"Bethany Hamilton simply does not personally want to accept transgender women as women."
But who would have ever guessed that the most controversial, the most polarizing surf figure in 2024 would be Bethany Hamilton? Certainly not me. I might have selected Zeke Lau, maybe even Zeke Lay but certainly not the inspirational shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton.
Though here we are in 2024 and it’s true.
The latest bit of contention comes from the most unlikely of places, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where the local women’s group tapped Hamilton as its keynote speaker only to ignite the simmering culture war.
The Oshkosh Women’s Fund’s annual Power of the Purse announced, “T’S TIME! We have exciting news to share! Our 2024 POWER OF THE PURSE keynote speaker is, Bethany Hamilton. Bethany’s story of overcoming obstacles and living with resilience, perseverance, and heart has helped her live an Unstoppable life. We’re thrilled for the community to hear her message – in hopes that it will inspire others to live unstoppable.”
What should have been a moment of joy for the town best known for making children’s overalls was, instead, twisted into a five-page online letter excoriating the choice, declaring that Hamilton is transphobic and not fit to stand at the lectern.
“We, the undersigned, are members and allies of Oshkosh’s LGBTQ+ community,” it began. “We are your neighbors, supporters, volunteers, and friends. We appreciate the positive work the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation and Discover Oshkosh does to uplift our entire community. We also sincerely hope we share an understanding of the importance of supporting and including the LGBTQ+ community in all facets of daily life.”
Also, “Hamilton’s boycott (against the World Surf League) is not motivated by concerns about athlete safety or maintaining the integrity of a professional sport. Bethany Hamilton simply does not personally want to accept transgender women as women.”
And, “It undermines their community partnership initiatives toward ending isolation and loneliness, promoting youth mental and physical health, and supporting parents. It also creates and enhances a direct platform for amplifying anti-transgender bigotry in our own backyard.”
So far, the Women’s Fund has not bent to pressure and Wisconsin State Representative Ron Tusler is even swinging in with support, declaring, “Cancel culture is just going way too far in this state. This poor girl who lost her arm to a shark at age 13 is now being attacked because she doesn’t want to compete against men in sports?”
Importantly, where do you stand? Should Hamilton be allowed to inspire or will her inclusion be a metaphorical lynching of the LGBTQ+ community?
Peter King, are you there? Please weigh in.