Lia Thomas is the first trans woman to win an NCAA swimming competition.
Thomas finished first in the women’s 500-yard freestyle event, as per CNN.
“I didn’t have a whole lot of expectation for this meet,” Thomas said, per USA Today. “I was just happy to be here and race and compete the best I could.”
A trans athlete who competes on the women’s team spoke out about the prejudice she faced.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, the 22-year-old University of Pennsylvania swimmer said: “I’m not a man. I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team. Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets.”
The debate about whether trans women should be allowed to compete against their cisgender counterparts was the center of controversy last year.
After coming out to her friends and family, Thomas began hormone replacement therapy in spite of concerns about the impact it would have on her body and her ability to partake in her sport.
Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas recently opened up about participating on the women's team at her college: “I just want to show trans kids and younger trans athletes that they’re not alone." https://t.co/vxXLDYryFw pic.twitter.com/CUxv1O42B8
— E! News (@enews) March 4, 2022
Thomas joined the women’s swim team after a year of hormone replacement therapy.
Her place on the team was in keeping with the rules. Right-wing commentators criticized her for being allowed to compete alongside women who are not trans, as the focal point of discussions by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, USA Swimming, and right-wing commentators.
Thomas’ meeting with Sports Illustrated comes under a month after 16 of her partners namelessly sent a letter to the University of Pennsylvania and the Ivy League contending that Thomas ought not to be allowed to contend as she could break “Penn, Ivy, and NCAA Women’s Swimming records; accomplishments she would never have done as a male competitor.”
“We fully support Lia Thomas in her decision to affirm her gender identity and to transition from a man to a woman. Lia has every right to live her life authentically,” read the letter, per The Washington Post.
“However, we also recognize that when it comes to sports competition, the biology of sex is a separate issue from someone’s gender identity.
“Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over the competition in the women’s category, as evidenced by her rankings that have bounced from #462 as a male to #1 as a female.”