Trans swimmer Lia Thomas sharing glory with trans man flips hateful double standard on its head

Lia Thomas of the Pennsylvania Quakers shakes hands with a competitor

Anti-trans critics have been tying themselves in knots trying to figure out how a trans man and three cis women beat trans woman and University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas.

This season is 22-year-old Thomas’ first on the UPenn women’s team and she has been consistently bombarded with transphobia.

As critics screeched that her involvement in the competition was “unfair”, other swimmers even reportedly threatened to boycott meets where she was competing.

But on Saturday (8 January) at twin dual meets with Yale and Dartmouth, while Thomas won two races, she placed fifth in the women’s 100-yard freestyle.

She was beaten by three cisgender women, with trans man and Yale swimmer Iszac Henig taking the top spot.

In fact, in another race on the same day, Thomas was beaten again by Henig, who has delayed starting testosterone while he is still on the Yale team.

The results flipped the transphobic narrative that trans women athletes have an innate advantage – and presumably that trans men have a disadvantage – on its head, and sent transphobes into a tailspin.

According to the Daily Mail, one “stunned” parent at the meet said: “I wasn’t prepared for that. Everything is messed up. I can’t wrap my head around this. The NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] needs to do something.”

As trans journalist Katelyn Burns put it on Twitter: “Every new trans woman athlete that’s come along in the last 50 years was supposed to be ‘the one’ who proves trans women are biologically superior to cis women and every time it’s fallen apart.”

Activist Charlotte Clymer added: “When it comes to Lia Thomas, let me save you hours of discussion with transphobes. They don’t really care about fairness in sports.

“No restrictions on trans women in sports will ever be good enough. They simply don’t want trans women to exist in sports. That’s the goal.”

Lia Thomas was ‘struggling’ before she came out as trans

Lia Thomas has described herself as “more confident” since coming out as trans, and told SwimSwam last month: “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.”

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