Lia Thomas, a transgender swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania, has sparked debate about transgender athletes in women’s sports.
Thomas, a fifth-year at UPenn, won the DI women’s 500-yard freestyle, setting a new pool record of 4:33.24, and was the first transgender athlete to win a Division I NCAA Women’s Championship title. At the Ivy League Championships, she went on to set new records in the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:43.12; the 100-yard freestyle in 47.63 seconds; and the 400-yard freestyle relay in a time of 3:17.80. After her performance, Thomas became at the forefront of a debate on the fairness of transgender women competing in women’s sports.
Everyone should be able to compete in the sport they love regardless of what gender they identify as. She followed NCAA rules for transgender women, doing testosterone suppression treatment, so Thomas is allowed to compete. However, there is a science that should be addressed.
I think her puberty gave her an advantage over other women competitors given that before she transitioned she was a fully developed male with larger hands and feet, longer wingspan and greater bone density. On the other hand, Thomas does hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which causes her to lose strength resulting in times that are slower and relatively close to women’s times. However, I know her height gives her an advantage because height can help her swim faster and cover more surface area. Typically, trans women are taller, and Thomas stands at 6’1”, but this can go for both men and women.
I do not believe that Thomas transitioned to become the best women swimmer in college, but that she transitioned because that is what she felt was her true identity. Lia Thomas has set a precedent for transgender women in women’s sports.
By Shirell Washington