Trans Swimmer Lia Thomas Wins National Championship

On Thursday, Lia Thomas became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I national championship.

Jonathan Good
Leans Left
Stephen Webber
Leans Right

Transgender and gender identity issues have long generated substantial political controversy. More recently, the debate has centered around which league transgender athletes should compete for: men’s or women’s. Since 2020, 11 Republican-led states have enacted bans on transgender girls competing in girls’ sports, with Iowa being the latest (click here to see our Google Slides on the Iowa ban). Many on the Right have argued that separate from any matter of LGBTQ rights, biological males competing in women’s sports is scientifically unfair for biological women. On the other hand, people on the Left argue that transgender women are women, so they should compete on women’s teams. Perhaps no other athlete has highlighted this divide in recent years more than University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas.

Last Thursday, Thomas won the women’s 500-yard freestyle, becoming the first transgender woman to win a Division I national championship. She beat out runner-up Virginia swimmer Emma Weyant by 1.75 seconds. Texas’ Erica Sullivan, who won a silver medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, came third. Thomas’ collegiate career has come under intense scrutiny from some, as she competed on the men’s swimming team at Pennsylvania for three years before transitioning. While a relatively average competitor in the men’s division, Thomas has excelled on the women’s team, breaking several University records and winning a championship. Some of her teammates have taken issue with this success, arguing she has an unfair biological advantage.

In late January, the NCAA adopted a sport-by-sport approach in its guidelines surrounding transgender athletes, bringing them in line with whatever the higher corresponding sports association requires. In swimming, the NCAA said it would follow the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) guidelines, which set a testosterone cap for athletes, while the national body determined its own rules. Then, last month, USA Swimming announced a new policy with a lower testosterone threshold, which the organization said would help mitigate any potential biological advantage. Three hundred swimmers signed an open letter to the NCAA, urging them to adhere to the existing IOC policy. Ultimately, the NCAA announced it would not change the eligibility requirements mid-season. Thomas met those qualifications and has undergone hormone replacement therapy since 2019.

In the wake of Thomas’ participation and recent victory, several protesters and counter-protesters faced off outside the race venue. Video footage from after the competition showed the crowd seemingly unsupportive of Thomas, with some even booing, but erupting in cheers for second-place finisher Emma Weyant. People of various backgrounds, from conservative politicians like Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) to transgender media personality Caitlyn Jenner, criticized the NCAA for allowing Thomas to race. However, others praised the new champion for her victory. Schuyler Bailar, another transgender Division I athlete and mentor to Thomas, cheered on her “resilience.” Thomas herself was relatively quiet following her win and refused to take part in the NCAA-required official news conference after a brief ESPN interview.

Left Narrative

Lia Thomas’ victory is a historic win for the transgender community that deserves commendation. However, despite her obeying all the NCAA’s rules for qualification, she has received enormous backlash for competing. She has had to endure countless criticisms and, in some cases, outright transphobic attacks. Now, Republicans are already weaponizing Lia’s win to push for more bigoted transgender sports bans. These “protectors of women’s sports” should focus on real threats, like sexual abuse and unequal pay. Lia Thomas deserves congratulation, not hate, and she will serve as an inspiration to transgender kids across America who want to be athletes.

Left-Lean Narrative

Right-Lean Narrative

Right Narrative

Overnight, young women across the country have started dreaming of second-place rather than winning championships. The idea that a biological man can claim to be a woman and ignore the biological realities of bone density and muscle mass is unfair to women fighting to be the best in their sport. In the past, Lia Thomas has beaten opponents by a whopping 38 seconds, clearly demonstrating the advantage. Republicans feel heartbroken for the Olympians and true winners like Emma Weyant who are losing out on opportunities because the NCAA refuses to accept biological reality.

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Accompanying Content

min
Newsweek
Why I’m Proud to Support Trans Athletes like Lia Thomas | Opinion

Erica Sullivan is an Olympic silver medalist who competed against Lia Thomas in the 500-yard freestyle championship. She outlines her support for Thomas and transgender athletes more broadly.

Article
Mar 18, 2022
Left
Bias
min
OutKick
Virginia Freshman Emma Weyant Cheated Out of a National Championship by Lia Thomas

Emma Weyant, a Virginia swimmer that competed against Lia Thomas, came second in the race. OutKick portrays her as the actual winner.

Article
Mar 17, 2022
Right
Bias
min
Fox News
Radical feminists protesting Lia Thomas say they are politically homeless

In this interview with feminists protesting the NCAA championship, they explain their reasons for wanting women’s only sports.

Video
Mar 19, 2022
Right
Bias
min
NCAA
Transgender Student-Athlete Participation Policy

At its January 19, 2022 meeting, the NCAA Board of Governors updated the transgender student-athlete participation policy governing college sports. The new policy aligns transgender student-athlete participation with the Olympic Movement.

Report
Jan 19, 2022
Mixed
Bias

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