A Virginia Democrat has a suggestion for female athletes worried about being defeated by male-born competitors: Work harder.
Roanoke City Councilman Peter Volosin stood up for transgender athletes after Roanoke College female swimmers spoke out Thursday against having a male-born swimmer on the women’s team, calling the pushback “a bit selfish.”
“In some ways, it’s a bit selfish in saying, ‘Oh, I should beat this person,’ or, ‘I should have gotten first place,’ or, ‘I should do this,’ or whatever,” Mr. Volosin told WSLS 10News in Roanoke. “If you should do that, you should be training harder.”
Mr. Volosin, a former Brown University swimmer who is openly gay, said it was important for transgender athletes to be able to compete based on their gender identity.
“Not being able to compete as your authentic self is really hard, it adds that extra burden and it makes it mentally draining,” Mr. Volosin said.
Those infuriated by his response include NCAA All-American swimmer Riley Gaines, an advocate for single-sex sports who turned out to support the 10 Roanoke female swimmers at Thursday’s press conference.
“Peter Volosin is a Roanoke City Council Member who says if women want to beat men, they should just ‘train harder,’” Ms. Gaines posted on social media. “He also says we should place the burden of trans individuals mental health on our own shoulders as their well-being is more important than ours. And if you don’t do those things, you’re selfish.”
She said telling women to train harder “is the most ignorant, arrogant and infuriating response to women saying NO to men in our sports.”
“When you see Volosin on the ballot next election, remember he’s anti-woman,” Ms. Gaines said. “Believe it or not, Peter, you don’t get to consent to mistreatment on behalf of women. If you have a daughter, I’ll be praying for her.”
The Independent Council on Women’s Sports posted on X: “Vote out the men who belittle girls achievements in sports!!”
Vote out the men who belittle girls achievements in sports https://t.co/cqUHvFx8Un
— ICONS (@icons_women) October 6, 2023
The 10 Roanoke female swimmers called on the NCAA and Virginia state legislature to protect women’s sports after being informed that a male-born student who swam previously on the men’s team would be joining the women’s team following a gender transition.
In a Thursday statement, Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, said the student has decided not to join the women’s swim team and criticized the NCAA for its “confusing” transgender-athlete policy.
The back-and-forth comes with female athletes increasingly speaking out against male-to-female transgender competitors in a growing debate over fairness versus inclusion.
More than 200 individuals, organizations and civic leaders, including Mr. Volosin, responded to the team’s press conference by signing an open letter titled, “Hate Has No Place in Roanoke, Virginia.”
“We, the undersigned, as residents of the Roanoke Valley and members of the local community, denounce the presence of national anti-transgender hate groups and speakers, and we stand united in support of all transgender students, student-athletes, and the broader transgender community,” the letter stated.
The letter described the right-of-center Independent Women’s Forum, which sponsored the event, as “a national conservative organization with a documented history of anti-transgender activism,” and the left-tilting Women’s Liberation Front and Women’s Declaration International as “hate groups.”
Those organizations oppose allowing male-born athletes who identify as female in elite girls’ and women’s sports.
Mr. Volosin praised Harvard University for allowing transgender swimmer Schuyler Bailar to compete based on gender identity, although the situation was different in that the female-born Mr. Bailar, who graduated in 2019, identifies as a man.
“I love the way Harvard handled that,” Mr. Volosin said.
Some of the 23 states with laws barring male-born athletes from girls’ and women’s scholastic sports have no restrictions on women playing on men’s teams. Other states require students to compete based on sex at birth or biological sex.