The University of Pennsylvania has one of America’s best college swimmers representing them: Lia Thomas, a transgender woman, recently broke multiple records for the school’s women’s swim team during the Zippy Invitational competition.
The event was held at the University of Akron and over the three-day competition, the 22-year-old blew the other competition out of the other. During the women’s 500-yard freestyle, she took home the first-place time of 4:34.06. Her performance was deemed as the top in the country, according to UPenn.
In addition, Thomas broke the record for the 200-yard freestyle with an impressive time of 1:41.93. Alongside this race, she came in first place during the 1,650-yard race. Her school also confirmed that this was the fastest time in the nation.
Although allowing transgender people to participate in sports is a highly debated topic, the NCAA has taken steps to help alleviate the debate. In order for a transgender woman to compete with the women’s team, she must have undergone “one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment”, which ensures that a trans woman’s testosterone levels are that with a cisgender woman’s.
With this being said, coming out as transgender at the age of 20 left Thomas with a lot of uncertainty. When she sat down with Penn Today, she revealed, “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. Realizing I was trans threw that into question.”
Lia Thomas discusses her experience as a transgender athlete
Yet, the athlete is happy to continue participating in the sport she’s loved since age 5. Thomas shared, “Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport, and being able to continue is very rewarding.”
However, the state of Pennsylvania has recently introduced the “Save Women’s Sports Act” over this last year, which may hinder her ability to compete with other women. The act’s purpose is to make sure students belong to a team that aligns with their sex-at-birth, regardless of current presentation or identity. This act raises concerns for a few reasons, but Thomas is most fearful that it will make transgender individuals feel alienated from the rest of society.
The swimmer shared with PEOPLE, “One of my big concerns for trans people is feeling alone. Even if you don’t pay attention to the news… [about] states proposing and passing vicious anti-trans legislation, it can feel very lonely and overwhelming.”
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