undressed,” Gaines said. “I can wholeheartedly attest to the whispers … of anger and frustration from those girls who, just like myself, have worked our entire lives to get to this.”

Gaines also spoke on the “silencing” she and other athletes experienced with having to participate in sensitivity training regarding pronouns. Gaines said this was an “infringement on our First Amendment rights.”

“The university brought in an outside professional… [who] taught us how to use she/her pronouns,” Gaines said. “She would ask us questions. We had to answer the questions to her standard if we wanted to pass. If we didn’t pass, we would have to rego through the training.”

Later in her speech, Gaines spoke about recent legislation in favor of female athletes’ single-sex spaces.

“Now 24 states have enacted some sort of fairness in women’s sports bill, ultimately protecting sports on the basis of sex,” Gaines said. “Now there have been five states … to codify and define the word ‘woman’ in law.”

After her speech, Gaines engaged in a Q&A with audience members where she answered questions about the NCAA lawsuit and the possibility of transgender athletes competing in their own category.

“If you created a third category, it would still very much be males competing against females,” Gaines said. “Take away gender identity … safety and fairness still matter.”

For more information on upcoming lectures at Iowa State, visit the Lecture Series website.

View Comments (12)
Donate to Iowa State Daily
$2700
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of the Iowa State Daily. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, send our student journalists to conferences and off-set their cost of living so they can continue to do best-in-the-nation work at the Iowa State Daily.

More to Discover
Donate to Iowa State Daily
$2700
$2500
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (12)

All Iowa State Daily Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • S

    Sam | Apr 18, 2024 at 8:10 pm

    First off, as a politically conservative voter, I actually agree with Gaines and a lot of the points that were being made.

    That being said, I am beyond disappointed that Turning Point USA is back on this campus. TPUSA has been removed from schools across the country because they have been caught propagating misinformation and inciting violence against professors and high school teachers. They have a publicly accessible list of professors that they deem “radical” and publish their full name and photograph for the world to see on their website.

    The impact of the message being shared was diminished by the sponsorship of such nature. Disappointing, and I hope ISU doesn’t follow on this path in the future.

    Reply
    • C

      craig | Apr 18, 2024 at 10:13 pm

      I’ve never seen turning point banned at any university? Also I’d never heard of that website, so I decided to check it out. The first professor I clicked on has a picture of her standing in front of a Soviet flag. She is an activist belonging to the marxist Workers World Party and belongs to the ‘Union of Radical Political Economists’. If that isn’t radical I’m not sure what is. Also, Turning point isn’t doxxing her. She is literally publicly posting these things.
      Anyway, thanks for introducing me to the website and Dr. Taryn Fivek if you are interested.

      Reply
  • D

    Dawson | Apr 18, 2024 at 7:59 pm

    It’s great to see that diversity of opinion is still allowed on some campuses. Many times we hear of protests shutting down lectures because students can’t stand to have a prominent speaker with an opposing viewpoint allowed on campus.

    Sports are a real thing. While I decided to focus more on academics rather than athletics during high school and college, sports teach the importance of hard work, grit, and persistence. Working towards a goal like a state or national title is one worth pursuing. But to have it taken away from you because your opponent has a biological advantage based on being a male in a female sport reveals a lack of common sense in society.

    Reply
  • J

    Jorge | Apr 18, 2024 at 1:38 pm

    You are not crazy if you think women’s sports should remain female. Why would we even have female sports in the first place? A lot of other commenters have wild responses. “sports are not a serious thing”. If I worked my whole life to become an elite swimmer and a man stole my place, I’d be pretty upset too. Quit gaslighting people and calling them “phobes” while men invade women’s spaces.

    Reply
  • K

    Kevin Marken | Apr 18, 2024 at 11:32 am

    It should be noted Turning Point is an organization that has been removed from more schools in Iowa then any other organization. They have made a choice to move to universities.

    It was good to see more people went to see what a writer for The Onion had to say then come to see this, hope Turning Point paid for this and not students.

    Reply
  • A

    Alison Deminthal | Apr 18, 2024 at 9:49 am

    It is truly shameful to platform such an individual. At the end of the day, sports are not a serious thing. Sports are about demonstrating one’s physical proficiency in an activity and/or having fun. To be this wound up about a fifth place trophy that you didn’t get years ago doesn’t speak to a passion for your sport, but a hatred for trans women. The blatant misgendering of Lia Thomas is just pure bad sportsmanship, too. A true athlete would work harder next time, and have a basic level of respect for their opponents.

    Gaines, Turning Point, and everyone involved with this charade should be ashamed of themselves, and ISU should be ashamed to have platformed them.

    Reply
    • J

      Jeremy Ias | Apr 18, 2024 at 10:39 am

      And what a title. “Pro-single sex” instead of the accurate “anti-trangender” or “transgender exclusionary”

      Reply
    • D

      David Jackson | Apr 18, 2024 at 9:58 pm

      Yes, free speech is truly shameful isn’t it. How dare anyone be exposed to a different point of view! Shame! Shame!

      Reply
  • J

    Jennifer Cruz | Apr 18, 2024 at 8:54 am

    I think you should have gotten in touch with the other athlete to authenticate her statements about them being fully exposed in front of her. That doesn’t ring true to me. It may be a lie that now seems like truth based on bias reporting.

    Reply
    • K

      Kevin Hickman | May 1, 2024 at 8:01 pm

      Thompson’s female teammates have confirmed what Riley said. It’s shameful that so many students choose to be willfully ignorant.

      Reply
  • J

    Jeremy Ias | Apr 18, 2024 at 8:38 am

    Man, what a way to tarnish Howe Hall.

    At least this time, our turning point group didn’t invite people who would go on to be found guilty of inciting an insurrection?

    Reply
    • K

      Kevin Hickman | May 1, 2024 at 8:05 pm

      Really? An insurrection? Read what the Constitution defines as an insurrection and get a clue.

      Reply