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Vice-President meets Brittney Griner before her first game back

It was Griner’s first professional basketball game back since being released from a Russian penal camp last December



Brittney Griner & her wife Cherelle, Vice-President Kamala Harris & Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Friday night before Griner's first professional basketball game back since being released from a Russian penal camp. (Official White House photo by Lawrence Jackson)

LOS ANGELES – Vice-President Kamala Harris accompanied by her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, greeted WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury star center Brittney Griner and her wife Cherelle Friday night before Griner’s first professional basketball game back since being released from a Russian penal camp last December.

According to the White House Press Pool reporter traveling with Harris, she and Emhoff arrived at Arena in downtown Los Angeles and met with Griner and her wife prior to the game between the LA Sparks and Phoenix Mercury.

After conversations between the four, the Vice-President met with the rest of the Mercury in their dressing rooms before meeting with host team the LA Sparks in theirs.

According to the Advocate’s reporter Christopher Wiggins, in her meeting with the Mercury, the Vice-President said:

“I came here to talk to the team to congratulate you on exhibiting excellence in every way. You are some of the finest athletes in the world, and to do what you do every day shows that it is right to have ambition,” she said.

“It is right to have aspirations. It is right to work hard. It is right to compete when you know you have put everything into it; when you have trained, when you have discipline, when you have intelligence, and when you have brilliance.”

She added, “It makes me so proud as Vice President of the United States to go around the world talking to folks about a variety of issues, and one of the subjects that does come up is the WNBA. [The world] is watching what you guys are doing, lifting up the excellence of the finest athletes in the world.”

After meeting both teams Harris then showed up at center court to cheers from about 10,000 people and received an honorary jersey from the Sparks.

The Sparks beat the Mercury 94-71 although the Advocate pointed out: ” Griner’s return to the floor and doing what she loves was more important than the result. Six rebounds, four blocks, and 18 points rounded out her performance.”



LA Dodgers apologize, reverse decision on disinviting drag group

“I was honestly moved and grateful by the commitment in the room by all the parties, especially Dodgers President Stan Kasten”



Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence/Facebook

LOS ANGELES – In a tweet Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball franchise reversed last Wednesday’s decision to disinvite the LA Chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from a scheduled “Community Hero Award” presentation for the team’s annual Pride Night on June 16.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath announced on Twitter Monday afternoon after the Dodgers apology, and its accompanying public acceptance by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, that she had been pleased to have assisted in facilitating a meeting between the team, the Sisters, and stakeholders in the LGBTQ+ community’s leadership both non-profit and political to come to an understanding.

In a Monday afternoon phone call with the Blade, Supervisor Horvath explained that important dialogue between the Dodgers and other parties had commenced. She said that earlier on Monday, in a meeting at Dodger Stadium, the stakeholders met to work out a solution. “I was honestly moved and grateful by the commitment in the room by all the parties, especially Dodgers President and part-owner Stan Kasten,” Horvath said.

In addition to the representatives from the Sisters drag group, the meeting was also attended by Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Executive Officer Joe Hollendoner, LA Pride President Gerald GarthBoard, the City of West Hollywood’s Mayor Sepi Shyne, Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur, and California State Senator Caroline Menjivar. Zbur and Menjivar attending on behalf of the California Legislative LGBTQ caucus.

Horvath indicated that she felt it was a critically important meeting with all stakeholders as they worked through the anger, sense of betrayal, and misgivings over the Dodgers actions. She pointed out that she was convinced that the Dodgers president was genuinely remorseful and apologetic.

In an email Monday night, Assemblymember Zbur told the Blade: “It was clear that today’s meeting followed meaningful internal dialogue among Dodgers management, with whom I had numerous frank conversations during the week and weekend. I’m pleased that the Dodgers came to understand the genuine hurt and injury caused by the decision to exclude the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence – one that did not reflect our Los Angeles or California values.

As the only LGBTQ members of the Legislature representing Los Angeles, Senator Menjivar and I participated in the meeting at the request of the California LGBTQ Legislative Caucus to express the serious and uniform concern of Democratic members of the California Legislature.

After hearing the perspectives of the Sisters, L.A. Pride and the LGBTQ+ leaders in the room, the Dodger management apologized unequivocally for their mistake, re-invited the Sisters to participate in the event, and engaged in a discussion about the steps that they could take to reconcile with LGBTQ+ community.

I was proud of the Sisters, who demonstrated  resilience, strength and a commitment to the LGBTQ+ community during the discussion, and I was impressed with the sincerity of the apology by the Dodger management.”

The Los Angeles LGBT Center had called on the team to cancel Pride Night altogether. After the Dodgers had made their public apology, LGBT Center’s CEO Joe Hollendoner issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision by the Dodgers to publicly apologize to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and roll back their exclusion from next month’s Pride Night is a step in the right direction, and we support the Sisters’ vote to accept their much-deserved Community Hero Award.

Last week’s debacle underscores the dangerous impact of political tactics by those who seek to stoke the flames of anti-LGBTQ bias at a time when our rights are under attack. We must continue to stand together as a community in defense of the rights and recognition of LGBTQ+ people in Los Angeles and beyond.

The Center is filled with gratitude to our Los Angeles community, who mobilized to support the Sisters, all of which compelled the Dodgers to ultimately do right by LGBTQ+ people everywhere. We are proud to stand with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and will join them at Pride Night to honor their many important contributions to our movement.

The Dodgers’ course correction and the conversations we have had with the organization’s leadership since last week demonstrates the version of allyship we have come to expect from the team over the years. The Center will always strive to hold our corporate partners accountable—which means so much more than waving a rainbow flag.” 

The team announced last week it would drop the drag group from its celebration of LGBTQ+
fans, the day after a letter-writing campaign was launched by the anti-LGBTQ Catholic League. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, accused the team of “rewarding anti-Catholicism” by honoring the group.

“The Catholic League has been the leading critic of this bigoted organization for many decades,” Donohue wrote on the organization’s website. “… These homosexual bigots are known for simulating sodomy while dressed as nuns.”

He added, “Just last month, they held an event mocking our Blessed Mother and Jesus on Easter Sunday.”

One of those writing, was U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who also sent a letter to Major League Baseball (MLB) Commissioner Rob Manfred, stating that he was questioning whether the League is “inclusive and welcoming” to Christians. 

At the time, the Dodgers said they removed the group from their Pride Night celebration “given the strong feelings of people who have been offended by the Sisters’ inclusion in our evening, and in an effort not to distract from the great benefits … of Pride Night.”

On Saturday, the mayor of Anaheim Ashleigh Aitken invited the drag group to Angels Pride Night in a tweet, as reported by the Blade: “I’m inviting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to join me for @Angels Pride Night at Anaheim Stadium on June 7. Pride should be inclusive and like many, I was disappointed in the Dodgers’ decision,” tweeted the Mayor .

Neither the Angels nor the mayor’s office confirmed that invitation as of press time, and also did not comment on the Dodgers’ reversal.

However, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange took aim at Mayor Aitken for extending the invitation to the drag group:

“The decision to openly embrace a group whose demeaning behavior is anti-Catholic and anti-Christian is misguided and disrespectful to the sisters of the Catholic Church who minister in Orange County and selflessly dedicate their lives to God’s underserved people,” said Jarryd Gonzales, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange on Monday.

“We cannot condone any actions that have historically shown such high levels of disregard for the sincerely held beliefs of the faithful,” he added.

“Our June 7th Pride Night is part of Major League Baseball’s league-wide effort to raise awareness and promote acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. As in the past, OC Pride has assisted our Organization in the planning of this event as well as outreach to all fans throughout Southern California,” an Angels spokesperson said on the mayor’s invitation.

The Sisters have not indicated publicly if they plan to attend the Angels Pride Night as of yet.

Sources tell the Blade out gay Dodgers VP Erik Braverman was being advised on this crisis by Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler. When contacted by the Blade, Zeigler declined to comment

A spokesperson for the Dodgers did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

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Day after legal win, trans disc golfer is barred from competition

“If you thought I was fighting hard before, just wait. They are going to burn with me,” vows trans disc golfer Natalie Ryan



Natalie Ryan/Instagram

STOCKTON, CALIF. — Out transgender professional disc golfer Natalie Ryan will not be allowed to compete again in the 2023 OTB Open, by order of a federal court

Ryan, 29, played in round one of the Female Professional Open Division in Stockton on Friday — finishing one shot off the lead and in 5th place, following four cisgender women who tied for first. She was able to compete after obtaining a temporary restraining order on Thursday from U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley of the Eastern District Court, against the Disc Golf Pro Tour and the Professional Disc Golf Association. 

This was Ryan’s first Elite Series event of 2023, having notched 24 career wins and being ranked 13th on the PDGA tour. 

Judge Nunley wrote that he issued the restraining order because the PDGA policy — which states that a transgender woman can compete in the elite tournament if they meet one of three criteria covering hormone replacement, affirming surgery, or puberty blockers prior to age 12 — could be ruled as discriminatory. 

Both the DGPT and PDGA immediately appealed, and on Friday evening, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the TRO, effectively allowing the DGPT to bar the Virginia native from further competition. 

“This order restores the DGPT’s ability to enforce its current policy on Gender Eligibility,” a spokesperson for the tour said in a statement posted on its website. “The DGPT will follow the court’s ruling and enforce its Gender Eligibility Policy which will disallow Ms. Ryan from continuing competition in the OTB Open.” 

Ryan announced the news to her thousands of followers in a post on her Instagram, “The DGPT is removing me from the OTB Open. No matter where they go I will fight them every step of the way. If you thought I was fighting hard before, just wait. They are going to burn with me.” 

Some cisgender commenters on that post called out Ryan for her choice of words, policing her tone while offering their support for her cause, before comments were turned off. Those who follow Ryan know she often uses the metaphor about her “fire” in her posts. 

As Ultiword Disc Golf reported, there isn’t a lot of clarity in how the appeals court reached its decision to to grant the stay to the TRO. First, it argued the district court that issued the order lacked jurisdiction: 

“It appears that the district court lacks diversity jurisdiction over the Tour because Plaintiff and at least one member of the Tour are citizens of Virginia,” wrote the Ninth Circuit. The District Court acknowledged uncertainty around whether it had jurisdiction but ruled in favor of Ryan anyway; the Ninth Circuit overruled that. 

Secondly, when the judges in the Ninth Circuit granted the motion to stay, they did so only to the DPGT, while rejecting the stay with respect to the PDGA, the organization that created the transgender policy that appears to be targeting Ryan specifically. 

The writers at Ultiworld speculate that the judges felt that granting the reversal only to the DGPT would preclude Ryan from “competing in the Tour’s competition,” even though the District Court’s original restraining order applied to both defendants.

“The Tour has represented in its motion that it will not allow Plaintiff to compete unless compelled to do so by court order,” wrote the Ninth Circuit. “Because any possible cognizable irreparable harm to the Association would depend on Plaintiff’s competing in the Tour’s competition, and because we are granting the Tour’s motion for a stay, the Association cannot meet the requirements for a stay.”

As for what’s next, Ryan can re-file her case in California state court, as Ultiworld reported, or consider filing in other states, like Minnesota, where JayCee Cooper recently won her landmark lawsuit against USA Powerlifting for barring her from women’s division competition. And it’s also possible the case against the PDGA could continue in California federal court. 

Whatever course she chooses, Ryan said she is not about to surrender to trolls, haters or tour officials. 

Just last week, Ryan shared on Instagram that she was “chanted off the course” in Denver, Colo. by protesters who targeted her for being trans. “I’ve never felt more unwelcome and scared on a disc golf course than today,” she wrote. “While I have had nothing but positive experiences with my cardmates and the Denver community, protestors showed up with the sole purpose to harass me. The @pdga and dgpt want this harassment to continue, and they want me to be hated for what I am.” 

After her one and only day of competing, Ryan had this to say, before learning of the appeals court ruling: 

“I will not be threatened, I will not be intimidated, I will not be erased. It is a breath of fresh air to be competing where I belong. To all the trans folks out there that love this sport as much as I do, I’m here for you, we all deserve better.”

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Anti-gay slur will cost college basketball coach $1 million

Million-dollar salary reduction for Bob Huggins among biggest in college athletics: Money to be allocated for the university’s LGBTQ+ Center



West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins during press conference. (Screenshot/YouTube WCHS-TV)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va — Saying the word “fag” on the radio proved to be very costly for West Virginia University men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins. 

As punishment for his homophobic rant on the radio on Monday, the Mountaineers coach agreed to a million-dollar salary reduction, a three-game suspension and sensitivity training, according to ESPN. 

Huggins’ suspension will take place during the team’s first three regular-season games, and his contract will be amended from a multiyear agreement to a year-by-year pact that will begin May 10 and end April 30 next year.

The former University of Cincinnati coach’s salary of $4.2 million has been cut to $3.2 million. That million-dollar reduction is believed to be one of the biggest in college athletics, according to ESPN.

As the Los Angeles Blade reported, Huggins apologized within hours of using  homophobic slurs to describe fans of a rival team during Monday’s radio interview on Cincinnati station 700WLW’s “Bill Cunningham Show.”

“All those fags, those Catholic fags,” Huggins said, when he was asked about Xavier University’s fans. Huggins was discussing his 16-season tenure with the University of Cincinnati and the school’s intracity rivalry with Xavier.

West Virginia University president Gordon Gee and athletic director Wren Baker issued a joint statement declaring that “any incidents of similar derogatory and offensive language will result in immediate termination.”

The school said it will partner with the university’s LGBTQ+ Center “to develop annual training sessions that will address all aspects of inequality including homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism and more. This training and programming will be required of Coach Huggins and all current and future athletics coaching staff.”

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Trans athlete banned despite testosterone levels less than average

“I feel marginalized because they are excluding me from competitions,” says Diouf hoping she’d qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris



L'interview d'actualité - Halba Diouf (Screenshot/YouTube France Télévisions)

AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France – Halba Diouf is a French sprinter who says she feels she is being hounded and excluded from competitions just for being who she is: A transgender woman. 

Her dream of participating at next year’s Paris Olympics was shattered in March, when World Athletics banned transgender women from elite female competitions, as the Los Angeles Blade reported. 

“The only safeguard transgender women have is their right to live as they wish and we are being refused that, we are being hounded,” Diouf told Reuters. “I feel marginalized because they are excluding me from competitions.”

Diouf, a native of Senegal, had been training in her main event, the 200 meters, hoping she’d qualify to represent her adopted homeland at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. But since World Athletics announced its ban on transgender women who have gone through male puberty, those hopes have been dashed. Citing a “need to protect the female category,” the organization abandoned a rule that allowed trans women to compete with other women as women if they met a criteria for low testosterone.

“I cannot understand this decision as transgender women have always been allowed to compete if their testosterone levels were below a certain threshold,” said Diouf. 

Alain Berliner is Diouf’s endocrinologist. He told Reuters the 21-year-old “is a woman, from a physiological, hormonal and legal point of view. Her testosterone levels are currently below those found on average in women who were born as women.” 

Not only does he stand by Diouf with his words, but he showed Reuters the results of her blood samples dated May 2, to prove his point. 

Prior to March, female trans athletes and those with Differences in Sex Development (DSD) like South Africa’s Caster Semenya could take part in elite events between 400m and the mile if they could show evidence that their levels of natural plasma testosterone were below five nanomoles per liter. Sprinters in the 100m and 200m races, like Diouf,  were previously cleared to race without restriction. 

All that’s changed now, and Diouf is in the same boat as Semenya and world record breaker Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi, who specialized in the 800m. It can’t be just a coincidence that they are all Black women, and the women who will benefit from them being banned are, for the most part, white. 

Diouf is also a practicing Muslim. The reporter for Reuters resorted to an unfortunate trope in its reporting, noting that she loves shopping and wears mini-skirts, as well as long djellaba robes. As many cisgender journalists do, Noemie Olive asked Diouf for photographs of herself before she transitioned, such as when she was a closeted trans girl presenting as a boy. 

Diouf told her she didn’t keep any. “It was not me,” she said.

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“No excuse:” College basketball coach apologizes for gay slurs

Bob Huggins used the “F word” in a radio interview discussing a rival team when he was coaching men’s basketball at University of Cincinnati



Bill Huggins (Photo Credit: West Virginia University)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The coach of the West Virginia University Men’s Basketball team said he’s sorry for homophobic slurs he used to described fans of a rival team during a radio interview on Monday. Administrators said they are reviewing the incident and Coach Bob Huggins said he is prepared to face the consequences. 

“All those fags, those Catholic fags,” Huggins said, when he was asked about Xavier University on Cincinnati station 700WLW’s “Bill Cunningham Show.” Huggins was discussing his 16-season tenure with the University of Cincinnati and the school’s intracity rivalry with Xavier.

The host asked the former coach of the Bearcats about a moment during a Crosstown Shootout game against the Musketeers. Huggins said Xavier fans threw sex toys onto the court.

“It was transgender night, wasn’t it?” asked Cunningham, making a wisecrack since there was no such thing. “It was the Crosstown Shootout,” Huggins replied. “What it was, was all those fags, those Catholic fags, I think, threw them.”

Huggins added that the fans would “throw rubber penises on the floor and then say they didn’t do it.”

“They were envious they didn’t have one.”

The Mountaineers coach issued a statement of apology within hours of those comments:

“Earlier today on a Cincinnati radio program, I was asked about the rivalry between my former employer, the University of Cincinnati, and its crosstown rival, Xavier University.

“During the conversation, I used a completely insensitive and abhorrent phrase that there is simply no excuse for — and I won’t try to make one here.

“I deeply apologize to the individuals I have offended, as well as to the Xavier community, the University of Cincinnati and West Virginia University.

“As I have shared with my players over my 40 years coaching, there are consequences for our words and actions, and I will fully accept any coming my way. I am ashamed and embarrassed and heartbroken for those I have hurt. I must do better, and I will.”

The university condemned Huggins’ comments and said in a statement, “The situation is under review and will be addressed by the university and its athletics department.” 

Former Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach, the city’s first openly gay councilmember, told WKRC-TV he’s neither surprised by the comments nor by the fact that they were celebrated on Cunningham’s show.

“I feel sorry for him, he holds that kind of hatred for people that are different in his heart, because that’s clearly where it’s coming from,” said Seelbach. “I get angry because I’m a Catholic man, I am a graduate of Xavier, and I’m gay.”

Seelbach says he believes most Catholics don’t have the same views as Huggins and Cunningham.

“I want him to say that to my face, because there’s a lot of us who are taxpaying regular citizens who happen to be Catholic and gay who don’t appreciate it, and I don’t know if he would have the courage to say it to our face,” said Seelbach.

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F1 champion driver Lewis Hamilton rips Florida’s anti-LGBTQ laws

“I really do continue to stand with the LGBTQ community and I’m wearing a rainbow flag on my helmet this weekend”



Lewis Hamilton being interviewed by ESPN at the Miami GP May 5, 2023. (Screenshot/YouTube ESPN)

MIAMI – Set to compete this weekend in the Miami Grand Prix, a Formula One Grand Prix held at the Miami International Autodrome, Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton took aim at the Florida legislature’s passage this week of a slate of anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

The 38-year-old British driver, the Formula One’s only Black driver, Hamilton also took aim at the state’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law with a reference to oppression seen in Saudi Arabia the Associated Press reported.

“It’s not good at all,” Hamilton said ahead of F1’s highly anticipated race in suburban Miami this weekend. “I stand by those within the community here. I hope they continue to stand firm and push back. I’ll have the rainbow on my helmet. It’s no different to when we were in Saudi.”

1/5 scale model of F1 champion driver Lewis Hamilton’s LGBTQ+ ally helmet

Hamilton has an long established track record as an LGBTQ ally. During the inaugural run of the Qatar Grand Prix Formula One in November of 2021, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s seven time Grand Prix champion driver had shown support for the LGBTQ+ community wearing the helmet featuring the Pride Progress Flag, a redesigned and more inclusive version of the traditional rainbow flag, and emblazoned with the words “We Stand Together.”

CNN reported that British intersex activist and columnist Valentino Vecchietti finalized the version seen on Hamilton’s helmet, which includes the intersex flag. “It means everything,” Vecchietti told CNN. “I can’t express what an amazing, massive, massive thing Lewis Hamilton has done. And I feel emotional talking about it, because we are so hidden and stigmatized as a population.”

The Associated Press also noted:

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill into state law at the end of March last year. The measure, since widened, prohibits public school teachers to teach pupils about sexual orientation or gender identity. Although Hamilton is against it, the veteran Mercedes driver would not say if F1 should avoid racing in Florida because of its social policies.

“It’s not for me to decide something like that,” Hamilton said. “I did hear and have read about some of the decisions that have been made in government here and I do not agree with it and I do not support it. I really do continue to stand with the LGBTQ community and I’m wearing a rainbow flag on my helmet this weekend and I just really want to continue to support the community here and let them know I stand with them and I hope they continue to fight against it.”

Hamilton had received a knighthood from then British monarch Queen Elizabeth II in December 2020 for his human rights and advocacy work with his private charity, The Hamilton Commission, which the Stevenage, Hertfordshire, UK native set-up to simultaneously address the underrepresentation of Black people in UK motorsport, as well as the STEM sector.

In an interview with the Guardian, Hamilton said that he believes “sportspeople are duty bound to speak out on human rights matters in the countries they visit. 

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“Everyone deserves the right to play,” says WNBA’s Brittney Griner

“Honestly,” Griner said, ”I think it’s a crime to separate someone for any reason against that legislation is trying to be passed” 



Brittney Griner's return to the WNBA with the Phoenix Mercury will be broadcast on ESPN on Friday, May 19. (Photo Credit: Screenshot/WNBA YouTube)

PHOENIX — As April ends, Republican lawmakers in Montana, Idaho and Indiana are on the brink of enacting new anti-transgender laws, as Erin Reed reports in her Substack, Erin in the Morning. And although Reed rates Arizona as one of the “low-risk” states for measures restricting trans rights, Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner is putting those legislators on notice. 

“There are number of states that are moving to aggressively prevent transgender athletes playing,” a journalist asked Griner on Thursday at her first news conference since resuming practice with her team at the Mercury’s home arena, the Footprint Center. “Where is that going to rank on your radar when it comes to advocating for transgender athletes being able to play?” 

Griner, the out lesbian who was freed in December from a Russian prison camp on trumped-up drug charges, did not hesitate to answer.

“That ranks high on the list of things I’ll be fighting for and speaking up against,” said the WNBA star. “Everyone deserves the right to play. Everyone deserves the right to come here and sit in these seats and feel safe and not feel that there’s a threat and that they can’t be who they are,” she told the assembled media. Then she went one step further: Calling laws to stop transgender athletes from competing according to their authentic gender identity “a crime.”  

“Honestly,” Griner said, ”I think it’s a crime to separate someone for any reason against that legislation is trying to be passed.” 

As the Blade reported, Griner also spoke out against the imprisonment of other Americans by Russia and other countries, and vowed she will never play overseas again, unless she qualifies to compete in the next Olympic games. 

Griner and the Mercury have two preseason games ahead of them: The first is in Seattle on May 9. Then they return to Phoenix to host the Los Angeles Sparks on May 12. 

Their 2023 season begins in L.A. at Arena on May 19. Their home opener is set for May 21 against the Chicago Sky.

Fox News attacks Griner for ‘absurd’ comment on trans athletes:

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‘Just keep moving forward,’ WNBA’s Brittney Griner is back

“I’m never playing overseas again,” the two-time gold medalist said, making only one exception for a return to the Olympics



Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner held a press conference Thursday morning. (Screenshot/YouTube KTVK/KPHO)

PHOENIX — Now that she is back on her home court, preparing for the upcoming WNBA season, Brittney Griner talked with reporters Thursday for the first time since returning to play with the Phoenix Mercury. 

“I’m no stranger to hard times,” Griner said, fighting back tears. Asked how she became so resilient after spending nearly 10 months in a Russian prison on drug charges, she said: “Just grind it out. Just put your head down and just keep going and moving forward.” 

In a wide-ranging news conference that attracted more media and dignitaries than a typical practice, Griner spoke about her imprisonment in Russia, her appreciation for those who supported her and her wife during those terrible months and what’s next for her: A memoir about how she survived the experience she called “unfathomable.”

“I’m never playing overseas again,” the two-time gold medalist said, making only one exception for a return to the Olympics. “The only time I would want to would be to represent the USA.” 

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, who signed employment protections for LGTBQ+ workers and contractors into law on her first day in office, joined Griner’s wife Cherelle and members of the Mercury organization in giving the WNBA center a standing ovation. 

Although team representatives told KTVK-TV Griner couldn’t share details of her detention by the Russian government, Griner did say having pictures of her family and Cherelle kept her hopes for freedom alive. “Just being able to see their faces, that did it for me,” she said. “The moment where you kind of want to give up, you look at the photos, and it kind of brings you back to what you’re waiting on. You’re waiting to be back with your families, with your loved ones in a safe place.”

Griner returned to the U.S. in December in a prisoner swap, more than nine months after being arrested in Moscow for possession of vape cartridges containing prescription cannabis. 

The out lesbian athlete said her team has been in touch with the family of American Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter being detained in Russia on espionage charges. “No one should be in any of the conditions that I went through or they’re going through,” said Griner.

On Thursday, the Mercury unveiled a mural at their home court, the Footprint Center. It features Griner as well as other Americans being held prisoner overseas, including Paul Whelan. It includes the hashtag “Bring Our Families Home.”

The Mercury have two preseason games next month, one on the road against the four-time champion Seattle Storm on May 9, then back in Phoenix hosting the Los Angeles Sparks on May 12. 

The season begins May 19 in L.A. at Arena and then Griner and the Mercury return for their home opener against the Chicago Sky on May 21.

Brittney Griner holds first news conference since her release from Russian prison:

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Swim England is latest sports org to ban trans women athletes

Group calls ban “justified & proportionate in pursuit of fair competition” claim trans females retain biological advantage post-transition



Screenshot/Swim England website

LOUGHBOROUGH, Leicestershire, UK – Just two weeks after World Athletics banned transgender women from competing in track and field, another organization has pulled the plug on trans women competing in swim meets with other women.  

Swim England updated its “Transgender and Nonbinary Competition Policy” Monday to reflect that starting on Sept. 1, only cisgender women will be able to take part on so-called “female teams,” and a new “open” category will be created for nonbinary and trans women swimmers and anyone else who wants to compete outside of the binary, cisgender-based categories. 

The organization stated, “Swim England believes that the restriction of certain competition to birth sex females to be justified and proportionate in the pursuit of fair competition,” and claims its new policy “has inclusion and fairness at its very heart,” but trans inclusion advocates criticized the move as exclusionary and disappointing. 

“It is widely recognized that fairness of competition must be protected and Swim England believes the creation of open and female categories is the best way to achieve this,” officials wrote in a statement on the group’s website. “The updated policy ensures there are entry-level competitive opportunities for transgender people to participate in the majority of our disciplines within their gender identity.”

But while those entry-level chances will provide a provision for athletes to self-ID at these low-level “unlicensed” events, such as recreational races, timings and scores posted at these events will not be applicable to Swim England rankings or eligible as records. Which is, of course, the point of competitive swimming. 

American trans man and trailblazing swimmer Schuyler Bailar called the new policy “transphobic,” noting that by setting an age limit of 12 to have transitioned or gone on puberty blockers, Swim England has effectively excluded all trans women and girls.

“This is not about preserving fairness, this is not about protecting women’s sports, it is about excluding trans people,” he said in a social media post.

“This is transphobia incarnate and it has to stop,” said Schuyler, who was the first out trans swimmer in NCAA Division I.

“While trans kids can play authentically in non-competitive environments, the policy fundamentally denies trans girls the right to compete as themselves,” said the British trans support outfit, Mermaids, in a tweet.

“We call on Swim England to reverse its decision to ban trans girls from competing with their peers,” the group continued, “and make sport a welcome, inclusive space for trans youth.”

The swim lane to exclusion opened last year when the International Olympic Committee dropped their policy of trans inclusion in favor of a “framework for fairness,” basically recommending individual sports to set their own rules. FINA swiftly banned trans women who have experienced male puberty, despite the IOC’s declaration that testosterone was no longer the most important factor in determining whether trans women should be eligible to compete with cis women. 

On Monday, Swim England ignored that declaration as well as a January report in Pink News that found trans women have no advantage in elite sport. 

The group declared “peer-reviewed examples confirm the general consensus that post-puberty transgender females retain a biological level of performance advantage post-transition. Whilst Swim England’s existing policy regarding the use of hormonal therapy was found to be effective at reducing performance advantage, it was insufficient to negate it completely and trans females therefore likely retain an advantage over their cisgender peers.”

Read the full statement about the updated policy by clicking here

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A first for UK football: Trans men vs. cisgender men

“There was such a range of talent, experiences … on the pitch- I hope that trans kids see this & know there is a place for them in sport”



Photo Credit: TRUK United Football Club UK/Twitter

LONDON – The final score was lopsided, 8 to 1, but what the Dulwich Hamlet FC Supporters Team did in playing TRUK United FC on Friday was historic: This was the first time in Europe that an all-cisgender men’s soccer team competed against a team of trans men and trans-masculine players.

And as Pink News reported, it happened on the International Trans Day of Visibility in London.

“Many of the team had never met before. Some of them hadn’t played football since school, others were semi-pro,” said Harry Nicholas, author of A Trans Man Walks into a Gay Bar, who played center back in Friday’s match. 

Another player was a famous face in U.K. television: Ash Palmisciano – the first ever transgender actor to appear on the show ‘Emmerdale’  – drove down from Leeds to play. Others drove to London all the way from Scotland, according to Nicholas. 

“There was such a range of talent, experiences and nationalities on the pitch, but the one thing that united us all was that we thought there was no place for us in football as trans men, and this event changed that,” he said, and explained why the match was so vital for trans representation in sports: 

“I hope that trans kids see this and know there is a place for them in sport. That it is possible,” said Nicholas. 

A crowd of more than 500 fans was in attendance at Champions Field, and when TRUK United scored a goal, there was a huge eruption of cheers, a moment Nicholas tweeted was “possibly the most emotional moment of my life.”

“We ran towards each other and hugged. Our manager Lucy and the whole squad joined us on the pitch. I’ve never felt a sense of community and joy quite like it before – we were playing a sport we love and owning it,” he told Pink News.

LGBTQ+ advocate and journalist Nick Heath called that goal “the greatest free kick goal I’ve ever seen live.” 

“The crowd seemed to get a lot out of it, too,” said Nicholas. “For many of the people in attendance – football crowds are a challenge. There can be a lot of homophobia and transphobia. For many it was their first time watching a match. There were amazing chants and it was such a high-spirited event. It was a mix of LGBTQ+ people, and allies, coming together to celebrate this historic evening, and show that everyone has a place in sport.”

The match was played on the same day that UK Athletics confirmed its ban on trans women in women’s sports, and Nicholas said that made the match especially vital.

“The score didn’t matter at the beginning and it didn’t matter at the end. This was not about winning or proving ourselves against a cis team. The real win was always that we walked out onto the pitch, played, we’re visible and we’ve reclaimed our place in football.”

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