Livestream Available HERE

SPRINGFIELD, IL – On Thursday, July 13, at 1:00 p.m. CT, Independent Women’s Forum and Illinois Freedom Caucus will hold a press conference, providing a platform for 16 year old Abbigail Wheeler to share her experience at the Springfield YMCA, where she was kicked off the club swim team and banned from the YMCA for voicing her concerns about sharing a women’s private changing space with a biological male.

Abbigail Wheeler, at the YMCA, protested sharing the locker room with a biological male by posting signs in the locker room that read, “Women’s Rights,” “Biological Women Only,” and “Safe Sport.”

Kaitlynn Wheeler, sister of Abbigail and former NCAA swimmer and teammate of Riley Gaines at the University of Kentucky who was forced to share a women’s locker room with Lia Thomas at NCAA Championships, said: “It’s been infuriating to hear that after going through the experience I went through with Lia Thomas, now my little sister who is sixteen years old is having to go through the same thing, and when she stands up for what is right, she is forced out of her swim team and banned from the YMCA, of all places. It is crazy to me that we are having this conversation. The safety and security of females in women-only spaces should be protected — otherwise it is false advertising to have sex-specific spaces and opportunities. Forcing any woman — especially minor girls — to share a locker room and undress before a male is irresponsible and inappropriate and undermines a woman’s human rights, respect, and dignity.” 

Riley Gaines, advisor for Independent Women’s Voice and host of “Gaines For Girls” podcast for Outkick, issued the following statement in support of the Wheeler family:

“A few weeks ago I got a call from my former teammate at University of Kentucky and one of my best friends still to this day, Kaitlynn Wheeler. She was in tears describing what her sister, Abbigail, went through on her swim team at the local Springfield YMCA. Although Kaitlynn was impacted in essentially the same way at our NCAA championships regarding the infamous Lia Thomas situation, she expressed when it happened to her sister her altruistic instinct kicked in and she knew they couldn’t just sit back and knowingly let this happen to another girl. I’m proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these brave women in this fight — we are a team, and this team is being heard.

“We as women demand respect, privacy, safety, and fairness in our sports. To compromise that in any way can only be described as utter misogyny. Why are we being made to feel guilty for not wanting to undress in front of (while simultaneously being exposed to) a naked male? Why are we called transphobic for simply wanting fairness and equal opportunity in our sports? People always wonder why more women (especially the female athletes directly impacted by these issues) aren’t speaking up. THIS is why. They don’t want to be labeled a bigot or suffer the consequences from daring to ask unanswered questions. 

“Consider this a public request for Coach Totura and Angie Sowle to admit to wrongdoing by punishing Abbigail for merely wanting a women’s locker room specifically for females. 

“If leaders cannot find it in themselves to defend our girls, then we need different leaders and laws like the Women’s Bill of Rights and other protections for women’s equal opportunities. Our next generation of girls deserves to see themselves as champions, and it’s time we find our voices like Abbigail has.”

WHAT: Press conference held in partnership between Independent Women’s Forum and Illinois Freedom Caucus to provide a platform for Abbigail Wheeler and other female athletes to share their experiences competing against and sharing a women’s locker room with biological males, and to rally to keep women’s spaces female.


  • Abbigail Wheeler, sixteen-year-old swimmer at the Springfield Illinois YMCA who was kicked off the club swim team and banned from the YMCA for expressing her concerns over sharing the women’s locker room with a biological man;
  • Kaitlynn Wheeler, former NCAA D1 swimmer from the University of Kentucky who experienced changing in the women’s locker room alongside Lia Thomas at the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships, she was not ask for, nor did she give, her consent 
  • Dan Wheeler, father to Abbigail and Kaitlynn Wheeler; and
  • Paula Scanlan, former NCAA D1 swimmer from the University of Pennsylvania swimmer and ex-teammate of Lia Thomas.

WHERE: Rotary Park, Springfield, IL (directly across W. Iles Avenue from Springfield YMCA)

WHEN: July 13th at 1:00 p.m. CT

MEDIA RSVP: [email protected] 

If you are interested in interviewing any members of the Wheeler family, please contact Lynn Hatcher [email protected]

Independent Women’s Forum is dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities.