Supreme Court rules transgender girl can continue competing on girls' team

The national debate over transgender athletes came to San Francisco State University Thursday.

A group of students huddled on campus, making signs of support for trans athletes and calling for more public understanding.

"I feel like if they had empathy and they put themselves into the shoes of trans people who had a more difficult upbringing with their own identity then they would have a better grasp," said Meg Harrington, a San Francisco State University student.

The nation's debate took a new turn Thursday.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to overturn a lower appeals court order that allows a 12-year-old West Virginia transgender girl Becky Pepper-Jackson to continue competing on her middle school girl's track and cross-country teams while her lawsuit challenging West Virginia's transgender athlete ban moves through the courts.

"I'm excited that that kid gets to keep running around and having fun. And I hate that she has to keep fighting for that right that all other kids just have automatically," said Owen Dempsey, a trans athlete who plays with the city's T-Rex Trans and softball team.

Dempsey came to a campus event in support of trans athletes. He recalled the pain of trying to enjoy athletics as a trans person caught in a culture of divisions, between men's and women's athletics.

"I wasn't going to play on the girls team and the boys team wasn't an option," he said.

Across campus, Riley Gaines came to share her story.

After sharing her story; however, a disruption occurred at the campus that forced Gaines in a separate location.

"We are conducting an ongoing investigation into the situation. There were no arrests related to the event. 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," San Francisco State University said.

Gaines was an elite women's college swimmer who says it was painful for her when she competed against transgender athlete Lia Thomas.

"It's emotionally traumatic in terms of facing unfair competition where you know nothing you can do in terms of training in terms of maximizing your performance can beat someone who has gone through male puberty," said Gaines.

Gaines said while she supports West Virginia and other states putting limits on participation, she is not against transgender athletes.

She says instead, athletics perhaps should expand to have men's, women's and an open category without gender.

"No one should be denied athletic opportunity and chances for athletic success, but it's just about playing where it's fair," said Gaines.

The Biden administration proposed new rules Thursday that would forbid any schools and colleges that receive federal funding from imposing any bans on transgender athletes. The proposal would allow competitive high school and college teams to impose some limits on participation.

At least 16 states have some sort of ban on transgender athletes.