After three years of competing as a male, a transgender swimmer at the University of Pennsylvania switched to competing as a female and is now dominating the competition, the Daily Wire reported this week.
What are the details?
Senior swimmer Lia Thomas, formerly known as Will Thomas, reportedly broke multiple school and conference records during a Nov. 20 swim meet against Cornell University and Princeton University.
According to SwimSwam, Thomas “blasted the number one 200 free time and the second-fastest 500 free time in the nation on Saturday, breaking Penn program records in both events.” The swimming blog later noted that Thomas’s times in both races marked new Ivy League records, as well.
Thomas also reportedly “swept the 100-200-500 free individual events and contributed to” Penn’s first-place finish in the 400-meter freestyle relay. Thomas’s time in the 200-meter free was “only half a second off the NCAA A cut” and was “the second-fastest women’s 200 free time in the nation so far this season,” the blog added.
Earlier in the month, Thomas reportedly “took home a pair of gold medals in the 200 free and 100 free with margins of 5.4 seconds and 1.3 seconds” in a meet against Columbia University.
According to Penn Athletics, Thomas was much less dominant during his freshman, sophomore, and junior years at the school.
What’s the background?
Thomas, who co-chairs Penn Non-Cis, a university club that seeks to build community for transgender and non-cisgender people, has reportedly been swimming competitively from a young age.
A prolific high school swimmer, Thomas enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 with lofty ambitions. Between 2017 and 2019, Thomas competed as a male at the university, then took a year off during the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon returning, Thomas began competing as a female during the 2021 season.
“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,” Thomas recounted to Penn Today earlier this year. “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,” Thomas added.
For some, Thomas’ newfound success as a transgender athlete is considered a celebration of inclusiveness in collegiate athletics. But for many others, it is seen as yet another damaging blow to women’s sports.
The latter group laments that when transgender females — who were born biologically male — compete in women’s sporting events, they enjoy an obvious physical advantage and often leave female competitors unfairly outmatched and discouraged.