Riley Gaines Reveals What it Was Like to Change in Locker Room with Biological Man ‘Lia Thomas’

AP Photo/Josh Reynolds

Riley Gaines was a standout collegiate swimmer who had her dreams of winning a national championship dashed after she was forced to compete against ‘trans’ athlete Lia Thomas. Rather than stand by idly, she began speaking out against the policies that allow biological men to compete in women’s sports and use their locker rooms.

On Monday’s show, Gaines joined Megyn to discuss her new book Swimming Against the Current and share what it was like to learn that she and her fellow competitors would have to swim against and change in front of Thomas.

[Editor’s NoteYou can learn more about Megyn’s position on preferred pronouns here.]

Lia Thomas Competes

Gaines was a decorated swimmer at the University of Kentucky with plans of going to dental school when her world changed. At the 2022 NCAA Swim Championships, she tied for fifth with Thomas in the 200-yard freestyle championship.

Thomas swam for three years on the men’s team at the University of Pennsylvania under the name ‘Will Thomas’ with mediocre results before switching to the women’s side and becoming a standout. Gaines recalled being confused when she saw the name ‘Lia Thomas’ first appear on the leaderboard in late 2021.

In the lead up to nationals in March 2022, Gaines said the NCAA avoided making a firm decision on Thomas’ eligibility. “They were sitting on the fence,” she said. “And then like three weeks before the meet they announced that his participation in the women’s category was non-negotiable.”

So while Gaines knew she would be competing against Thomas in the pool, she didn’t know she would be sharing a locker room with him. “There was no forewarning,” she shared. “There was no way that we could have made other arrangements for ourselves if this was something that we felt uncomfortable with.”

Thomas in the Women’s Locker Room

For the uninitiated, Gaines described what it is like for female swimmers to get into their racing suits. “The suits that you put on are skin tight and paper thin,” she said. “It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to really poke and prod yourself into these suits. That is 20 minutes where you are fully exposed.”

She said the women usually help each other out, but there is no getting around the fact that the locker room is “not a comfortable place” to be. “You almost become comfortable feeling vulnerable in that environment,” Gaines noted. “But I want you to put yourself in our shoes… You have your back turned putting on your suit and, all of a sudden, you hear a man’s voice in the locker room.”

That is what she experienced with Thomas. “The first time that we became aware we would be undressing next to this six-foot, four-inch, 22-year-old fully intact man was when we were inches away from said man fully exposing himself,” Gaines recalled. “It felt like a betrayal.”

‘It Was Traumatic’

But the ‘inclusive’ locker rooms, in Gaines’ view, weren’t just “another violation” at the hands of the NCAA. “It was traumatic and not even just because of what we were forced to see or how we were forcibly exploited,” she explained. “It was traumatic for me to know just how easy it was for those people who created these policies and forced these policies to totally dismiss our rights to privacy without even a second thought, without even bare-minimum forewarning us that this will be the arrangement.”

Given the recent changes Biden’s Department of Education has made to Title IX, Gaines’ experience with Thomas could become more common for women, not less. “It’s wild to me that so much of what we see now… is under the guise of ‘progress’ – indicating we are moving in the positive, forward direction,” she said. “Let’s be very clear: What we are seeing is not progress. This is regressive. It’s taking us back in time at least half a century.”

Ultimately, she believes women’s rights have been trampled on. “We are going back [to 1972] by asking women to smile to step aside to allow these men onto our podiums, telling us that we’re the problem if we don’t want to or feel totally comfortable undressing next to a fully naked, fully intact man,” she concluded. “That’s not progress.”

You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Gaines by tuning in to episode 796 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.