Lia Thomas insists she transitioned “to be true to myself”
University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas has insisted that transgender athletes “are not a threat” to the future of women’s sport.
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Figures such as World Athletics president Lord Coe have gone on record saying that the “integrity” and “future” of women’s sport will be “very fragile” should sporting organizations get fresh regulations for transgender athletes wrong moving forward.
According to Thomas, however, who in March claimed the US’ highest national college title in the women’s 500-yard freestyle after three pre-pandemic seasons competing on UPenn’s men’s team, “trans women competing in women’s sports does not threaten women’s sports as a whole”.
“Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes,” Thomas claimed to ABC and ESPN.“The NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] 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.”
Thomas also batted back accusations that athletes such as herself transition to gain an advantage over their rivals, and said that this had been one of the “biggest misconceptions” about her own journey.
“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 stressed.
Thomas’ inclusion in women’s college competitions is a divisive topic with some athletes and organizations regularly raising concerns about trans participation in women’s sports.
Some of her own teammates and their parents have written anonymous letters supporting her right to transition but said it was unfair for her to be able to compete as a woman. According to Thomas, however, they can’t go “halfway” and only support the trans community “to a certain point”.
“If you support trans women as women and they met all the NCAA requirements then I don’t think you can say something like that,” Thomas opined.
Thomas confessed that she knew there would be scrutiny against her to compete as a woman but she didn’t feel she needed anyone’s permission “to be myself and do the sport that I love”.
As the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued new guidelines last November that will not require athletes to undergo hormone level modifications in order to compete, Thomas has her sights set on the US Olympic trials scheduled for June 2024 and then trying to guarantee her place on Team USA for the Paris summer games later that summer.
“It’s been a goal of mine to swim at an Olympic trials for very long time and I would love to see that through,” she said, also revealing that, if she had the chance, she would do it all over again in making the switch to women’s swimming.
“I’ve been able to do the sport that I love as my authentic self,” she concluded.