Trans Swimmer Controversy: After Three Seasons of Competing Against Males, She Is Now Swimming for The Penn Women’s Team

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This season, Lia Thomas has dominated women’s collegiate swimming while also becoming a lightning rod for criticism. Many people believe she shouldn’t be permitted to compete against other women, including some teammates. Thomas reveals why she had to do it in an exclusive conversation with Sports Illustrated.

The most divisive athlete in America sat in an almost empty Philadelphia cafe, her back to the wall, fresh off her final practice of the week. While feeling hemmed in this season, Lia Thomas had produced some of her best work. Her hair was still damp from a swim—roughly three kilometers staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool—on this January evening, her long torso draped in a University of Pennsylvania swim and dive jacket. She appeared to be completely spent. Thomas was thinking about her weekend plans, which included sleeping, studying, and another arduous swim practice, as college students throughout the country were delving into their Friday nights.

This Was Unlike Any Other Season in Her 22 Years.

This was unlike any other season in her 22-year career, and unlike any other in the sport’s history. The quiet senior economics student from Austin rose to become one of the country’s most dominant college athletes and, as a result, the subject of a national debate—a live, breathing, real-time Rorschach test for how society regards those who defy traditions.

trans swimmer controversy

At the coffeehouse, she says, “I just want to show trans kids and younger trans athletes that they’re not alone.” “They don’t have to choose between being themselves and participating in a sport they enjoy.”

After Three Seasons of Competing Against Males, She Is Now Swimming for The Penn Women’s Team.

After three seasons of competing against males, Thomas dominated her opponents in her debut year swimming for the Penn women’s team. On her way to becoming the nation’s most powerful female collegiate swimmer, she set pool, school, and Ivy League records. Photos of Thomas relaxing on a pool wall while waiting for the rest of the field to complete have become a popular symbol of her supremacy.

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When She Competes in The Ncaa Women’s Division I Swimming Championships, She Is a Force to Be Reckoned With.

Thomas is a favorite to win individual gold in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, as well as a chance in the 100-yard freestyle, at the NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championships, which begin March 16 in Atlanta.

She has a chance to break Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin, two of the most well-known American Olympians of this century-long-standing,’s NCAA records. Thomas says she wants to participate after college, which may put her on track to be Ledecky’s teammate in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris—and possibly threaten Ledecky’s records.

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However, Some Argue that Her Participation in Women’s Swimming Is Unequal.

However, some argue that her participation in women’s swimming is unequal. Michael Phelps stated in January that the sport has to be on an “even footing.” Thomas was compared to “doping-fueled athletes of East Germany and China” from previous Olympic Games, according to the editor of Swimming World. Thomas’s story has also become a right-wing fixation, with Fox News often discussing it. Conservative commentators have referred to her as a guy and given her the name she used before transitioning. The Daily Mail in the United Kingdom has been following her every step, including one time when an anonymous comrade supplied gruesome details about her habits in the women’s locker room. Her story has also been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal.

trans swimmer controversy

The spotlight has shifted from Thomas to the rest of her squad, which has become a fractious mess. Penn’s men’s and women’s coach, Mike Schnur, has received a slew of threatening emails. Coaches instructed the school’s swimmers not to wear their school attire during a training trip to Florida earlier this year, fearing that they might attract attention.

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Thomas Has Received Threats and Has Been Referred to By a Variety of Names on The Internet.

Thomas has received so many threats and insults online that she has disabled some direct messages on her Instagram account. She stays away from online mentions of her name, particularly in comment sections. She advised her parents to stay out of the altercation. Her friends were urged to take a step back. She won’t criticize teammates she knows are sabotaging her efforts. She says, “I don’t look into the negativity and hate.” “I’ve come to swim,” says the narrator.

This season was a test of her humanity on a daily basis. Part of her wanted people to know about her journey to this point, to know how it felt to be in a body but not of it. She wanted people to know how it felt to finally live an authentic life and what it meant to her to finish a race and see her name listed among the names of other women on a timing board. What it meant to her to be counted as an equal on a podium with other women.

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