Yet another elite liberal institution denies science and embraces lawlessness. In this case, the denial hurts women, who liberals claim to champion and respect. Americans are tolerant and open-minded, but we don’t like to see underdogs crushed by unfair rules.
Lia Thomas, a swimmer on the NCAA Division I women’s team at the University of Pennsylvania, continues to break records: Friday night she shattered an Ivy League record in the 500-yard freestyle at the Zippy Invitational at the University of Akron. Last month, she vanquished her meet rivals while shattering Penn’s female swimming records in the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle at a tri-meet against Cornell and Princeton.
What’s controversial is the 22-year-old senior, formerly named Will Thomas, previously swam for Penn’s men’s swimming team for three years. Thomas was good but not exceptional within that elite male division. In November, Thomas would have placed 14th rather than first if competing among men in the 100-yard freestyle.
But things changed when Thomas transitioned to female. The Daily Mail noted Thomas’ time of 1:43.47 in the 200-yard freestyle would mean a silver medal at the NCAA Women’s Championships, and 4:35.06 in the 500-yard freestyle would snag bronze.
The NCAA “firmly and unequivocally” endorses transgender, male-bodied athletes on women’s collegiate sports teams. But science tells us that biological males who have already undergone male puberty maintain an unfair athletic advantage over biological females, even after completing a strict testosterone-blocking regimen.
A review of the scientific literature by Independent Women’s Law Center explains that grown men have bigger lungs and bigger hearts than women — and thus greater aerobic lung capacity for swimming. They also have larger skeletal structures than females (including “wingspans,” which are critical in swimming), something that testosterone blockers can’t significantly alter (if they could, imagine how many shorter men would be scrambling for shots to make them taller!). The IWLC report also shows that while hormone therapy can reduce muscle size and strength in biological males, it will not reduce it to female levels.
Is this fair? Most Americans say no.
A Gallup poll in May found 62 percent (including 63 percent of independents) believe transgender athletes should compete in sports that match their birth sex. Only 34 percent of responders said trans athletes should be allowed to play on sports teams matching their gender identity.
Americans shifted in favor of government-sanctioned gay marriage and are increasingly tolerant on LGBT issues. For millions, it’s about basic fairness for people who have suffered heartbreaking discrimination and persecution. That’s why 66 percent of Americans told Gallup they favor allowing openly transgender men and women to serve in the US military. But the military isn’t a zero-sum institution like competitive sports. So in the case of women’s sports, it’s also about fairness — and fairness tells us we need a biologically level playing field.
The NCAA claims it is fighting for inclusion, but as my colleague Jennifer C. Braceras (a former member of the US Commission on Civil Rights) has explained, its actions just may be illegal under Title IX, the law Congress passed 49 years ago to increase educational opportunities for women and girls. Title IX requires schools that receive federal money to “provide equal athletic opportunity for members of both sexes” and allows the operation of single-sex classes and extracurricular activities.
We need to save women’s sports, which means preserving all the victories we fought hard for to recognize biological females as a distinct category from biological males. Collegiate swimming is zero-sum competition, where someone wins and others do not — at least for now (until the wokes ruin it by giving universal participation trophies).
At the Independent Women’s Forum, we welcome anyone and everyone to sign our petition to demand rules that protect fair play and share stories about being, parenting, coaching, or cheering a female athlete.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of Title IX, let’s not erase women’s hard-earned gains.