Lia Thomas became the first transgender swimmer to win a major US college title. The trans athlete’s title-winning performance at the Ivy League Women's Swimming and Diving Championships stunned the sporting world.
The 22-year-old swimmer has since been on the receiving end of harsh criticism since the win. Praise for her victory has been countered with many demanding she be banned. Despite the criticism, Thomas is currently preparing herself for the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics.
Lia Thomas first came out as a trans woman to her parents in 2018. Following this, the Penn University athlete began transitioning using hormone replacement therapy in May 2019.
She eventually came out as a trans woman during her junior year to her coaches and Penn's swim teams. Thomas recently opened up on the experience of coming out as a trans woman. Speaking about the same, she said that she took a “leap of faith” without knowing the outcome.
Thomas said in an interview with ESPN:
“One of the toughest moments was when I first came out to coaches and my team. I had no idea how they would react, whether they would accept me or not. I didn’t know what the final outcome would be. It was a leap of faith I had to take to continue swimming.”
Lia Thomas went on to add that she was supported by her coaches. She said:
“I am very lucky to have supportive coaches and teammates. I went into my swimming career after that not knowing what would happen. I didn’t know how fast I would be.”
During the interview, Thomas also added that she knew a few people would be unhappy with her. When asked about her own teammates’ actions against her, Thomas said that she was supported by her friends during that time.
Watch Thomas' interview with ESPN here:
Lia Thomas hits back at critics claiming she had an ‘unfair advantage’
Lia Thomas’ win at the NCAA Division One national championship became a hot topic with many crying foul. As per the policy set by USA Swimming, transgender athletes must undergo three years of hormone replacement therapy to compete in women's events. However, Thomas was allowed to compete six months ahead of the set time period. Her title win was openly criticized for the same.
Following this, the Penn University swimmer came out to speak against her critics. In the interview with ESPN, Thomas stated that people were wrongly accusing her of 'transitioning to win'. She shunned claims of her having unfair advantage over her competitors. She said:
“The biggest misconception, I think, is the reason I transitioned. People will say, ‘Oh, she just transitioned so she would have an advantage, so she could win.’ I transitioned to be happy, to be true to myself. Trans women competing in women’s sports does not threaten women’s sports as a whole. Trans women are a very small minority of all athletes."
Meanwhile, Republican governors have already signed legislation to ban transgender women from participating in women’s sports. Recently, former President Donald Trump repeated the same. Speaking at a public rally, Trump misgendered Lia Thomas and said that his party would “keep men out of women’s sports.”