Fury as trans swimmer is smashing women's records

UPenn trans swimmer sparks outrage by SMASHING women’s competition records after competing as a man for three seasons

  • Lia Thomas, 22, most recently competed in a women’s swimming event on November 20
  • She has been breaking records while competing with University of Pennsylvania
  • Thomas had previously competed for the school’s men’s team for three years
  • Some have voiced their anger at her swimming success, claiming it to be ‘unfair’
  • NCAA rules dictate any trans female athlete can take part in women’s events if they have completed a year of testosterone suppression treatment 
  • A trans swimmer and senior at the University of Pennsylvania, who previously spent three years competing as a man, is now crushing records in women’s events, sparking outrage amid controversy surrounding transgender athletes.

    Lia Thomas, 22, formerly named Will, has competed in a number of events recently, including a tri-meet with Cornell and Princeton universities on November 20 where the senior ‘blasted’ UPenn records in the 200m and 500m freestyle – posting times that beat almost every other female swimmer across America.

    With a time of 1:43:47 in the 200m freestyle, Thomas would have been in line to secure a silver medal at the NCAA Women’s Championships, while her 4:35:06 in the 500m freestyle would have been good enough to win bronze. 

    This is the latest controversy in the ongoing argument over whether trans people should be allowed to compete in sports alongside athletes of the opposite gender than they were assigned at birth.

    It is unknown when Thomas began transitioning, but NCAA rules state she had to have completed one year of testosterone suppression treatment in order to compete. 

    Her last known men’s event was November 16, 2019. 

    Thomas (pictured after transitioning) is now dominating women's swim records

    Thomas (pictured after transitioning) is now dominating women’s swim records

    UPenn swim team recently posted about one of Lia's records in the 500m freestyle (pictured)

    UPenn swim team recently posted about one of Lia’s records in the 500m freestyle (pictured)

    Will Thomas pictured swimming on the UPenn 2018-19 men's team

    Will Thomas pictured swimming on the UPenn 2018-19 men’s team

    Thomas (pictured in 2016) was a star swimmer in high school

    Thomas (pictured in 2017) was a star swimmer in high school

    Thomas (pictured in 2016 and 2017, respectively) was a star swimmer in high school 

    Lia’s success at the event held last month has reignited the debate, as she was a key component in her team’s success in the 400m freestyle relay, and she swept the board when it came to 100m, 200m and 500m freestyle individual events. 

    Several people have voiced their anger over Thomas’ recent success in the women’s events. 

    Sport performance coach Linda Blade responded to Thomas’ most recent event by saying: ‘Well of course women’s records are being smashed! Lia competed as male for first three years in #NCAA. This is not right! 

    ‘We need to return to #SexBasedSports! #SexNotGender to preserve fairness for female athletes.’

    One person said: ‘How many people were involved in this swim meet and not one of them stood up and said this is wrong?’  

    While a third said: ‘How can anybody look at that and say that it is fair for Lia Thomas to swim against women?’

    Another user was outraged that his daughters, who swim competitively, have ‘worked their a**es off’ to get where they are for Thomas to dominate the sport. 

    Previously, Thomas (pictured as Will, before transitioning) competed for UPenn's men's swimming team for three years before having a year off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her last event for the men's team was on November 16, 2019

    Previously, Thomas (pictured as Will, before transitioning) competed for UPenn’s men’s swimming team for three years before having a year off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her last event for the men’s team was on November 16, 2019

    Lia Thomas' success has sparked outrage amid controversy over transgender athletes competing in sports alongside other competitors opposite of the gender they were assigned at birth, with many claiming a 'man' broke her recent women's records. Pictured: Lia in 2020

    Lia Thomas’ success has sparked outrage amid controversy over transgender athletes competing in sports alongside other competitors opposite of the gender they were assigned at birth, with many claiming a ‘man’ broke her recent women’s records. Pictured: Lia in 2020

    ‘My two daughters swim competitively. They practice 3-4 times a week almost year round. My girls and many others work their ass off for years and even decades. This kind of shit angers me to no end. This is not progress.’ 

    Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard’s controversial appearance at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

    Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard announced in August that she was retiring in the wake of her controversial appearance at the Tokyo Olympics, where she failed to complete a single lift.

    The 43-year-old, who transitioned in 2012, competed in the women’s 87kg+ category for New Zealand but crashed out after making history as the first trans woman to compete in a solo event.

    Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard

    Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard 

    Her appearance on sport’s biggest stage was short-lived after she failed to record a single valid snatch lift in Tokyo.

    It was also mired in controversy – not least because she was well-backed to pick up a medal – and sparked a firestorm of debate about transgender participation in women’s sport.

    Advertisement

    A Pennsylvania user agreed, commenting: ‘I stand by you and your girls sir! This is ridiculous on so many levels! And “Lia Thomas” has the nerve to say that competition so far has been very rewarding? Yeah I bet! Since you’re a man competing against women! This should not be allowed?’ 

    Other played on the swimmer’s chosen name and saying she should ‘add the “r”‘ while other refused to reference Thomas as a female. 

    ‘He has changed his name from Will to Lia Thomas. He forgot to add the “r” to the end of his new name,’ one said.  

    ‘A MAN named Lia Thomas smashed college records,’ another said. 

    A third said: ‘Imagine being the women in second place knowing that they will never have the physical advantages of the male who beat them.’ 

    However, criticism was not universal, with sport inclusivity educator Kirsti Miller sharing a number of women’s swimming records and comparing them to Thomas’ best results.

    She claimed that the fact Thomas was behind in all the records meant that she was in no way ‘dominating’ women’s swimming. 

    While former swim coach Emma McGee voiced her support for Lia, saying: ‘Since no one else is saying it- congrats to her!’    

    Previously, Thomas competed for the university’s men’s swimming team, competing for three years before having a year off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – with her last event for the men’s team coming on November 16, 2019, according to University of Pennsylvania records. 

     

    A number of people voiced their anger at Thomas being allowed to compete in women's swimming competitions

    A number of people voiced their anger at Thomas being allowed to compete in women’s swimming competitions

    According to the NCAA Policy on Transgender Student-Athlete Participation, a trans female must have undergone at least one year of testosterone suppression treatment before being eligible to compete on a women’s team.

    The rules state: ‘A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.’

    The guidelines also make clear that: ‘A trans female (MTF) transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatments related to gender transition may not compete on a women’s team.’

    In addition, if a sports team has been classified as a mixed team as a result of the inclusion of a trans woman who has undergone none or less than one year of testosterone suppression treatment, this classification remains in place for the remainder of the academic year ‘without exception.’ 

    Speaking previously about her ability to continue competing as a trans athlete, Thomas said: ‘Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding.’ 

    DailyMail.com has reached out Thomas for comment.  

    Though the bitter response to Thomas' recent success wasn't universal, with some congratulating the student athlete, and one person even pointing out how her results proved she wasn't 'dominating' the sport

    Though the bitter response to Thomas’ recent success wasn’t universal, with some congratulating the student athlete, and one person even pointing out how her results proved she wasn’t ‘dominating’ the sport

    Thomas (pictured recently) is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania

    Thomas (pictured recently) is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania 

    Thomas (pictured first row, right in 2020) said it's rewarding to be able to continue the sport

    Thomas (pictured first row, right in 2020) said it’s rewarding to be able to continue the sport 

    Earlier this year, Olympic officials also announced that rules for allowing transgender athletes to participate in women’s competitions will be changed.

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said earlier this year they will be setting out a new policy for participation of transgender women in Olympic sports.

    Officials say the current guidelines, set in 2015, are not fit for purpose and should be adapted to catch-up with advancements in science and testing. 

    A push towards each individual sport setting their own rules is one of the likely outcomes – in a bid to move away from the current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

    And according to The Guardian, the new guidelines will suggest that trans women should no longer be required to reduce their testosterone levels to compete. 

    And in a reversal of the IOC’s previous stance, the new guidelines, set to be rolled out after the Beijing Winter Olympics, say that there should be no presumption that trans women have an automatic advantage over other women.

    Despite this, the IOC will still permit individual sporting associations to dictate their own rules on trans athletes.  

    It came after weightlifter Laurel Hubbard made history by becoming the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics.

    Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year barring transgender females from playing on Florida public school teams intended for student athletes born as girls

    Transgender athletes in Texas must compete as their assigned sex at birth according to a law Governor Greg Abbott (pictured) signed in October

    Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (left)  signed a bill earlier this year barring transgender females from playing on Florida public school teams intended for student athletes born as girls, and transgender athletes in Texas must compete as their assigned sex at birth according to a law Governor Greg Abbott (right) signed in October

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is set to change its guidelines on trans athletes to say that trans women should no longer be required to reduce their testosterone levels to compete

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is set to change its guidelines on trans athletes to say that trans women should no longer be required to reduce their testosterone levels to compete

    But the New Zealander’s Olympic debut – which sparked much debate prior to the games – was not a fruitful one.

    Hubbard, 43, who transitioned in 2012, crashed out of the women’s +87kg (+190lb) weightlifting competition without registering a lift. 

    In October, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that bans athletes in public schools from competing alongside the gender with which they identify, mandating that they must compete as the sex listed on their birth certificate.

    Texas became the sixth state to enact such restrictions by signing the bill on October 25, with proponents saying the bill, named HB-25, will ‘protect girls’, while critics have branded it a ‘cruel’ and ‘discriminatory’ measure that further ‘stigmatizes’ trans athletes.

    The bill, which becomes law in January, overrides a previous provision to state law that allowed trans students to get a court order permitting them to compete as the gender with which they identify with the help of an amended birth certificate.

    However, trans athletes in Texas were already barred from vying in state competition under guidelines from its University Interscholastic League, which governs high school sports.

    The new law was passed 76-61 in the House of Representatives and a 19-12 vote in the Senate before reaching Abbott, who declined to publicly comment on the bill while signing it.

    And in June this year, Florida’s Republican governor signed a bill barring transgender females from playing on public school teams intended for student athletes born as girls, plunging the state into the national culture war over transgender rights.

    ‘In Florida, girls are going to play girls sports and boys are going to play boys sports,’ Governor Ron DeSantis said as he signed the bill into law at a Christian academy in Jacksonville. ‘We’re going to make sure that that’s the reality.’

    The law, sure to face court challenges, inflames an already contentious discussion unfolding nationally as Republican-controlled states move to limit the rights of LGBTQ people. It also could impose severe financial consequences on Florida.

    What do the rules say? 

    According to the NCAA Policy on Transgender Student-Athlete Participation, a trans female must have undergone at least one year of testosterone suppression treatment before being eligible to compete on a women’s team.

    The rules state: ‘A trans female (MTF) student-athlete being treated with testosterone suppression medication for Gender Identity Disorder or gender dysphoria and/or Transsexualism, for the purposes of NCAA competition may continue to compete on a men’s team but may not compete on a women’s team without changing it to a mixed team status until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment.’

    The guidelines also make clear that: ‘A trans female (MTF) transgender student-athlete who is not taking hormone treatments related to gender transition may not compete on a women’s team.’

    In addition, if a sports team has been classified as a mixed team as a result of the inclusion of a trans woman who has undergone none or less than one year of testosterone suppression treatment, this classification remains in place for the remainder of the academic year ‘without exception’.

    Advertisement

    Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Montana, Tennessee and West Virginia have already passed similar legislation and South Dakota’s governor has signed an executive order supporting a sports ban. All have Republican governors.

    Supporters of the sports bills say they are needed to preserve fairness, asserting that biologically born women and girls would be at a disadvantage against transgender athletes who were born as male but have since transitioned to female.

    DeSantis signed the bill flanked by several teenage women athletes. He said the law was needed to ensure fairness for women participating in sports across the state.

    ‘We are going to go based off biology, not based off ideology when we are doing sports,’ he said.

    The Human Rights Campaign, an advocacy group, said it would challenge the Florida law in court as having been based on a ‘false, discriminatory premise’ that threatened the wellbeing of transgender children.

    ‘Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team,’ Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said in a statement.

    Elsewhere, former Olympic gold medal winner Caitlyn Jenner waded into the controversy, back in May this year, saying she opposes trans women competing in female sports.

    Jenner, who was one of the US’s most successful athletes in the decathlon during the 1970s and won gold in the Montreal Olympics in 1976, announced that she was a trans woman back in 2015.

    When asked about her thoughts on trans women competing in sports with other women, Jenner said: ‘This is a question of fairness. That’s why I oppose biological boys who are trans competing in girls’ sports in school. It just isn’t fair. And we have to protect girls’ sports in our schools.’ 

    And only a third of Americans believe trans athletes should be allowed to compete on teams that don’t match the sex they were assigned at birth, a poll found earlier this year.

    Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs survey — conducted May 3 – 18 by telephone interviews with 1,016 randomly selected adults living in the US — showed that 62 percent said transgender athletes should only be allowed to play on sports teams that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth.

    Only 34 percent said they should be allowed to play on teams that match their gender identity.

    Gallup researchers explained that the issue of sports policies pertaining to transgender athletes is ‘fairly new to many Americans, and that their opinions on LGBT issues have changed over time, often in big ways.’

    ‘Sizable majorities of Americans have expressed consistent support for transgender military service in recent years, whereas this first measure on sports policies suggests that they are not viewing the two issues the same.’

    Comments are closed.