I Guess We Have to do the Transgender Penn Swimmer Story

Lia Thomas, Penn University, Swimming
Lia Thomas, Penn University, Swimming, U Penn profile photo

I’ll be honest with you; I didn’t want to do anything with this story, but felt obligated since it’s in-market and not a lot of local outlets are touching it.

The short version is that Penn has a transgender swimmer who is currently getting everybody all riled up. Her name is Lia Thomas, and she’s been shattering records, which reignites the debate about transgender athletes, and whether it’s fair for them to be competing with cisgender women.

Here’s a bit of a summation from The Daily Mail, quoting an anonymous opponent:

Thomas broke two national records when she competed in the female races at the Zippy Invitational earlier this month. She previously competed on the UPenn men’s swim team for three years before transitioning and undergoing hormone treatments for nearly two and a half years.  

A female swimmer from Niagara University who wishes to remain anonymous and competed against Thomas at the Zippy Invitational told DailyMail.com of the intimidation and discouragement she felt racing the transgender athlete.  

‘Swimming against Lia Thomas was intimidating,’ the senior at Niagara University  said. ‘It was hard going into a race knowing there was no way I was going to get first.’

‘I knew I could drop my time but I also knew there was no way I would physically be able to beat her in the race or even catch up to her,’ the collegiate athlete said.

Outkick ran a story last week quoting an anonymous Penn teammate, who said this, in part:

“Pretty much everyone individually has spoken to our coaches about not liking this. Our coach [Mike Schnur] just really likes winning. He’s like most coaches. I think secretly everyone just knows it’s the wrong thing to do,” the female Penn swimmer said during a phone interview.

“When the whole team is together, we have to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, go Lia, that’s great, you’re amazing.’ It’s very fake,” she added.

And then there’s a video clip of Thomas going around on social media where she talks about competitive integrity:

Alright, so there are a million different ways to go with this. We don’t have to get too far into the weeds on topics like testosterone suppression or whatever. We’re trying to find the middle ground between two ideas here, 1) – allowing people to be who they want to be while feeling comfortable in their own skin, and 2) ensuring the integrity of competition so that cisgender women aren’t left behind. Surely there’s gotta be an intersection here that makes sense. I’m not an expert on the topic and didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so I don’t even really know where to begin.

RE: this story specifically, it would appear as though the latest update is Penn swimming parents sending a letter to the NCAA, demanding action. I’d assume the next step is some sort of response from the NCAA, or maybe a non-response, and perhaps then more teammates and/or opponents will make their displeasure known.

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