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Riley Gaines testifies in support of Ohio bill blocking trans athletes and gender-affirming care

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Riley Gaines testifies in support of Ohio bill blocking trans athletes and gender-affirming care

Nov 29, 2023 | 4:50 am ET
By Megan Henry
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Riley Gaines testifies in support of Ohio bill blocking trans athletes and gender-affirming care
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A former University of Kentucky swimmer who has been very outspoken against competing and sharing a locker room with transgender athlete Lia Thomas testified in support of a bill that would prevent trans athletes from participating in Ohio women’s sports. 

Riley Gaines told the Ohio Senate Government Oversight Committee how her and Thomas both had a time of 1:43.40 during the 200-yard championship freestyle in 2022 — resulting in a tie for fifth place. 

“Yet, NCAA officials told me that the trophy belonged to Thomas,” Gaines said in her testimony. “The officials claimed this was necessary for public relations. I was shocked. I felt betrayed and belittled, reduced to a photo-op. But my feelings did not matter. What mattered to the NCAA were the feelings of a biological male.”

In addition to the trans athlete ban, House Bill 68 would also block doctors from providing gender-affirming care to trans youth, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy. The bill would ban physicians from performing gender reassignment surgery on a minor, but many opponents have testified that no Ohio children’s hospital currently performs gender-affirming surgery on those under 18. 

Gender-affirming care is supported by every major medical organization in the United States.

Rep. Gary Click, R-Vickery, is the sponsor of HB 68, which passed the House in June

Nineteen people submitted proponent testimony and some talked about the physical differences between men and women.

“Science tells us that, on average, male bodies have about a 10% athletic advantage over female bodies,” said May Mailman, a senior fellow with Independent Women’s Law Center.

Lia Thomas 

Gaines was not the only person to talk about Thomas during her testimony during Tuesday’s committee meeting. 

Cynthia Millen, a former USA Swimming official who resigned in protest over Thomas competing, also spoke in support of HB 68. 

“I felt that was wrong,” she said. “Everything in swimming is based on fairness. … it just went against everything that I had ever loved about swimming.”

Thomas was the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I national championship and has wound up in the center of a national debate over who can compete in women’s sports. 

Previously, Thomas competed on Penn’s men’s swimming team for three seasons before joining the women’s team. 

“The inclusion of male athletes in women’s sports not only takes opportunities from female players,” Gaines said. “It puts women and girls at greater risk of injury.” 

Transgender athletes in Ohio

There were only six transgender high school female student athletes in Ohio, the Capital Journal previously reported in the spring.

Under the Ohio High School Athletic Association, if a trans girl wants to play on a team with cis girls, she must go through hormone treatments for at least one year or show no physical or  physiological advantages.

HB 68 would prevent males from playing female sports, but everyone would still be able to play on co-ed teams.

Gender affirming care 

Detransitioner Richard Anumene started identifying as a transgender woman in 2014 and had facial feminization surgery in November 2020 and vaginoplasty in March 2021. However, in July 2021, Anumene regretted the surgeries and began detransitioning. 

“It has ruined my life,” Anumene said. “I can’t reverse my vaginoplasty or facial feminization surgery, and the consequences of these surgeries are permanent. The realization of what had been done to me led to unprecedented mental breakdowns and substance abuse to try to alleviate my mental distress.”

Corinna Cohn, now 48, started estrogen treatments at 18 and had sex reassignment surgery at 19.

“I have gained numerous insights over the past thirty years, with perhaps the most critical being that children lack the capacity to envision their adult desires and wellbeing accurately,” Cohn said. “It is our moral obligation to protect the well-being of Ohio’s gender-diverse youth and ensure that they receive the care and consideration they deserve.”

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on Twitter.