Swimmer Lia Thomas opens up about ‘struggles’ amid wave of anti-trans backlash

Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has won in two races against Harvard

Trans swimmer Lia Thomas has given her first interview since smashing two United States records in races last weekend

The 22-year-old student from Austin, Texas, competed in the Zippy Invitational in Ohio where she broke two records in the 200m and 500m freestyles, with the University of Pennsylvania confirming that she had finished “best in the country” at those races.

Her wins, however, attracted a wave of anti-trans criticism, with commentators saying Thomas should not have been allowed to compete on the women’s team, despite NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) guidelines allowing her to

In an interview with SwimSwam, which covers college and Olympic swimming news, Thomas praised the new International Olympic Committee (IOC) guidelines on trans athletes, which state there should be no presumption that trans women have an automatic advantage over cis women.

“I think the guidelines they set forward are very good, and do a very good job of promoting inclusivity while keeping competitional integrity going,” she said.

“Everybody is able to compete in the category they’re most comfortable with unless there’s a proven unfair advantage that they have.”

Thomas also stated that she feels “more confident” since coming out as trans, and that her team has been “unbelievably supportive” of her.

She told SwimSwam: “It’s been a lot of struggles in the 12 months prior to coming out to everybody, to the initial awkwardness, and the uncertainty of first starting out transitioning.

“There just seems to be so much to do and things you have to take care of, and it just seems like this mountain. But you get by it day by day, and build confidence each day, and I’m feeling confident and good in my swimming and all my personal relationships.

“Transitioning has allowed me to be more confident in all of those aspects of my life, where I was struggling a lot before I came out.

“The team has been unbelievably supportive since the beginning… I feel very supported. Just treated like any other member of the women’s team.”

Thomas’ wins come as ten US states, including Texas and Florida, have decided to ban trans athletes from competing in female sports at schools

Students in those states will now be forced to play on sports teams that correspond to the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate at or near the time they were born.

At the time the ruling was announced in Texas, Rebecca Marques, Human Rights Campaign Texas state director, said the legislation marks a “dark and frightening day for thousands of families in Texas who fear for the safety and future of their transgender children”.