Three of Colorado’s Republican congressional candidates welcomed support from a PAC fighting to limit or ban trans women in sports

The PAC supports policies that many states have passed into law that opponents argue harm trans youth.

Nine PAC — the name is a reference to Title IX, the law that requires schools to include women in their athletic programs — is the brainchild of Eli Bremer, a former Olympic pentathlete from Colorado Springs. He says the goal is to donate to 100 congressional candidates before the midterm elections.

“It’s about saying that women under Title IX, under federal law, have and must maintain the integrity of their sports,” Bremer said. “Those sports should be reserved for biological women, so that girls can compete for scholarships with other biological girls. And that’s what we’re advocating for.”

Trans people and their allies consider terms like “biological women” inaccurate and often offensive, especially when used to exclude trans people from their gender. Colorado protects the right of trans people to compete in school sports. But 18 other states have passed laws or regulations to limit or ban their participation, policies that opponents argue harm trans youth, who are already vulnerable to harassment and discrimination in other areas of their lives.

Tony Gorman/CPR News
Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl (L) and Nine PAC co-chair Riley Gaines prepare for an interview at the Nine PAC fundraiser.

Bremer also made opposition to trans women in sports a key part of an unsuccessful US Senate bid earlier this year.

In an essay responding to his candidacy, Meike Babel, a former professional tennis player from Germany wrote:

“Compared to cisgender athletes, trans athletes face discrimination and alienating rules that cisgender people can’t even begin to understand. Trans athletes deserve to play just like any other athlete. Anyone who struggles to be themselves on and off the court or field is a model of inner strength and resilience. As athletes and as human beings, we learn from each other when we are around people who embrace who they are.”

Three Republican candidates pledged to support the PAC’s goals — such as preventing trans female athletes from competing in women’s sports — and garnered new scrutiny from the group.

On the night of the launch, three Colorado Republican candidates were on hand to take a verbal pledge to support the group’s goals and collect big new checks for the $2,900 Nine PAC is giving to their campaigns — Barbara Kirkmeyer, who running for Colorado’s new 8th district, Erik Aadland, who is running in CO-7, and Steve Monahan, the candidate in the 6th congressional district.

All three pledged to work to prevent trans women’s sports from competing in women’s sports or using women’s locker rooms.

Aadland noted that he has three children, including two daughters, and is running in part to protect their future.

“The fact of the matter is that we have lost our common sense as a society,” he said. “The fact that we’re having this discussion right here tonight and it’s hitting the airwaves is almost unbelievable to me because we have bigger things to focus on, but we have to fight this fight now because progressives radicals have brought a narrative that just doesn’t make sense and the world has been turned upside down.”

The pledge was administered by former All-American swimmer Riley Gaines, who co-chairs the PAC with Bremer.

Gaines has become a leading opponent of transgender athletes participating in NCAA women’s events. While competing for the University of Kentucky, Gaines tied with University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas for fifth in the 200-yard freestyle. The day before, Thomas won a national championship with a victory in the 500-meter freestyle.

Tony Gorman/CPR News
Nine PAC Executive Director Riley Scott, Nine PAC Co-Chairs Riley Gaines and Eli Bremer look on as Colorado congressional candidate Barbara Kirkmeyer addresses the crowd.

“I was waiting and waiting for someone to say something because, as a 22-year-old girl, I didn’t necessarily feel like it was my place,” Gaines told the crowd. “I didn’t feel equipped for it. I still don’t feel equipped for all that. But I was so tired of waiting. So I took it upon myself to talk about how crazy this is.”

In an interview with ABC News, Thomas said she delayed the transition out of fear of losing her chance to swim competitively, only starting hormone therapy after enduring debilitating depression her sophomore year.

“Trans people don’t transition into athletics,” she told ABC. “We go through being happy and authentic and our true selves. And passing to get an advantage is not something that affects our decisions.”

Since then, swimming’s world governing body has effectively banned transgender women from competing in women’s events.

One GOP consultant calls the PAC’s focus ‘issue number 742,000.’ Colorado’s first trans lawmaker says PAC is “an issue looking for a problem.”

During his campaign for the GOP Senate nomination earlier this year, Bremer made trans sports participation a central part of his campaign. But GOP political consultant Tyler Sandberg said it’s certainly not the most important issue to most GOP voters in Colorado.

“I would say that fairness in sports is something that everyone cares about. But in terms of priorities, it is about the number 742,000”, said Sandberg. “Inflation, cost of living, crime. These are issues that fuel debate in the capital, fuel debate between families at the dinner table.”

Even if it’s not on the minds of most voters, Sandberg doesn’t think the PAC’s support will hurt these candidates. A recent NPR/Ipsos poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose allowing transgender women and girls to compete on women’s sports teams.

That said, Sandberg doesn’t expect these GOP candidates to make it a priority if elected, “because politics is right and should be focused on lowering the cost of living, improving public safety.”

However, if they were to win and deal with this issue, they would not be alone in the delegation. Rep. None have gone anywhere in the Democratic-controlled House.

At the state level, Colorado’s Republican lawmakers have not focused on trans issues. In recent years, the state has actually moved to increase rights for transgender people, such as making it easier for people to change the gender on their birth certificates and allowing non-binary language on state IDs.

State Representative Brianna Titone on the floor of the House of Representatives as the Colorado General Assembly opened its 2021 session on Wednesday, January 13.

Democratic state Rep. Brianna Titone, Colorado’s first trans lawmaker, says the PAC is a problem looking for a problem.

“It’s not an epidemic of trans women coming out as trans to compete in sports and beat everyone. So this is an absurd thing,” said Titone, who describes bans on trans athletes as another way to discriminate against school kids who just want to participate in sports.

“There aren’t enough trans people in the communities for people to know who we are. And when they don’t know something and they don’t know someone and they can’t put a face to a name or an idea, it’s easy to perpetuate those tropes,” Titone said.

Bremer maintains that Nine PAC is not anti-trans, arguing that “this is not about that. This is about protecting the integrity of women’s sports.”

He said he sees the PAC as part of a long-term effort to educate people.

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