A YMCA in Springfield, Illinois, has doubled down on its policy of allowing trans-identifying biological males to use female locker rooms, effectively costing a teenage girl a spot on her swim team.
In the spring, 16-year-old Abbigail Wheeler was changing in the women’s locker room at the Springfield YMCA when she noticed a biological male in view of her and other females.
“The first time I saw them in there, he was in a woman’s swimsuit sitting in the corner of the locker room, just sitting there. Watching,” Wheeler told the news website Outkick.com.
According to Dan Wheeler, her father, the teenager encountered the biological male twice in the women’s locker room, but was spared being exposed to male genitalia.
According to news reports, after Wheeler and several other girls on her YMCA swim team were told by their coach that there was nothing he could do about the YMCA’s locker room policy, they decided to post several signs in the women’s locker room to voice their disapproval of male access to female facilities. Wheeler’s signs read, “Women’s Rights,” “Biological women only,” and “SafeSport,” a reference to an organization that purports to uphold women’s rights in athletics.
The Springfield YMCA relayed to the girls and their families that the signs they had posted amounted to “hateful speech,” and YMCA officials sought to have a meeting with Wheeler and her father to discuss the situation, or else Abbigail Wheeler would no longer be allowed in the YMCA facility for workouts, practices or competitions.
Dan Wheeler, according to Outkick, said he would agree to the meeting provided that the executive director of USA Swimming SafeSport and another SafeSport representative were also present. Initially, the YMCA agreed, but then changed their minds.
According to an email Dan Wheeler says he received, the YMCA’s human resources manager, it turned out, is the YMCA’s SafeSport representative. She told him she would be in attendance and no outside SafeSport representatives would be allowed.
Upon learning this, Dan Wheeler says it became clear that unless his daughter went along with something she conscientiously opposed, she wouldn’t be able to continue on her swim team.
“I wasn’t going to go to a meeting where they were going to dictate punishment to my daughter because she had already received, in my opinion, punishment for free speech,” Dan Wheeler told the website.
The YMCA, meanwhile, responded to a media inquiry, stating Abbigail decided to quit her swim team and left the YMCA on her own—a characterization her family disputes. “Because they set those criteria and boundaries to not allow us to be represented, she wasn’t able to participate with the team or go into the facility. We had to quit. We had to walk away,” Dan Wheeler told Outkick.com.
The Wheelers are familiar with the conflicts arising from biological males competing in women’s sports; Abbigail’s older sister, Kaitlynn, has competed against the University of Pennsylvania swimmer known as Lia Thomas, a biological male who became a national contender after having middling results as a men’s collegiate swimmer before taking female hormones.
On July 13, the Illinois Freedom Caucas held a press conference in support of the Wheelers seeking to encourage the YMCA and other groups to change policies that endanger women and girls.
Abbigail Wheeler has drawn public support from Illinois Congresswomen Mary Miller and former University of Kentucky standout swimmer Riley Gaines, who is perhaps the most influential female athlete speaking out on the issue of biological men threatening the integrity and safety of women’s sports.
“We can’t keep patiently waiting for legislation to enact laws to stop this,” Gaines tweeted on July 14. “Too many girls will be exploited in a locker room, injured in their sport, or miss out on opportunities if we wait. Change has to come from US, the people. Be bold and speak up.”
Photo: Illinois Freedom Caucus