A transgender swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania has sparked backlash after she beat not one but two US women’s competition records at the school. Lia Thomas, 22, previously competed on the men’s team at the college, but later joined the women’s team. Then, in a tri-meet competition with Cornell University and Princeton University, Thomas set new records in both the 200-meter freestyle and 500-meter freestyle events. Those times were new records for the University of Pennsylvania.
- Thomas’s performance wasn’t just impressive at UPenn. In fact, those times would also see her ranked second and third at the NCAA Women’s Championships, which is pretty impressive. However, not everyone is happy about her accomplishment.
- Thomas has always been a swimmer. As she told Penn Today back in June, her gender identity has nothing to do with her love of swimming, which she’s done most of her life. “[Swimming] is a huge part of my life and who I am. I’ve been a swimmer since I was 5 years old. The process of coming out as being trans and continuing to swim was a lot of uncertainty and unknown around an area that’s usually really solid,” she said. “Realizing [sic] I was trans threw that into question. Was I going to keep swimming? What did that look like? Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding.”
- The NCAA has strict guidelines surrounding transgender members of its sports teams. Thomas would have needed to complete a minimum of one year of testosterone suppression treatment to be able to compete as a woman, so it’s safe to assume that has happened.
- There has been a lot of backlash about Thomas’s history-making competition skills. For example, sports performance coach Linda Blade took to Twitter to criticize Thomas’s involvement in women’s sports. “Well of course women’s records are being smashed! Lia competed as male for first three years in #NCAA. This is not right!” she wrote. Another user, @Cindalou422, added: “Here we go again: having to explain that, in fact, natal male athletes who transition to present as women do have an advantage over natal female athletes.” Their sentiments are not unique by any stretch, and this is likely to be a contentious topic for many years to come.
Well of course women’s records are being smashed! https://t.co/tMBrgCLkXX
Lia competed as male for first three years in #NCAA.
This is not right!
We need to return to #SexBasedSports!
#SexNotGender to preserve fairness for female athletes. pic.twitter.com/AcDvx7MTIB
— Linda Blade (@coachblade) November 30, 2021
Here we go again: having to explain that, in fact, natal male athletes who transition to present as women do have an advantage over natal female athletes. Thank you, @FondOfBeetles , for the analysis of Lia Thomas’ times. https://t.co/PvjLBqUIyJ
— Cindalou422 (@Cindalou4221) December 1, 2021
Lia Thomas is a man who went through male puberty, & swam on men’s teams for almost his entire career. #NoThankYou #SaveWomensSports https://t.co/T0KuIWb1Dh
— Tender, Not Timid (@221GrandAve) November 30, 2021