Colorado-based group that targets trans athletes in women’s sports seeks national influence
Nine PAC donated to 3 GOP candidates for Congress in Colorado who pledged support
Nine PAC was launched during an event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Colorado Springs by former U.S. Senate candidate Eli Bremer, in peach shirt, and former collegiate swimmer, Riley Gaines, left of Bremer. Also pictured is U.S. House candidate Erik Aadland, right. (Photo by Heidi Beedle, courtesy of Colorado Times Recorder)
A federal political action committee that targets the inclusion of transgender women in women’s sports donated the highest allowed monetary amount to three Republican candidates running to represent Colorado in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Nine PAC, formed in Colorado Springs, earned its name from Title IX — the federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination by schools that receive federal funds — which founders of the group say is under attack with the inclusion of transgender women in women’s sports. Eli Bremer, a former Olympian and former Colorado U.S. Senate candidate, co-chairs the PAC and described its purpose as preserving the integrity of women’s sports.
“This is something Republicans pretty universally agree on,” Bremer told Newsline earlier in October. “If you’re a Donald Trump Republican or a Mitt Romney Republican, you’re pretty much 100% aligned with our objectives to preserve women’s sports and the integrity of the women’s sports and girls sports system.”
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The political action committee donated to the campaigns for Republicans Erik Aadland, Barbara Kirkmeyer and Steven Monahan, who have all promised to fight for the PAC’s goals of excluding trans women from women’s sports if elected. Aadland is running against Democratic state Sen. Brittany Pettersen for the 7th Congressional District seat, Kirkmeyer against Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo for the 8th Congressional District seat, and Monahan against Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Jason Crow for the 6th Congressional District seat.
According to Federal Election Commission records, each of these candidates received $2,900 from the PAC, which is the highest allowable amount the PAC can give under FEC guidelines. Aadland and Kirkmeyer’s campaigns did not respond to a request for comment, but Monahan said that what Nine PAC stands for is an issue of women’s rights.
“As a father of a daughter, I want to make sure women and girls have the opportunity to learn teamwork, compete, and earn scholarships on a level playing field,” Monahan said in an email. “I am proud of the support from Nine PAC and pleased with the important work they are doing.”
Paula Greisen, a Colorado attorney who specializes in the advancement and protection of LGBTQ rights, said pushing for exclusion of trans women from women’s sports is an attempt to “capitalize on the fear society still has about trans individuals.” She said “extreme conservatives” are making the issue of including transgender athletes a bigger issue than it actually is on most people’s priority lists.
“It’s attempting to cater to the theme of calling trans people the boogey man or the boogey woman,” Greisen told Newsline. “It’s an overreaction to what is for the most part a non-issue and catering to fear we have in our society of gender identity issues that are not well understood.”
Nine PAC’s efforts
Bremer said he and the PAC’s other leaders are using a comprehensive approach to address the issue at the local, state and federal level. While the PAC as an organization is limited in that it can only support federal candidates, he said he expects it to be much more prominent in the 2024 election and moving forward.
There are multiple moving parts to the PAC’s mission as it works to spread awareness of what it’s trying to accomplish, and the fundraising aspect hasn’t been a priority this year, he said.
Bremer, who lives in Colorado Springs, said the PAC was started in Colorado simply because it’s where he lives. He said the PAC has seen verbal commitments from donors both small and large in the state, and his connections in Colorado made it the logical choice. But, he reiterated that his efforts and those of his teammates extend beyond donating to the campaigns of the three Republicans in Colorado running for the U.S. House.
It’s attempting to cater to the theme of calling trans people the boogey man or the boogey woman. It’s an overreaction to what is for the most part a non-issue and catering to fear we have in our society of gender identity issues that are not well understood.
– Paula Greisen, attorney who specializes in LGBTQ rights
Riley Gaines — the since-graduated University of Kentucky swimmer who tied with transgender swimmer Lia Thomas for fifth place in the 200-yard freestyle at NCAA’s this year — co-chairs Nine PAC with Bremer. She has focused more of her efforts nationally on “spreading awareness.”
“We’re hoping to have this be a nationwide type thing, even globally,” Gaines told Newsline in early October. “There’s a lot of different instances happening over in England, Australia, different places like that, and so I’ve actually been in contact with several people internationally.”
Bremer said the mission around Nine PAC is not to find the solution for trans athletes but to “protect the women’s sports category.” He said he doesn’t see the organizations he’s involved with looking for a solution, because they have enough work to do protecting women.
“If there’s particularly biological males that are feeling left out, I don’t really think it’s incumbent on the women to make that concession,” Bremer said. “I think that the schools need to figure that out or other entities, and that’s sort of out of scope of what we’re trying to do.”
The Anti-Defamation League argues that terms like “biological males” are used to “intentionally misgender transgender women” and aim to “eliminate the distinction between gender identity and biological sex.” Bremer said he doesn’t dispute that some people are transgender, but he said someone’s biological sex is “scientific fact” even if their gender identity differs from it.
He went on to misgender Thomas while talking about Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s decision to veto legislation excluding trans athletes from women’s and girls sports, because of how Thomas’ anatomy differs from her identity. Bremer argued that being transgender is a “psychological state” and that biology is binary, with only biological men and biological women, with rare exceptions to this.
“For sports, this matters in the same way that if you are 165 pounds, you don’t wrestle in the 110-pound category,” Bremer said. “I’m not making a judgment about you. I’m making a biological statement. The scale says you’re 165 pounds, so you may wish you were skinnier or smaller, but you compete in the category that you’re biologically assigned to.”
Greisen said there’s plenty of constitutional basis prohibiting discrimination based on gender, as well as precedent making it hard to argue that gender under federal law doesn’t include gender identity. She said she thinks the public is becoming more educated around acceptance and understanding of the LGBTQ community, and Nine PAC’s efforts are just the latest attempt to target the community with “unfounded fears.”
If there's particularly biological males that are feeling left out, I don't really think it's incumbent on the women to make that concession.
– Eli Bremer
Gaines has worked with politicians in other states who have committed to fight the inclusion of transgender athletes, but she said it’s an issue that extends well beyond politics.
“People are so scared to talk about the issues that are happening … but I think — well, I know — that the large majority of people feel how I feel in a sense that biological men shouldn’t be competing in the women’s category,” Gaines said. “I think Nine PAC is fantastic, because it helps band people together, which of course, the more voices on an issue, the more people listen and the more important it becomes, and people realize that this isn’t something that’s just political.”
She said the issue needs to be political, though, because people in power have the ability to make changes “for the better to ensure as women, our rights aren’t infringed upon.” Gaines initially reached out to the NCAA and governing sports bodies in hopes they would take action, but she said she was “either ignored or told that biological men’s feelings and respect is more earned than women’s.”
Gaines said it’s crucial that Nine PAC’s work continues even after election season until change is made. She said the issue is bigger than just the NCAA and swimming, as other sports are seeing participation from transgender athletes too.
Greisen said the PAC’s efforts are a “full frontal attack” on the LGBTQ community, dangerously conflating the ideas of gender identity and sexuality.
“The net is being spread as far and as wide in as many different groups as they can think of to scare the public,” Greisen said. “And frankly, it’s really disturbing that in 2022 we’re having discussions about whether or not people should be equal.”
Guidelines and legislation on inclusion
The NCAA adopted new guidelines for the inclusion of transgender athletes early this year, implementing a phased approach for compliance through 2024. The new policy ultimately leaves the decision of inclusion to the national governing body for each sport. For example, FINA, the world governing body for swimming, effectively banned transgender athletes from competing in the women’s sport earlier this year.
Should a governing body decide to create a transgender category as a solution, Bremer said it would be dominated by “biological males” who “simply have a genetic advantage in sports.” Funding a transgender category could create issues with Title IX, in Bremer’s view, if funding is being taken from the women’s category to support “biological males.”
“So when you actually look at the technicalities of this, you actually wind up with the need for — if that’s the road that society goes down — … two trans categories,” Bremer said. “And then you have the question, is that economically viable, what does that actually look like, how does that handle locker rooms? … This is much more complicated than most people think, so I don’t know that there is a simple answer that can be found.”
If the NCAA finds a way to include trans athletes that doesn’t “impact the quality of women’s sports,” Bremer said he would be fine with that, but he doesn’t see a simple solution in sight.
When it comes to legislation, Bremer said Nine PAC wants to see an overhaul of Title IX at the federal level, removing new provisions under the Biden administration that protect gender identity — he said he wants to see Title IX defined biologically. The group would also advocate for legislation at any level “that protects the biological women’s category in sports.”
Colorado’s Republican candidate for governor, Heidi Ganahl, was present for the PAC’s kickoff earlier this year, and has since claimed that children in Colorado schools are identifying as cats, an assertion that has been repeatedly debunked. Bremer said he has no knowledge of this issue and said nobody has approached him about it, but even if they did, he said it’s “out of scope” for what he’s looking to accomplish.
“We’re not fighting every single battle that’s out there. We’re fighting one very, very specific battle, which has to do with protecting girls and women’s sports,” Bremer said.
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