'I AM a woman! Just like anybody else': Trans swimmer Lia Thomas speaks out on controversy
'The very simple answer is that I’m not a man. I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team'
Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, who sparked controversy with her trail of wins at national swimming competitions, has finally spoken out on the growing outrage against her. The 22-year-old UPenn athlete had transitioned from male to female and currently participates with the women's swimming team. However, her impressive victory streak did not sit well with the parents of her teammates, who strongly feel that she is "eliminating women from the sport".
Thomas had remained largely silent on the controversy, but she decided to defend herself in a recent interview. "I’m a woman, just like anybody else on the team. I’ve always viewed myself as just a swimmer. It’s what I’ve done for so long; it’s what I love," she asserted. Thomas further insisted that she does not "care" about winning or breaking records, rather she wishes to be recognized and accepted as a part of the women's team.
During the interview with Sports Illustrated, Lia Thomas called out criticism by people who claim that she has an "unfair physical advantage" in swimming.
"The very simple answer is that I’m not a man. I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team. I get into the water every day and do my best," she said, adding, "Trans people deserve that same respect every other athlete gets."
"I don’t look into the negativity and the hate. I am here to swim," Thomas also noted.
She spoke about her own struggle with identity and gender, something which she started questioning in high school. "I felt off, disconnected with my body." She was assigned a trans mentor by UPenn when she joined the institution, helping her in a lot of aspects.
"Like, "Wow, this is such a close mirror of what I’m feeling." It started to make more sense," she recalled. Her family, including her parents and brother, have also been supportive of her decision to identify as a woman.
Thomas underwent hormone therapy for her transition between 2019 and 2020. Prior to that, she had participated with the men's swimming team and only joined the women's team in 2021. In December last year, she first emerged into prominence after breaking the national record for the fastest time. She went on to win other inter-varsity titles and competitions, creating an uproar among her teammates and their parents.
Meanwhile, one of her teammate's parents told Sports Illustrated, "We support Lia as a trans woman and hope she leads a happy and productive life, because that’s what she deserves. What we can’t do is stand by while she rewrites records and eliminates biological women from this sport."
"If we don’t speak up here, it’s going to happen in college after college. And then women’s sports, as we know it, will no longer exist in this country," they further added.