Former championship swimmer Riley Gaines challenged Democrat Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin of Illinois Wednesday after he accused Republicans of promoting “hateful rhetoric” by questioning the rights of transgender youth.
Gaines was a witness on Capitol Hill for the Senate hearing on LGBTQ civil rights, where Senator Durbin said lawmakers need to remain cautious when discussing the issue.
“At this point, I’d like to remind our colleagues, our children are listening, and they are in danger,” said Durbin. “In fact, today, transgender youth are among are among the most at risk of homelessness, depression, and death by suicide. So, when these young people who are already struggling hear politicians amplify hateful rhetoric that denies their existence, what message does it send?”
Gaines pushed back against Senator Durbin’s statements
Later on in the hearing, Gaines pushed back and told the senator that he needs to think about biological girls and women, who she said are at a disadvantage when competing against transgender people.
“Senator Durbin, in your opening statement, you had mentioned this rhetoric,” Gaines said. “You had mentioned that; what message does it send to trans individuals? And my comeback to that is, what message does this send to women, to young girls, who are denied of these opportunities?”
“So easily, their rights to privacy and safety thrown out of the window to protect a small population, protect one group as long as they’re happy,” said Gaines. “What about us?” That is the overall general consensus of how we all felt in that locker room.”
Instead of answering directly, Durbin argued that there was “no evidence” transgender women perform better than those that were born that way.
“Since reference was made to my earlier statement, I would just like to add something for the record: There is no evidence that transgender athletes are an issue in certain levels of sports. No transgender female athlete has ever won an Olympic medal in women’s sports, though the International Olympic Committee has allowed transgender athletes to compete since 2004,” said Durbin.
“But one non-binary athlete who was assigned female at birth won a medal in women’s soccer in 2021,” he continued.
Gaines appeared on Capitol Hill as a witness for the Senate’s hearing on LGBTQ civil rights, where she pushed back against allowing transgender students to participate in the school sport of their chosen gender. Gaines has become an advocate on behalf of biological female athletes after graduating from the University of Kentucky, where she competed against transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in championship-level events.