In case you missed it, transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has been winning races and setting records all year for the University of Pennsylvania’s women’s team. After competing on the men’s team for three years, Thomas began hormone therapy and joined the women’s team. After ranking #462 as a male competitor, she is now the number one female swimmer in the country, holds the fastest 500-yard female freestyle in the country, and holds the all-time record for the University’s women’s team.
Her case has elevated the transgender vs biologically female in sports issue into the mainstream. The first student to speak out on Fox News remained anonymous due to fear of retribution. She said of the fact that Lia went through male puberty, “These are monumental advantages that biological males just develop through puberty, and it’s not something that a year of [hormone treatments] can suppress because they still have all the muscle mass they had from the last 20 years.”
Mere days after the swimmer’s anonymous statement, another anonymous statement was released from “members of the University of Pennsylvania women’s swimming and diving team”. It is not clear how many teammates backed the statement, which stated support for Lia’s participation. A Penn spokesperson said it represented the feelings of “several” members.
Which brings us to the latest twist. Yet another anonymous letter has been issued claiming to represent sixteen members of the UPenn women’s swim team. This letter stated support for Lia’s decision to transition, but criticized organizations allowing her to compete in the women’s division.
It reads in part:
We fully support Lia Thomas in her decision to affirm her gender identity and to transition from a man to a woman. Lia has every right to live her life authentically. However, we also recognize that when it comes to sports competition, that the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity. Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female. If she were to be eligible to compete against us, she could now break Penn, Ivy, and NCAA Women’s Swimming records; feats she could never have done as a male athlete.
1984 Olympic gold medalist swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, now a women’s sports activist, told The Washington Post that she sent the letter on the team’s behalf. The swimmers continue to remain anonymous on both sides of the issue for fear of retribution.
It remains to be seen whether Thomas will swim at the 2022 NCAA championships in Atlanta this March, for which she has already qualified.