A heated debate has erupted in Roanoke, Virginia, following comments by City Councilman Peter Volosin regarding the participation of transgender athletes in women’s sports.
The controversy was sparked after female swimmers from Roanoke College voiced their objections to a male-born swimmer joining the women’s team.
On Thursday, 10 female swimmers from Roanoke College publicly called on the NCAA and Virginia state legislature to safeguard women’s sports.
This came after they were informed that a student, who previously competed on the men’s team and has since undergone a gender transition, would be joining the women’s team.
Roanoke College, in a subsequent statement, revealed that the student had opted not to join the women’s swim team and criticized the NCAA for its “confusing” policy regarding transgender athletes.
In response to the swimmers’ concerns, Councilman Volosin, an openly gay former Brown University swimmer, defended the rights of transgender athletes to compete according to their gender identity.
Speaking to WSLS 10News in Roanoke, he labeled the pushback from the female athletes as “a bit selfish” and suggested that those concerned about being defeated by transgender competitors should “train harder.”
Volosin emphasized the mental and emotional troubles faced by transgender athletes who are unable to compete. “Not being able to compete as your authentic self is really hard, it adds that extra burden and it makes it mentally draining,” he stated.
The councilman’s remarks drew sharp criticism from various quarters, including NCAA All-American swimmer Riley Gaines, who is an advocate for single-sex sports.
Gaines took to social media to express her outrage, labeling Volosin’s advice for women to “train harder” as “ignorant, arrogant and infuriating.” She further accused him of being “anti-woman” and urged voters to remember his stance in the next election.
The Independent Council on Women’s Sports also weighed in, encouraging voters to “Vote out the men who belittle girls’ achievements in sports!!”
In the midst of the controversy, over 200 individuals, organizations, and civic leaders, including Volosin, signed an open letter titled “Hate Has No Place in Roanoke, Virginia,” expressing their support for transgender students, student-athletes, and the broader transgender community.
The situation in Roanoke reflects a nationwide debate over transgender athletes’ participation in school sports, with 23 states having enacted laws that restrict male-born athletes from competing in girls’ and women’s scholastic sports.