Two months after turning into the primary transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I nationwide championship, former College of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas, in an unique interview with ABC Information and ESPN, shrugged off among the criticism she acquired throughout the 2021-22 season.
Thomas, who declined all interview requests throughout the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta in March, discovered herself on the heart of a nationwide debate about who will get to compete in ladies’s sports activities.
“The largest false impression, I believe, is why I made the transition,” Thomas mentioned. “Folks will say, ‘Oh, he simply made the transition so he’ll have a bonus, so he can win. I made the transition to be pleased, to be true to myself.”
Thomas swam for 3 seasons within the Penn males’s swim staff earlier than becoming a member of the ladies’s staff after a year-long hiatus when the Ivy League canceled the 2020-21 season for all sports activities as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
He made nationwide headlines after his efficiency on the Zippy Invitational in Akron, Ohio, in December 2021, when he posted the nation’s quickest occasions within the 200- and 500-yard freestyles. On the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships in March, Thomas gained the five hundred freestyle, and she or he positioned fifth and eighth within the 200 and 100 freestyles, respectively.
His involvement and success drew criticism from some teammates, opponents and different members of the swimming neighborhood, together with former Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who tied Thomas in fifth within the 200.
“What are we attempting to save lots of?” Gaines mentioned in an interview with ABC’s “Nightline.” “If our priorities are equity, which is what sports activities ought to be, why are we fully ignoring it for one particular person or a small group of individuals?”
Thomas’ identify was utilized to state houses throughout the nation as legislators launched payments designed to limit the flexibility of transgender athletes to compete in sports activities, generally affecting athletes beginning in elementary faculty. Used to do He mentioned the payments are wanted to guard the sanctity of ladies’s sport.
Thomas instructed ESPN that she does not purchase it.
“There isn’t a menace to ladies’s sports activities from trans ladies competing in ladies’s sports activities,” Thomas mentioned. “Trans ladies are a really small minority of all athletes. The NCAA guidelines concerning trans ladies competing in ladies’s sports activities have been round for greater than 10 years. And we’ve not seen an enormous wave of trans ladies dominate.”
Thomas mentioned she began hormone remedy in Might 2019, after her sophomore yr. Thomas mentioned he had skilled gender dysphoria and stress on his psychological well being, which led him to transition medically. On the time, she mentioned, she thought her swimming profession was over.
Previous to Thomas’ senior season, the NCAA required transgender ladies to bear 12 months of hormone remedy to grow to be eligible to compete within the ladies’s class. When Thomas started her senior season in November 2021, she had gone by way of 30 months of hormone remedy.
In January, the NCAA introduced a change in coverage, saying it might depend upon the insurance policies of the nationwide governing our bodies for every sport to find out eligibility. USA Swimming introduced an up to date coverage on February 1, 2022, requiring 36 months of testosterone suppression and eligibility analysis for transgender ladies by a three-person panel, however the NCAA didn’t qualify for its 2022 Swimming and Diving Championships. That coverage was not adopted. As an alternative, the NCAA required compliance with earlier coverage and a demonstrated testosterone stage beneath 10 nanomoles per liter.
However, some critics of Thomas have argued that her involvement takes away alternatives from cisgender ladies.
“We all the time search for win-win options,” three-time Olympic swimming gold medalist and Champion Ladies’s founder Nancy Hogshead-Makar instructed ESPN in March. “However with regards to the inclusion of transgender ladies within the ladies’s class, we have to prioritize equity for organic ladies in sport. A class that accounts for half the world’s inhabitants is price defending. That is once we Transgenders can discuss methods to incorporate women and men, in ways in which respect everybody with all their variations and that do not hurt organic ladies.”
However Thomas mentioned he does not see any viable various to the center floor, at the very least in swimming.
“If you happen to say, like, you’ll be able to compete, however you’ll be able to’t rating otherwise you’re in an additional lane 9, it’s totally totally different for trans folks,” Thomas mentioned. “And it isn’t giving them the identical stage of respect and alternative to play and compete.”
As well as, she mentioned, it’s crucial to do not forget that transgender ladies are ladies.
“It is no totally different than a cis girl on a touring staff or a scholarship. It is part of athletics, the place individuals are competing in opposition to one another. It is probably not taking alternatives from cis ladies. Trans ladies ladies So it is nonetheless a girl getting that scholarship or that chance.”
Thomas graduated from Penn earlier this month and can attend legislation faculty within the fall. She plans to deal with civil rights and public curiosity legislation.
“After seeing such despicable assaults on trans rights by way of the legislation, preventing for trans rights and trans equality is one thing I’ve grow to be extra obsessed with and need to transfer ahead.”
Regardless of all of the criticism, Thomas paused when requested if she would do it once more.
“I might say sure. I’m able to do the game that I like to be my genuine self.”