A 16-year-old swimmer from Illinois, Abigail Wheeler, recently faced criticism for expressing concerns about the presence of biological males in the girls’ locker room at a Springfield YMCA. Rather than being hateful, Wheeler was advocating for the rights of women and their safety in their private spaces. Along with a teammate, she posted signs reading “Women’s Rights,” “Biological Women Only,” and “SafeSport,” intending to notify other girls about the presence of biological males in the locker room.
After sharing her actions with her coach, Wheeler was seemingly excluded from her swim team. However, the local YMCA chapter’s communications director argued that Wheeler left voluntarily, citing repeated false claims made since May. Wheeler disputed this assertion, firmly stating that she did not leave on her own accord but was essentially forced out of her team.
In a show of solidarity, Riley Gaines, an advocate for female athletes and a University of Kentucky swimming alumna, commended Wheeler on national television. Gaines lauded Wheeler’s courage for standing up for herself and her teammates at such a young age, pointing out her invaluable role as a vocal advocate for female athletes.
Wheeler’s father revealed to a podcast host that the controversy began in April, when his daughter noticed two biological males in the women’s locker room. Despite the family’s repeated efforts to challenge this policy and propose reasonable solutions such as private bathrooms for trans athletes, the YMCA and Wheeler’s coach did not take any action. This dismissal of their concerns led Wheeler to take a stand by putting up the aforementioned signs.
Additionally, Gaines drew attention to the fact that Wheeler’s sister, Kaitlynn, had faced a similar situation with trans athlete Lia Thomas. Kaitlynn, who is also a University of Kentucky swimming alumna and a former teammate of Gaines, expressed her support and admiration for her sister’s bravery. Gaines called out the hypocrisy of Wheeler’s coach, who ignored the genuine concerns of his female athletes despite having a daughter himself. She strongly argued that the situation requires a deeper conversation about the rights and safety of real female athletes.