‘Her win should be celebrated’: Is NBC right about swimmer Lia Thomas?
- On March 19, 2022, trans swimmer Lia Thomas made last place in the 100-yard freestyle swim, tied for fifth in the 200, and won the 500 during the NCAA championships. Thomas was highlighted by NBC’s Cheryl Cooky in a note, “For anyone who cares about the advancement of sports, and women’s sports in particular, her win should be celebrated.”
- Former Olympic swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Maker and 16 teammates of Thomas sent a letter to the University of Pennsylvania and the Ivy League athletic conference urging the NCAA to not challenge the new USA Swimming rules asserting “Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category.”
- On February 1, 2022, USA Swimming announced a new policy for transgender female athletes requiring the testosterone in their blood to be below five nanomoles per liter for 36 months before applying to compete in elite sports.
- As of spring 2022, several states have filed and/or adopted legislation baring male athletes from joining female sports teams, considering biological sex over gender identity: Idaho, Montana, Souh Dakota, Texas, Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, West Virginia, and Florida.
- Approximately 0.58% of adults in the United States identify as transgender.
Lia Thomas' win in the NCAA Division I championship is a monumental moment for women and women's sports. Thomas is a woman, meaning her win brings great cause for celebration for women supporting other women and those who have an interest in the world of women's sports. Any woman who won the championship would be celebrated, and Thomas should be no different. And in addition to winning the NCAA championship, Thomas is 'the first openly trans athlete to win a Division I NCAA championship in any sport,' according to ESPN. This should be celebrated much like any other 'first' in history.
According to the NCAA policy, the sports world has made the requirements for trans participation in sports clear. Completing one year of testosterone suppression medication treatment makes a trans-female athlete eligible to compete on a women's sports team. In addition to this, the USA Swimming's policy requires athletes to be on the treatment for a minimum of 36 months, making the requirements even stricter. Therefore, there is no debate that as long as Thomas and other trans athletes follow those guidelines, they don't hold any advantages over cis-female athletes. They can compete on the sports team of the gender they identify as.
Continuing to take focus off of the success of trans athletes in order to debate if their participation is valid is rude, unnecessary, further hurts our society as a whole, and causes more issues for trans athletes who feel they have to continue to justify their existence.
NBC believes that Lia Thomas' win in the NCAA swimming championships should be celebrated. First, calling biological men who pose as women 'trailblazers’ is overused. Second, NBC claims this celebration 'about the advancement of sports, and women's sports in particular' is done by 'anyone who cares.' Both are absurd.
Lia Thomas’s sex is male, something literally impossible to change. And up until 2019, Thomas was known as Will and swam on the Penn men's swim team for three years. Therefore, Thomas went through puberty as a male, not a female. Competing on the men's team, Thomas was good but certainly not great enough to dominate the ranks. As a male, there are still irreversible sex-based advantages resulting from Thomas's male puberty that are obvious in the inherent physical advantages on display as he now swims against females.
Those who choose to 'celebrate' Thomas' victory over female competition are free to do so. But in doing so, they deny both science and reality. Females competing against each other at the highest levels is celebration-worthy. Instead, we continually see Thomas taking the spot of hardworking, dedicated female swimmers who competed fairly without Thomas's physical male advantages. The celebration of Thomas is certainly discouraging to female athletes who can easily see the path that lies ahead.
If the definition of biological sex or 'female' can be changed on a whim—rather than through rigorous scientific findings that would offer a reason behind the denial of sexual dichotomy and the inclusion of men into the term 'woman'—then there's no fairness left for a society that confused. If Thomas were to identify himself as an Olympic gold medalist, he would rightfully be called out. But identifying as the opposite sex is somehow not only believed in our society, but encouraged.