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3 Dec, 2021 12:01

Record-breaking trans swimmer causes wave of outrage

Record-breaking trans swimmer causes wave of outrage

A trans female college swimmer who once competed as a man has smashed records in women's college competitions in the US, causing a backlash online.

Lia Thomas attends the University of Pennsylvania and during a November 20 swim meet with Cornell and Princeton smashed the 200-yard freestyle time while notching the second-fastest national time in the 500 freestyle.

Breaking Penn's program records in both events, she topped freestyle individual races in the 100, 200, and 500-yard events and helped her team finish first in the 400-yard freestyle relay.

Putting up a time of 1:43.47 in the 200-yard freestyle, the Austin, Texas, native could have secured a silver medal at the NCAA's Women's Championships, and her 4:35.06 showing in the 500-yard freestyle would have been good enough to clinch bronze.

Before the pandemic, however, Lia – who will have had to complete one year of testosterone suppression treatment before making her switch – was known as Will and competed on Penn's men's swimming team for a full three seasons.

Competing as a man in the 2018-2019 campaign, Thomas was second-team All-Ivy League in events such as the 500-yard freestyle, 1,000 freestyle and 1,650 freestyle.

"Being trans has not affected my ability to do this sport and being able to continue is very rewarding," she explained to Penn's student newspaper in the summer.

But as news of her current form has become more widespread, some social media onlookers have reacted with anger.

"My two daughters swim competitively," began one response.

"They practice 3-4 times a week almost year-round. My girls and many others work their asses off for years and even decades. This kind of sh*t angers me to no end. This is not progress."

"There are some sports where biological women can compete evenly with biological men.

"Swimming is not one of them," concluded another.

"There are none. Stop the capitulation," someone replied. 

"Why don't all the women simply refuse to compete?" it was posed.

"That would end this nonsense quite quickly, wouldn't it?"

"Why aren’t male athletes supporting females athletes and also not competing in protest?" a separate party snapped back.

"This is not just women’s problem to solve!"

"I am genuinely curious if this person would feel guilty at all. He was a great swimmer on the men's team just two years ago…now she is the best swimmer on the women’s team," one more user pondered.

With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revising its 2015 guidelines it no longer finds fit for purpose, it was claimed that Thomas could one day challenge the legacy of seven-time gold medal winner Katie Ledecky.

The new guidelines set to be brought in after February's Winter Olympics in Beijing suggest trans women no longer need to reduce testosterone levels in order to compete. 

Furthermore, the organization's new stance is that there should now be no automatic presumptions that trans women have advantages over other women.