Former Teammate of Lia Thomas Speaks Out


Former Teammate of Lia Thomas Speaks Out

Aug 16, 2023 31 min read
Kevin D. Roberts, PhD


Heritage Trustee since 2023
Lia Thomas of the Pennsylvania Quakers after winning the 500 meter freestyle event on January 8, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hunter Martin / Contributor / Getty Images

In 2019, the University of Pennsylvania's swim team informed its female athletes that Lia Thomas, a man formerly known as William Thomas, would be competing alongside them. But the consequences of the university's decision wouldn't be limited to unfair competition. Although Thomas' teammates were told he would use separate locker-room facilities, he was instead allowed to use the same locker-room as the rest of the team, subjecting the all-female group to changing clothes in front of a man. This incident, and the University of Pennsylvania's intense crackdown on dissent, sparked many of its athletes to come forward and advocate for the future of women's sports.

Paula Scanlan, a former University of Pennsylvania swimmer and teammate of Thomas, is the latest guest on The Kevin Roberts Show. Inspired by the injustice that she and her fellow Penn teammates suffered, Scanlan now spends her time making sure that the future of women's sports is safe, and that no one has to go through her experience ever again.

Despite being part of the most pessimistic generation in American history, Scanlan fights to give hope to the millions of girls who use sports to pursue the American dream.

Paula Scanlan: There was a girl on the team who was a bio major, she was very liberal when she said, “I’m a biology major and I understand biology. I don’t think this is fair. Show me that one-on-one.” She would never admit that to anybody else, and I’m obviously not going to name her. There was conversations like that you could have all the time with people. But when you’d come to the group, the whole entire group would say, “No. Of course I’m supportive. This is the most amazing thing that’s happening. This is progress.”

Kevin Roberts: Welcome back to the Kevin Roberts Show. I’d say this every week, and I mean that this week’s guest is really special. You’re going to want to tune into every minute of this interview. Sometimes I say that and it’s about an elected official. And when I say that about an elected official, it’s true. It’s true every time. But as I was just explaining to our friend of Heritage and guest this week, it’s even better not to have an elected official this week. No disrespect to those men and women who are doing some really important things. But what we’re trying to do with the show this week is highlight the courage of everyday Americans like you. And so, this fellow American sitting with me at Heritage right now is someone I think you’re going to enjoy hearing more from. Our new friend, Paula Scanlan, thanks for joining me.

Scanlan: Thank you so much for having me.

Roberts: So how in the wide world of sports do you find yourself in Washington, DC today doing something that you’re happy to be doing, but you probably would prefer to be doing something else?

Scanlan: Yeah, so the backstory is I was a member of a swim team at the University of Pennsylvania where a male individual decided they wanted to join the women’s team. And that opened my eyes up to silencing, there’s free speech violations going on, there’s all these actions that have showed us that one individual that identified as a female was more important than the rest of the team. And of course, I would love to not be here and not have to talk about this. I would’ve loved to never have gone through it. But now that I have, I think it’s my place to elaborate on what I went through and show the world that we can’t allow this to happen.

Roberts: Well, first of all, thank you for being here. Thank you for your courage even though as you told me off camera, it’s not really courage. My rejoinder to you, as you no doubt remember is, a lot of courageous people say that. And so thank you for your humility, which I think is going to motivate you in all the things you do in life. But this show is going to be focused on what happened, not necessarily the detail unless you want to get into that, but what happened, like starting with that moment when you realize, “Oh my gosh,” not just that this is wrong and shouldn’t be happening, but that you decided you’re going to speak out about it. So you start swimming when you’re young, eight years old?

Scanlan: Yep. I was eight.

Roberts: And I gather you’re swimming at the University of Pennsylvania. You were good. And this is one of your life pursuits. And in addition to your academic pursuits and whatever you may want to do with your vocation, which I want to talk to you about, swimming is vital to who you are as it should be because of your achievement. You get to Penn and this situation happens. What’s the first thing that occurs to you when you learn that a man is going to be allowed to swim on the Women’s swim team?

Scanlan: I was in shock. I think that’s the best way to explain. So the backstory is this didn’t happen until the fall of 2021 where the news stories didn’t even start until December, November of 2021.

My team knew from September of 2019 that this was going to be happening to us. And COVID actually prolonged that an additional year. It would’ve been the season before. And I found out, we were told in a team meeting, it was a five-minute meeting, it was led by a member of the men’s team named Will Thomas at the time. Will just informed us that they had started a protocol and would be joining the women’s team the following season, the year from that date. And that was it. There was no questions. There was no Q&A. The coach didn’t even talk. It was just Will telling us that, said, “My pronouns now are she/her. Please respect them. Everybody get in the pool. That was it.” There was no conversation.

I was in shock. I couldn’t really focus that practice. I went home after practice and went to dinner with some friends who weren’t on the team, and I could not stop talking about it. And they were like, “That doesn’t sound real. That’s not happening.”

Roberts: They probably didn’t believed you.

Scanlan: “There’s no way.” They didn’t believe me. There were people looking things up saying, “That’s not something that happens.” I called my family, they said the same thing. They said, “That won’t happen. Someone will shut it down. Someone will make sure it doesn’t happen.” But of course, nobody stepped up. Nobody stepped in. And the season happened two years later. And it could have been avoided in those two years somehow. They could have done studies, they could have changed the protocols, but they didn’t.

Roberts: And there’s no conversation that your coach was initiating with your team about this in the meantime?

Scanlan: No, we were just told that was what was going to happen and there was no conversation about it, which I thought was very interesting because it was something that was definitely going to be controversial and no one agreed that it was controversial. And I found that to me was my first instinct that things were going to be bad. You should talk about something like that. Even if you don’t agree with my opinion, even if I don’t agree with your opinion, that’s something we need to talk about as a team, and we never did.

Roberts: The remarkable thing among many about the transgender agenda is that it transcends the conservative versus liberal, Republican versus Democrat vector, right? I mean, this is just a common sense issue. But in spite of that, I’m thinking about the silence of your coach. I’m wondering if other teammates were willing to commiserate with you even privately about what was going on. Or was there this expectation that y’all were just to accept it and move on?

Scanlan: So you could have private conversations with people. I met with a lot of people that in the future later ended up telling the entire team they were so supportive and hated everyone who spoke out against it. But there was a girl on the team who was a bio major and she told me... She was very liberal when she said, “I’m a biology major and I understand biology. I don’t think this is fair. Show me that one-on-one.” She would never admit that to anybody else. And I’m obviously not going to name her.

But there was conversations like that you could have all the time with people, but when you’d come to the group, the whole entire group would say, “No, of course I’m supportive. This is the most amazing thing that’s happening. This is progress. This is what we want for the world. This is helping transgender individuals mend into society,” whatever. And privately they would say things that were different. So that was something that I had a really hard time because I didn’t know who to trust because they could tell me their opinion and then five minutes later, they’re telling the entire group that they hate me and they disagree with my opinion.

Roberts: We’re going to get into, no doubt, the situation of being in a locker room and swimming with a man on a women’s team. But first, I just kind of want to get a sense of the context. Was there anything on campus at the University of Pennsylvania that made you think that somehow this was going to be fixed before you actually had to enter a locker room with him?

Scanlan: Honestly, no. Based on-

Roberts: I was afraid you were going to say that.

Scanlan: Based on everything that I had seen from the way the university handled most things, it didn’t seem like they cared enough about protecting of the greater good. Colleges have really turned into this place where everyone who’s LGBT+ is the top priority and minorities. And they make it very clear that anyone who has a dissenting viewpoint is not welcomed. And I saw this firsthand in the spring of 2019 when Candace Owens came to talk at campus. And I went to her speech, there were riots, there were people screaming at her calling her a racist, and they were white students and she’s Black. I thought it was so backwards. Everybody who was in attendance to her speaking was screaming over her, so you couldn’t even hear her talking. And I think I knew that if the university couldn’t get that under control to even allow a conservative speaker to have a voice, I was not hopeful that they were going to listen to our team.

Roberts: And I imagine that there was nothing going on inside classrooms regardless of the subject that made you think that there would be professors or mid-ranking administrators who on their own would stand up for, again, something that shouldn’t just be conservative. It’s just common sense. Just knowing higher ed well, that probably wasn’t anything you could count on.

Scanlan: Yeah. And actually, there was an instance of a professor that they wrote a smear piece about in our school newspaper because he wrote an article that they didn’t like the viewpoint of. And he actually... I don’t know if he was fired or if he was removed from the university or if he left on his own volition. I think it was kind of a “Please leave or you’re fired” situation. And I’m actually connected with him now, and I do speak to him a little bit about this stuff and the treatment of the school. He’s great and he’s a great resource in all of this, but he was removed from his position for just... Not even voicing his opinions and saying, “I’m comfortable with everybody having an open viewpoint.” That’s not acceptable anymore.

Roberts: Yeah. This isn’t someone, a professor, this person you’re talking about, who’s waving the flag for red meat conservative Republican politics, right? He’s just saying a university is supposed to be a place for open inquiry where free speech exists, and he gets run out of his position for this.

Scanlan: Yep. And that’s something I also personally found because this has been documented, but I wrote an opinion piece for the school newspaper regarding this. It was polled within a few hours of it going out. And they told me and I finally got ahold of a kid on the staff, and he said that the entire staff was threatening to quit over the piece being there because they couldn’t stand for transphobia on their platform. I mean, it’s on my Twitter. You can read the... It had so many edits. There were words that were cut out of there, sentences that were “too harsh.” They jacked up the whole piece and it was still so offensive. I even let people I knew who were very left-leaning read it and tell me what they thought was offensive and they couldn’t even find anything. It was just the thought of having something that said, “I don’t think it’s fair for Lia to be swimming.”

Roberts: By the way, I’m just going to pause for the sake of our audience. One of the things that we try to do regularly on the show, and I think it’s something you would appreciate, is we’ll get comments after an episode and people will say, “Kevin, would you please remember, A, to give us homework? What are the next steps? How can we help with this issue?” So we’ll come back to that before the end of our conversation. But B, this is the thing I’m thinking about, “How do we have conversations with people who tell us that we’re wrong, especially if they might be left of center politically?”

And often the first thing that I say is, “Ask good questions.” And so I just want to point out, not that you need to hear this from me, but just for our audience, that’s an excellent example where you went to these people who were saying this, saying, “What is it about what I’m saying that you disagree with?” And when they say basically nothing, you know that they’re not operating in good faith. It’s probably a waste of time to be in a conversation with them. Move on to someone who might actually be movable on this issue, which I know is where you’ve sort of come to focus and we’ll get to that.

But for the sake of the story, as a historian, I just have to move chronologically, it’s fall of 2021 and you’re confronted with this reality. So it’s gone from concept to this burden and now it’s a reality. What was that like to be a member of a swim team, a women’s team with a man on the team?

Scanlan: So something people don’t realize is the Ivy League canceled all athletic competition from the 2020 to 2021 season. So we had a full gap year per se of no competition. And also we had no in-person classes. So in the weirdest way, that fall 2021 felt almost like it was my first day of school again, right? “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited. I get to be back in the classroom. I get to sit next to people in lecture, something I hadn’t done for three semesters. And oh my gosh, we get to swim again in a pool with my teammates instead of we were driving out to New Jersey in the fall of 2020 to go swim at a random club team that would host us.”

So a lot of that excitement, I think in my mind, covered up the apprehension I might’ve felt for the situation that was pending. And I think very quickly I did snap out of it, but at the beginning I said, “It’s okay that I have to deal with this horrible situation because I’m just so excited to be back.” And I think a lot of people also probably felt the same way. Again, I can’t speak for everyone, but that was my experience. And then quickly I jumped back to reality when I realized, “Oh my gosh, we’re changing in the same locker room as a male.” And we never talked about this. And previously, someone had said that Lia would be changing an alternative locker room. We never really had a conversation about it, so I’m not sure why I would’ve assumed that would’ve been the case. But I think I did hold that hope for that. And obviously, that was not the reality. Lia had a locker in there just like everybody else.

Roberts: That had to be astounding that it would be the expectation if you realize, “Okay, this is going to happen,” that there’s at least going to be a barrier, hopefully just a different room, for him to be able to change, and there wasn’t. And to fast-forward a little bit, once you decided to tell this story and it started getting more media attention, it was that reality that Americans who weren’t necessarily paying attention to this issue, that seemed to galvanize them to the position that you had, that is to say they had seen scenes, videos of him swimming. And as odd as that was, that’s sort of the depth of their thought, right? Pardon the pun. But they did not really think about the locker room situation. And for any human obviously, it’s obvious the problem there, but I think especially for people with children. Even if they’re far left of center, politically, they can see that this is a real issue. But your coach, the administration at Penn did nothing to correct us. This was just the matter of course for the remainder of your swimming career.

Scanlan: Yeah. And to be fair to them, if you’re going to allow Lia to be on this team, why would they not have the same privilege as everyone-

Roberts: It’s logically consistent I will say that.

Scanlan: Right. So that’s something I had to point out to myself. I was like, “Okay, well, at least they’re being logical in some way, shape or form, even though the whole situation was obviously illogical.” But yeah, and the thing you mentioned about children brought up something. I actually didn’t even think about this. This is one of my teammates who is not publicly talking about this, but has spoken to me privately. So we went on training trip in December of 2021. We shared the same locker room as all the young kids who swim at this facility. So there were children as young as four and five that were changing in the same locker room that we were.

My teammate told me that she at the beginning didn’t know how to feel about the whole situation. She knew in her heart it was wrong, but wasn’t as strong maybe as I felt at the time. And she told me that the visual of seeing Lia changing next to a four and five year old girls, roughly again, I didn’t ask them for their age, she just said she knew in that moment that her heart sank she told me. And she said that was the turning point for her. She said, “This is not acceptable and I don’t know what to do.” And she felt hopeless. I felt hopeless. We all did. And that to me is so scary. Those kids’ parents probably didn’t even know that we were training there. They had no idea.

Roberts: There’s no way.

Scanlan: No.

Roberts: Because almost every parent, even if they were sympathetic to his situation politically or just socially, because America is a tolerant place, even when we disagree with people, had they known that, they know that that’s wrong, especially given the age difference. And I think that’s part of the problem, right? Which is in addition to the obvious issues, just the lack of transparency.

Scanlan: Yeah. Actually, someone made a graphic on Twitter of a four-year-old or a young child changing next to Lia. I responded to it and got a lot of likes. So I said, “This situation actually did happen to some extent.” And people were like, “You’re lying about this” and accusing me of all this stuff. But it did happen. It is true. And that’s something I didn’t think about because we dealt with Lia in the locker room every day. And that’s something I expected because we knew Lia was going to be on the team, but I thought about all the girls who swam against us that we also shared locker rooms with. They didn’t know. And Riley’s talked about this. She had no idea. And I didn’t even think about, of course the other girls, the other NCAA teams didn’t think about the fact that we changed with Lia every day because it was just so unfathomable to even consider.

Roberts: Well, and I want to ultimately get into that moment when you decide to start speaking in very vocal ways. But I’m curious about another aspect of this, of the unfairness, and this is from a brother of my younger sister, very serious athlete and dad of three daughters, the unfairness of men competing in women’s sports to begin with. Beyond the locker room situation, beyond the lack of transparency by your administration and unfortunately by your own coach, just the unfairness of that, for you as a very serious athlete as a woman, what sense do we make of that, if anything?

Scanlan: Well, growing up, I swam with boys, and I always knew that they were always faster than me. Didn’t matter who they were, always faster. I think part of this situation, the reason why the Lia situation blew up so much bigger is that Lia’s times as Will, so will Thomas on the men’s side, had faster times in all the female world records in all those events, which is very drastic. Not every male who competes is going to be at that level. And for me, I was worried genuinely because I didn’t know how much you’d slow down if you take these hormones. And it’s still unclear at best. And I was very worried that if Lia showed up and swam the exact same times Will did, obviously that didn’t quite happen, they would break world records. And that really opened my eyes to how dramatic it could be. Obviously, every instance of a male competing is not that dramatic. But to be clear, I’ve trained with boys my entire life growing up. I trained with boys in college as well. They’re always faster. They always are.

Roberts: You need to feel less of a human with this reality, I’m presuming.

Scanlan: Yes. Even my dad who swam, he did a few open water races, he was not a D1 swimmer by any means, when I was 14. And so in training, my dad could still beat me, and he’s in his 60s now. He didn’t swim competitively to the level I did, obviously. And Riley said the same thing. Her husband was on the men’s team in terms of placement at NCAAs and things like that. Her husband is not better than her, but if they raced, Riley would lose. It’s just so clear. And the fact that I even have to defend this is just so funny to me.

Roberts: It’s ridiculous we even have to have the conversation, right?

Scanlan: Yep.

Roberts: So, moving on to the public platform that you’ve established, thank goodness, and thanks again for doing that. And know that Heritage every step of the way will be your friend. You can handle yourself, but sometimes when you’re in the fight, it’s good to know that you got a lot of friends out there. When was the light bulb moment? When was it that you said, “Okay, I’ve talked to my family, my friends, I’ve complained about it, but I’m actually going to be very vocal about this on a national level?”

Scanlan: A lot of things came into this. So after I graduated, I was doing anonymous interviews. I was in the What Is a Woman? documentary with the masked face, and people knew that it was me. If you screenshot the image of my face and turn your brightness up, you can see my side profile quite clearly. I just wanted some plausible deniability to just go on and live my life.

My parents are very traditional type of family. We have dinner together every night.

Roberts: Great practice.

Scanlan: We went to church growing up, the things that aren’t so normal anymore. And obviously my parents wanted me to go to good school and get a good job. So I studied engineering in college, worked very hard. I got a job working as a product manager in New York City upon graduating, and I just said, “You know what? Forget all this stuff. I’m going to go live my life and I’m going to make money doing this job and I’m going to do the traditional thing,” which the traditional thing is going to college and getting a good job being successful. At least in my family it is. And I went on and in that year I was working, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened. There were still nights where I would cry about my experiences.

I think part of me also thought that some of my teammates that didn’t like my opinions would come back to me. I had friends that I lost on the team over this. None of them ever spoke to me again, even after I was quiet for the year upon graduating and work and then eventually coming forward. And I saw a lot of this stuff. And then I started working and I was placed on a team. So I really liked my job at the beginning. I was placed on a team that I didn’t like so much, and I had a hard time with it. And that really pushed me over the edge because I said, “Okay, the only reason I’m scared now is I’m going to lose my job. Well, I can find a new job if I want to.”

Roberts: It’s America.

Scanlan: Yeah, I’m not... And I wasn’t super tied to my position at the time. And so that ultimately, a mix of that and I just couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened, that mix eventually pushed me over to deciding to come forward. And a lot of it I did actually really turn to prayer a lot. I’ve been religious, but I’m not one of those people who goes to mass every single day. There are some days that I miss admittedly. But I really was in a lot of pain just torn between what to do, and I took a lot of it to prayer. And God and my life just took me to the point where I quite literally woke up one morning and I said, “I think it’s time. I think it’s time to speak about this. And if I only get to do it once, at least I know I put my heart out there.”

Roberts: I really do mean this. What a moving summary of that moment. I want to pick up with that moment. But I also want to say, to pick up on another theme that comes up on this show organically probably because of the Holy Spirit, and that’s faith. And not that every guest here has to be so serious in their faith as you are. But the point is, I’m often asked when I give talks around the country, “Kevin, can you have conservatism? Can you have America without people of faith?” And I’ve become convinced the answer to that is no, that obviously it’s America. We’re a pluralistic society. There are many different ways to practice the faith, even for those of us who are both Roman Catholic. There might be different masses that we attend, but the point is, that seeking eternal truth, however we want to have that journey, is an essential part to not just the project of conservatism, but I would argue across the political spectrum, the project of America.

And it’s not a surprise to me, having spent some of the afternoon with you today, that that’s an important part of that moment when you say, “Okay, I’m going to give up this job that presumably you had been working for,” right? I mean, you’re in college thinking, “This is your first steps of the American dream in order to go say something that I know from deep inside, from on high I’m inspired to do.” How’s it gone?

Scanlan: I think it’s gone pretty well. Obviously, I’ve met with the people I expect to not support me and some challenges with that. But I think overall, knowing... The best way to explain it is a huge weight was lifted off my shoulder in a way because it’s not that I was ever secretive about my opinions, but it was just so many people said, “Oh, it’ll be so much more powerful if you speak about it with your voice behind it,” because anonymous interviews can only go so far.

And a lot of it’s just really, yeah, huge weights lifted off my shoulder, that’s the best way to explain it. Just feeling more free and more open. And I think even at the beginning, a lot of the ways I talk about this have opened up even more where at the beginning I said, “I don’t really want to address the locker room situation at all because it made me uncomfortable.” And I knew some people claim that that’s the most transphobic part of the argument or whatever name-calling they use. And I hesitated from a lot of those conversations. I also really struggle with pronouns and how to address those people. I don’t want to be disrespectful. I’ve never wanted to be disrespectful.

Roberts: That’s obvious sitting here with you, that’s not your mo.

Scanlan: Yeah. But the thing I noticed is even when I was being the most respectful I could, I was still getting led with the hate I was trying to avoid. So a lot of it’s opened me up to now I talk more freely about these things. I don’t think too hard about it. And that’s been my journey only in the nine weeks or so I’ve even really been speaking about this.

Roberts: We were talking off camera, joking mostly, although the charges that come in, especially on social media can be pretty serious .for people who are listening to this conversation, watching this conversation, or they’ve been following you, who might be inspired by your story, themselves to step up and whatever issue it may be, what advice would you give them on handling the naysayers? Because when we step up in this culture unfortunately, the naysayers are going to sound off. What’s been a good practice or practices you’ve used to handle that?

Scanlan: Yeah. Well, I’m still dealing with it. And there are days where I definitely kind of sit there and I think to myself, “Maybe I should go back to my job. Maybe my life would be so much easier if I just never did this.’ And then quickly it’s thrown out and I say, “No, I know I’m doing this for the right reason.” I think it’s staying true to yourself and what you believe in.

Something that society has taken so far is that standing firm in your beliefs is sometimes looked to be a bad thing. And that’s something I struggled with, I still struggle with. And I think just being firm in who you are and comfortable in who you are is the first step. If you know that you’re correct and you’re confident in who you are and you’re confident in your opinions, no matter what other people say, that’s not going to change that because you have confidence in yourself. And I think that’s the first step to getting used to all this stuff. And it never goes away. And again, there’s still days where I am hurt by some of the things that people say about me, but all I can do is be truthful.

Roberts: Being truthful, keeping a good cadre of friends, finding new friends, and also remembering that there’s a purpose to this, right? So those are all great practices. Obviously, a lot of my colleagues at Heritage are confronted with this kind of thing. Even my colleagues at Heritage would say beyond whatever they get, most importantly, our friends who are grassroots leaders who are volunteering to do what they’re doing, they’re the people who are really making sacrifices. We have the privilege of, as we like to say, representing them here behind enemy lines in Washington, DC.

But the other thing that’s really important, and this is absolutely true on this issue, is that there is not just a silent majority of Americans who agree with you. It’s an overwhelming majority of Americans who do, and they’re not going to spend a whole lot of time sounding off on Twitter or Instagram or whatever. So keep that in mind.

You were in Texas in the last few days. Tell us about that.

Scanlan: Yes, that was interesting. I’m not sure if you guys-

Roberts: Now those are good words.

Scanlan: So we were just there to have a ceremonial signing with Governor Abbott about this bill. So previously they had passed a bill to say, “You must compete in the category that your sex assigned at birth says,” right? Why are we even writing this into law, I don’t know. But he did. And he decided actually later, and this was what this was for, SB 15, expands this to public colleges in the state of Texas. And what that means is he’s basically telling the NCAA that, “If you want to sue us, that’s fine, but this is going to be our law in Texas.” And that was great win, huge win, super exciting day. But we were met with a riot of people outside.

And I mentioned to you before we started that I was visiting my aunt and uncle. So my aunt and uncle came to pick me up, but because all the entrances were barricaded by these protestors, they couldn’t actually get in to find me for about an over an hour. So my aunt and uncle got the luxury of walking around and hanging out with all these protesters, and they were taking pictures. My uncle got a bunch of footage. He actually interviewed some people and asked them why they were even there. Some of them didn’t even know. So that was, to me, very interesting. And something Riley pointed out about the whole situation is that this was 2:00 PM on a Monday afternoon. Do those people not have jobs? And that was something-

Roberts: Some of their jobs are maybe to protest, right?

Scanlan: That’s what Riley also brought up to me and I laughed because I didn’t even think about that. But yeah, I like to think that that group is such a minority. But something of a shocking to me about that is I assumed Texas being a more conservative state would not have this level of protest. And also I assumed that on the sports issue, a lot of people agreed, because I understand the gender-affirming care is a little bit more controversial, but I really truly thought on the sports issue, even trans people agreed that I might not be fair, but I think I might’ve read it a little bit wrong and been a little bit too hopeful there.

Roberts: I actually think you’re largely right based on the studies that I’ve seen. And that’s the effect of a couple hundred protestors I gather who were there, is that they want you to think that they want to discourage you from taking the next step. They want to create this visual on the evening news that the overwhelming percentage of Americans actually are on their side. When in fact, on this issue, we just know qualitatively it’s not true. But what I love about that Texas law, and I love about my friend Governor Abbott in doing this, is even though the NCAA has griped at him and the Texas legislature for doing this, he’s basically challenged them. And we know how this will turn out Texas and other states who do this, pass this kind of law, are going to prevail. So what’s next for Paula Scanlan? What’s on the horizon for you?

Scanlan: Well, continuing to get laws passed like we did in Texas. So I’m working with the Independent Women’s Forum.

Roberts: Great group.

Scanlan: Yeah, love them. We’re doing appearances at places. We’re talking to policymakers. We’re trying to push... Unfortunately, with the current administration on a federal level, this is probably not going to get passed. But states work very well. We’ve been successful in Texas. We’ve done some stuff in Oklahoma, Tennessee. All right-leaning states. I do want to work on some of the left-leaning ones. I’m from Connecticut. I do hope to-

Roberts: Good luck there, Paula.

Scanlan: ... to make some push there.

Roberts: Good.

Scanlan: I mean, it’s not that hopeful, but I do have several allies in my area.

Roberts: I think it’s possible, by the way. I know that it’s an uphill climb, but I do think it’s possible. We have to be active in all of these places, to your point.

Scanlan: It’s true. And that’s something that I said, “Okay, great. We can focus on these conservative states and wonderful. Okay, a girl in Texas is protected, but what about, I grew up in Connecticut and I actually grew up swimming in New York because my team is in New York City, so I wouldn’t have been protected if this happened to me seven years ago when I was a high schooler?” So that’s something I want to work on. And I know it’s going to be really challenging, and I know it’s a lot of work. But unfortunately, we have to fight for everyone. We have to fight for all those girls who need sports in their life. It was really important for me in my life to have swimming. It helped balance me from my schoolwork in high school, helped balance my life. And if one girl is denied that opportunity, then we failed.

Roberts: That’s very eloquent. I ask every guest basically the same question at the end, and I’ve really been looking forward to asking you this question because of your courage, your cheerfulness, which is very genuine and very obvious to anyone who’s in your presence, but because of your generation, which just according to the studies is the most pessimistic about the American future. It’s the first generation since Gallup’s been doing this study in the 1940s, starting in the ‘40s, that believes the American dream’s not possible for them. So if I take that data and then I take what you have been confronted with and transpose that onto your generation writ large, I would think that most of you have reason to be pessimistic about the future, but there’s something that tells me you might be a little more hopeful. So in spite of all of these things you’ve experienced and challenges facing America more broadly, why are you optimistic about the American future?

Scanlan: I’m optimistic because people in my generation, I think, are starting to open up. I think a lot of those studies are based on we’re really a social media age where you see everybody else doing things and they seem perfect. And I think that kind of puts people into feeling bad about themselves. But I’ve opened up to not spending my time thinking so much about what other people have thought of me. Riley’s done the same. There’s so many other female athletes that are speaking out. There’s even more that are speaking out about other issues. So I am hopeful that we’re turning the tide and that we are the next generation, and this is important for us to step up. And I know there’s going to be more voices joining soon, and I’m very hopeful about hearing their perspectives and their voices. So that’s what makes me hopeful. I know that it’s not as many people as I would like, but I do have hope.

Roberts: There’s a critical mass there in your generation. And on this issue, I think we’re going to win. And we’re going to win because of, and I mean this, people like you and Riley and those athletes who are going to be stepping up as a result of your witness. So on behalf of all of us at Heritage, Paula Scanlan, thanks for being a great American.

Scanlan: Thank you so much.

Roberts: You bet. I told you you would enjoy that interview. And obviously we will stay tuned and follow Paula’s great work. Very cheerful, courage, which I think is a great lesson. It’s a great model for all of us and the work that we do. I hope that you’re as inspired as I am and all of us at Heritage are by what she is doing. Until next time, keep the faith. We’re going to win.

The Kevin Roberts Show is brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation. The producer is Philip Reynolds. Sound design by Lauren EvansMark Guiney, and Tim Kennedy

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