Shut Up and Dribble: Lia Thomas rightfully earned the NCAA swimming championship

Transphobic comments concerning transgender athlete Lia Thomas are rooted in ignorance and hatred

Every day, trans athletes are still harrassed and dismissed based on false information and bigotry. Graphic Breea Kobernick

On March 17, trans woman Lia Thomas won the 500-yard freestyle at the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship and some are falsely claiming she was unfairly breaking records.

The truth is she beat the second-place athlete—Emma Weyan—by one second, but fell short of the 2017 record by nine seconds. 

Nonetheless, transphobes were quick to jump on social media to proclaim that Thomas failed in the men’s division, so decided to pretend to be a woman in order to succeed. Idiocy and blatant transphobia aside, that statement is objectively false. Thomas was an elite athlete in the men’s division, but when she started hormone replacement therapy to transition as a transfem woman, the hormones took a very large toll on her. For example, her 1,650-yard freestyle record pre-transition is 65 seconds slower than her post-transition record. 

The only time we hear about transgender athletes is when they win by a small margin and the media spreads disinformation about how they are supposedly shattering world records.

It’s interesting how we never hear about the transgender athletes who were successful pre-transition, but failed post-transition. 

For example, June Eastwood became the first known trans woman to compete in an NCAA women’s cross-country race in 2019. Eastwood had been one of the fastest runners in men’s races pre-transition; however, post-transition, she didn’t even qualify for national championships.

Where was Eastwood’s “unfair advantage” that trans exclusionary radical feminists—most commonly referred to as TERFs—such as The New York Post complain about?

If people were really concerned about equity in sports, wouldn’t they at least try to get educated about the reality of trans athletes? The toll HRT has on the human body hinders the performance of trans athletes instead of giving them an advantage, which explains why Thomas has been performing less well post-transition than she did pre-transition.

In fact, a systematic review of the literature pertaining to transgender athletes revealed there is no evidence to suggest trans women have an athletic advantage over cisgender women in sports. Quite the opposite: Trans athletes face considerable barriers, such as stigma and hatred, for simply competing as their true self. 

To put it simply, Thomas was a top-ranking athlete who won medal after medal but she was born in the wrong body. After almost three years of HRT and intense training to prepare herself physically and mentally to face the world as her true self, she finally won one of her first medals in her gender’s division. However, instead of congratulating her like they did before she transitioned, the public is calling her a fraud and is announcing that the person who came second to her is the real winner. 

Since when does the public have the right to declare winners? Apparently, they do when transgender athletes win, or at least they do according to a Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who absurdly claimed Thomas was not the rightful winner of the NCAA championships.

To put it in the words of Erica Sullivan, who came third in the race Thomas won: “Like anyone else in this sport, Lia doesn't win every time. And when she does, she deserves, like anyone else in this sport, to be celebrated for her hard-won success, not labelled a cheater simply because of her identity."