Lia Thomas is a 22 year old swimmer who is currently shattering all the records at the University of Pennsylvania. And in all honesty – this would be inspirational if it weren’t for the fact that 3 years ago she used to compete at Penn – as a man.
At a meet including Princeton and Cornell held on November 20th, Thomas had a 1:43:47 time in the 200-meter freestyle and 4:35:06 in the 500-meter freestyle. These times were records for Penn and would have placed Thomas second and third in the NCAA Women’s Championships.
It’s currently unknown when Thomas transitioned but the swimmer competed with men as recently as November 2019 according to NY Post sources.
Thomas also co chairs UPenn club non-cis and spoke to the university paper in June saying:
“(Swimming) is a huge part of my life and who I am. I’ve been a swimmer since I was five years old,” Thomas said. “The process of coming out as being trans and continuing to swim was a lot of uncertainty and unknown around an area that’s usually really solid. Realizing I was trans threw that into question. Was I going to keep swimming? What did that look like?
“Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding.”
And granted sports play a crucial role in the lives of many – which should no doubt be encouraged. But at the same time it’s hard to deny a role that puberty plays in development.
Up to the recent Tokyo Olympic games trans athletes could compete as long as they kept their testosterone level under a certain threshold for an extended time period. This guideline is getting re-examined in light of scientific studies concluding that in certain sports the advantages are statistically significant and are not nulled by suppressing testosterone.
Thomas (pictured in 2016) was a star swimmer in high school
It’s unlikely the state of Pennsylvania will step up with the regulation. This past October, Texas became the 6th state to enact restrictions that would stop this kind of thing and protect girl sports. The opinions on said bill are still divided. While some praise it others call it cruel, discriminatory and stigmatizing.