On April 6, I was invited to visit San Francisco State University to do exactly what I’ve been doing the past year: sharing my personal experience competing against a biological male and explaining why it’s critical that we protect the female category in sport. I’m a former 12x All-American swimmer and have been speaking out after tying biological male Lia Thomas at the NCAA championships last year.
When I accepted the invitation from Turning Point USA and Leadership Institute to speak in San Francisco, I knew there were going to be people in the room who did not share the same opinions as me. But this is something that excites me — not because I’m looking for controversy, but because it means I would have the opportunity to open eyes and change minds. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into when agreeing to speak at this university, but I was wrong. There was no way to prepare myself for what happened.
I was able to successfully deliver a speech to a room full of people who were there in support as well as opposition. There was some heckling, but for the most part, the speech and Q&A were civil. That changed quickly. As soon as I finished speaking, a storm of protesters entered the room from the hallway. They rushed to the front of the room, flickered the lights, and physically assaulted me and others.
In the midst of this chaos, I was initially escorted out of the room by an undercover SFSU Campus Police officer. In the hallway, we were only met with even more profane, vengeful protesters who were ready to attack. Uniformed campus police came to our aid. We were forced into another room in the hallway, where I was barricaded for over three hours. In those hours, the mob screamed, chanted, and yelled.
I heard them yell, “You did this to yourself”; “You come on this campus and think we’re not going to start a riot?”; and “Let her out, so we can handle her, we aren’t letting up.”
From inside the room, I could hear the protesters trying to negotiate money from me for my safe passage home. They claimed it was only fair for me to pay them since I got paid by the university to be there (which was not true). And I heard them yell at the Black police officers who were protecting me, “You’re protecting a White woman with white privilege.”
I missed my flight home because I couldn’t safely leave the room. Finally, the city of San Francisco Police Department showed up and helped develop an exit strategy. The officers formed a diamond around me and pushed through the mob to get outside.
I had to run to the car because we were met with more protesters outside who were also running at the car. I was still in desperate fear for my safety the entire time I was in San Francisco and until I was eventually able to board a plane for the return flight home.
At the moment, I was unnerved and shaken, but it was evident to me why they felt it necessary to not let my voice be heard. It was because I was speaking the truth and common sense and they had no other way to dissuade from my argument. The realization of this reassured me that I was doing something right. When they want to silence you, it means it’s time to speak even louder.
The protesters’ plan backfired on them. They intended to silence me, but they only gave me a larger platform. My social media following quadrupled, and the public support around the world to protect women’s sports and sex-based rights skyrocketed. The general public is now more eager to get involved in the fight than ever before.
People always wonder why more women aren’t speaking up (especially the female athletes who have firsthand experience competing against a male). This is why. They don’t want to be faced with an angry mob who wants to silence them, harass them, and hurt them. They don’t want to be labeled as transphobic, or a bigot, or hateful, but it doesn’t make you any of those things by acknowledging women are biologically different than men and deserve respect, safety, privacy, and equal opportunities.
What happened at San Francisco State was horrific and frightening — but this experience has only strengthened my resolve. To be targeted for standing for women just shows I must be doing something right.