Transgender athlete Lia Thomas brushed off critics in her first interview after her historic NCAA swimming championship victory this spring, reiterating that “trans women are not a threat to women’s sports.”
“I plan to keep swimming,” she said in an interview with TAUT News’ Good Morning America after making history in March as the first openly transgender athlete to win a championship. NCAA Division I National in any sport.
Thomas graduated from the University of Pennsylvania this month after competing for three years on the men’s swim team and then on the women’s team last season after transitioning. This past season, after completing a year of hormone replacement therapy as required by the NCAA to change gender categories, she won the women’s 500-yard freestyle event with a season-best time of 4. minutes, 33.24 seconds. She said she now plans to go to law school with the goal of competing in the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
“It’s been a goal of mine to swim at the Olympic trials for a very long time, and I would love to make it happen,” she said.
But her NCAA win sparked controversy, with critics saying she had an unfair physical advantage over her cisgender competitors. Some members of her own swim team said they supported her as a trans woman, but said she was a threat to women’s sports and shouldn’t compete with cisgender women like them.
Thomas rejected the support claimed by his teammates.
“You can’t go halfway and be, like, ‘I support trans women and trans people, but only up to a point,'” Thomas said. “Where if you’re supporting trans women as women, they’ve met all of the NCAA requirements, so I don’t know if you can really say something like that.”
She also asked if some cisgender women who have naturally higher testosterone levels and larger bone structure and physique should be allowed to compete against other cisgender women if people like her are disqualified.
“I’m no medical expert, but there’s a lot of variation among female cis athletes,” she said.
The future of transgender athletes who compete in the same way as Thomas remains in question, however, with the NCAA updating its transgender athlete eligibility guidelines in January to say that each sport’s national governing body can set its own rules. . These guidelines are expected to come into effect next season.
Meanwhile, at least 18 states have enacted statewide laws or rules that prohibit or limit transgender athletes’ participation in girls’ sports in public schools. Some states have also passed, or attempted to pass, legislation that targets transgender bathroom access and gender-affirming care for children.
Thomas has been personally cited as a motivating factor for some of these sporting rule changes. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), who last year issued such a ban in his state, personally issued a proclamation against Thomas’ NCAA win in March while naming Thomas’ second-place contender the “legitimate winner”.
“The actions of the NCAA serve to erode opportunity for female athletes and to perpetuate fraud against female athletes as well as the general public,” he said in a statement.
Thomas continues to reject the conclusions of his critics and the limits imposed.
“Trans women who participate in women’s sports do not threaten women’s sport as a whole,” she said. “Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes. NCAA rules regarding trans women participating in women’s sports have been around for over 10 years. And we haven’t seen any massive wave of trans women dominating.