Lia Thomas, a Transgender Swim Star, Continues to Dominate in the Water

Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas, 22, Discusses the Truth Behind Her Transition: ‘I Transitioned to be Happy’

Lia Thomas, a transgender woman who is the first openly trans athlete to win an NCAA Division I championship title, recently discussed the criticism she has faced throughout her college athletic career. 

The swimmer made headlines in March when she represented the University of Pennsylvania women’s swimming team during the NCAA Division I championship. Following her big win, many argued that trans women should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports, despite NCAA’s rules that protect transgender individuals’ right to compete. 

Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas, 22, Discusses the Truth Behind Her Transition: 'I Transitioned to be Happy'

Opening up about criticism, Thomas shared that many people believe she transitioned in order to dominate women’s scores. Denying these claims, the athlete shared with news outlets, “People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage, so she could win.’ I transitioned to be happy, to be true to myself.”

Thomas began her medical gender transition in May of 2019 after completing her sophomore year on the men’s swim team. She took time off the sport to focus on her transition and was under the impression that she would never swim competitively again.

However, the NCAA outlines rules for transgender women that state after completing at least a year of hormone replacement therapy and testosterone repression, trans women can participate as their identity in their sport of choice. While this has sparked controversy and pushed legislation to create laws that prohibit trans women from competing with other women, Thomas argues those rules are unnecessary. 

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Lia Thomas says trans women are not a threat to women’s sports in general

“Trans women competing in women’s sports does not threaten women’s sports as a whole,” she said. “Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes. The NCAA rules regarding trans women competing in women’s sports have been around for 10-plus years. And we haven’t seen any massive wave of trans women dominating.”

She also shared that banning trans women from competing in women’s sports is very alienating, expressing the sentiments, “If you say, like, you can compete, but you can’t score or you’re in an extra lane nine, that’s very othering towards trans people. And it is not offering them the same level of respect and opportunity to play and to compete.”

Transgender Swimmer Lia Thomas Continues to Dominate Amid NCAA Rule Changes
Erik Patton / Shutterstock

“It’s a part of athletics, where people are competing against each other. It’s not taking away opportunities from cis women, really. Trans women are women, so it’s still a woman who is getting that scholarship or that opportunity,” Thomas included, addressing the argument that allowing trans women to compete is unfair to cis women. 

After getting countless amounts of personal backlash in addition to discriminatory laws throughout the US, the swimmer announced she is pursuing law school with a special interest in civil rights and public interest. “Having seen such hateful attacks on trans rights through legislation, fighting for trans rights and trans equality is something that I’ve become much more passionate about and want to pursue,” Thomas explained, according to ESPN.

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