'Moral versus evil': Riley Gaines speaks out at the University of Pittsburgh

‘What we’re being asked to do is to deny objective truth. It’s to deny the sky is blue, is to say that men and women are the same …. We’re equal, but we’re not the same,’ Gaines said.

Hundreds of protestors demonstrated outside the venue, blocking significant intersections in the city neighborhood. The event itself was peaceful.

Despite considerable protest outside the event, NCAA champion swimmer Riley Gaines spoke Monday night at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) with minimal interruptions, after weeks of unrest regarding her “Save Women’s Sports” speech have disrupted the University.

Campus Reform has extensively covered the controversy surrounding Gaines’ scheduled appearance at the public Pennsylvania institution. Although the events have not been shut down, students, alumni, administrators, and lawmakers have condemned the University’s Turning Point USA chapter’s choice to host both Gaines and Cabot Phillips. Both events were funded by the Leadership Institute, the parent organization of Campus Reform.

[RELATED: Disruptive trans-activists escorted out of Cabot Phillips event by police]

For @ThePittNews protesters have taken over the Forbes and Bigelow intersection chanting “when trans lives are under attack stand up fight back” and “hate speech isn’t free it costs lives” in the rain @PittTweet @PghProtests #protest pic.twitter.com/ca2oHL89n7

— Punya Bhasin (@Punya_Bhasin) March 27, 2023 m:12pt;”>

Hundreds of demonstrators blocked busy intersections in the Pittsburgh neighborhood to protest Gaines’ speech, carrying signs of “save trans lives” and chanting “hate speech isn’t free, it costs lives,” according to The Pitt News.

Over 11,000 people signed a petition for the University to cancel the Gaines and Phillips events, as well as a debate between Michael Knowles and Dierdre McCloskey, which is set to be hosted by the College Republicans in April.

Inside the venue, Gaines emphasized that transgenderism conflicts with biological realities.

“What we’re being asked to do,” Gaines said, “is to deny objective truth. It’s to deny the sky is blue, is to say that men and women are the same …. We’re equal, but we’re not the same.”

Gaines continued, noting, “I feel like we’re in this battle of really spiritual warfare. It’s no longer good or bad or right or wrong. This is like moral versus evil.” 

She clarified, however, that individual transgender people are not personally evil.

Gaines also expressed that it is “terrifying” that universities force biological women and men to not only compete against one another but also to share changing spaces. “Quite honestly, it’s chilling to think about the suppression and the silencing that [women] have dealt with” when they are not allowed to question shared spaces.


As Gaines shared her traumatizing experience of sharing a locker room with biological male Lia Thomas, a protestor raised a sign which read, “Riley, you stared at another athlete’s genitals. You are the creep.”

This same protestor tried to interrupt the event twice but stopped after receiving a verbal warning from the Associate Dean of Students, Steve Anderson, as reported by The Pitt News.

In addition to elaborating on her personal experience, Gaines also discussed the implications of changing Title IX protections to gender identity instead of biological sex and the problem of biological males entering women’s prisons.

“I’m not saying that every trans individual transitions to win trophies or to get in women’s bathrooms or to get in women’s prisons, [but p]eople will take advantage of the system that we have in place, that the only requirement to be a woman is to say you are a woman,” Gaines reasoned.

[RELATED: Pitt chancellor, faculty president accuse conservative speakers of ‘extremely problematic,’ ‘hate-filled rhetoric’]

On March 10, the university issued a statement saying that, although the institution must respect free speech of registered student groups, school officials “understand these events are toxic and hurtful for many people in our University community” and that the school is committed to supporting “those in our community who are negatively affected by these upcoming events, now and in the future.”

On March 16, Provost Ann E. Cudd issued a direct statement to the student body, “emphatically [stating] that hate-filled rhetoric is not what our community stands for. I stand for—and with—all Pitt community members, including our trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming community members. I affirm not only their right to exist and thrive, but also value their vibrant contributions to our academic community.”

The Pitt Administration has not yet responded to Campus Reform’s request for comment, but this story will be updated accordingly.