‘Bravery Is Always Rewarded’: Va. Women’s Swim Team Stands Against Trans-Identifying Man Joining Team
This season, the women’s swim team at Roanoke College has shifted its energy from defending titles and winning trophies to defending the integrity of women’s sports.
As the fall semester rolled around, 17 collegiate swimmers showed up for their 2023 season, only to be met with a biological male attempting to join their team. After living “the longest month of our entire life,” according to captain Bailey Gallagher, 10 teammates took a stand on Thursday, demanding fairness from their school. Their recent press conference marks the first time a sports team has taken a stand as a unit while defending women’s sports. One woman after another shared their perspective from the podium, followed by rounds of applause from the audience.
“This has been too great of a burden to bear for many of our teammates who have lost hours of sleep, many tears, and the will to train to race a swimmer who has an advantage in the water that our bodies may never possess,” said 20-year-old Lily Mullens, one of three captains.
While NCAA rules allow transgender athletes to compete at the collegiate level, Roanoke College’s swim team expressed their concerns about swimming with a biological male to their Division III school, only to be ignored. In fact, the three captains told The Daily Mail that their school “asked them to confront the trans swimmer themselves” after they expressed “concern at the [biological male’s] revealing swimsuit.”
After doing just that, the trans-identifying student told the captains that he was suicidal and “was desperate to be included.” This, in turn, led to more exhaustion for the team captains.
“I was going to bed at 3 a.m. just thinking about it, thinking what could happen, what couldn’t happen, constantly stressed, crying just all the time. Every single day. We just could not get a break from it — and we have studies,” said 19-year-old captain, Kate Pearson.
During the press conference, Pearson also shared that after asking the school for support, the team was informed that “even if our entire women’s team decided to stand together and not swim … our coach would be allowed to have a one-athlete swim team. A one-person swim team. That information alone was the most discouraging and disheartening of all.”
While Roanoke College ignored their women’s swim team request for privacy and fairness, the team was supported by the Independent Women’s Forum, Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), and two former teammates of Lia Thomas — Riley Gaines and Paula Scanlan — who were in attendance for the press conference.
Gaines, a decorated University of Kentucky alumni, has paved the way for women to use their voices when it comes to equality in sports since racing against Lia Thomas in 2022. Not only has Gaines raised awareness of the problem at hand but has offered solutions as well.
“While we ask ourselves the question of where are the feminists, we should be asking ourselves the question just as often of where are the men?” Gaines insisted at Family Research Council’s Pray Vote Stand Summit in September. “We need strong men. … We need men to be willing to fulfill their biblical role, which is to protect and provide.”
While introducing the Roanoke swim team to the stage at the press conference, Gaines called on leaders to step up and fight. “It shouldn’t have to take bravery or courage to speak up for the fair treatment of women and girls,” she said. “And if leaders cannot find it in themselves to do that, then we need different leaders.”
Gaines isn’t the only former athlete advocating for America’s girls. Scanlan joined guest host and former Congressman Jody Hice on “The Washington Watch” Friday to share her perspective on the whole ordeal.
“The Roanoke College girls broke their silence and they talked about their experiences of what they went through, being told that they had to have a man join their team,” she shared. “This is the first time I personally have seen a team come together and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”
Scanlan was a former teammate of Thomas and sympathized with the team.
“I understand the fear. I was once in their position as well — but just know that most Americans agree that men do not belong in women’s competitions. It’s really challenging to take the stance, but bravery is always rewarded. I know for myself, this has helped me become a more confident person.”
Even without the support of their school, the 10 individuals’ courage has led to the prospective male teammate withdrawing from the team. Although he has not yet been identified, it was reported that he had been a member of the men’s swim team in 2021 but after taking a year off, he wanted to try his hand at swimming with the women’s team instead.
“It shows yet again, that when people take a stand, courage has tremendous impact and influence. And the fact that he stepped down, I think is a huge indication of that,” Hice concluded.