Woman opposing participation of trans women on women’s sports teams assaulted at SFSU

April 8, 2023 • 11:15 am

This is what is known as a “viral” story, probably because it encapsulates the vitriol heaped upon those who don’t think that transgender women (especially those who have gone through male puberty) should participate in women’s sports. That happens to be a hot issue, at least among political people, both Left and Right.

People are of course free to express their opinion about this issue one way or another, but what you cannot do, at least at a state university, is disrupt and, yes, PHYSICALLY ATTACK someone expressing a view you don’t like.

So here we are back at San Francisco State University (SFSU), site of another fracas involving a professor who showed a painting of Muhammad (see my report here). SFSU must be a hotbed of The Intolerant Offended.

In this case we have two reports; the first one below is from CNN, the second from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE).  Both report the same incident: Riley Gaines, a former college swimmer, gave a talk at SFSU in which she opposed allowing transgender women to compete in women’s sports. This time the reaction was violent:  although I think she actually delivered the talk (through disruptions), she was physically attacked thereafter (as a “transphobe,” of course), and had to hide for several hours.

Click either screenshot to read.

From FIRE:

From CNN:

Former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines said she was assaulted Thursday on the campus of San Francisco State University.

Gaines was at the school to speak about her views opposing the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports, according to the event announcement.

“I was physically assaulted by one person. I was struck twice, both times hitting my shoulder with the second strike grazing my face,” Gaines told CNN’s Natasha Chen.“The rest of the protestors just ambushed and cornered me before I was able to move out with the help of campus police.”

A video Gaines posted from the event showed her moving quickly while surrounded by security officers. A protester can be heard shouting “trans rights are human rights,” but the video is shaky and does not appear to show an assault.

FIRE’s account, in which she apparently gave her talk, or at least most of it, but was disrupted:

Well, that wasn’t an exaggeration. Last night, protestors at San Francisco State University attempted to shout down and shut down a speaking event with former NCAA swimmer Riley Gaines. The school’s Turning Point USA chapter had invited Gaines to campus to talk about gender and sports, but she was met by an angry crowd chanting and screaming at her to leave.

While Gaines gave her speech, protestors continued to disrupt the event, drowning her out by stomping and yelling inside the room and in the hallway immediately outside while she spoke. After her speech, police attempted to escort Gaines to a secure location, but the crowd followed them out of the room and down the hallway, screaming and shouting until police locked Gaines in a secure room. Gaines reportedly remained trapped inside the room for almost three hours until the protestors dispersed and police escorted her out.

Here’s the video she tweeted and and then a news report:

A news report (from Fox News, of course) with more video:

Of course nobody was arrested; these hecklers are free to disrupt anybody anywhere, apparently.  Here’s a bit more from CNN. The disruption was condemned by both a conservative and by a liberal organization.

Andrew Kolvet, a spokesperson for Turning Point USA [organizers of the event], said he spoke to three people who were in the room Thursday night.

He said they told him Gaines spoke to a room of people during the event, including individuals who disagreed with her viewpoint. According to those present, Kolvet said the conversation was constructive and polite, and that the disruption happened as the event was wrapping up.

Kolvet was not present Thursday evening but was in communication with Gaines via text while she was brought by campus police into a computer room during the incident, where they remained locked inside while protestors were at the door. . . .

. . . “We are conducting an ongoing investigation into the situation. There were no arrests related to the event,” the university police department said in a statement. “The disruption occurred after the conclusion of the event which made it necessary for UPD officers to move the event speaker from the room to a different, safe location.”

University police did not immediately respond to an inquiry by CNN on the nature of “the disruption” and whether the investigation is related to the alleged assault.

Gaines tied transgender swimmer Lia Thomas for fifth place in the women’s 200-meter freestyle final at the 2022 NCAA swimming and diving championships and has been vocal about her opposition to the inclusion of trans women in women’s swimming.

“This is an appalling attack on free speech on a college campus,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter. “House Republicans stand with Riley Gaines and her brave and tireless efforts to protect women’s sports.”

PEN America, a literary and free expression advocacy organization, called the incident a “disaster.”

“Physical intimidation or violence is never an acceptable response to speech, no matter how hateful or controversial that speech may be,” said Kristen Shahverdian, PEN America’s senior manager in free expression and education.

And from FIRE:

SFSU must, in fact, investigate the disruption of last night’s event and determine whether the administration and campus security took appropriate action to satisfy the university’s duty to ensure protected speech and expressive events can occur on campus, and whether they had any role in fomenting or sustaining the disruption.

This latest incident at SFSU illustrates a broader trend of students shouting down speakers with whom they disagree. We saw similar shout-downs on Tuesday at UAlbany and at Stanford Law School last month.

To be clear, the heckler’s veto — substantial disruption of expressive events — is not protected speech. The students who protested outside the event without disrupting it engaged in First Amendment protected activity. But those who stomped and yelled during Gaines’ appearance in an attempt to drown her out, or accosted her in the halls to intimidate her, did not.

If you want to send either a pre-written message or your own message to the President of SFSU, click on the box below, which you can use to send an email. I’ve already done so (the form is at the bottom of the linked page):

This is what I wrote:

Dear President Lynn Mahoney:

This is the second time in two weeks that SFSU has been the venue for illiberal protests against reasonable views (the first incident involved the showing a picture of Muhammad, which you are illegally “investigating,”  and now we have a physical attack on swimmer Riley Gaines. Apparently nobody was detained after physically attacking Gaines, even though this was clearly illegal assault.

SFSU needs to educate its students about the First Amendment and the proper way to oppose speech without disrupting it. Otherwise, like Hamline University, you’re going to get a terrible national reputation. I would suggest that students who attack others be arrested, and that you start taking concrete steps to educate people about free speech and then enforce the rules you have (you ARE a state institution).  Oh, and please drop the “investigation” of professor Maziar Behrooz, which is unconscionable. You surely know that he did nothing wrong.

Jerry Coyne
Professor Emeritus
Dept. Ecology & Evolution
The University of Chicago

What is sad about this is that the question of how transgender people can participate in sport is going to become an increasingly important question over time given the huge rise in transitioning, so we need to have a discussion about it NOW, before these problems become quite frequent.  The discussion needs to involve science (what criteria do we use to determine eligibility?), philosophy, and ethics (how do you balance fairness towards transgender athletes with fairness towards women?) Cisgender men are involved as well, but to a lesser extent.

It’s a shame that nobody can discuss this civilly—at least nobody calling for bans or caution—without being slurred as a “transphobe” or even without being physically attacked.

Women like Gaines who have to swim against biological men who identify as women have a special right to express their views and to be heard, as they are the ones who feel the unfairness on the “cis” side. But no, that’s not in the card: people like Gaines, Martina Navratilova, and J. K. Rowling are the ones deemed most reprehensible.

So it goes.

46 thoughts on “Woman opposing participation of trans women on women’s sports teams assaulted at SFSU

    1. We might need to have a discussion, about sport and women’s private spaces and prisons. And nonsensical court and police reporting of male crimes.
      But Jerry Coyne should be aware that, from the very beginning, discussion was repeatedly sought by critics of the gender ID subculture, and repeatedly rejected by that subculture’s devotees. They are more amenable to discussion now only since the campaign to change laws and culture is running into better organised opposition, seeing court decisions against them, and public displays of violence by their student Abteilung.

      He should also be aware that his use of the term ‘cis’ already marks him out as amenable to the concept of gender ID, and therefore already biased in any future discussion. ‘Cis’ has achieved no currency beyond gender subculture followers. We simply don’t recognise it.

      Finally Rowling, Navratilova and Kellie-Jay Keene, inter alia, are not considered, even in the slightest way, as ‘reprehensible’ by the overwhelming majority of rational human beings. If you mute the barrage of corporate funded propaganda on behalf of the gender cult you will hear that quiet majority who regard them as defenders of the hard won rights of women.

      1. Give me a break: biased towards the gender activist subculture because I used the word “cis”? And yes, the activists I named are considered reprehensible by many.

        I don’t think you have an idea of my thinking on this issue.

        You’re out of here with your first comment, especially the accusation that I’m biased because I used the term “cis”.

        1. It may seem minor, but the LANGUAGE we used informs our thoughts and actions. No one said it better than George Orwell, “There is no swifter route to the corruption of thought than through the corruption of language.”

          So, while it may seem trivial, when you adopt the language of the Trans Cult, even with a single word–a word that implies, though, that natural, biological women are merely a subset of “woman”–then you start down the road of showing support for an ideology that is profoundly misogynist at core.

          Read about Dr. John Money, Martine Rothblatt, the Stryker Corp., or the Pritzker cousins if you don’t believe me that this is an ideology that is dangerous to women, and all free human beings.

  1. The claims of assault seem hyperbolic to me and think this situation calls for better evidence. All I can take away from the video is that Riley Gaines encountered some very obnoxious protestors who had no interest in dialogue. And given who the organizers were (Turning Point), it is probably the outcome they hoped for (i.e. antagonizing trans activists into doing something stupid).

    1. You don’t believe that she was struck twice? And the verbal harassment and chasing are on the video. Further, the cops held her in a closed room for her safety for several hours. Would you prefer that she’d been beaten to a bloody pulp. And, you know, perhaps the organizers just wanted her viewpoint transmitted rather than provoking the activists, which, if provoked, was not the fault the Turning Point.

      What claims did she make that you don’t believe?

      1. I believe her when she says she was struck on the shoulder, but in the context of jostling down a narrow, crowded hallway with zealous protestors screaming, it could have easily been something other than malicious intent. Bodies bumping around, or someone just trying to get her attention as a fan, not a detractor. And Riley did not characterize it as assault (it looks like CNN did). But of course, I simply don’t know and would prefer better evidence, even as I am sympathetic to her cause.

          1. You touch on a sore point, Pete. Of course the justice system can’t “believe” women because that would amount to a presumption of guilt against the accused as in a rape trial. The accused’s lawyer will put the woman’s testimony as a witness to rigorous and sceptical cross-examination which has the explicit goal of getting the jury to disbelieve her…or at least reasonably doubt her. No one except the woman’s friends ought to “believe” her. And they would be barred from the jury where their beliefs might miscarry justice.

            But that’s all for the police and the courts to tackle. It is pointless for us to be poring over grainy off-and-on video pretending we are professional investigators determining if there is evidence for an assault charge. Ms Gaines herself didn’t claim she was “assault”ed. She just said what happened. Wise young woman. She was credible and straightforward on Tucker Carlson’s show about the Lia Thomas affair shortly after graduated and was free to speak her mind.

            The takeaway from this event is that aggressive protesters interfered with her freedom of speech on a public campus where the university has an obligation to defend it. I don’t think it’s relevant if we believe or don’t believe any statements about the altercation itself. Leave that to the cops. If they don’t think a crime was committed, there is nothing we can do about that. The university can discipline the protesters if they are students or faculty and it should.

    2. I’m sure there will be more videos to come, but for now, here’s one piece of “better evidence,” a video from the hall and theroom where Gaines was held hostage:

      (From Karen Davis’ substack, Riley Gaines assault, part 2, https://ykright.substack.com/

      Starts at 4:03 – 5:30 ( U = university rep; S = students)
      U: “We’re hoping to keep this peaceful, and…”
      S: “Make her lose her flight!”
      U: “… move forward, OK… (inaudible)
      S: “Tell her to pay us. Tell her to pay us. Then she can go. $10 bucks each.” (Many student’s yelling.)

      S: “ We’re cooperating, so what’s next?”
      S: ”So they (the university?) need to do their job…we created a path.”
      (Students wanted Gaines to run the gauntlet to be allowed to leave.)

      U: “I can’t speak to all of you… when you’re all speaking at one time.”
      S: “Don’t let her.. (go)!” (Inaudible, but several students are shushing the crowd so U can be heard.)

      U: “What we want to do is maintain what we’re doing right now…” (blocking the hallway and door) “… and continue our conversation, and what were gonna do is hoping to do is keep things peaceful, and…”
      S: “Make her lose her flight!!”
      U: “… and move forward.”

    3. What are sane not-extremely-far-Left people on campuses supposed to do when the only organizations willing to invite and promote speakers on issues like this are ones like TPUSA and The Federalist Society? And is it somehow their fault if the student make utter asses of themselves every time a speaker they don’t agree with comes to campus? Give me a break.

      1. This is what my philosopher friend Viminitz refers to as the free speech deal. When the Right observes that the Left has abrogated The Deal—the add-ons covering state legislatures, state universities, the civil service,—, boy howdy is the boot heel going to come down when it’s their turn in power. All you’ll have left of the First Amendment will, eventually, be its original text: “Congress shall make no law . . .”

    4. Rubbish she was hit and threatened and then held against her will for some three hours. If you belittle this you are just like everyone who thinks women should shut up. These are all criminal offences, bear in mind.

  2. But I already did my intersectional critical-theoretic exercises for the day, do I have to?

    Oh ok, I’ll try:

    The cis-gendered meritocratic hegemony is the real assault, and transsexual non-menstruator mens team bench-warmers are the real victims. Riley Gaines should expect this reaction when Gaines problematize the harm suffered by true athletes who can’t get trophies any other way.

  3. When I was an undergrad at State University of New York (Buffalo) in the late 1960s, I had one teacher, a grad student in English, who was not Left. That’s the news!

    All the rest were Marxists. Of one flavor or another. Being not a Marxist myself, I was struck dumb. The United States is not a Marxist nation, yet this State University was full to the brim of Left.

    Over the years, confirmation of the same did not waver. So …. my perpetual question has been, “What happens to all these Marxists? Do they retract and realign once they find out they live in a free nation and have to earn wealth?” What becomes of millions of newly hatched Left pouring into the fabric of the USA for decades?

    We have reached critical mass of the non-retracted. It’s a chain reaction now. To understand the behavior of this harvest-generation, simply go back to that time …

    “Repressive Tolerance,” 1965, Herbert Marcuse”

    Gist: Genuine tolerance is only found in intolerance for limits on all mainstream and peripheral Marxist positions. Any tolerance (civil discourse included) of a worldview other than the centerline narrative and project of Marx is evil, corrupt tolerance. It shall not be tolerated. It shall not be argued. It shall be shouted down.

    And beaten down.

  4. The trans activists at SFSU are simply following the example of the Union of Palestine Students (see: https://www.thefire.org/news/san-francisco-state-student-protesters-disrupt-speech-jerusalem-mayor ). SFSU is, in fact, notorious for anti-Jewish activities, to which trans zealotry can now be added.

    The enforcement of trans doctrine has reached a remarkable point. 50 years ago, radical psychologists like R.D. Laing and Thomas Szasz argued that schizophrenia and certain delusions may provide some therapeutic value for some patients. But they never contended that delusions were factually correct. Today, we have the insistence that obvious delusions (such as being “born in the wrong body”) are inerrant Truth, that they must be indulged by society in all respects, and that any deviation from this demand ought to be shouted down. In this regard, the woke trans orthodoxy is now way beyond either the USSR Lysenkoism of the 1940s or the Anglosphere fad of “radical psychiatry” in the 1960s/70s.

    1. “But they never contended that delusions were factually correct. Today, we have the insistence that obvious delusions (such as being “born in the wrong body”) are inerrant Truth, that they must be indulged by society in all respects, and that any deviation from this demand ought to be shouted down.”

      TL;DR : true/false is a red herring. Power and control, modulo intersectionality, is all that is in play.


      Almost, I think. The notion of true/false is not part of the critical-theoretical concept of knowledge. To the critical theory, knowledge is socially constructed – and the product of categories of power. Individuals do not matter either, IIUC.


      ^^I think it is as formulaic as that.

      1. We only have a set number of hours in each day to channel energy to try and make a better world. I feel that protecting children who are dying of curable diseases or tackling climate change are a good priority for justice and equality in this world. Words used inside universities to audiences inside universities are important, but not if all your political energy is this used up in this effort. I fear in some cases, in the country that has the wealth and influence to do more than any other on health, peace and equality is ranting in the lecture theatres.

  5. I favour simple rules like “no males in women’s sport” but trans inclusion in sport can have a complicated context.

    Elite Canadian hockey has a sexism problem (sexual assaults at junior hockey tournaments) and a homophobia problem (“faggot” gets thrown around in games) and both need to be solved. Part of the PR solution has been trans-themed Pride nights and other events organized by the National Hockey League. But some teams and players have famously objected to the trans emphasis (not other aspects of inclusion), and have been branded bigots for refusing to “wear the ribbon”. That’s the context.

    The interesting part is that the NHL also supports women’s pro hockey in the Premier Hockey Federation. The PHF has a gender inclusion policy


    that allows transwomen players to qualify if they self-identify as a woman and “live in their [transgender or nonbinary] identity for a minimum of two years.” No medical or surgical interventions are required (indeed “medical gatekeeping” is acknowledged as a historical barrier to inclusion of trans people in public life and in hockey).

    Ironically, the only medical provision in the policy is aimed at *females*. Trans men and nonbinary female individuals who are receiving testosterone must have a medical use exemption to qualify for the PHF (notably this is not called “medical gatekeeping” in the policy).

    There are no transwomen in the PHF afaik. I suspect that the obstacle isn’t inclusion but money: playing women’s pro hockey isn’t lucrative. Only one PHF player makes a six-figure income, but if that becomes common then I expect the men will start showing up to play. What will the NHL do when a hockey version of Riley Gaines starts complaining about that?

        1. In my darker moments, I worry that trans activism attracts the sort of man who likes to beat up women, literally, with his male fists and male upper-body strength. Fallon Fox is their poster boy. The cowards dress up as women so they can get away with actually doing it but the allies are out there cheering them on, delighted to see those castrating women in their own lives finally getting their come-uppance.

          They will hoist a Bud Light in toast.

          That’s why I refuse to give trans people an inch and male-dominated sports businesses shouldn’t touch these people with a barge pole. Not the men anyway. If this means little Becky can’t play girls’ track and field, tough. (Her athletic career is pretty well over anyway—she was cut from the team’s track events.)

  6. Wanted to share this that just popped into my mailbox, but have not had a chance to read.

    Trans activists attacks on women now span several countries….largely Anglophone ones. And includes the punching out of a 70-year old feminist in New Zealand while the police did little. (The police doing little, if not siding with the activists, is now a leit motif.)

    No doubt some of you will find the article contentious, so would be wonderful to get your ripostes!

    “Why Trans Activists Attack Women
    Beware false claims of “genocide” ”


  7. It’s high time the media stopped using the phrase “transgender women” in sport. “Male ‘women'”, though no less self-contradictory, would more closely portray the ludicrousness of the situation.
    And why do the media refer to Thomas as ‘her’ and ‘she’?

  8. It’s astonishing how the tactic of “calling out” — bringing public attention to an individual’s harmful words or behavior — has so rapidly devolved into what resembles schoolyard taunts or the mobs who protested civil rights. It’s not just deployed in the trans issue (though that seems to provide the most obvious examples) but in any situation where the rights or “safety” of marginalized people are seen as being in some kind of jeopardy. Take on the persona of an authority pushed to the breaking point and opening a can of whoop-ass. Scream, shout, spit, scold, push, jeer, snarl — and be sure to jump on any weakness or vulnerability: “Why are you running? Huh?…Are you crying? Are you f*cking crying?”

    This is being done by under cover of “Be Kind” by kids who sat through lessons on why it’s bad to bully other kids. This is coming from the Right Side of History. Do they not see the contradiction? How could those doing it fail to notice that they’ve become that which they presumably hate?

    1. Good point. I think the answer is largely that these folks are deep into catastrophic thinking about transphobia (and climate change and everything else): it will lead to “genocide” or some other disaster if not opposed by any means necessary.

      Why catastrophizing has become so common among zoomers and millenials is a question above my pay grade as Jerry says.

    2. I suspect that The Intolerant Offended get all the benefits of violent virtue signalling with their like minded associates – and very little of the criticism or criminal prosecution that seems not to follow.

      Expel or prosecute The Intolerant Offended and suddenly behaving poorly is not risk free.

  9. Thanks for posting the link for sending an email to President of SFSU. I sent one. I don’t have time to follow most things online (news, twitter, fire, anything), but do see what you write, Jerry.

  10. In a galaxy far away, three generations of kids sat through lessons on “building Socialism” and getting on “the Right Side of History” via the precepts of Marxism-Leninism, and they joined the Young Pioneers and the Komsomol. The outcome of this thorough program of indoctrination was Yevgeny Prigozhin & Co.

  11. “trans rights are human rights”

    Freedom of expression and physical integrity aren’t, apparently.

  12. I don’t say this as a cheap way to curry favour with women but I do have to ask: Why is the woman at risk of being a victim of violence from an agitated mob confined against her will for three hours while the mob loses interest and disperses? Why was the mob of men not repelled with batons, pepper spray, and rubber bullets so Ms. Gains could proceed unmolested about her lawful business, including getting to the airport on time?

    This is a consciousness-raising moment for me.

    1. I agree, except there were plenty of women there including the loudest voiced one. But they should have been forced to leave Ms Gains alone.

      1. Not making fun of you, Michael, but are you sure they were women? Women in the audience, sure but women in the mob that showed up later? I’m positive that shrill poncing thing in the first video screeching till it was hoarse was a guy.

        Black male homosexuals are stereotypically so flamboyantly autogynephilic that they were ostracized by male homosexuals who want their men to look like men, not mincing parodies of women who are always in falsetto character. This is said to explain the hostility of the black straight community to homosexuality—it’s why Pete Buttigieg will never be President. Black homosexuals are looked down on as not being manly. Black society has never been called out for it because, being oppressed, it can never be guilty of bigotry. So these men have taken enthusiastically to being trans, the better to fit in not as floridly effeminate gay men but as straight women more feminine than Michelle Obama. I would almost grant their claims to be jailed with women for their safety. (Almost. They should be in segregated housing if they are afraid of black male cell mates.)

        Enough sociology. I think the dangerous ones were men. For a woman to be doing that would be like a white person trying to pass as an ally at a BLM rally…in blackface. Doesn’t make sense.

  13. Sorry to report that the first paragraph of your letter to Lynn Mahoney is missing a close parenthesis.

  14. The comments under Riley’s tweet are very reassuring…almost universal support including two from Kaitlyn Jenner.

    Good to see people finally having the courage to stand up against this radical ideology.

  15. ”What is sad about this is that the question of how transgender people can participate in sport is going to become an increasingly important question over time given the huge rise in transitioning, so we need to have a discussion about it NOW, before these problems become quite frequent. The discussion needs to involve science (what criteria do we use to determine eligibility?), philosophy, and ethics (how do you balance fairness towards transgender athletes with fairness towards women?)”

    Be careful that that doesn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t think that it’s a given that transitioning will continue to increase. It will probably blow over. It’s just a fad. Remember bell-bottom jeans, disco, the Village People, pet rocks? Not that I don’t take the current problems seriously.

    No point in appealing to science in the case of people who don’t care about science. One has to state the scientific facts: no-one can change sex in any meaningful sense. Using the preferred pronouns is the start of a slippery slope, and that is their main function. Fairness to women means at least that no self-ID “transwoman” should compete. As to others, well, perhaps one could allow those who transition before puberty, but there are two problems with that. First, no-one should be transitioning before puberty. What’s next? Amputating kids because they identify as pirates? (There really are people who get voluntarily amputated because they identifify as such.). Second, that would mean distinguishing self-ID trans from real trans, which is contrary to the whole TRA agenda.

  16. Repeat of Evergreen,if I remember right some of the admin were also ‘detained’ by protesters.

  17. I agree that it is a fad, Especially young women wanting to transition to men. Young women are often not happy with their bodily transition from a girl to a woman. 20 or 30 years ago they would get anorexia nervosa starving their bodies, nowadays they take hormones (that is not me, but Abigail Shrier who pointed that out).

    As for men trying to get athletic prizes while competing with women, I just consider them cheats. I don’t say all of them are not really ‘trans’, but I suspect quite a few of them are not, they just want to do better than in their mediocre performance in male events. I also noted that their ‘aggressivity’ remains typically male. If I were a trans ‘female’, I would simply not endeavour to compete in female competitions. But these ‘trans activists’ actually want this ‘struggle’. That ‘struggle’ is profoundly anti-female.
    The regressive CTRL ‘left’ supporting them is instrumental in giving the ALT ‘right’ great grist to to heir mill. I cannot fathom how blind that ‘left’ is.

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