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 Independent Women's Forum video screenshot

(LifeSiteNews) — An Ohio college coach is speaking out after the school reprimanded her for speaking out in defense of women’s sports, sharing a recording that offers an inside look at the intolerance dominating institutions of higher education.

On August 29, Independent Women’s Forum announced that it has produced a short documentary on the story of Kim Russell, Oberlin College’s head lacrosse coach, who in March 2022 shared an Instagram post about University of Pennsylvania swimmer William “Lia” Thomas, a man who “transitioned” to female and went on to dominate swimming competitions meant for actual females.

“Congratulations to Emma Weyant, the real woman who won the NCAA 500-yard freestyle event,” the post read, to which Russell added the comment, “What do you believe? I can’t be quiet on this … I’ve spent my life playing sports, starting & coaching sports programs for girls & women.”

The next day, she was summoned to a meeting with Oberlin athletic director Natalie Winkelfoos and assistant athletic director Creg Jantz, during which she was told, “you fall into a category of people that are filled with hate in the world,” and “it’s acceptable to have your own opinions, but when they go against Oberlin College’s beliefs, it’s a problem for your employment.” She captured the comments on a secret recording, which she shared with IWF.

Russell was then subjected to a 45-minute session where she was berated by most of the lacrosse team, only one member of which sided with her, and excluded from the day’s practice along with her assistant coach.

Just days later, news of the situation spread across campus along with rhetoric that Russell “transgressive, transphobic, and unsafe.” She was summoned to another meeting and asked to write a formal apology. When she refused, she was subjected to another “struggle session” of condemnation by lacrosse players, this time spanning two hours and including Oberlin’s Title IX director, the athletic department’s Title IX director, and the department’s diversity, equity, and inclusion representative. 

Her attempts to defend herself not only fell on deaf ears but were taken as “attacks.”

“I knew by the end of that meeting that it didn’t matter what I said,” Russell said. “There was cognitive dissonance; nobody would hear me.”

By the season’s end, a letter was placed in Russell’s personnel file declaring that the solitary expression of her opinion “has caused damage to your credibility and has, unfortunately, devalued your role, notably as a frontline support advocate for student-athletes.” At that point, she sought legal counsel and prepared a formal response.

“The summary of my response was, ‘If I am breaking university policy, please tell me what that is. Please do that in writing. And if you’re going to fire me for breaking university policy, please do it now,’” Russell told IWF. She has not been fired yet but is not optimistic about the workplace improving.

“It’s a hostile work environment. When I’m 56 years old and I feel like I’m walking on eggshells and afraid to ‘be me’ where I work, that’s not good,” she said. “Do I believe I’m at risk of being fired, of having a storm hit me? Yes. Am I ready for the storm? Yes.”

Russell maintains that she has always been sensitive to players struggling with gender dysphoria, and even received a two-page handwritten letter of gratitude from one of them, but that does not change the importance of recognizing biological reality and how it impacts the sport. “If you know this stuff, it is going to help you perform in every area of life, including on the field,” she said of how menstrual cycle wellness affects athletic performance, for instance.

“There’s so much mob mentality that is scaring people from doing what they love, from speaking with people they love about what they believe,” Russell lamented. “It could be about religion, it could be about politics, it could be about sexuality. We’re all walking in this crazy fear.”

“Russell’s story exposes what can happen when a faculty member dares to differ from the progressive norm,” says IWF storytelling coordinator Andrea Mew, who produced the documentary. “At Independent Women’s Forum, we’ve elevated the voices of female athletes like Riley Gaines, Paula Scanlan, Payton McNabb, Kaitlynn and Abbigail Wheeler, Cynthia Monteleone, and more to a national stage. But, to this date very few college coaches have been brave enough to speak out. It’s our hope that by sharing Russell’s story, more coaches, educators, and other school faculty who support women and girls, the integrity of women’s sports, and female athletes’ equal athletic opportunity will know that they’re not alone.”

Mandatory inclusion of gender-confused individuals in opposite-sex sports is promoted as a matter of “inclusivity,” but critics note that indulging “transgender” athletes undermines the original rational basis for having sex-specific athletics in the first place, thereby depriving female athletes of recognition and professional or academic opportunities. 

There have been numerous high-profile examples in recent years of men winning women’s competitions, and research affirms that physiology gives males distinct athletic advantages that cannot be fully negated by hormone suppression.

In a 2019 paper published by the Journal of Medical Ethics, New Zealand researchers found that “healthy young men [do] not lose significant muscle mass (or power) when their circulating testosterone levels were reduced to (below International Olympic Committee guidelines) for 20 weeks,” and “indirect effects of testosterone” on factors such as bone structure, lung volume, and heart size “will not be altered by hormone therapy;” therefore, “the advantage to transwomen [biological men] afforded by the [International Olympic Committee] guidelines is an intolerable unfairness.”