West Virginia University students, supporters protest legislation banning transgender women from competing in female sports

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Promising to never stop fighting for transgender men and women, Del. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, urged West Virginia University to take a stand against House Bill 3293, during a protest outside of the Mountainlair student union Monday evening. If signed into law by Gov. Jim Justice, HB 3293 would ban transgender females from competing in female sports at the K-12 level, as well as colleges and universities.

“We will no longer be silenced, and we will no longer accept silence,” Walker said. “Silence can be golden, and silence can be deadly. Right now, WVU not speaking out is sending a clear message to our trans athletes, to our trans students, to trans youth, that ‘We’re not too sure about you.’”

Walker said that she had a big problem with that.

“I say it’s disrespectful,” Walker said. “It’s disheartening. It is discrimination, and it is pure hatred.”

The state of West Virginia and WVU itself should not stand for anti-trans discrimination, Walker said.

“How do we constantly sing Country Roads? How do we wear this blue and gold,” Walker said. “When you enter in our borders of our Mountain State, it says ‘wild and wonderful’ — ‘all mountaineers are free,’ and I don’t see any exceptions to that.”

Walker told those at the protest that she would never stop fighting for them — noting that trans men are men, and trans women are women.

“And, trans athletes are athletes,” Walker said. “Stop placing these labels on my loved ones, on my neighbors, on my constituents, on humans.”

Logan Riffey, a WVU student, said that he was upset that WVU has not come out to oppose HB 3293, which Gov. Justice has said he supports.

“We’re here to protest the university primarily for not putting any public statements out,” Riffey said. “This affects college sports, and while West Virginia hasn’t had a case of a transgender woman athlete participating in women’s sports being an issue, this bill creates a problem. WVU hasn’t come out against it, so we’re hoping to protest that.”

WVU student Raimah Hossain pointed out that West Virginia has had one of the highest rates of transgender youths in the nation.

“So, the fact that our state institution — which is such a big representative of the people of our state — haven’t spoken out about it is kind of ridiculous,” Hossain said. “That is something that should be done ASAP, and we think it may have an influence on the bill itself.”

Olivia Dowler, a WVU student, said that not speaking out about HB 3293 goes against the land-grant mission of the university.

“As a land-grant institution, I feel we have a responsibility to give back to the people, and listen to our students,” Dowler said. “With us having the greatest amount of transgender youth, this is directly hurting them.”

Del. Walker ended her speech at the protest by speaking out against what she feels is fueling HB 3293 — hate.

“There should be no hate in our holler,” Walker said. “There should be no hate in our homes. There should be no hate in our classrooms. There should be no hate in our churches. There should be no hate in our stores. And, there damn sure should be no hate in our hearts.”

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