Transgender swimmer Lia Thomas has catapulted the debate over transgender athletes in women’s sports to the forefront of culture about as quickly as he decimates his competition on the women’s team at the University of Pennsylvania.
Now, according to a lengthy sit-down interview with a fawning Sports Illustrated, Thomas could be set to dominate hopeful female Olympians across the country as well.
“When she swims at the NCAA Women’s Division I Swimming and Diving Championships, which begin March 16 in Atlanta, Thomas is a favorite to win individual titles in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events, and also has a shot in the 100-yard freestyle,” the magazine reported.
“She has an outside chance to break longstanding collegiate records held by Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin, two of the most beloved American Olympians of this century,” it continued. “Thomas says she has ambitions to compete beyond college, which could set her on a course to be Ledecky’s teammate at the 2024 Games in Paris — and perhaps challenge Ledecky’s Olympic records.”
In other words, Ledecky’s illustrious career as one of the most successful female swimmers in history could be topped… by a man.
Of course, as far as Thomas and Sports Illustrated are concerned, Thomas is a woman.
“I don’t know exactly what the future of my swimming will look like after this year, but I would love to continue doing it,” Thomas told the magazine. “I want to swim and compete as who I am.”
As Sports Illustrated noted, Thomas’ career has garnered the attention of many critics concerned about fairness in women’s sports.
In January, swimming legend Michael Phelps delicately stated that there needs to be an “even playing field” in athletics, implying a comparison between Thomas’ physical advantage over female competitors and doping.
The magazine also condescendingly described the “right-wing obsession” with Thomas, pointing to frequent discussions of him on the dreaded Fox News and “deadnaming” (the use of the male first name he forsook when “transitioning”) on “conservative opinion sites.”
To Thomas, however, whose teammates have spoken anonymously about their discomfort with his fully intact male form in the locker room and his biological advantage over female swimmers, all the criticism is merely “negativity and hate.”
Sports Illustrated paid little attention to the reasons why people oppose Thomas’ presence in women’s swimming, opting to run with the narrative that the issue is his “gender identity” and not the concerns that female athletes are being robbed of the chance at fair competition as they’re left quite literally in his wake.
Thomas most certainly has the “right to exist” — that is, he has the right to life, to basic human dignity and to fair and equal treatment as a human being. And while many may disagree morally with his choice to assume the identity of a woman, there’s plenty of room to acknowledge his right to live his life as he chooses.
But as soon as he enters that pool in a women’s one-piece to compete against women, it is no longer simply about him.
“I’m a woman, just like anybody else on the team,” Thomas said. “I’ve always viewed myself as just a swimmer. It’s what I’ve done for so long; it’s what I love.”
While there’s no sense denying that there are people out there who resent, to a sinful degree, Thomas’ presence on a women’s swim team, it is absurd to dismiss criticism as simply “hate” or refuse to look beyond Thomas’ insistence that he’s “just like anybody else on the team.”
Because he’s not like anybody else on the team. He’s a male.
It’s not only about him, and if he vies for the Olympic team, it won’t be about him, either — because if he makes the team, there will inevitably be a woman displaced by his success, a woman who never had a chance at an even playing field (or pool, as the case may be).
Are we really going to destroy women’s sports as a whole so that a handful of transgender athletes can live “as themselves”?
There’s nothing fair or equal about that.
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