In a recent turn of events, the world of fencing witnessed a clash between an inspiring trans athlete and a divisive anti-trans activist. Liz Kocab, a 71-year-old trans athlete, recently achieved her eighth world fencing championship victory in the women’s 70+ division. This remarkable accomplishment marked her triumph across age categories spanning from the 50s to her current division. In an emotional post-victory interview with USA Fencing, Kocab expressed her gratitude for the sport, with tears in her eyes, declaring that winning “never gets old” and is “always special.”
However, Riley Gaines, known for her anti-trans stance, chose to criticize and misgender Kocab on social media. Gaines disparagingly stated, “winning a title as a male in the women’s category doesn’t make you a champion. It makes you an entitled cheat.” This statement stirred controversy, prompting Gaines’s followers to join in the heckling, insulting Kocab with derogatory terms.
It’s worth noting that USA Fencing adopted a trans-inclusive policy in 2022, allowing athletes to compete according to their gender identity, with varying participation requirements based on age levels. USA Fencing CEO Phil Andrews expressed unwavering support for trans fencers, emphasizing the importance of protecting the rights of nonbinary and transgender athletes in the sport.
Riley Gaines, however, has been actively campaigning against the rights of trans athletes, particularly since her tie for fifth place with trans University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas. Gaines has consistently voiced her opposition, asserting that she was somehow disadvantaged by sharing the fifth place with a trans woman. Her recent initiative, “Real Women’s Day,” and her controversial remarks at Penn State continue to fuel the debate surrounding trans athletes’ rights and inclusivity in sports.
The clash between Kocab’s inspiring achievements and Gaines’s divisive stance underscores the ongoing struggle for acceptance and equality in the world of sports, with trans athletes continuing to navigate a challenging path towards recognition and inclusion.