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Roanoke College women swimmers felt ‘helpless’ and shunned by school during trans teammate controversy

Members of the women’s swim team at Roanoke College are mad as hell about biological men competing in women’s sports — and they made it clear Thursday they aren’t taking it any more.
The college’s female swim team gave a news conference calling on the NCAA to save women’s sports from the growing influx of trans women competitors. They did not hold back about a recent incident involving a transgender woman who joined the women’s swim team this year after competing as a man last year.
Some of their parents were there to support them.
“I never expected to be blindsided by a teammate from the men’s team who now wanted to compete against me and my fellow swimmers and shatter our records,” Roanoke swimmer Bailey Gallagher, 21, said, noting she was initially supportive of the trans swimmer’s transition.
The “NCAA — Save Women’s Sports!” event stemmed from a transgender female student at Roanoke who swam last year on the men’s team and joined the women’s team this year.
6 Twelve-time NCAA All-American swimmer Riley Gaines said Thursday that universities and institutions are “gaslighting and emotionally blackmailing” biological women athletes over the issue with trans women competitors. Independent Women’s Forum
The group was joined by Riley Gaines, a 12-time NCAA all-American swimmer who’s become an outspoken activist against trans women in sports, as well as Paula Scanlan, a former UPenn swimmer who said she had “nightmares for weeks” about sharing a locker room with trans female swimmer Lia Thomas.
Thomas began swimming for UPenn as a man then transitioned and joined the women’s swim team, where he became a darling of the left and an object of controversy for others.
“Our universities and institutions are gaslighting and emotionally blackmailing us to make us feel like the oppressors just for demanding fairness,” Gaines said at the press conference. “There are so many tears and so many frustrated women in sports right now and too many aren’t visible. It shouldn’t have to take bravery or courage to speak up for the fair treatment of women and girls. And if leaders can’t bring themselves to do that, we need different leaders.”
6 The captains of the Roanoke women swim team (left to right): Katie Pearson, Lily Mullens and Bailey Gallagher. Roanoke College Swimming
The unidentified trans woman quit the Roanoke College swim team recently and one source close to the situation said there was speculation she did not want the scrutiny and spotlight that the press conference would bring.
But the captains of the Roanoke College sophomore, junior, and senior swim squads — Kate Pearson, 19, Lily Mullens, 20, and Gallagher — said the issue has torn their Division III team apart and that they feel abandoned by the school, their coach and the NCAA.
They also said they were made to feel guilt and blame for not wanting a biological male on the team when it was not their intent to be unkind.
6 Members of the Roanoke College women’s swim team called on the NCAA to prioritize women and stop the culture of silence and intimidation surrounding women athletes who speak up against biological men in women’s sports. Some of their parents posed with them. Independent Women’s Forum
Gallagher and Mullens said they both knew the trans swimmer before her transition.
“We felt helpless,” Pearson said at the news conference about the emotions she and her fellow swimmers felt after learning a trans woman would be joining the team. “Every time we tried to speak up about our feelings we were either shoved aside or expected to deal with all of our concerns ourselves. We felt completely ignored by our school — a place that is supposed to be our home away from home.”
“Our feelings, the team’s feelings and comfort were blatantly ignored and only one athlete was prioritized. I felt unheard and unseen. Our comfort was undervalued and discarded. We tried numerous times to ask the school for support. But each and every time we were told to deal with it ourselves … ” Pearson added. “It was about prioritizing one person over everyone else on the team.”
6 University of Penn trans woman swimmer Lia Thomas, who competed as a man during her early years at the school, became a lightning rod for the controversy over biological men in women’s sports. Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
The very public aspect of Thursday’s event was in sharp contrast to the culture of fear and silence surrounding the issue of trans women in women’s sports.
When The Post interviewed female swimmers who had to compete against Lia Thomas for an April 2022 story, the majority of parents and their daughters would not allow their names to be used in the story for fear of being shunned, shamed or even retaliated against
“This was a historic day,” activist Kara Dansky, president of the US chapter of Women’s Declaration International, told The Post after speaking at Thursday’s press conference.
6 The parents of a Roanoke College swimmer pose with her at Thursday’s news conference. Independent Women’s Forum
“There has not been a day to my knowledge where an entire women’s team has said no to men competing in women’s sports and has spread the message like this.”
Roanoke College officials said in a statement that a transgender student, who had taken a year off between after leaving the men’s team, had requested permission to swim with the women’s swim team.
6 Kate Pearson, left, and her teammates on the Roanoke College women’s swim team. Instagram / Roanoke College Swimming
Officials said that this was the first time they experienced this situation, and as a result, launched an administration process that aided officials in making a decision and followed NCAA policies.
“Tremendous credit goes to Riley Gaines and Paula Scanlan,” Dansky said. “They’ve shown tremendous courage and steadfastness in refusing to back down … The women were gaslit and abused and told if they didn’t like it there was something wrong with them and they should seek mental health treatment.”



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