Women's sports advocate Riley Gaines faced an accusation of "transphobia" logged by a member of Congress at a hearing earlier this week where a separate witness claimed that preventing male athletes from competing against women enforces sexist stereotypes and women should "learn to lose gracefully."
Gaines, a former competitive swimmer for the University of Kentucky, testified on Tuesday before the House Oversight subcommittee about the Biden administration's proposed Title IX rule changes.
During her opening remarks, Rep. Summer Lee, D-Pa., stated that the hearing was a necessary discussion but then claimed that it would also force everyone to listen to "transphobic bigotry" from some of the speakers.
Under the proposed rule changes, policies that prevent men who identify as female from competing on women's sports teams would be considered a violation of the law. Gaines testified about the rule change, stressing that inclusion cannot take priority over "safety and fairness" for women and girls.
At the conclusion of her testimony, Gaines stated that if her words made her "transphobic," as Lee claimed, then the lawmaker was a "misogynist" for what she said in her opening remarks.
Another witness who testified in favor of the Title IX rule change included National Women's Law Center President Fatima Goss Graves. The group has a history of advocating for men who identify as female to compete on women's sports teams, labeling bills that state athletes must compete on teams that align with their sex as "anti-trans."
Graves claimed that the hearing's purpose was about "attacking and dehumanizing" trans-identifying athletes, and she argued that excluding men who identify as the opposite sex from women's sports would hurt girls and women. She argued that preventing male athletes from competing against females enforces a sexist stereotype about women being "slower and weaker" than men.
The NWLC president asserted that just like women, sometimes trans athletes win, sometimes they lose, and that an athlete's success in their sports depends on various factors, such as coaching and how hard they work.
"And trans students participate in sports for the same reason as other kids. Because it is fun, because it creates belonging and community, because it teaches so much about persistence and leadership and discipline," Graves said.
"Unless they learn to lose gracefully, hopefully, and often, they learn to win with dignity, hopefully," she continued. "They learn to do the sort of work that means you have higher grades and stay connected to school. I want every kid to have that chance to play."
Later during the hearing, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., cited the remark when speaking to Gaines, adding that he thinks it's a "slap in the face" to tell a female athlete who worked hard that she just has to accept losing. Gaines said she appreciated Comer's words, and she also clarified that she has lost "gracefully" throughout her career.
"Speaking to the incident of Thomas and I at the National Championships, it is an incredible achievement, but there were four women who beat me," the former competitive swimmer said. "I'm incredibly proud of those women who beat me. So I certainly can and have lost gracefully many times in my career."
The former collegiate women's swimmer was forced to compete against trans-identifying athlete Lia (Will) Thomas during the National College Athletics Association championships last year. Thomas started swimming on the women's swim team at the University of Pennsylvania after competing on the men's swimming team for three years.
Gaines, who now serves as an ambassador for the conservative Independent Women's Forum, recounted during her testimony Tuesday how the NCAA forced female athletes to compete against Thomas, a man, and undress in a locker room with a "6'4, fully intact, naked male."
Despite tying with the male athlete in the 200-yard freestyle race, she was denied the trophy. According to Gaines, an NCAA official told her that it was necessary for Thomas to hold the trophy for photo purposes.
"It was clear to me, my teammates, and my competitors that they had reduced everything we had worked for our entire life to a photo-op to validate the feelings and the identity of a male," Gaines said.
The women's sports advocate also highlighted studies that have found trans-identifying male athletes typically maintain a biological advantage over women even after taking feminizing hormones. She also cited various examples of female athletes suffering serious injuries after they were forced to compete with men.
"There's a place for everyone to play sports in this country," the former competitive swimmer said. "But unsafe, unfair and discriminatory practices towards women must stop. Inclusion cannot be prioritized over safety and fairness."
Watch the hearing below: