The narrowly-divided Virginia House of Delegates passed two closely-watched bills today. HB 1387, the “Fairness in Female Sports Act” (R-Greenhalgh), requires all public K-12 and college sports teams to only allow biological females to play on female teams. It passed by a 51-47 margin.
This issue has increasingly been making headlines and Southwest Virginia was an epicenter in March 2022 when Virginia Tech women’s swimmer Reka Gyorgy narrowly lost her chance to advance to finals and be an NCAA All-America honorable mention. As a native of Hungary, Gyorgy grew up in the shadow of communism and its dehumanizing effects.
Gyorgy, a fifth-year senior in terms of college swimming, finished 17th overall in the 500 freestyle prelims.
The top eight swimmers advanced to the “A” final. That meant they got to race again for the NCAA title and earned first-team All-America honors.
The contestants who placed ninth through 16th overall in the prelims moved on to the “B” final, meaning they got to race again and earned All-America honorable mention.
However, Lia Thomas of Penn State, who was born a biological male but competed as a female, won first place. Therefore, with Thomas taking first, each of the biological females scored one place lower than if Thomas had not competed. Therefore, by finishing 17th in the prelims, Gyorgy finished one spot short of making the “B” final and she could not advance. Moreover, as a fifth-year senior at her last college meet, her collegiate swimming career ended in defeat at the hands of Thomas.
Deeply upset, Gyorgy wrote the NCAA this letter which quickly went viral:
I would like to address this past week’s events and express my thoughts. First, I would like to remind everyone that I am a human being and that as a human being I experience feelings and emotions.
My name is Reka Gyorgy from Hungary. I am a 2016 Rio Olympian, represented Virginia Tech for the past 5 years, a 2 time ACC Champion, 2 time All-American and 3 time Honorable Mention All-American.
With all due respect, I would like to address something that is a problem in our sport right now and hurting athletes, especially female swimmers. Everyone has heard and known about transgender [athlete], Lia Thomas, and her case including all the issues and concerns that her situation brought into our sport. I’d like to point out that I respect and fully stand with Lia Thomas; I am convinced that she is no different than me or any other D1 swimmer who has woken up at 5 a.m. her entire life for morning practice. She has sacrificed family vacations and holidays for a competition. She has pushed herself to the limit to be the best athlete she could be. She is doing what she is passionate about and deserves that right. On the other hand, I would like to critique the NCAA rules that allow her to compete against us, who are biologically women.
I’m writing this letter right now in hopes that the NCAA will open their eyes and change these rules in the future. It doesn’t promote our sport in a good way and I think it is disrespectful against the biologically female swimmers who are competing in the NCAA.
I swam the 500 free at NCAA’s on March 17th, 2022, where I got 17th, which means I didn’t make it back to the finals and was first alternate. I’m a 5th year senior, I have been top 16 and top 8 before and I know how much of a privilege it is to make finals at a meet this big. This is my last college meet ever and I feel frustrated. It feels like that final spot was taken away from me because of the NCAA’s decision to let someone who is not a biological female compete. I know you could say I had the opportunity to swim faster and make the top 16, but this situation makes it a big different and I can’t help but be angry or sad. It hurts me, my team and other women in the pool. One spot was taken away from the girl who got 9th in the 500 free and didn’t make it back to the A final preventing her from being an All-American. Every event that transgender athletes competed in was one spot taken away from biological females through the meet.
The NCAA knew what was coming this past week. They knew opinions and minds will be divided and chose to do nothing. This week has been more about reporters, media and division in our sport than things like two women going under 21 seconds in the 50 freestyle, 3 women going under 50 seconds in the 100 butterfly and the first women IN HISTORY to go under 48 seconds in the 100 backstroke. Thursday was not a specific athlete’s fault. It is the result of the NCAA and their lack of interest in protecting their athletes. I ask that the NCAA takes time to think about all the other biological woman in swimming, try to think how they would feel if they would be in our shoes. Make the right changes for our sport and for a better future in swimming.
Thank you for reading,
Reka Gyorgy, Virginia Tech swimmer
HB 2432 (R-LaRock), given the namesake “Sage’s Law,” will require schools to inform parents if their child is identifying as another gender at school and clarify that parents will not be deemed “abusive” simply for affirming their child’s biological sex. It passed 50-48.
The bill was brought in response to a nightmare situation where, at Appomattox County High School in August 2021, Sage fell into a complicated web and she ended up in the hands of sexual predators, not once, but twice after she experienced a bout of gender identity confusion. Sage was later found by the FBI in Maryland. However, a judge refused to return Sage to her parents because they did not agree that Sage had become a male and the judge believed that disqualified them for taking Sage home.
Not allowed to go home and placed in the boys’ quarters of a children’s home, Sage was sexually assaulted. Sage fled that horrific situation, but was later sex-trafficked again until she was freed by law enforcement in Texas.
Now age 15 and back at home, she was reflecting on her period of gender confusion. She said, “I don’t know who I was. I’m a totally different person now. I never was a boy. Everybody was doing it, I just wanted to have friends.”
You can read more about Sage’s horrific experience and how Sage’s Law is designed to keep this from happening again to other Virginia youth in this report from the Federalist Society.
Among Roanoke area legislators, Democrat Del. Salam “Sam” Rasoul (Roanoke City) voted No on both bills while Republican Del. Chris Head (Botetourt/Roanoke) and Joe McNamara (Salem/Roanoke) voted yes.
Having passed the House of Delegates, the bill now moves to the State Senate with a 22 Democrat-18 GOP composition.