Lia Thomas: the swimmer dividing college athletes

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Trans participation in sports has been debated in Florida and throughout the United States.

Emily Starling
Staff Writer

Lia Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA swimming championship.

College students have been competing against Thomas throughout their college careers, but following her win came lots of backlash from the parents of these student athletes. 

Parents across five Ivy League schools wrote to The Post about their children’s experiences competing against a transgender swimmer.

“We are furious and most everyone in our community is furious as well…” , the parents wrote in an open letter, “Parents, coaches, swimmers, and rational, logical people know this is grossly unfair.”

They continued by alleging that Thomas stole the title from a deserving female swimmer, suggesting that Thomas was not considered, by them, to be a woman. 

Thomas swam and competed in the men’s division up until her senior year at University of Pennsylvania. 

However, during her first season competing against women, she set pool, and Ivy League records on her way to become one of the most powerful female collegiate swimmers. 

But the biggest question dividing America is whether or not Thomas physically has an advantage because she is transgender.

According to many of Thomas’s teammates they think that she does in fact have an upperhand because of her transition. 

“Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female…,” they wrote. 

I spoke with a former competitive swimmer and current Florida Southern Sophomore, Demi Sejka, to get her take on this seemingly national debate.

“As a swimmer I can understand why female competitors are upset,” said Sejka, “I know I would have been if I was racing against Lia. I understand that her testosterone levels are no higher than any other woman’s, but it still feels like she has an advantage over born females because when it comes to swimming, we are so conditioned that men are always faster than women.” 

It’s true, Thomas’ testosterone levels are no higher than that of a cisgendered woman. Thomas began doing Hormone Replacement Therapy, or taking doses of estrogen, in May 2019 to begin her medical transition.

Estrogen is going to allow someone who is transitioning to start developing breasts, having emotional changes, shifting body weight and “drops in muscle mass and strength,” according to The Independent.

Although this is such a huge debate, I don’t believe it should be. Lia Thomas has taken all the proper measures to fully transition into a woman and I don’t believe she has any significant advantage in women’s sports. People claim Thomas has bigger hands, feet or bigger lung capacity but so could any other cisgendered woman. 

Trans advocates are asking “why should a woman’s gender history be treated differently from these other natural bodily variations?” This question is raised because trans athletes are required to regulate their hormones  to even continue to play.

However, this is information those against Thomas most likely deem as insignificant. 

For transgender resources, The Trevor Projects 24/7 lifeline can be reached at 866-488-7386.

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