It is heartwarming to witness the positive changes in our society, in which everyone can gain acceptance. Biological males who want to be viewed as women can be. Lia Thomas swam most of her life as Will Thomas and competed for the University of Pennsylvania on the men’s swimming and diving team. Then Thomas decided, along with the backing of the swimming coaches and the university, to switch to the women’s team because after taking testosterone-lowering drugs, she now identifies as a woman.
The problem that is undisputed by experts: Once a person has gone through male puberty and has trained as a competitive male swimmer, there will still be a competitive advantage over biological women, even with testosterone suppression. For starters, Lia is nearly 6 feet, 4 inches tall, which is itself rare for female swimmers. Moreover, she has the strength, speed, and lung capacity of a man. Those who would dispute these advantages are ill-informed.
The transitioning of male athletes to female is only the latest example of men stomping on women’s dreams. Females have succeeded in smashing glass ceilings in every aspect of life, only to have a brand new one imposed on them. There has been outrage at the lack of females in top executive and political positions in this country. Where is the outrage about protecting Title IX or preserving fairness for female athletes? Getting to the podium will eventually become impossible if biological women have to compete with transgender women.
When she was on the men’s team, Lia Thomas did not come close to qualifying for the three NCAA championship events in which she is now swimming. Now she not only qualifies, but is ranked #1 in both the 200-meter and 500-meter freestyle for U.S. collegiate women. In the men’s competition she had ranking only in long distance events. Now she is 12th in the nation in the women’s 100-meter free. If she had no competitive advantage, she would be the 554th best woman in the 200 (this was her ranking as a man), not #1. Collegiate and elite female swimmers already train to the point of total exhaustion. They should not be asked to do more in order to compete. Caitlyn Jenner, a gold medal-winning decathlete, is exactly right with her support of a biological woman’s right to compete on a level playing field.
In a recent article based on an exclusive interview with Lia Thomas, Sports Illustrated contributing writer Robert Sanchez asserts that one reason Lia would like to become a lawyer is so that she “can advocate for others who are marginalized.” Lia has been anything but marginalized. She has gained more fame and support than any swimmer in the history of U-Penn swimming.
Lia herself also told Sanchez that she had the immediate and full support of her family, friends, coach, and university when she revealed that she wanted to become a transgender woman. She now has a privileged status on the Penn women’s swim team. She is immune from any admonishment about seeking obvious advantages, because it’s considered “transphobic” even to raise the topic.
The rest of the Penn swim team members are the ones who have been marginalized. They live in fear of saying something that could possibly be considered offensive. The stress Lia’s teammates are forced to endure is awful. None of the school’s other swimmers have had Sports Illustrated exclusive interviews with all their accomplishments, hopes, and dreams so beautifully written about.
Sanchez also wrote, “She’s not thinking about wins or records, she insists.” Problem solved: Lia should simply say that she does not want her times to count for wins or records. She has choices and exhibition swims are commonplace. Women’s sports would be preserved so that females can continue to compete fairly.
The NCAA, the Ivy League, and society in general are wrong to let biological men dominate sports designed for females. In modern times, females have been gaining in the fight for the opportunity to succeed and win. Why would we go backward, erase the accomplishments of Title IX, and let males take over female sports like they do with everything else? Transgender women can still be women and compete with men. It is commonplace in swimming to see mixed gender heats. If they choose to compete with biological women, then their times should not count for wins or records. To do otherwise is simply unfair.
Chrissy is the parent of a swimmer on the University of Pennsylvania Women’s Swim Team. She’s chosen to go by a pseudonym to protect her privacy, fearing backlash for her daughter.