Swimming Against the Current with Riley Gaines (Ep. 388)

Is it my imagination, or have you and your podcast become more political? I enjoyed the interview with Riley Gaines, but was really surprised to see you “go there,” and speak so candidly about such a politically charged topic.
Carol Marks

Hi Carol.

It’s your imagination.

Your question reminds of a common refrain I hear nowadays from friends of mine on both sides of the aisle. “I didn’t leave my party, my party left me!” I can sympathize. In this case, I would tell you that I haven’t become any more political than I’ve ever been – but everything around me certainly has. Or maybe, everything has just become more controversial, and therefore everything feels more political?

Either way, the facts surrounding Riley’s ordeal are not in dispute. She and her teammates were told by the NCAA to either compete with a man or quit the sport they loved. They were told to either share a locker room with a man, or seek professional psychiatric help. They were also told that failing to accept the swimmer formerly known as Will Thomas as a woman, might result in his suicide, and that his blood would be on their hands.

For daring to question the fairness of these decisions, Riley Gaines was branded a bigot and a transphobe. She was attacked by protestors at San Francisco State and held against her will for several hours. Her captors were not punished. In fact, they were congratulated by the administrators at the college.

It’s also important to know that Riley Gaines never suggested to me that adults be denied the right to identify as a member of the opposite sex or take whatever steps they wish to take in order to facilitate a physical transition. We both support that right, even if we don’t support the idea that taxpayers should pay for it, or that minors should be allowed to proceed with irreversible surgeries without their parent’s consent. But mostly, we both believe that it’s fundamentally unfair to allow men to compete against women, and deeply troubling that so many otherwise sensible Americans stood by and said nothing, as the NCAA made a mockery of Title IX, and ran roughshod over decades of hard-fought women’s rights.

As I said to her on the podcast, Riley Gaines reminds me of the kid in The Emperor’s New Clothes – the only one in the crowd to point out the obvious fact that the man parading before them was stark naked, while the townspeople pretended he wasn’t. Just like the townspeople in America who pretended that Lea Thomas was a woman, simply because he changed his name and claimed to be one. Even when he leapt from a ranking of #462 as “Will,” to #1 as “Lea,” the townspeople just couldn’t see the difference between him, and the women he so completely and totally dominated. Even when the townspeople saw with their own eyes, a telltale bulge in the women’s bathing suit he wore on the podium, they still applauded the emperor’s new clothes, and congratulated him for his great triumph.

Those townspeople will not be remembered for their politics, Carol. They’ll be remembered for their cowardice. Just as Riley Gaines will be remembered for her courage.

Our whole conversation is here, https://bit.ly/TWIHI388. A short video clip is attached. Her book, Swimming Against the Current, is terrific, and worth your time. https://amzn.to/4c7bQAP

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